Another day, another briefing, and this time we had audio only as the gaggle was held on Air Force One en route to Puerto Rico. Biden is campaigning for his administration’s record on hurricanes by visiting Puerto Rico to assess the progress of relief efforts following Hurricane Fiona last month. 

Equitable Hurricane Relief in Action
The decision to visit Puerto Rico before Florida comes as Vice President Kamala Harris is under fire for her comments on distributing hurricane relief "equitably" last week. When asked about Harris’ comments, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre (KJP) reiterated administration surrogates’ clean up job over the weekend, that “the VP was clearly talking about long term objectives, not FEMA aid…Everyone, regardless of their zip code, can access federal resources. That’s what she was talking about.”

During the monologue portion of the gaggle, KJP touted Biden’s strong commitment to the people of Puerto Rico, and announced an additional $60M in funding for their efforts to “build back better.” It was later clarified that this funding is in addition to the $2B allocated through the infrastructure bill and $9.5B from FEMA. 

Reporters questioned whether the funding would be enough.

Criswell again talked about the “Federal Family,” and it’s becoming clear that she has embraced her role as a political surrogate for Biden. After days of saying, “there’s no politics in this,” Criswell shared how the “Biden/Harris Administration” efforts have the local Puerto Rico community saying they “finally feel like an administration cares about them.” KJP jumped in and said, “the last administration restricted Puerto Rico’s ability to access $5B in funds.” But KJP doesn’t get into politics, as she keeps telling us. 

When is Biden Gonna Make Hurricanes Go Away?
One reporter, obviously channeling Don Lemon, asked how climate change played into the whole hurricane situation. He actually asked how long states were going to have to deal with hurricanes. 

Unlike the scientist who was speaking to Lemon, Criswell was happy to discuss The State Religion, saying there is definitely an increase in the number and intensity of storms, how FEMA has changed how they respond to hurricanes, and that they are now modeling five to ten years in the future when planning hurricane response.

Biden is visiting Florida on Wednesday for a photo op, though today’s press conference was less informative about what’s happening with Hurricane Ian:

  • What’s the death toll from Ian? Refer to what the state is publishing. 
  • Should Lee County have evacuated faster? Refer to state and local decision makers.
  • Will DeSantis join Biden on Weds? Nothing to read out on what that day will look like. They’ve been in touch.
  • Will he visit SC? Nothing else to share on travel plans.
  • Will Biden bail out the Florida insurance industry? FEMA working with state leadership on this. There needs to be a longer conversation about long term impacts to the insurance industry. 

So, What CAN You Comment On?
The nonanswers continued as KJP answered non-hurricane questions. 

When asked how the administration would respond to reports that OPEC+ may cut production more than a million barrels, KJP replied “We are not a party to OPEC+ and are not going to comment on what may or may not happen.”

Also, side note, her words sounded a lot like government controlling the means of energy production when she said the administration was, “Taking every step to ensure markets are sufficiently supplied, to meet demand for a growing global economy. Thanks to our efforts we’ve seen energy prices decline…Americans are paying far less at the pump.”

Thanks, Comrade.

Another contentious line of questioning was in response to the United Kingdom’s decision to reverse a tax cut for top earners. When asked for comment, KJP said she was “Not going to comment on UK policy,” but that the administration was going to, “work with them on a range of issues, including strengthening the global economy.” Then she mentioned the IMF, causing the reporter to excitedly ask, “Did the US pressure the IMF to pressure the UK?” KJP responded, “No, not at all. We are in regular contact with the IMF, but we have not been involved. There has been no pressure.”

The UK’s reversal is a blow for new Prime Minister Liz Truss, who insisted she was “absolutely committed” to the cut, even after the proposal wreaked havoc on UK and global markets and led to public outcry. 

How About That Whole WWIII Thing?
When asked if there was any new information to report on the alleged sabotage of the Nord Stream Pipelines, KJP referred back to Friday’s briefing and the update provided by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, saying, “We’ve been very clear that there is an investigation going on and we are going to let the investigation process continue. Don’t have anything more to add on that piece.”

During that briefing, Sullivan said, “But what we can say unequivocally is the suggestions Russia has made about the United States and other countries are flat-out false.  Russia knows they’re false.  But, of course, this is part of their playbook.” Here’s the transcript.

When asked about the escalating violence in Iran, KJP referred to Biden’s statement released today:

“I remain gravely concerned about reports of the intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protestors in Iran, including students and women, who are demanding their equal rights and basic human dignity.  They are calling for just and universal principles, which underpin the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  For decades, Iran’s regime has denied fundamental freedoms to its people and suppressed the aspirations of successive generations through intimidation, coercion, and violence. The United States stands with Iranian women and all the citizens of Iran who are inspiring the world with their bravery.
The United States is making it easier for Iranians to access the Internet, including through facilitating greater access to secure, outside platforms and services.  The United States is also holding accountable Iranian officials and entities, such as the Morality Police, that are responsible for employing violence to suppress civil society.  This week, the United States will be imposing further costs on perpetrators of violence against peaceful protestors.  We will continue holding Iranian officials accountable and supporting the rights of Iranians to protest freely.”

KJP then reinforced that the best way to address a Nuclear Iran is to commit to continuing negotiations on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. 

So, the Iran plan is to help women obtain human rights while continuing to believe the nation's theocratic oligarchy that doesn’t provide basic human rights to its own people will commit to a peaceful nuclear program. 

Until tomorrow’s briefing.

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