Posted on: July 16, 2022 Posted by: AKDSEO Comments: 0

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

4:50 P.M. AST

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Okay, I just have a few things at the top.  Welcome aboard our historic flight from Israel to Saudi Arabia.  As you all have heard us say many times before, this will be the first time a President has ever flown from Israel to Jeddah, and we are glad to have you with us as we make this histori- — historic trip on Air Force One.

It follows the monumental decision to open Saudi airspace to all civilian carriers without discrimination, a decision that includes flights to and from Israel.  We commend that progress, which is the result of President Biden’s persistent and principled diplomacy with Saudi Arabia over many months.  That paves the way for a more integrated, stable, and secure Middle East.

Now, with that, I will give you National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Thanks, everybody.  I’ll be very brief and then take your questions.

We’ll be landing soon in Jeddah.  The President, tonight, will have bilateral engagements with the Saudi leadership, and then tomorrow he’ll have bilateral engagements with the leadership of Egypt, the UAE, and Iraq, and then participate in the GCC+3 Summit, at which he will lay out clearly and substantively his vision and his strategy for America’s engagement in the Middle East.

As he has said on this trip, he’s intent on ensuring that there is not a vacuum in the Middle East for China and Russia to fill, that American leadership and an American engagement will be a feature of U.S. policy in this region, and that we intend to play a critical role in this strategically vital region on an ongoing basis.

He will cover the waterfront in both his bilateral and multilateral engagements, from security to economics, to regional integration, to cooperation on the big global challenges of our time, to human rights and forcefully advocating for America’s values and for the President’s personal priorities.

So we’ll see all of that unfold over the course of the next 24 hours before we get on the flight home.

And with that, I’d be happy to take your questions.

Q    Are you expecting any agreements on increased production of oil to result from this meeting?

MR. SULLIVAN:  We will discuss energy security at this meeting.  The President discusses it when he’s in Europe, when he’s in Asia, and he certainly will be discussing it here in the Middle East and here in Saudi Arabia.

Just to take a step back: Before we announced the trip, you saw an announcement from OPEC+ on accelerating and increasing production.  We will discuss the issue here, and we are hopeful that we will see additional actions by OPEC+ in the coming weeks.

And if you recall, when I spoke at the podium on Monday, somebody asked me how do you measure progress on the energy question, and I said it’ll be measured over the course of weeks.

That has been our plan going in.  That is our plan on this plane.  That will be our plan coming out.

So I don’t think you should expect a particular announcement here bilaterally because we believe any further action taken to ensure that there is sufficient energy to protect the health of the global economy will be done in the context of OPEC+. 

Q    But on the visit in the West Bank today, I don’t think he mentioned his pledge from the campaign on reopening the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem.  Was that — why didn’t he talk about that issue?  And was that — did he talk to President Abbas about that in their private meeting?

MR. SULLIVAN:  He did speak with President Abbas about his consistent policy, from when he was candidate to as President over the last 18 months, to reopen the consulate.  That continues to be the U.S. position, and we continue to engage with both the Israelis and Palestinians on the issue.  And we spoke with both the Israelis and Palestinians on the issue on this trip.

Q    Jake, a follow-up to that.  My colleague was told by a Palestinian official there, locally on the ground, that the reason the United States and the Palestinians were unable to put out a joint statement is because there was disagreements that East Jerusalem should be referred to as the future capital of a Palestinian state, and I wanted to hear what you all say.  That was what we —

MR. SULLIVAN:  First, in general, I don’t want to characterize diplomatic discussions that are private. 

But I think that that is not an accurate reflection of the back-and-forth that led to a decision that was reached really rapidly — it wasn’t like a lot of to-ing and fro-ing — that the best way for us to articulate the President’s vision and our vision with respect to the stop in Bethlehem was for us to put out our own statement, a statement that the Palestinian leadership very much welcomed and praised to us.  So that was just how we chose to proceed.

Q    Jake, can I ask you: Does the President plan, when he’s meeting Saudi officials, to raise the issue of U.S. Saudi citizens under arrest under travel ban in Saudi Arabia and other specific cases you have in mind?

MR. SULLIVAN:  You heard the President yesterday say that he doesn’t preview the specific points he is going to raise in a meeting with anyone on this trip or other trips. 

You also heard him say yesterday that he always raises human rights, and that will be no different on this trip.  And you’ve heard him in the past say that cases of American citizens are a priority for him everywhere and they’re a priority for us in Saudi just as they are in many other countries. 

So I won’t go further than that today other than to lay out those basic principles.  That’s where he is as he heads into these meetings.

Q    On Khashoggi, to follow up on what Steve asked him at the press conference yesterday: His widow left meetings with U.S. officials with the understanding that the President would raise his specific case with MBS.  But yesterday, it seemed like the President was dancing around it a little bit, saying, “I’m never shying away from raising human rights.” 

Does that mean he’s not going — can you just, like, explain and clarify?  Is he going to —

MR. SULLIVAN:  I think it’s wrong to say the President was dancing around it.  The President made two very direct, very clear statements, which should come as no surprise to you all who travel with him. 

First statement: He doesn’t describe the details of what he is going to raise in meetings, particularly before he’s had them, because he wants to go have those meetings. 

Second statement: He always raises issues of human rights, and this will be no different. 

That’s what he said yesterday.  That’s what I’m saying today.  And that will be the case on his trip.

Q    But why not just say that he’s going to bring it up — that he’s going to bring up Jamal Khashoggi’s case?

MR. SULLIVAN:  As I said, the President believes very strongly that his ability to be effective as a leader and his ability to engage effectively diplomatically depends on his ability to be able to have direct diplomacy without playing out all of these issues in the press. 

Now, what he will stand behind and send a very clear message on, and did yesterday, is the proposition that fundamental issues of human rights are going to be on the agenda.  He is going to raise them.  He is going to be the way he always is, which is direct, straightforward, and candid.  And then, after the meetings conclude, he’ll make a determination about how he wants to characterize that to all of you.

Q    Jake, how firm were the demands of the Saudis that President Biden make this trip to pay — provide presidential, personal attention to the Crown Prince, given their frustration that he, in their words, maligned the Kingdom during the campaign, describing it as a “pariah”?  Take us behind the scenes of that and his desire, or lack of desire, to have to make this visit. 

MR. SULLIVAN:  The trip did not emerge as a request.  The trip emerged as a strategic decision the President made to make sure that the United States was firmly planting its flag in this region for the long term because of the President’s view that, at this point, you cannot break apart geographies and choose to focus only in some places and not in others, and his view that the Middle East remains a strategically vital region.  And as he has said, he’s not going to leave an American vacuum here to China and Russia. 

The President also, from the very beginning of his term — not just in the last few weeks or in the last few months — has directed a policy of recalibrating, not rupturing, the relationship with Saudi Arabia. 

That’s not a line that just appeared in his op-ed two weeks ago.  That was our position in the opening 60 days of the administration when we took steps in relation to the Khashoggi report. 

So, there’s been some, I think, revisionist history around the idea that he’s just alighted upon this approach.  In fact, it’s been the approach since the beginning of the administration: recalibrate, not rupture. 

So, then his view was: “In order for me to effectively engage and advocate for a sustained and sustainable and effective American strategy in the Middle East, I want to gather the leaders, nine of them.”  And Saudi Arabia is, in fact, the host of the GCC.  So, this will be the natural location to hold that. 

And then, of course, if you come to a summit being hosted by a country, a bilateral program with that country is de rigueur.  It would be odd not to go ahead and have that. 

And so that’s how the logic train unfolded.  So, he is looking forward to engaging on a substantive basis to advance American interests with the Saudi leadership tonight and then looking forward to the broader summit tomorrow, because he believes that at the end of that, the strategic position of the United States both regionally and globally will be enhanced.  And the countries who are most nervous and, at some level, opposed to what he’s doing are Russia, China, and Iran. 

Q    So he wanted to make this trip all along: yes or no?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, I don’t know about what you mean by “all along.”  Because —

Q    From the beginning of his term, this has been a priority to go to Saudi? 

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m (inaudible) —

Q    I’m asking.  I’m asking.

MR. SULLIVAN:  And just to be clear, what I was saying from the beginning of his term was that his policy direction was “recalibrate, not rupture.” 

The question of the trip really emerged earlier this year when we were looking at an arc of engagement globally that included a trip to the Indo-Pacific in May on the heels of a special summit with ASEAN; a trip to Europe for the G7 and NATO in June; the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles in June; and then the African Leaders Summit, which will take place later this year in Washington. 

What’s left out of that arc is the Middle East.  And so, the President directed his team to think about an approach that would get him to the Middle East in a way where he could effectively engage. 

That was some months ago.  And so, since then, we have been engaged, yes, with the Saudis, but with other countries as well, to pull together all of the elements of this trip. 

Q    Yesterday, the President referred to the fact that he would not wait indefinitely for the Iranians to come to the table for this nuclear deal.  Can you help clarify what that means?  I mean, there’s no doubt that some of the GCC countries are also equally concerned about Iranians obtaining a nuclear weapon. 

    
MR. SULLIVAN:  I’ve said before, and it’s consistent with what the President said yesterday: We’re not circling a date on the calendar.  The deal is on the table.  Should the Iranians choose to take it, we’re ready for a compliance-for-compliance return.

But we’re also not waiting to continue to impose economic pressure on Iran — further economic pressure on Iran to include two rounds of sanctions designations that we have done to enforce the sanctions and crack down on smuggling and deprive Iran of sources of revenue.

We’ll continue to do that, even as we work at the negotiating table to try to produce a return to the JCPOA.

But as I said, this will not stay open indefinitely and we’re not circling a date on the calendar.

Q    Jake, to follow up on what you were saying earlier about the summit tomorrow and the President looking to put his imprint on the region, is he looking to come in just to make his case to the leaders?  Is he looking for a specific commitment?  Like, what is his mindset going into this?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I think his mindset is twofold.  One, you know Joe Biden; he feels very strongly about direct engagement, so he wants the opportunity to sit around the table with these leaders and hear from them and be able to share his views in full so they understand where he’s coming from and he understands where they’re coming from.  So that’s the first thing.

The second thing is there are very specific steps that they will be discussing tomorrow.  Some involve regional integration, including Iraq’s integration in the region, including deepening economic integration among some of the key states that will be sitting around that table.

A stronger GCC after a period of real rift and division in the GCC, that will be discussed; tighter coordination and collaboration when it comes to Iran and its various destabilizing activities; support from the GCC for the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment so that our high-standards alternative for global infrastructure investment gets the backing of countries that have a lot to bring to the table as we look to do digital infrastructure, energy infrastructure, and other forms of infrastructure projects around the world.

That’s just some of the specifics that will be discussed tomorrow.  We’ll have communiqués for both the GCC and the GCC+3 that will lay out what the leaders have agreed.  And then the President’s own words, the speech that he will give sitting at that table, I think, is worth paying close attention to because it will outline the Biden strategy for the Middle East.  And it’s a strategy fit for purpose for 2022 as opposed to the two decades of major land wars that the U.S. fought in this region over the — you know, over the course of the 2000s.

Q    Jake, Khashoggi’s fiancée said going and doing this trip is backsliding on human rights.  One, what do you say to her?  And, two, the families have asked for specific things for the — for the President to bring up.  Does he intend to bring up, including where his remains are?

MR. SULLIVAN:  So, first, my heart, as all of your hearts, goes out to the family of Jamal Khashoggi.  He was murdered in a brutal and grisly way.  When this administration came in, we moved to take action.  We’ve talked through the set of actions that we took over the course of the past few days.  And the President remains firmly committed to advancing the cause of human rights in general and in particular.

And so you will see him speaking, over the next day, publicly on the issue of human rights.  And he will, of course, also engage privately on the issue of human rights, and the United States will continue to try to move the ball forward on what is, for Joe Biden, a hallmark of his career from the time he was a senator, from the time he was vice president, and now, during the time he is president. 

I’ll give the same answer to you that I gave before, which is he is going to have a conversation on fundamental issues of human rights in Saudi Arabia.  And the specifics of that, I’m not going to go beyond where he was yesterday.

Q    Jake, to follow up to that though — okay, point taken, you don’t want to, you know, get ahead of the President.  Can we, you know, get a commitment that the President then can read out what he said to us?  Because, you know, if you are making —

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’m not totally sure I understand the question.  What do you mean —

Q    Is he taking — is he taking questions in Saudi Arabia from the press?  So far, it doesn’t seem like there’s an opportunity.  But if you don’t want to get ahead of him, we would like to ask him about this meeting after.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, I — look, I’m not the person you should talk to about the question of communications protocols and so forth.  I’ll leave that to others.

I don’t know — if we’re negotiating commitments, I — (laughs) — I stayed up all night last night negotiating various commitments government-to-government, and I’ll just stay in my lane and do those negotiations and let others negotiate on this point.

Like I said, the President will decide himself how he wants to characterize these meetings, and I’ll let him do that after he’s had them.

Q    What did the President mean yesterday when he said the last administration, in his words, “walked away” from the Middle East, when only a day earlier he had praised the previous administration for the Abraham Accords?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I missed the first half of the question.

Q    What did the President mean yesterday when he said that the last administration had “walked away” from the Middle East, when only a day earlier he had praised the last administration for the Abraham Accords?

MR. SULLIVAN:  He was referring to a series of steps that he thinks were wrong and that he has taken a different approach on as President. 

He walked away from the two-state — they — I’m sorry, the last administration walked away from the two-state solution in any serious contemplation or consideration.  It walked away from the Palestinians, cutting off all funding to them, which we have restored.  It basically walked away from diplomatic ties with the Palestinians, which the President has obviously restored, and you saw that at the highest level with his meeting with Abu Mazen today. 

The previous administration walked away from the Iran nuclear deal, and in doing so, walked away from our allies — with whom we had been united — so that it was the U.S. who was isolated on the Iranian nuclear issue, not Iran. 

And the last administration walked away from diplomacy when it came to ending the war in Yemen.  This President reengaged on that, and now we have a 15-week truce, the longest peaceful period in that conflict in several years.

And in Saudi Arabia, he will seek to deepen and extend that truce and start working towards a wider settlement. 

So that’s just some of what he was referring to.

Q    Jake —

Q    Jake, just one question about ener- — sorry, on — one question about energy.  The Russians have been buying fuel oil from Saudi Arabia.  Is the President going to ask the Saudis to limit those exports to Russia?

MR. SULLIVAN:  He will have a broad conversation about energy security, especially in the context of Russia’s war in Ukraine.  And true to form, I’m not going to speak specifically about what it is that he’s going to raise.

Q    One about normalization with the Palestinians, just the dynamic of what’s going on with Israel, moving even when what you guys, I’m sure, are going to be talking about with the Saudis.  But what does that dynamic mean for the Palestinians?  And was there any nudge that it’s time to sort of move things along on the Palestinian side so you’re not left behind?

MR. SULLIVAN:  The President made the case to President Abbas that Israel’s deeper integration into the region is not inconsistent with but rather can be very much reinforcing of progress on the Israel-Palestinian track.  And he’s told President Abbas that the United States is going to do what it can to preserve the long-term possibility of the two-state solution to support diplomatic efforts to move in that direction and to waste no time in directly providing various forms of assistance to the Palestinian people. 

And so, they had a healthy and robust conversation about the broader issue of regional peace as it connects to the bilateral track between Israel and the Palestinians.  And the President has conviction that actually these two things can be mutually reinforcing.

Q    Should we anticipate seeing any additional steps towards Israeli-Saudi normalization during this trip?  I know there was talk obviously of the Red Sea islands.  Are there additional steps that were taken?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I think, first, the airspace is cool.  Okay, people?  (Laughter.)  So it’s the —

Q    And can I also clarify: Is the airspace only —

MR. SULLIVAN:  Hol- — hol- — hold on. 

Q    Yeah, I just — I just want to clarify that, because there was talk about direct flights possibly taking like Arab-Israel pilgrims for Hajj.  Is it just the airspace?  Just so I can clarify that.

MR. SULLIVAN:  I’ll let the Saudis speak to the Hajj issue because that’s something they obviously are the custodians of.  So it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to make an announcement on that front. 

But back to the airspace being cool, this is the first public step that Saudi Arabia has taken vis-à-vis Israel.  And in that regard, it is historic.  It is on a path that we hope will eventually lead to normalization.  But it is the first step, and the first step is a big step. 

Beyond that, I do think we will have further things to say about issues related to promoting peace in the region on this stop, but I will not get ahead of the President.

Q    The war in Yemen — are you expecting, like, statements or commitments regarding the war in Yemen?

MR. SULLIVAN:  I think we expect to see commitments in respect to working to deepen and extend the ceasefire, and then to work through how to turn that ceasefire into something permanent.  I won’t go into more detail now. 

Q    Sir, can I ask about Iraq and their anti-normalization law?  Is that something the President is going to bring up with them?  And then, how does that affect your efforts for this regional cooperation?

MR. SULLIVAN:  My expectation is that in the meeting with Prime Minister Kadhimi, the main focus will be on a core set of very familiar issues to the President, because he’s been dealing with this for a long time.  I can’t say whether or not that issue will come up in the meeting.

Q    Jake, one more on energy, and switching gears a little bit.  With the news that the Italian prime minister is resigning, and obviously a big supporter of the oil price cap, can you talk about the dynamics there, if you see a path forward?  Is that at all impacted by that news — and discussions?  I know you talked about it on the plane —

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, the European Union is very committed and actively working on this — because we’re going back and forth with them daily, along with the UK — that’s all I can say.  I can’t really speculate about the internal dynamics.

I would say that President Biden has deep, profound respect for Prime Minister Draghi.  So he’s obviously following very closely the unfolding back-and-forth in Rome.  And, you know, we’ll see what happens.

Q    Can I follow up on gas?  If I may, how concerned are you about the various Gazprom announcements regarding the gas supply to Europe?

MR. SULLIVAN:  Well, we have warned for a long time about Russia weaponizing energy, about Russia being a totally unreliable supplier of gas.  And this is why we’re working so closely with the European Union to fully and finally end their dependence on Russian energy.

Now, that doesn’t happen overnight, but it does require the concerted, common effort of the United States and many other countries working to help increase supply to Europe.  We’re doing that.  And, frankly, we’re doing that along with partners in Asia and partners in the Middle East.  So we’ll keep at it.

I should let you guys get after Karine on some stuff.  So, I’ll —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  (Laughs.)  (Inaudible.)

Q    Enjoy the cool airspace.

MR. SULLIVAN:  Thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, Jake.  Thank you.  Okay, I don’t have anything else at the top, so fly it.

Q    Karine, (inaudible) take inflation.  You guys sort of prepped us the inflation number would be high; it was even higher than the White House and analysts anticipated — 9.1 percent right now.  I want your reaction to that.  And separately, the White House’s reaction to Joe Manchin basically saying he’s not going to do anything on energy, climate.  The reconciliation plan on those topics?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, I’ll start with the last one first.  Look, as you’ve heard us say many times before, we’re just not going to negotiate in public.

As it comes to climate change and the President’s climate change plan and how he’s going to get there, the President has always been very clear that he’s going to use every tool in his toolbox, every authority that he has, to make sure that we deal with the climate change — the climate crisis that we are currently in.  But as far as the negotiations, I’m just not going to say much more about that in public.

Q    Is he disappointed?  Is he excited?  I mean, he’s got to have some reaction.  That’s a major announcement on a key issue in his agenda.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Look, I’m just not going to negotiate in public.  I’m not —

Q    Did he get a heads up, did the White House get a heads up from Manchin? 

And secondly, does the White House and the President specifically — do you guys think Manchin is on the level with these negotiations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  That’s — we’re still part of these negotiations.  I’m not going to say much more about it.  I’m just not going to do this in public.

Q    Did he give you a heads up, though?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to share any — much more about it.

Q    How about a reaction to the inflation figures?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’ll answer — okay, here we go.  So as you — as you said, Peter, we have been talking about the CPI number, the inflation number that came out a couple of days ago.  We feel, yes, it is elevated.  We have — you all have probably seen — seen our economic team out there on some — on your network, I’m sure, Peter, talking about this.

Look, what we believe — and I had said this as well a couple of days ago — is that the data is outdated.  It did not include the 30 days — the 30-day period, where you saw gas prices actually going down.  We saw that — we saw gas prices go at least 40 percent down per gallon, which is important to note.  We also saw the oil per barrel has gone down about $20. 

So, look, we understand the American public are feeling it and they’re feeling the inflation, they’re feeling the gas prices, and there’s more work to do.  But we have seen some decrease.  And if you look at core inflation, it is at 6 percent.  And that is important to note as well, because as we have been saying that we’re going to see that moderate — the experts saying that. 

So, look, we’re going to continue to do the work.  And this is why — you know, this is why we feel that Congress needs to act.  We need to continue to push forward and lower prices for Americans when it comes to drug prices, when it comes to energy.

And so we’re going to continue to have those negotiations, and we’re going to continue to make sure that we call on Congress to act.

Q    Karine, on that, you have two big legislative proposals that you tout as, you know, helping with inflation — obviously, reconciliation and then the China bill, the USICA bill.  Both are obviously intertwined, and both seem to just be going nowhere right now.

With, you know, reconciliation — if Manchin gets what he wants — being slimmed down so much, and you guys touting the national security reasons for why to pass USICA, is it worth sacrificing that if you could have it done faster?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah —

Q    Because McConnell clearly is —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I’m glad you asked that question.  We think it’s a false choice to have to pick one or the other.  Right?  You look at reconciliation: Experts have said that it will — it will help fight inflation, not just for the moment but for the long haul.  And that matters.

When you look at USICA, BIA, the COMPETES bill, we have to continue — we have to be able to compete against China.  We have to be able to have those manufacturing jobs.  That is so critical, and that is key.  And also, this is — we can’t allow Republicans to play games with our national security.  It is incredibly important. 

So, it’s not about one or the other.  We feel that what — like, what Republicans like Cornyn and Mitch McConnell, what they’re doing is offering a false choice.

Now, to add, as we’re talking about USICA and BIA, there is bipartisan support.  There is bipartisan support there.  And so we appreciate the Republicans who are trying to work with us to get this done.

So, again, we want to see this done by this month, and we’re going to continue to have those conversations to get that done.

Q    I see what you’re saying, but it just doesn’t seem like you guys — you’re saying the Republicans are giving you a false choice, but at this point, you know, Manchin is sort of like throwing a wrench in one bill, and Republicans are just pretty much united, it seems like, against USICA.  So if you have to pick one bill, it —

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again —

Q    — you’re not picking one bill, it seems.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  We’re saying it’s a false choice.  We — we’re saying, “Now or never, we got to get these done.”

Q    But you could get no bill.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Well — well, you’re so dark, Jenny.  Geez.  (Laughs.)  I mean, we got to keep pushing, right?  This is about delivering for the American people.  This is what we need to do.  This is what the President wants to do.

We feel the COMPETES bill is not just about manufacturing and competing against — against countries like China, as I’ve mentioned, but it’s also a national security issue.  And what we’re calling out is Republicans like Mitch McConnell, like Cornyn, and saying to them this is not — we should not be playing games here.

And on reconciliation: Look, we’re going to have those –continue to have those negotiations.  And I’m just not going to talk about it in public.  And we’re going to try and get those done.

Q    You don’t want to say if you’re confident in those negotiations?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just — I’m just saying we’re not — I’m just not going to — to give any character- — characterize where we are with the negotiations.

Q    Can I ask on Secret Service?  As you’ve seen the headlines recently, the most recent is that all of their text messages from January 5th and 6th of 2020 were erased.  They say it was a part of a routine procedure.  But, obviously, it’s concerning, given all that data that could give better detail to what happened behind the scenes as it relates to the investigation.

Does the White House have any thoughts on that?  Has the President reached out to the Secret Service?  Does he have faith in the Secret Service Director?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So, the Secret Ser- — this is a Secret Service matter.  We’re — we’re just not going to comment on it. 

I saw, as you mentioned, they’ve ma- — they’ve put out — I think, last night, they put out their statement on this.  And so I’m just going to refer you to the Secret Service.  It’s not something that I’m going to comment from here.

Q    So, over the last few months — on inflation — sorry, I was just — for the last few months on inflation, though, it seems like we’ve had fairly high numbers, and we just keep reaching four-decade highs, four-decade highs.

Is it — I guess as we think about, like, what should people expect, is it your guys’ assessment that we’re now at peak inflation?  And, I guess, what are you guys advising that Americans ought to anticipate?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  So I’m going to let the economists speak to where we are, if it’s — where inflation —

Q    But the administration has no advice?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  No, I’m going to say more.

Q    Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I’m just not going to step into that lane. 

What I will say is: We have said, and the President has said directly himself, that inflation is an economic — economic priority for him.  He’s going to continue to do everything that he can to fight inflation.

We have talked about the steps that he has taken when it comes to gas.  We have talked about what — what he has said about the Federal Reserve and giving them their independence and their space to be able to do the monetary policy that they feel that they’re going to do, and they are committed to fighting inflation.

We’re calling on Congress and working with Congress on both reconciliation, as Jenny was just asking me, and BIA.  And we feel that that will have an effect on inflation.

And let’s not forget the gas tax holiday, which we continue to call on Congress, because we feel, when it comes to gas prices, we feel that they can do that at any time.  And that 18 cents — and you see state gov- — states, whether it’s Republican or Democrat, also doing their gas tax holiday, and it’s been effective for them.  And that’s another, potentially, 30 cents.

All of those things will have an effect.

Look, again, this is a top priority for the President, and he’s going to continue to do everything —

Q    Are you expecting a better number next month, since gas prices are going down a little bit?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Again, I’m not going to predict.  I’m just looking — we’re just looking at the last 30 days.  And what we saw from that data, which didn’t include how gas prices has gone down by almost 40 cents, which is a real — a real thing to kind of flag and speak to.

I just — I’m not going to spe- — speak to the next 30 days.

Q    Should Americans be prepared, though, for like — I mean, should Americans be prepared for what inevitability, I guess?  Like, are we talking about an inflation situation over the course of the next year?  Like, is there any sense of preparedness you can give Americans?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, I’ll go back to what I said earlier, how experts have said that they believe their — they believe, like, core inflation will moderate.  And I said that we see it at 6 percent now, so that is a good sign.

So I’ll just, again, leave it to the expert and just le- — and just lean on to the data that we do know, as far as we’re —

Q    So, Karine, the President said today that he was reiterating his commitment to press freedom.  Does that mean in Saudi Arabia, in front of these leaders of countries that don’t have as many press freedoms, will he take questions from the press and encourage the other leaders to take questions from the press?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I mean, look, the President, as he said — he said this yesterday, and you heard Jake say this: He has a long history when it comes to human rights.  You know, this is something that he has spoken to, including press freedoms, as a senator, as a vice president, and now as a president.

He clearly took questions yesterday.  I know there’s a question of press access for this trip.  I can assure you that you guys will have access to the bi- — the bilat.  You’ll be able to do the lovely pool sprays for that.  The working meetings, there’ll be pool sprays for that.  And so the President wants to be transparent, and you will hear from him on these next couple of days.

Q    Are any Israeli officials traveling aboard Air Force One right now to Saudi Arabia to participate in these meetings of any kind?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  I don’t have — I don’t have any names to read out on any officials that are on this — on —

Q    If there are any, will you let us know?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  If there were — there — I’m just saying — I guess the answer is no, there is not.

Q    The answer is no?  Fine.  Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Yeah.

Q    Can I get one more eco in?  Obviously, for Bloomberg.  China’s economic growth numbers were really bad for the second quarter.  I’m curious what the White House thinks: if you see China’s slowdown increasing the risk of a global recession, how that impacts U.S. growth and inflation.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  It’s a good question.  I saw that — I saw that report yesterday as well.  Let me just connect with the economic team, and I just want to make sure I give you the right information on that one.

Q    Karine, thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE:  Thanks, guys.  Thank you.

 END  5:24 P.M. AST