Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, July 19, 2021 | Eastern North Carolina Now | Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki, July 19, 2021

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
Press Release:

Washington D.C.  •  July 19  •  1:06 P.M. EDT

    MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Good morning — or good afternoon. Happy Monday.

    Okay, one item for all of you at the top. The United States continues its tremendous efforts to donate COVID-19 vaccines from the U.S. global supply. Today, we can announce that we have over a million Johnson & Johnson vaccines headed to Gambia, Senegal, Zambia, and Niger. We're also pleased to announce 3 million vaccines going to Guatemala tomorrow, continuing our prioritization of Latin American countries.

    As these shipments demonstrate, the United States is fulfilling our promise to be an arsenal of vaccines for the world, and we're proud to be donating these doses to save lives and help those in need.

    Josh, why don't you kick us off.

    Q:  Thanks, Jen. Two subjects. First, the President's remarks on why China didn't face sanctions for cyberattacks but Russia did: Could you clarify, since both countries are accused of protecting criminal hacker groups? And then, along the same lines, the U.S. imports about $435 billion dollars in goods from China. To what degree do economic concerns play a role in how to address cyberattacks?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me say that, today, an unprecedented group of allies and partners — including the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and NATO — are joining the United States in exposing and criticizing the PRC's Ministry of State Security's malicious cyber activities. And this is the first time NATO has condemned PRC cyber activities.

    So, I would note that we are actually elevating and taking steps to not only speak out publicly, but certainly take action as it relates to problematic cyber activities from China — in a different way, but as we have from Russia as well. We are not differentiating one as, you know, out of the realm of condemnation or out of the realm of consequence from the United States.

    In terms of the economic pieces, I think you're asking me — give me a little more on your question we're trying to get at.

    Q:  I mean, basically the U.S. economy depends a lot on Chinese imports. We only get $16 billion worth of goods from Russia. If we were to come with major sanctions on China, is there a risk that we can be hurting our own economy?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, first, that we take cyber actions against our country and against private-sector entities quite seriously.

    The Department of Justice is imposing costs and today announced criminal charges against four MSS hackers. These charges address activities concerning a multi-year campaign targeting foreign governments and entities in key sectors.

    We also have, of course, through the National Security Agency, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, exposed over 50 tactics, techniques, and procedures Chinese state-sponsored cyber actors used when targeting U.S. and allied networks.

    My point is we are not holding back. We are not allowing any economic circumstance or consideration to prevent us from taking actions where warranted. And also, we reserve the option to take additional actions where warranted as well. This is not the conclusion of our efforts as it relates to cyber activities with China or Russia.

    Q:  And then, secondly, with Facebook: The President suggested that executives look in the mirror and change their practices. Does that mean the administration isn't considering any regulatory or legal moves to possibly address disinformation on social media?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, I don't think we've taken any options off the table. That's up to Congress to determine how they want to proceed moving forward.

    But let me just note that we're not in a war or a battle with Facebook; we're in a battle with the virus. And the problem we're seeing, that our Surgeon General elevated just last week, is that disinformation, traveling through a range of mediums — some of them are a range of social media platforms, some of them are media, some of them are through the mouth of public officials — that bad information, inaccurate information about vaccines is killing people.

    That's where our concern is, and that's what we — the President is working to express and also what the Surgeon General expressed in his report just last week.

    Go ahead, Steve.

    Q:  Now that you've levelled these charges on China, do you plan to raise them with them?

    MS. PSAKI: We, of course, will continue to be in touch with Chinese officials at a high level, and that — that will be the case in these regards as well.

    Q:  Is the Chinese government actively doing the hacking or contracting it out?

    MS. PSAKI: I don't have any more detail than that, Steve. Let me check and see if there's more we can provide to you about —

    Q:  Lastly, the Belarus opposition leader is in Washington this week. I think she's going to meet Tony Blinken today. Is the President going to meet with her?

    MS. PSAKI: We are still finalizing what the details are. She will be meeting with White House officials. I wouldn't say it will be the President, but she will be meeting with White House officials when she's here. We'll have more to report on that once those details are finalized.

    Go ahead, Phil.

    Q:  Just to follow up: The statement said the Ministry of State Security was directly paying hackers, which is, I think, why it was elevated. The President kind of compared it to the Russia situation but said that maybe they're protecting them or accommodating them, which doesn't seem to be a direct link. That's what the statement said this morning. I'm just trying to square kind of where things stand in terms of how the White House views what has actually transpired.


    MS. PSAKI: As it relates to the cyber activities and the attribution that was put out earlier this morning?

    Q:  Yeah. Yeah.

    MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say that we felt it was important to be clear that — as was clear when we made the announcement this morning, that the former attribution of the malicious cyber campaign utilizing the zero-day vulnerabilities in the Microsoft Exchange serv- — server, which was disclosed in March 2021 — two malicious cyber actors, affiliated with the MSS with high confidence. That was the information put out by the intelligence community or by our national security team earlier today. That is accurate.

    That's why we worked also — and it's significant, which is why I pointed this out initially — that we worked in coordination with Eur- — with many partners around the world — the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and NATO — to criticize, expose, and call out these malicious cyber activities. But that is the information that's accurate about the attribution.

    Q:  And then, just one more on that and then one quick other one. The President said he's going to be briefed on it or — in his remarks, when he was asked about it, he said he was going to be briefed on it. This is a pretty significant el- — escalation of things from the U.S. and its allies. What more does the President need to be briefed on in terms of the process, going forward?

    MS. PSAKI: I would say, first: The President is regularly briefed. He certainly is aware of attributions that are determined by the U.S. government, including the one announced earlier today. But this is an ongoing effort, an ongoing consideration of how to prevent these malicious actions from happening in the future to other private-sector companies — certainly something that the President will continue to speak with his national security team about.

    Q:  And then, just one more on the economic side. Obviously, the President kind of addressed inflation head on today. One thing that Chair Powell says — and I know you guys are in the same place on the idea that it's transitory right now — but Chair Powell said, in congressional testimony, "We're humble about what we understand," given the fact this — there's no real roadmap coming out of a once-in-a-century pandemic, economically.

    Is the White House economic team, when it comes to the inflation, also humble about what they understand — that maybe they don't necessarily know what's going to happen next as it pertains to inflation?

    MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. We take inflation very seriously. It is under the purview of the Federal Reserve. As you know, they have regular quarterly meeting where they put out that information and any considerations publicly.

    Their projection continues to be that, while there's an — a projected increase in inflation this year, it's expected to come back down to about 2.2 next year. They have not changed that, and that is aligned with a number of outside economists as well.

    You're also correct that when the economy is turning back on from a global pandemic, there isn't a lot of historic precedent for that.

    And certainly, we're seeing prices go back to pre-pandemic levels in some cases. We're also seeing a range of factors, including shortages in the supply chain — from chips shortages that are impacting the auto industry, to lumber shortages that are impacting the housing industry — that are also factors here as we're seeing price increases.

    But we do look at all of that. We take it incredibly seriously. And we respect the role of the Federal Reserve as well.

    Go ahead, Rachel.

    Q:  Thanks, Jen. Two questions — one on — just to follow-up on and China and the cyberattacks. A senior administration official said that no one country acting on its own can change China's behavior. So, if the United States were to take action against China, would it do so alone, or does the administration feel like you need allies on board to take that step?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, it's a good question, Rachel. I think as we've approached our China strategy from the beginning and our policy as it relates to China, we've always felt that going — working together, working in partnership with allies around the world, and also with — in partnership with members of the federal government, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle, was how we approached it from a position of strength.

    So, what's significant today is that while we're all calling out these malicious cyber activities, so are a number of our key partners around the world: the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan.

    These malicious cyber activities are not only impacting the United States. They're impacting a range of countries, a range of partners. And, yes, we would, of course, like to work with countries and work with our key partners around the world moving forward. And, you know, obviously we can't determine steps and consequences on their behalf, but that is certainly our objective and how we've approached our strategy to date.

    [ ... ]

    Read the full transcript HERE.

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