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President of the United States

12/04/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/04/2023 19:25

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:15 P.M. EST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey. Happy Monday, everyone.

Q Hello.

Q Happy Monday.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay. I just have two things at the top before I turn it over to our National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan.

So, I wo- - I would like to share some encouraging news about the results of this administration's efforts to make communities safer from the epidemic of gun violence.

Far too long - for too long, the illegal trafficking of guns violence made even the communities with the toughest gun laws vulnerable to high levels of gun violence.

But thanks to key provisions included in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which represents the most significant gun safety legislation in 30 years, the Department of Justice has prosecuted over 250 people for illegal gun purchases and firearms trafficking.

This means fewer guns are making it into the hands of criminals and other dangerous individuals and ultimately making our communities safer.

Additionally, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act created stronger penalty provisions, signaling to potentially offend - to potential offenders that they should think again.

In addition to the work the Justice Department is doing, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Acts also strengthened background checks and provides hundreds of millions of dollars for states to implement red flag laws.

And we are encouraged to see states take advantage of that funding, with 21 states having implemented their own red flag laws, including most recently in Minnesota and in Michigan.

But know that even more can and must be done.

Unlike congressional Republicans, President Biden has taken action to fund the police with billions in his budget every year he's been in office and billions through the American Rescue Plan so federal, state, and local governments can hire more officers and have the tools they need to fight gun violence and other crime.

His commitment to keeping communities safe is also why he fought against the Republican Default on America Act's proposed cuts that would defund the police and make our communities less safe.

Congress must do its part and act now to help protect people from gun violence by establishing universal background checks, passing a national red flag law, banning assault weapons, investing in proven res- - proven solutions, and much more.

In the meantime, President Biden and this administration will continue to use every tool at our disposal - disposal to keep communities safe.

This weekend, during COP28, the Biden-Harris administration announced the Environmental Protection Agency's final standards to sharply reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations.

This rule advances the President's historic climate agenda, will prevent 1.5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and deliver billions of dollars in health and economic benefits.

Under the President's leadership, the U.S. is turbocharging the speed and scale of climate action both at home and abroad, including our collective efforts to tackle super pollutants like methane.

Sharp cuts in methane emissions are among the most critical actions the United States can take in the short term to slow the rate of climate change.

President Biden also led and delivered the most ambitious climate agenda ever, and the President will continue to treat climate change as the existential threat that it is.

Now, as you all know, as I just mentioned at the top and as you can see for yourself, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is here with us. Jake is here to discuss the latest on Israel and other foreign policy news of the day, including, as you all saw this morning, OMB Director Shalanda Young's letter to Congressional leadership regarding the need to - for urgent action to support Ukraine's defense.

And with that, Jake, the podium is yours.

MR. SULLIVAN: Thank you, Karine. And thanks, everybody. I'll just make a few opening comments, and then I'd be happy to take your questions.

This p- - past weekend, I held several rounds of intensive phone calls with partners in Israel, Egypt, Qatar, and other nations as we remain intensely engaged in a basically non-stop discussion of the developments in the region since Hamas's devastating terrorists attack on October 7th.

We're still talking about trying to find a way forward on hostages. We're talking about sustaining and expanding the humanitarian assistance making it into Gaza. And we're talking about, of course, the status of Israel's military operation as it defends itself against a terrorist organization that has declared its intent to repeat the October 7th massacres again and again and again. And I've briefed the President regularly throughout the weekend and regularly throughout the day today.

On Thursday, here at the White House and with some families joining virtually, I met with the families of Americans who are still being held hostage by Hamas.

It was my second such meeting by myself. I also joined the President's meeting with the families. And I can tell you, it has not gotten any easier. What these families are going through is gut-wrenching. It's heart-wrenching. And it's unimageable, unthinkable for any of us.

We continue to do everything in our power - under the President's leadership and guidance, with his direct involvement and participation - to try to bring all of these Americans home, as well as all of the hostages. And we will not rest until we have succeeded in doing so.

The President and I, along with Secretary Blinken and Director Burns, will stay in touch with our Israeli and Qatari counterparts, as well as our Egyptian counterparts, to press Hamas on this issue.

Right now, Hamas is refusing to release civilian women who should have been part of the agreement. And it is that refusal by Hamas that has caused the end of the hostage agreement and therefore the end of the pause in hostilities.

Since October 7th, we have also worked very hard on the humanitarian assistance front. We've announced $100 million for the Palestinian people, including through UNRWA and other U.N. agencies, as well as other humanitarian actors. And we call on the international community again, today, to fulfill the U.N.'s flash appeal.

We're working, really, on trying to overcome remaining obstacles to increasing and sustaining the flow of humanitarian assistance to innocent Palestinians in Gaza. Secretary Blinken made this a major focus of his trip to the region this week, and we will continue to do everything we can directly from the United States to flow assistance into the region.

Last week, we had a successful airlift - U.S. airlift of over 54,000 pounds of medical items and food aid for delivery to the civilians in Gaza, and that's the first for a number of planned deliveries that will take place over the course of the coming days.

Beyond what's happening immediately in Israel and Gaza, of course, there are developments in the region more broadly.

This past weekend saw four attacks against three separate commercial vessels operating in international waters in the Southern Red Sea - three vessels that are connected to 14 different nations, which goes to show you the extent to which this is truly a source of global concern and a threat to international peace and stability.

As DOD has relayed, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Carney responded to the distress calls from these ships and provided assistance. In doing so, it detected three UAVs at three different times heading in its direction, and it took action against all three of those UAVs.

As CENTCOM reported this weekend, we cannot assess at this time whether the Carney was a target, but the Carney took prudent action in taking down those three UAVs. And we will continue as we go forward to consult very closely with allies and partners to determine and take all appropriate responses.

We have every reason to believe that these attacks, while they were launched by the Houthis in Yemen, were fully enabled by Iran.

On Ukraine, as you've all seen, earlier today, OMB Director Shalanda Young sent a letter to congressional leaders - which Karine was just referencing - explaining that without congressional action, the administration will run out of resources by the end of the year to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from U.S. military stocks without impacting our own military readiness.

The resources Congress has provided for Ukraine and other national security needs have halted Russia's advances in Ukraine; helped Ukraine achieve significant military victories, including taking back more than 50 percent of the territory that Russia had previously occupied; and, by revitalizing our own defense industrial base, jumpstarting and expanding production lines and supporting good-paying jobs across the country.

Now it's up to Congress. Congress has to decide whether to continue to support the fight for freedom in Ukraine as part of the 50-nation coalition that President Biden has built or whether Congress will ignore the lessons we've learned from history and let Putin prevail.

It is that simple. It is that stark a choice. And we hope that Congress, on a bipartisan basis, will make the right choice.

"There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment." As Director Young said, "We're [running] out of money-and [we are] nearly out of time.

Congress has to act now to take up the President's supplemental request, which advances our own national security and helps a democratic partner in Ukraine fight against Russian aggression.

Finally, as Karine was just describing and talking through the achievements we've made on methane, Vice President Harris traveled this weekend to Dubai for COP28, and she delivered the United States' National Statement and participated in a leaders' session on renewable energy.

Throughout her engagements, the Vice President made clear that the Biden-Harris administration is delivering and will keep delivering on the most ambitious climate agenda in history - both at home and abroad - and advancing our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support adaptation, and boost climate resilience.

As a result of President Biden's leadership since he took office, the United States is once again leading the world in responding in an urgent and sustained basis to the climate crisis.

And with apologies for trying your patience with those opening remarks, I'd be happy to take your questions.

Yeah.

Q Thanks, Jake. I want to ask you about the attacks on commercial vessels over the weekend. The Houthis have threatened to attack any commercial ship in that region that has ties to Israel. You mentioned the fact that these ships had ties to 14 different countries. Did all of these ships have ties to Israel?

MR. SULLIVAN: I can't answer that definitively, but we don't think so. We do not believe that all three of the ships had ties to Israel. And it goes to show you the level of recklessness that the Houthis are - are operating on.

Any ship they shoot at, whether it's Israeli-owned or has some connection in the past to Israel, that doesn't make it any more of a justifiable target under international law than if the ship didn't have ties to Israel.

But some of these ships we believe may not have. Although, I don't want to give you a definitive answer on that because we have to continue to run that to ground.

In addition to that, the position of the United States, consistent with the position of the U.N. Security Council and consistent with the position of maritime nations across the world, is that attacks on commercial shipping in international waters are totally unacceptable and have to stop.

And what we are doing now is engaging in intensive consultations with partners and allies to determine the appropriate next steps.

The last point I should make is just to underscore so- - something I said in my opening statement. We are talking about the Houthis here. They're the ones with their finger on the trigger. But that gun - the weapons here are being supplied by Iran. And Iran, we believe, is the ultimate party responsible for this.

Q And when you talk about next steps with partners, is one possibility setting up some kind of escort service? You talked about the US- - -SS Carney that responded. Is there the possibility that the U.S. would partner with other militaries in the region to escort these ships as they go through this sensitive region?

Q We have maritime task forces elsewhere to deal with threats to shipping. It's true in the Gulf. It's true off the coast of Somalia, with respect to piracy.

And we are in talks with other countries about maritime task force of sorts involving the ships from partner nations alongside the United States in ensuring safe passage - passage of ships in the Red Sea.

Those talks are ongoing as we speak. I don't have anything formal to announce. But that would be a natural part of the comprehensive response to what we are seeing here.

Yeah.

Q Thank you. Continuing on that. You said these attacks were fully enabled by Iran. Can you talk about what are the consequences or what the consequences will be for Iran for participating in this?

Q As I said, we have seen this unfold over the course of the day yesterday. We are taking this time to consult with allies and partners because we believe this is not just an issue for the United States.

These ships are - were not U.S. commercial ships. They were from a variety of nations. This is an issue for the entire world, for every country that relies upon maritime commerce to sustain their economy. And, by the way, that is every country, and that's why you saw the statement come out of the U.N. Security Council at the end of last week.

So, we will take the time to do the appropriate consultation, build a response that involves as much buy-in from as many countries as possible. And then we'll have more to report once we've done those consultations.

Yeah.

Q So far, retaliatory efforts from the U.S. to these kinds of strikes clearly have not been working. I mean, how concerning is that? We've heard the administration over and over again warn those who want to take advantage of this situation: "Don't." Those messages aren't landing, clearly.

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, I'd say a couple things.

First, we have taken a number of steps - including the movement of carriers, air wings, and others - to keep this war that is being waged now between Israel and Hamas in Gaza from spilling out into a broader conflict - a full-on regional conflagration, which many people in this room were warning about or concerned about when things happened - when - when this all kicked off on October 7th.

Now, that doesn't mean that we are not seeing very alarming behavior. And there are two forms of it in particular that we're focused on.

One is attacks by Iranian-enabled and -aligned Shia militia groups in Iraq and Syria attacking our forces. We are taking steps to protect our people and to strike back against them. In fact, just yesterday, CENTCOM announced a strike that took out five militants that were attempting to attack us with UAVs.

And, second, we have made clear that the entire world needs to step up together - not the U.S. alone, but all of us working together - to deal with this - this emerging challenge that the - that the Houthis present, backed by Iran.

We are going to take appropriate action in consultation with others, and we will do so at a time and place of our choosing.

Q And just one -

MR. SULLIVAN. Yeah.

Q Are you -

Q Oh, go ahead.

Q Just one - one other question on this next phase of fighting in Gaza. The administration - you have said that you feel that the Israelis have been receptive to your message to do more to try and limit civilian casualties. You know, they are urging people to move to supposedly safer areas. We're seeing these maps and leaflets that they are sending out. But, you know, it's not clear that those warnings are actually reaching people, given the level of destruction, given communication issues.

You know, are you satisfied that this is enough? Are the Israelis doing enough to make sure that people get these messages to limit civilian casualties? And can you really be more targeted in a situation where you have so many people now trying to squeeze into such a small area?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first, the pause ended on Friday. It's Monday. And over the course of the weekend, we've seen basically 48 to 72 hours of activity. So, it's too soon for me to sit here and tell you that I'm going to pass some comprehensive judgment.

What I'm going to do instead is what I did earlier today: I'm going to talk to my Israeli counterparts about what they are doing to target Hamas and what they are doing to try to protect civilians.

Now, as you noted, they have actually taken the quite unusual step for a modern military and identified precisely the area that they intend to have ground maneuver and they have asked the people in that area to move out.

Now, combined with that, we are working very hard to ensure a sustained flow of humanitarian assistance in through the Rafah Border Crossing so that, as people leave these areas, there is food, water, medicine, shelter for them to be able to avail themselves of.

But it's a dynamic situation. And we will keep watching and keep measuring day by day and stay in persistent contact with the Israelis as we reinforce the basic point: They have every right to go after the Hamas terrorists who committed this brutal massacre on October 7th and who continue to fire rockets just in the last hours at civilian areas in Israel. But they also have a responsibility to try to protect civilians.

These are the kinds of steps that we have asked them to undertake. These are the conversations we're having day in, day out.

And I'll keep coming back to this podium to report on those developments as we go. But I'm not going to sit here on Monday and - and pass some kind of comprehensive judgment.

Yeah.

Q Do you - I wanted to ask a question about Ukraine. Are you saying that any member of Congress who votes against aid to Ukraine is voting for Putin?

MR. SULLIVAN: I believe that any member of Congress who does not support funding for Ukraine is voting for an outcome that will make it easier for Putin to prevail. That is, a vote against supporting Ukraine is a vote to improve Putin's strategic position.

That's just an inescapable reality. That's not speaking to someone's motive, why they chose to vote against it. That's just speaking to the outcome of their vote.

A vote against supplemental funding for Ukraine will hurt Ukraine and help Russia; it will hurt democracy and help dictators. And we think that that is not the right lesson of history and that every member, Democrat and Republican, should vote to support this funding.

Q I just have one quick follow-up. Do you feel the same way about the money for Taiwan: It's a vote to help Xi, the Chinese Communist Party? A vote against the package is a vote to help Hamas instead of Israel?

MR. SULLIVAN: Again, I don't want to characterize this in quite the way that your question presupposes.

Our view is that every dollar that is in this package is meant to enhance the national security of the United States and the - the peace and stability in vital parts of the world. That's why we want people to vote for it.

Not voting for it, in our view - for the package in its totality - we believe is a vote against what is necessary to secure Ames- - America's national security objectives going forward.

Q Thanks, Jake. You mentioned earlier that Israel has told Palestinians where they could go and where they aren't going to be, you know, bombing or attacking. But some of the areas that they have gone, where they were told they would be safe, are also coming under fire. What are Palestinians to do? And do you think this is in line with the law of war?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, just to take a step back: What Israel has done is it's said, "This is the area where we are going to conduct ground maneuver. Please, everybody, move out of this area so that you're not going to be caught in the crossfire." They have also indicated that there are areas where there will be no-strike zones. And in those zones, we do expect Israel to follow through on not striking.

There are other areas in the south that Hamas continues to occupy with military infrastructure, where targeted, precise strikes are part of Israel's ongoing military operations.

So, the real question is: How do you, on the one hand, allow a sovereign nation like Israel to go after terrorist targets, while, on the other hand, have them do so in a way that minimizes the harm to civilians? And that's really where the rubber hits the road in all of this.

But, fundamentally, we have laid out our expectation that in the areas that Israel has asked people to go that it ensure the safety and security of civilians, and that it do so in the conduct of its military operations and that it do so in the facilitation of humanitarian assistance getting to them.

Q You were talking this weekend, the Vice President was talking this weekend about the endgame and what happens to Gaza afterwards. Do you have a sense or have you given Israel a sense of your own expectations about when that endgame should come, i.e., will this - how much longer will this last? Weeks? Months? Any idea?

MR. SULLIVAN: We have had conversations about the duration. I think, particularly given the sensitivity of this military operation, it wouldn't be wise for me to lay that out in public for all of you, but it is a topic of conversation that we're having with Israel.

Yeah.

Q Thank you, Jake. Just first on the hostages. Given that the formal talks in Doha have stalled, is there any possibility right now that the White House is contemplating - that would try to secure the release of the dual American citizens separately from the talks that have been going on?

MR. SULLIVAN: There are still intensive discussions among us, Israel, Qatar, and Egypt about how to best get traction on a strategy that will get all of the hostages out. But, of course, for the United States, the paramount priority is getting the American hostages out. And we are talking to the President about all of his options in terms of securing the release of American hostages.

Beyond that, I'm not going to comment because we need to be able to have those sensitive diplomatic discussions behind closed doors.

Q And just following up quickly on Mary's question. I know you said that you can't offer a comprehensive assessment about Israel's military operation since fighting resumed. But can you offer any kind of initial assessment - just based on what you've seen since Friday - of whether Israel appears to be taking a more surgical, more precise, more deliberate steps in its military operations since Friday?

MR. SULLIVAN: Here's what I will say, because characterizing - like, offering qualitative judgments; like more this, less that - is just something I'm going to be very hesitant about doing. What I would prefer to do is just state facts as I see them.

And the facts that I see over the course of the past few days are that Israel has identified a very specific area, has asked people to leave that area. Israel has actually coordinated the commencement of its military operations on the ground in the south with that kind of notification.

Now, what I can't judge is how many of the people in that area as of right now have received that communication, because I'm not on the ground so I don't know that. And what we have indicated to the Israelis is they need to use every means and tool that they have available to be sure that when they actually move in in force into an area in the south, that they do so with some confidence that people have actually gotten safe passage out of that area.

That's an ongoing conversation we have with them. But all I can tell you is that, from our perspective, one of the key lessons from the north was to ensure that as you commence a ground operation, you have got to give civilians the time and capacity and real opportunity to leave.

That is - that is our position. That's what we intend to continue to reinforce privately and are happy to share publicly, because we think that that's basic - that that's the right thing to do. It's also the most effective way to actually see this whole operation through.

Q You - you're saying you won't make qualitative judgments, but other senior officials have done that in recent days - right? - talking about the operations that were focused in Northern Gaza, talking about Israel heeding advice based on U.S.'s previous operations, you know, experience with urban warfare. So, there does seem to be - I mean, we have heard that kind of judgment from other officials in the past, right?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, what you've heard - and you've heard it from me, too - is the basic proposition that one innocent civilian killed is too many, and too many innocent civilians have died in this conflict. The Vice President has said that. Secretary Blinken has said that. I have said that.

So, that - that's a truth that does not require a kind of judgment that - that parses a particular act in a particular location.

And so, we will speak out on principle that the protection of civilians and operations consistent with the laws of war are fundamental and should be respected. And I have said that repeatedly from this podium.

But when asked to characterize a precise comparison between Northern Gaza and Southern Gaza, particularly after just - we're talking the course of a couple of days, I'm not in a position to stand up here and do that.

But I will reinforce what all of my colleagues have said about the basic principles that undergird the U.S. approach to this issue.

Yeah.

Q Thanks, Jake. You've said that the Vice President, Secretary Blinken, you yourself have said that too many Palestinian civilians have died. We haven't heard the President himself say that. Is - is there daylight to - on that issue? Why - why won't he say that himself?

MR. SULLIVAN: There's no daylight on that.

Yeah.

Q Yeah, Jake, when we heard from John Kirby at one point last week, he said that we need to have a pause to continue to get hostages out and we need to continue to get hostages out in order to have the pause. Given that both of those factors are no longer the case right now, what are the points of leverage, the points of pressure that you believe are available to try to get back to that situation?

And then secondly, if I can, you mentioned the Vice President and her travels to the region. Did she - was she able to read out any of the conversations she had, in terms of whether she secured any new commitments from Arab leaders for the future of Gaza potentially?

MR. SULLIVAN: Actually, the Vice President just had the opportunity to sit with the President today to give a detailed readout of her meetings there, including discussions about the future. But I'm not in a position to characterize those conversations because, of course, they were private diplomatic discussions, and she went through them in detail with the President. And, of course, he'll be following up with ma- - many of those leaders in the days ahead.

Look, the basic bottom line when it comes to where we are in the hostage negotiations is that the first phase of the hostage negotiation was about the release of women and children. Hamas continues to hold women - civilian women and will not release them. And Israel is not prepared to close the book on those women or to give them up, so Israel is insisting that Hamas follow through on the release of those women.

And then Israel has said, if th- - if Hamas is prepared to follow through on that, Israel is absolutely prepared to discuss additional categories of hostages - civilian men, the wounded, and, ultimately, all of the hostages, the IDF soldiers being held there.

We, the United States, of course, look at that negotiation and think, "Okay, how do we get back to it?" The easiest, most straightforward way to get back to it would be for Hamas to be held accountable for not following through on its end of the bargain.

But then we also have to think about how we get all of our American hostages out, and we are giving thought to that as well. And, you know, handicapping forms of leverage or precise strategies for how we go about that is something I will refrain from doing.

I will just say that we are thinking through, both in concert with Israel and then just as a country with our own citizens being held, what tools we have at our disposal to be - to be able to get them out.

Q And then, quickly, on the Vice President's trip. Obviously, Philip Gordon stayed behind, is having meetings in Israel. Was there any consideration for the Vice President traveling to Israel as part of her trip? And if - if she - if so, why - why did she decide not to?

MR. SULLIVAN: I think this was more to do with the fact that she was going for the - the climate conference. That was a great target of opportunity for her to see a number of leaders and for a variety of reasons didn't add a second stop to the trip. But, of course, she spoke with President Hertzog of Israel. She will stay in close touch with Israeli leaders. And I fully anticipate at some point in the months ahead she'll make her own trip to Israel, but would refer you to her office for that.

And part of the reason that she wanted Phil to go was so that he could read out in detail everything that she had learned on her travels to Dubai. And so, they're fully apprised of the outcomes of those meetings.

Yeah.

Q Thank you. (Inaudible) today, a NATO Ally - Spain - some officers from the Spanish intelligence service are under investigation for leaking Spanish secret - secrets to the U.S. Are you aware of this investigation or of any feedback from Spain, any disappointment for the Spanish government?

MR. SULLIVAN: I have no comment on that report today.

Yeah.

Q Okay. And very quickly about the Middle East. Can you tell us what kind of weapons is the U.S. sending to Israel since the October 7th attacks? Media reports talk about 15,000 bombs, some of them very large. Is this accurate?

MR. SULLIVAN: So, on the precise numbers, I'd refer you to - to the Defense Department. They would be in a - the best position to be able to lay out the provision of security assistance since October 7th.

Yeah.

Q Two questions, if I may, Jake. The first on - as you look at post-conflict Gaza planning, are you optimistic that you can get buy-in from Arab country partners on refugee resettlement?

And second, if I may, on the Ukraine aid, is the President personally getting involved yet with calls to those up on the Hill or is that something that you feel will come later?

MR. SULLIVAN: The President has spoken to leaders on the Hill in the course of the past couple of weeks on the supplemental. He will continue to do so as necessary. As you know, he's quite hands-on when it comes to dealing with the Hill, particularly on a national security priority like this.

And I wasn't sure I understood your first question. What are you -

Q Just on refugee resettlement -

MR. SULLIVAN: - referring to on - what do you mean by "refugee resettlement"?

Q As you - as you look at post-conflict Gaza, I mean, obviously, there's going to have to be a lot of talks on refugee resettlement with other countries that might be involved. I mean, are you looking at that with optimism that these partners will - will follow through on - on things that you can all agree on in terms of -

MR. SULLIVAN: You mean in resettling Palestinians from Gaza to their -

Q Yes.

MR. SULLIVAN: - countries? That's -

Q Yes.

MR. SULLIVAN: - what you're referring to?

I'm - we're not in active talks with countries about resettling Palestinians out of Gaza into other countries at this time.

Yeah.

Q Thank you so much. Just following up on Ukraine. What's the plan B if this funding doesn't get approved by Congress? Is that where the lend-lease program could be of use?

And then what's your estimation of how long before the Ukrainians run out of essentials, like bullets, spare parts, food, stuff like that?

MR. SULLIVAN: When we provide what we call a drawdown package to Ukraine - that is weapons in U.S. stocks that we send to Ukraine for use on the battlefield - we then take money Congress has given us and buy new weapons to replace the weapons we've given so that we don't impact U.S. readiness. That's the basic structure of it.

When we run out of money to buy weapons to replace the weapons we're give- - we're giving - and this is the point of Director Young's letter - we are not in a position to continue to supply weapons to Ukraine. That is the stakes with this vote.

Q So, there's no plan B?

MR. SULLIVAN: We need to see - we need to see the Congress step up in a bipartisan way to support it, because there's no way around the simple arithmetic that if there's no funding to provide weapons to Ukraine, we're just not in a position to continue to provide weapons to Ukraine.

We've asked for that funding. We've received that funding in multiple rounds since the war began in February of 2022. And we have put it to quite remarkable use: saving Kyiv, saving Kherson, winning back - or saving Kharkiv, winning back Kherson, allowing Ukraine - enabling Ukraine to retake 50 percent of the territory that was taken, and saving that entire country from being dominated by Russia.

So, at this point, it's a pretty simple choice. The Congress has got to step up and provide the funding, because in the absence of that, as Director Young put it, there's not a magical pot of money out there that we can go dip into that we have been hiding off in the corner.

It's - it's straightforward. Congress has got to provide the funding or the United States cannot continue to support Ukraine.

We will continue to try to rally others to do so. But others looking at us and saying, "You're not giving the money," it - it undermines the case that we can make to the broad-based international coalition that we have pulled together.

Now, the good news is a very strong majority of both Democrats and Republicans support giving this aid. And so, there is no earthly reason why it shouldn't be put to a vote in the House and the Senate. And if it were put to a vote in the House and the Senate, you'd see overwhelming bipartisan support for providing this funding.

Yeah.

Q Why is Hamas refusing to release the civilian women, in your opinion?

MR. SULLIVAN: I am not going to speculate on that, only to say that they haven't done it and only to say we're gravely concerned about that. But I'm not going to speculate as to their reasoning.

Q Jake -

MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah, go ahead.

Q The Uni- - the United States has provided Israel with laser-guided missiles, yet many residential areas have been flattened. Many bombs being - being dropped on Gaza - more than being dropped on Ukraine during the entire war. Does the United States monitor how the United - how the weapons are being used? And if not, why not?

Also, foreign minister - Arab foreign ministers is going to be in D.C. next week. They called for a ceasefire. You disagree on that. What message do you have for them? And where do you agree and disagree with them on how to go forward?

MR. SULLIVAN: Well, first, our Defense Department and the Israeli Defense Forces are in constant communication about the scope and nature of Israel's military operations. That's a conversation that happens at every level, and it involves the way in which U.S. assistance is deployed in this conflict.

With respect to the Arabs - the Arab foreign ministers who are coming here in the coming days, there's a lot we agree on about the long-term vision and the work that we can all do together to come out of this conflict in a way that produces greater peace and prosperity for all of the countries in the region and produces a political horizon for the Palestinian people rooted in the two-state solution. And we look forward to talking to them about that.

We do have a difference of view about a ceasefire because we believe that Israel has the right to continue to go after a terrorist organization that is not only continuing to threaten Israel but is holding hostages, including American hostages. And saying that Israel has no right to conduct military operations against that terrorist group is inconsistent with our view of what is appropriate.

But we'll have that debate, as we have before, in the course of that conversation.

I think Karine is going to kick me out of here, so I'll take one more.

Q Jake - Jake -

MR. SULLIVAN: Yeah.

Q I just have two quick questions. One, has any aid been able to get into Gaza since Friday? I know when Kirby was here - or he did a gaggle Friday and said aid hadn't been able to get in. And if you could just clarify whether the task force that you're talking about in the Red Sea is a new one or one that already operates in the region.

MR. SULLIVAN: So, on the first question, yes. The answer is yes. Trucks have been flowing into Gaza. We'll try to get you the precise numbers over the course of the past couple of days.

But the Rafah Crossing is open; aid is moving in. And our goal is to sustain that and increase it over time. And I was on the phone today with my Israeli colleagues, talking to them about ways to get that throughput up above where it is.

And in terms of the task force, as I said before, we have other task forces that deal with issues relative to maritime security. What the precise structure would be, I will defer to the consultations that are taking place, only to say that, at a broad level, the idea that we would work with other countries and their naval vessels to try to provide a greater level of security through the Red Sea, that's something that we're actively discussing with our colleagues.

So, I'll leave it at that. Thank you, guys.

Q Are all the American hostages alive, Jake? Do you know? Are all -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thanks, Jake.

All right. Let's see how we do.

Darlene, it's good to see you.

Q Good you see you too.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I haven't seen you in a while.

Q Yes, thank you. Two quick questions. What is the reaction here to the collapse of the border talks over the weekend? You know, that - that is supposed to unlock money for Ukraine. You're getting to the end of the road on Ukraine. So, what is the view here on what happened over the weekend with the breakdown in those talks?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, we've been pretty consistent and are not going to get into the hypotheticals or specifics of the conversations happening in Congress. I'm going to let congressional members, senators have those - those conversations.

I can say that, as we've done with many, many - when legislation is discussed, as we've done with many other components of - or other times that legislation comes to - comes to, like, a debate, we offer technical assistance. And certainly, we offer any advice that may be needed from us. But we're - I'm just not going to get into hypotheticals from here.

You saw the letter from - as it relates to our national security, you saw the letter from our OMB Director, Shalanda Young. You heard from Jake Sullivan just moments ago about how important it is to get the supplemental done. It is important to our national security. And so, we're going to be really clear about that and - and continue to speak pretty steadfast and let Congress know the time is now to get this done.

Q And then, one follow on Israel-Hamas. The General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists told the AP in an interview today that journalists or media workers are killed - one is killed every - every day, on average, in the war, making it a conflict beyond compare to any other. At least 60 journalists have been killed since October 7th, most of them Palestinians.

So, my question is - is: As the U.S. urges Israel to minimize the deaths of Palestinian civilians, is there a similar emphasis that's placed on sparing journalists from being -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh -

Q - caught in the crossfire?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I - I just want to be clear, I haven't seen this interview, so I want to be really clear about that.

But obviously, the - making sure that journalist, who are really important, on the ground and reporting on what's happening on the ground and making sure that they're protected and able to do that is - is critical. It's important.

And that is - that - we've been pretty consistent here about protecting and making sure that journalists are able to do what they're - are able to gather the facts, report the facts, and do that in a way that, you know, they're - they're not threatened or they're not put in danger.

Obviously, they are in a dangerous situation. But obviously, that is a concern for us. We're certainly monitoring that, having those conversations.

But I did not see this interview. So, I want to be really, really clear about that.

But we want to make sure that journalists are protected. What they're doing on the ground is - is critical. It's important in hearing - in hearing directly from them on what they're seeing.

Q Thank you.

Q Karine, does the White House believe that additional election monitors are necessary in swing states across the country?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I want to be careful because we're talking about upcoming elections, obviously. I'm assuming you're referring to 2024 and what we're going to be potentially seeing. So, I'm going to have to refer you to the - to the campaign.

Obviously, for us - and we've been - we've taken actions on the federal level on making sure voting is accessible and have taken - the President signed an executive action very early on on what we can do on the federal level to make sure that voting is a lot easier for folks and they have access and they're educated on what's available to them.

But I want to be really careful, certainly, on talking about anything that's related to 2024.

Q I know, and I just want to challenge you a little bit on that because it's -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. Sure.

Q - it's not - I'm not asking for a reaction, at least not directly, to the person who brought this up.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.

Q I'm asking broadly about whether or not the infrastructure is sufficient and whether the White House believes it needs additional backup.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I will say this: We believe that voting should be made easie- - easier for Americans. We've been very clear about that. It should not be - they should not be put in a place or in a situation where they - their right to vote is - is - there's an obstacle in any way.

And so, look, every state deals with that differently. Every state has their own kind of process. So, certainly not going to pre- - preempt that and talk about a - what states are doing or what that may look like for any of these battleground states that certainly are going to be focused on by all of you next year.

I just want to be super, super careful on how I - how I speak to anything that's related to 2024. So, I'm just being incredibly mindful here.

Go ahead.

Q Just on the funding for Ukraine and Israel. Given that the impasse right now seems to be over border issues, can you speak a little bit about what the White House is and isn't willing to support on that issue specifically?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm just not going to negotiate from here. Not going to get into any policy specifics or provisions or whatever is being discussed as it relates to that in the Senate. I'm just going to let them have those conversations. I'm just not going to lay out what we will accept or not accept. I'm just going to let them do - deal with - deal with the process on the other side of - of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Go ahead.

Q Back on the supplemental and the - this letter from the OMB director. You know, Speaker Johnson is responding, saying that the administration, you know, has still failed to address their concerns about a lack of a clear strategy in Ukraine, saying there hasn't been a plan for adequately ensuring accountability. Just your response to the Speaker?

And also, can you sort of describe the outreach that's going on right now between the White House and members of Congress just to try and shore up support on the Hill for this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, you just heard Jake said that in the last couple of weeks, this President has been certainly engaged with - with members and certainly leaders on the Hill. We don't obviously read out every conversation that he has.

And we have said for - for many weeks, many months now that when you think about our Office of Leg Affairs and other folks here at the White House have been in regul- - regular contact - right? - with the folks on the Hill.

I'm always very careful on not - not predicting either congressional votes or either policies or getting into negotiations from here. I think the Di- - Directors Young's letter today was really clear, was very specific on the importance of this letter - of this funding for Ukraine, why it's important.

I think when Jake Sullivan was here, he talked about what we've seen the past almost two years in Ukraine and what's been able to - to happen, how - how - how Ukraine has been able to really fight for their freedom. What we thought - you know, the first couple of days into the war, we thought Kyiv was going to be taken right away, and they've been able to protect more than 50 percent of their land, as - as Jake states - stated very clearly here.

And so, I think it's important, when you think about Putin, you think about tyranny, you think about what they're fighting against: terror - you know, the tyranny, terrorism, a dictator - right? - all of those things - when you think about both Israel and Ukraine. And that is important. That is important that our leadership continue in helping - in helping Ukraine fight for their - for their freedom.

Q And last year around this time, President Zelenskyy came to Washington. Is there any consideration for him to maybe pay another visit to make the case to Congress for this continued funding?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I would refer you to Zelenskyy and his team. It's not something that I can speak from - from here. And I don't have anything to read out.

Q Is that something you'd like to see?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) I don't have anything that I can read out.

Obviously, we are in regular communication with Zelenskyy - President Zelenskyy - Zelenskyy and his team, as we have been for almost two years now. I just don't have anything - more than two years, actually - since before - since before the war. I just don't have anything to share at this time.

Go ahead.

Q Thank you, Karine. In 2021, President Biden called Georgia's election law changes "new Jim Crow laws" that were "antithetical to who we are." They imposed voter identification requirements, limited use of drop boxes, and gave state officials more power over local elections. And then in 2022, Georgia did have record turnout, but you had argued from the podium that there was voter suppression. Does the White House still believe that that was true?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything else to add from what I stated last time.

Q So, does the Florida party, then, effectively canceling the Democratic primary also constitute voter suppression?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can't speak to that.

Q Why not?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You have to speak to the campaign or the - or the DNC.

Q Does the White House have any thoughts on - on -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can't - I can't -

Q - those voters being -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can't speak to that.

Q Is it because of the Hatch Act or -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just - this is - you're talking about the 2024 election. You're talking about a primary. I'm just not going to speak to that from here.

Q Okay. And then can I get the White House's response to Congresswoman Jayapal's comments over the weekend? In her interview, she said that sexual violence should be condemned but that we have to be balanced in our condemnation. Was that an appropriate comment?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, so we've been very, very clear. You heard a little bit from - from Jake Sullivan about this. I can only speak for - for the President. That's who I can speak for. And we've been clear: What Hamas did is absolutely reprehensible. And full stop. We're going to continue to be clear about that.

And we think about, you know, rape and the use of rape as being used as a - as a weapon - that is also reprehensible. And that's full stop. And I'll just leave it there.

And I'm speaking for the President of the United States.

Q Is -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think I've been very clear on that.

Q Any comment, though, for -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just -

Q - Congresswoman Jayapal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I just commented on it. I just laid out what we believe is unacceptable.

Q Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q Thanks, Karine. I know you said you don't want to negotiate from the podium, but I want to ask you about some reporting we had this weekend about the border talks linking to Ukraine funding on Capitol Hill. One of the factors we're told that has made this so difficult for the Democratic negotiators is the view of Republicans that, as part of the negotiations - that the White House is, in their words, so desperate for this Ukraine funding that they are willing to accept positions on asylum, for instance, that they otherwise would not have put on the table at this point.

I'm wondering if you'd respond to that characterization that the U.S. - that the White House is so desperate for this Ukraine aid that it's considering immigration changes that would not necessarily pass muster with other Democrats.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, let's be really clear. It's not desperation making sure that we continue to support Ukraine in their fight against tyranny. That is not desperation. That is the right thing to do. That is what we've been doing for almost two years now: making sure that Ukraine and the people of Ukraine have what they need, have the security assistance that they need to fight this war that was started - aggressive war that was started by Mr. Putin.

That is - there is - there is nothing desperate about that. It is the right thing to do.

Now, as it relates to borders - border security, you know, this is the President from day one that has taken this issue very seriously. You've heard me say over and over again, when - on his first day in administration, he introduced a comprehensive immigration law - a comprehensive immi- - immigration law, and it's been three years.

And guess what? Congress has failed to act. They have failed to act. And what they continue to do is behave in - is behave as if, you know, the security of the - of our - of our border - as if it's political football. That's what they have done.

The President has made sure that he's used enforcement, deterrence, and diplo- - diplomacy to deal with this issue.

And so, you know, I'll just have to restate this: There is nothing desperate about making sure the people of Ukraine, who are under attack - under attack by Mr. Putin, have what they need to fight for their freedom, to fight for their democracy.

Okay.

Q On another question - another issue. Many Jewish Americans this week will begin celebrating Hanukkah, and we've already seen some jurisdictions have had to alter or, in some cases, cancel what used to be public celebrations of this holiday. Does the White House, does the administration have any evidence or concern about the safety of some of these demonstrations?

And I also wonder if you can talk about what the White House's plans are to mark the holiday and if that's been impacted by the war.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: That's a very good question. Obviously, over the past couple of weeks since this - certainly since this war started, we have seen the increase of antisemitism. And, you know, we understand the fear that people in the Jewish community must be feeling right now, which is why we have taken action to do everything that we can to make sure that people in that community feel protected. And so, that's what we're going to continue to do.

I don't have any specifics to lay out as we get closer to the holiday.

But obviously, we have seen an uptick in antisemitism. We have seen an uptick in hate, just more broadly, in different communities - obviously, also in the Muslim community. And so, we will do everything that we can to make sure that these communities feel safe.

Q And then a follow-up.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q What is the President's message to immigration advocates who - just to follow up on that question -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay.

Q - who are worried that the President could give up too much in order to secure aid to Ukraine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm - I'm just not going to get into hypotheticals from here.

Q Can you assure them that -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I - I - I'm just not - not going to. That's basically laying out what we agree with or don't agree with of whatever is being discussed on the other side of Pennsylvania.

What I will be really clear about: This is a president that has taken this very seriously and who wants to - when he's moved forward in his immigration policies, he's tried to do this in a - in a humane way and make sure that our - our borders are protected, make sure that Americans are protected. And so, that's the way that he's - he's - he's moved forward in the past almost three years dealing with this issue.

I'm just - I don't want to get into specifics of policy, what we're willing to accept, not - not accept.

We've been in regular communication, offering technical support, offering any assistance, but just not going to negotiate from here. And answering that question would certainly be laying out what we would except [accept] and not accept.

Q So, just really briefly, I know that he's - you said that he's spoken to leaders on the Hill. Do you expect the President to get more directly involved by either inviting lawmakers to the White House or going to the Hill himself to have sort of direct discussions with them (inaudible)?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don't - don't have anything at this time to lay out.

Go ahead, Steven.

Q Thank you, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Sure.

Q It's been a while. I hope we can do it more.

I - I've got one - one -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just take it - just take it one step too far, my friend. (Laughter.)

Q Well -

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Just - just ask your question.

Q - thank you. Thank you anyway. I've got a question about domestic surveillance and then one about online censorship.

On domestic surveillance, Section 702 of FISA is expiring this month. And against this debate, Senator Wyden, just this past month, released a letter saying that the White House is secretly funding a domestic call record dragnet administered by AT&T. Apparently, according to Wired, the White House halted funding for this program in 2021 and resumed it last year. And I was wondering what you could tell us about this program and just the reason that it was paused and then resumed by the White House.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, would have to check with the team. I don't have anything specific to tell you about 702. Is it - that's what you're - you're asking me about? I just don't have anything to share on that particular question.

Q Thanks.

On the online censorship question. Last week, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Rob Flaherty about the efforts to influence social media moderation. Is the White House going to seek to block that testimony? And is there any reconsideration by the White House or regrets about the past flagging of social media content for removal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm just going to be - be very clear here: My colleagues at the White House Counsel's Office has already addressed this. So, I would have to refer you to them.

I'm just not - I don't have anything to add specifically on this.

Go ahead.

Q Karine, I haven't had one (inaudible).

Q Thanks, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, okay. Whoever - you already got a question.

Go ahead, Phil.

Q Thank you. The White House has said repeatedly that the President and his son were never in business together. They've said that repeatedly also in this room.

According to bank records obtained by the House Oversight Committee, though, one of Hunter Biden's businesses, Owasco PC, set up direct payments to the President. Did the President accept payment? And why would there be such an arrangement if they were never in business together or if there was a wall of separation, as the President has previously said?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I have to be clear with you: I - I have not seen that report, so I would have to refer you to my colleagues over at the White House Counsel's Office on that particular question.

All right, everyone. I'll see some of you in Boston or on Wednesday.

Thanks, everybody.

Q Thank you.

Q Thank you, Karine.

3:08 P.M. EST