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Press Briefing by White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre – July 25 2023

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Hey, everybody. 

Q    Hello.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It still smells like a new car in here.

Okay, good afternoon.  Yesterday, I previewed the designated — the designation of three historic site as part of the new national monument that will honor the legacy of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley, as well as preserve opportunities for gen- — for future generations to learn about painful chapters in our history. 

As the President and the Vice President both expressed this afternoon: An honest and full accounting of our nation’s history is not only what generations of enslaved and oppressed Americans deserve, it’s integral to moving us forward. 

Now, switching gears, you just heard from the President moments ago a — about another monumentally important announcement.  Mental health is a growing problem that touches every corner of the country.

That’s exactly why President Biden made tackling the mental health crisis a key focus of his Unity Agenda — areas where members of both parties can come together and make progress for the American people.

Fifteen years ago, the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was enacted.  That law was passed to ensure that mental health care was treated like physical healthcare.  In other words, insurers couldn’t force you to pay more for a visit to a mental health provider than your primary care doctor.  However, some insurers have been gaming the system, making it more difficult to access mental health coverage.

Today, President Biden discussed a landmark proposed rule to fix this very problem.  As he said, “Mental health is health.”  The rule will help families get the same access to mental health and substance-use benefits through private insurance as they do to physical healthcare.  And it’s a major step in our work to ensure Americans can get the help that they need.

Today, we got additional evidence of Bidenomics is working.  As the Associated Press reported, “[C]onsumer confidence shot to the highest level in two years this month as inflationary pressures eased and the American economy continued to show resilience.”

And yesterday, the Economic Innovation Group released their latest small-business report with an unambiguous title, quote, “The Startup Surge Continues.”

If trends hold, we are on track to have the first, second, and the third best years for new business applications on the record under President Biden.

Unemployment remains at near-record lows and inflation has fallen to 3 percent, with President Biden’s investment in America serving as a wind in the sails of the economy. 

Investments in domestic manufacturing are booming.

That’s Bidenomics in action.  And the American people are beginning to feel Bidenomics.

And finally, today, the Biden-Harris administration is announcing a new security assistance package to support the people of Ukraine as they bravely defend their country. 

This announcement includes important capabilities to strengthen Ukraine’s air defenses, including additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems and NASAMS that the United States has provided to help Ukraine protect its people from Russian attacks.  The package also has more artillery rounds, anti-aircraft systems, several dozen armored personnel carriers, and over 28 million rounds of small-arms ammunition, all of which will arrive in Ukraine soon.

As we have said before, we — we made it a priority to provide Ukraine with everything they told us they — they would need for the counteroffensive before their operations began.

Announcements like today’s reflect our commitment to continuing to provide Ukraine with the weapons and equipment they need to help them succeed on the battlefield.  

As I talked about yesterday during the briefing — at the top of the briefing yesterday — Russia has spent the past week bombarding Ukrainian port cities such as Odesa.  And yesterday, Russia destroyed Ukrainian grain warehouses on the Da- — Danube River, depriving the world of even more food that could have been used to feed the hungry around the world.

We will continue to support Ukraine as they stand up to Russian brutality and defend their country as long as it takes.  

With that, Seung Min.

Q    Hey, I have a couple questions related to Trevor Reed.  I wanted to know if the administration had any sense of how many Americans are, like Mr. Reed, in Ukraine doing this type of freelance fighting, and if the administration has a message for Americans who are doing that or considering doing that.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So we’ve — we’ve been very clear about our message to Americans.  Let me just say that we are aware that Trevor Reed was injured while participating in fighting in Ukraine.  So we are aware of that.

But since the beginning of the war, we’ve been very clear.  We have warned that U.S. citizens who travel to Ukraine, especially with the purpose of participating in fighting there, that they — they face significant risks.  We have said that over and over again for the past more than 16 months now, including — including the real — the real risk of capture or death.  So, been very clear with Americans here in this country about that. 

And I also want to be very clear here that Mr. Reed was not engaged in any activities on behalf of the U.S. government.  And as I — as I’ve indicated, the U.S. government has been extraordinarily — extraordinarily explicit in warning Americans not to travel to Ukraine, let alone participating in fighting there.

So as you know, it is not able — we are not able to provide assistance to evacuate U.S. citizens — that’s not something that we are able to do — from Ukraine, including those Americans who may decide to travel to Ukraine to participate in an ongoing war.

So we are aware that with support of the NGO, Trevor has been evacuated to Germany, where he is receiving medical care. 

Beyond that, because of privacy reasons, I’m not going to share any more beyond that.

Q    So does the administration have any sort of statistics on who is doing this kind of freelancing effort?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I don’t have a number to share with you.  But we have been explicitly — explicitly clear to Americans that — to — first of all, to not to travel to Ukraine, but certainly not risk their lives on the battlefield because of the risks that, clearly, I just laid out.

Q    And one follow-up to that.  Obviously, this comes at a time when the President has said he’s considering a prisoner swap for other U.S. citizens who are still in Russia, like Mr. Gershkovich.  So, I’m wondering if the White House has any concern that this incident could undermine those efforts, considering this is someone who was released in a prisoner — prisoner exchange with Russia and now has gone back into the region to fight specifically against Russia.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I can assure the American public, I can assure all of you that the team is — certainly continues to pursue every avenue to bring home Evan, to bring home Paul.  This case — this — those cases — this case is completely sa- — separate.  They’re not the same, and they are treated entirely differently.

Go ahead, Mary.

Q    The President’s son, Hunter, has a court appearance scheduled for tomorrow.  You know, given the President’s unwavering support for him, is anyone from the family planning to accompany him tomorrow? 

And also, we haven’t heard directly from Hunter yet since he entered this plea.  It seems that tomorrow might present that kind of opportunity.  Is the White House encouraging or discouraging him from speaking out publicly?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to get into — into — into anything that’s related to Hunter Biden.  He’s a private citizen.  I would refer you to his representatives.  Just don’t have anything to share on that.  That is something that he is dealing with.  And so, would refer you to his representatives on this.

Q    And nothing on whether anyone will be with him from the family?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I would refer you to — to Hunter Biden’s representatives.

Q    On a very different topic: the dog.  (Laughter.)  It seems that Commander Biden has a bit of a biting problem.  Can you give us the latest?  And also, any plans for him to, perhaps, make a move, go stay with some family friends, as — as Major Biden, the previous dog, did?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, as — (laughter) — as you all know, the White House complex can be unique and very stressful.  And that is something I’m sure — (laughter) — you all can understand.  And — and it is — as I just said, is — it is unique and it is stressful for all of us, so you can imagine what it’s like for a family pet and family pets, more — more broadly. 

And so, look, the First Family is working through ways to make this situation better for everyone.  I think there was a statement that came out of the First Lady’s Office from my colleague over there, Elizabeth Alexander, so I’ll just kind of lay out a little bit of what she put out in her statement. 

So, they have been partnering with the Secret Service and Executive Residence staff on additional leashing protocols and training, as well as establishing designated areas for Commander to run and exercise. 

According to the Secret Service, each incident referenced was treated similarly to comparable — comparable, pardon me, workplace injuries with relevant notifications of reporting procedures followed. 

And so, the President and the First Lady are obviously — and continue to be incredibly grateful to the Secret Service and the Executive Residence staff for all they do to keep them and their family and the country safe. 

I don’t have anything — specifics on any changes to — to Commander’s whereabouts.  So I’ll just leave it there.

Go ahead.

Q    Karine, China just demoted their foreign minister and appointed veteran diplomat Wang Yi.  He’s a fairly familiar character.  Do you anticipate any change in relations with China as a result of this?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, look, we’re aware, clearly, of the decision, the recent change.  This is an internal matter for PRC, so we’ll leave it up to them to speak to — to speak to this change and comments and any questions.

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