John Kirby Leads White House National Security Press Gaggle 4 April

The White House

MODERATOR: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining. Sorry we're running a little bit late. Kirby was giving us a history lesson.

He has a few things here at the top, and then we'll get through as many questions as we can.

MR. KIRBY: Good morning, everybody. Thank you. So just two things at the top.

First, I want to just take a moment to recognize both Croatia and Albania, important NATO Allies that are now celebrating their 15th anniversary as part of the Alliance.

Over the years, both countries have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to the Alliance through concrete commitments to its plans to bolster European security, its missions further afield, and through NATO's partnership for peace.

Both countries have also stood as leaders in their region, showing other countries of the Western Balkans that their aspiration of NATO membership is achievable.

Finally, as you may have seen, the constitutional court in Uganda partially overturned the Anti-Homosexuality Act today. The United States is deeply concerned about the remaining provisions of that act, which undermine public health, human rights, and Uganda's international reputation. And our concerns are particularly around this language that imposes prison sentences for up to 20 years for, quote, "promoting homosexuality," unquote, and permitting a life sentence for same-sex conduct.

As the President has said time and time again, no one should have to live in constant fear nor be subjected to violence or discrimination. It's just plain wrong.

We will continue to work to advance respect for human rights for all the people of Uganda and around the world.

And with that, I think we can take some questions.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our first question will go to Steve with Reuters.

Q Hey there, John. Why shouldn't we conclude that this was, in fact, a deliberate strike on the World Central Kitchen convoy?

MR. KIRBY: Steve, why should you or why shouldn't you? I didn't —

Q Why should we not conclude that this was a deliberate strike?

MR. KIRBY: Well, again, I think I would refer you to Israeli authorities, Steve, to speak to what they have learned and — well, what they have said and what they have learned about this. I won't speak for IDF operations one way or the other.

As I said yesterday, they're investigating it, and we have every expectation — we do expect that they will do a thorough job, a swift job, and that they'll be transparent about it, what they find.

So all I know is they've completed their preliminary investigation. I think you saw a comment from the Southern Command chief of staff yesterday saying he's received that and they're reviewing it. And it will inform what will become a larger — what they're calling an independent investigation.

So I think we need to let them investigate and let them read out their conclusions.

Q And just two more things, John. Is the U.S. doing a separate investigation rather than relying on the Israeli version of events?

MR. KIRBY: No, we have no plans to conduct a separate investigation.

Q And lastly, has Jake Sullivan postponed his trip to Saudi Arabia? And if so, is this the reason why?

MR. KIRBY: So, Jake was planning to head to the region this week. That trip has been postponed. And when we have more on that to speak to, we'll do that. He's recuperating from a cracked rib, and that has affected his ability to travel a bit.

Q Cracked rib?

MR. KIRBY: Cracked rib.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Aamer with the AP.

Q Hi, John. President Biden's statement last night made clear that he believes Israel has not done enough to protect aid workers, and called it a major reason why distributing humanitarian aid has been so difficult. Will the President ask the Israeli government to take any specific action to rectify what he's really sort of identified as a core issue?

And more broadly, is there any sort of expected consequences for Israel as a result of this incident? Thank you.

MR. KIRBY: Well, again, I think we want to see the investigation, and my answer to Steve stands. We need to see what they find as a result of this incident. They have already admitted that that they conducted this strike. They have already publicly said that they're at fault for this strike. And they're working their way through the specific findings and details. And I think we need to let them finish that work and speak to it themselves.

So I'm not prepared at this point to speculate about anything we might or might not do. You know, we're going to have to wait to see what the investigation says.

I will say a couple of things. We are still supporting Israel's ability to defend itself against this still-viable threat. And that's going to continue.

And then, I'm sorry, you had a question at the top that I think I blew off.

Q Just, specifically, if there is anything that the President would like to see done differently, because the statement last night really sort of identified that they haven't done enough on protecting aid workers. So how do you fix that?

MR. KIRBY: Of course — of course, we want to see them do things differently to prevent civilian casualties. Absolutely. And that's been an ongoing conversation that we've been having with them for many months, in terms of being more precise, being more targeted, being more cautious.

One of the reasons why we plan to have continued conversations with them about Rafah is because we don't believe that a major ground operation against those Rafah battalions and — I'm sorry, those Hamas battalions in Rafah — is the right approach. We believe there's another way to get after that threat, and we want to share with them some of our views on that.

So, yes, of course we have and will continue to talk to them about how to do things differently, how to do things more efficiently, how to do things more safely, and certainly how to do things in a way that minimizes damage to civilian infrastructure and, of course, civilian lives.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to JJ with Bloomberg.

Q Hey there. On Nippon Steel and the Japanese prime minister's visit to the White House that's coming up: John, can you share anything on what we might expect from Kishida on the Nippon Steel deal? Is the White House hoping for any reassurances on that? Or can you share anything on what the President might share with Japan about the U.S. Steel situation? Thanks.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, JJ, I'm afraid I'm not going to be very satisfying to you today. I'm not going to get ahead of that meeting and those discussions. You've seen the President's comments on the Nippon Steel issue. I can't improve upon where his head is in terms of protecting U.S. Steel workers and the American economy.

But the President is very much looking forward to this state visit. There is an awful lot of important things to talk about with Prime Minister Kishida. Certainly, our two economies are on that agenda, and I have no question that issues of economic — economy and trade will come up.

That said, there'll be issues to talk about in terms of the security environment, concerns about the DPRK, concerns about aggressive PRC actions. There'll be things to talk about in terms of people-to-people exchanges between our two countries. And quite frankly, there'll be plenty of opportunities to talk about how we can continue not only our bilateral cooperation with Japan but our trilateral cooperation between Japan and South Korea.

So, lots on the agenda. Lots to talk about including, of course, how we can both work together closely with the Philippines.

So, there's an awful lot there. And I think I just don't want to get too far ahead of a particular item like the Nippon Steel thing.

Q Thank you. And then, just one other thing. On Jake Sullivan's injury, can you say if this was just like a personal fall or something? Or was he harmed by someone?

MR. KIRBY: No, this was not — so, yeah, the fact that he's recovering from this cracked rib is contributing to the postponement. That's point one. Point two is, this was a minor accident of his own. It was not caused by anybody. It was not the result of a nefarious act or anything like that.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Michael Shear with the New York Times.

Q Hey, John. Thank you. I was going to ask about Jake too. But I guess if there's no more that you can tell us — it sounds like maybe like a basketball or some kind of sports injury — but if anything else would be helpful.

But in the meantime, if I could ask about Ukraine. There is a proposal at NATO to have NATO take over leadership of the Ukraine working group that coordinates the assistance — the military assistance to Ukraine, apparently born out of both a concern of sort of a lack of U.S. leadership, given the Ukraine funding tie-up in Congress, but also the possibility of a return of Donald Trump next year.

Does the U.S. support shifting that leadership over to NATO and the U.S. sort of taking a backseat in directing that money?

MR. KIRBY: Well, look, I'm not going to get ahead of some — what sounds to me like some preliminary discussions there. But amongst NATO Allies, they can speak to this.

What I can tell you, though, Mike, is that the Ukraine Defense Contact Group has been critical in bringing together 50-some-odd countries to contribute to Ukraine's security assistance needs. And that was really an idea that was born from Secretary Austin and that he has convened now more than a dozen times, really, the result of American convening power, and an example of how President Biden has really revitalized our leadership on the world stage to bring countries together to do this.

We think it's important. And it is bigger than NATO. It's bigger than the Alliance. As I said, 50-some-odd countries around the world. And what brought them together was American leadership. The President believes that that leadership remains vital, remains important. And he's confident that we're going to be able to continue to demonstrate that leadership through the contact group.

Q So it sounds like you guys would not support shifting that leadership. Or am I reading too much?

MR. KIRBY: Again, I'm not going to speculate about some hypothetical conversations that some NATO Allies may or may not be having.

The contact group has been very, very effective. We're going to continue to lead and convene it. And we know that our leadership of that contact group is valued, it's important. We get terrific feedback from all the nations that are participating in it.

I want to just make two points. Let me foot-stomp them. First one, I've already said, is that it is bigger than NATO. It's 50-some-odd nations all around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific. And what brought them together was American leadership. What's keeping them together is American leadership.

And the second point I want to make is that NATO has been a part of that process since the beginning. Jens Stoltenberg, he's attended every single one of them, including the first one.

So we certainly value the contributions of the Alliance proper but also individual Alliance members in the contact group. And we would certainly expect that to continue.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Missy Ryan with the Washington Post.

Q Hi. Thank you. Just wanted to ask, John, if there's any update to the timing of the rescheduled in-person visit from the Israeli delegation.

And then ask you, looking ahead to the visit by the Iraqi prime minister, are you all expecting any sort of finalization of the mil-to-mil talks in terms of the — or announcement regarding a changed U.S military posture in Iraq during that visit?

MR. KIRBY: Thanks, Missy. On the Israeli delegation, I think we're hoping to get an in-person meeting on the books next week. We'll have more detail for you as we get closer to it.

On the prime minister's visit, we very much see this as a great opportunity to continue discussions with him and his team about the counter-ISIS efforts in Iraq and what that needs to look like going forward.

I would not expect coming out of this visit that it'll be a decision or meeting in terms of, you know, there'll be some sort of final conclusion about what that posture looks like going forward. But, absolutely, we will spend time with him talking about what it needs to look like given the threat that ISIS continues to pose both in Iraq and in Syria.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Weijia with CBS.

Q Thank you, Sam. And thank you, John. Back to the humanitarian strike, John. Do you know whether any U.S.-supplied weapons or resources were involved to carry out that strike?

MR. KIRBY: I do not know the answer to that question.

Q And if you don't issue an investigation, as you said the U.S. would not, how will you ever know? And if you don't ever know, how do you answer to the families, including that of an American who was killed?

MR. KIRBY: We expect the Israelis to conduct a thorough, comprehensive, complete, and transparent investigation. We look forward to finding out the results of that investigation. And we'll move on from there.

But, my goodness, they just completed a preliminary investigation in, you know, less than 48 hours. And they're working their way through that, and that will inform a broader investigation. And we've made clear our expectations for the results of that investigation. And I don't think it would behoove any of us to get ahead of it.

Q And have you set a deadline for Israel to complete that investigation?

MR. KIRBY: No, we have not.

Q And an unrelated question. Last night, President Biden received a letter from an eight-year-old orphan in Rafah from Dr. Ahmad, who attended the meeting last night. Do you know if the President has had a chance to read the letter and his response to that little girl?

MR. KIRBY: I do not. I'll have to take that question.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to MJ Lee with CNN.

Q Hey, John. Just first on the postponed Jake Sullivan trip. Is this just that he is no longer going, or will other members of the administration travel there, or are they already traveling there without him?

MR. KIRBY: No, there was going to be a small team that was going to accompany Jake. And so, nobody is going. I mean, it was a purposeful trip in that regard. And again, his injury has contributed to the delay. And he looks forward to getting it back on schedule as soon as possible.

Q Okay. So the whole delegation, they are no longer going, but it will presumably be rescheduled once he is feeling better?

MR. KIRBY: That is correct.

Q Okay. And I was wondering, just back to the aid workers that were killed, can you just help us understand what is stopping the administration from saying the U.S. can no longer support Israel's current efforts to go after Hamas in the way that it is? Not that the U.S. no longer supports Israel but that it cannot support the current war that it is waging, given that seven, eight workers, including an American, are dead. The President says he's outraged. And he was pretty explicit last night in saying that Israel is entirely to blame for their deaths.

MR. KIRBY: I guess I just have to challenge a little bit the premise of the question, MJ. We have been very clear with the Israelis privately — and, my goodness, we've been clear publicly — that the way they are prosecuting their operations is not always, in every case, the best way to do that. We have said there have been too many civilians killed. We have talked about the civilian infrastructure that's been destroyed. We have been very clear about our concerns and objections over some obstacles that have been put in the way of getting additional humanitarian assistance in. And nobody is working harder than Joe Biden or this administration on trying to get a ceasefire in place so that we can get the hostages out.

So I just — I guess I'm just going to take issue with, again, the premise of the question. We have been exceedingly consistent and clear with our expectations for the prosecution of these operations.

Q Just to be clear, so you are saying you think the administration has already been clear to the Israelis that it does not support Israel's current efforts in Gaza, the way that it is currently waging this war?

MR. KIRBY: We have been very clear with the Israelis on the some of the specifics of their operations, some of the specifics regarding getting assistance into Gaza. And those conversations have happened privately at various levels, including at the President's level and certainly at staff levels.

Now, I want to make it clear that while we take issue with aspects of how operations are being conducted — particularly like saying, quite frankly, publicly, we don't support a ground operation in Rafah — we also continue to believe and continue to act on the belief that Israel has a right to defend itself against a still-viable threat by Hamas. They still have every right and responsibility to their people to eliminate that threat after the 7th of October. And so, that support for Israel continues. No country should have to live next door to a threat that is truly genocidal, as Hamas has been.

So while we make no bones about the fact that we have certain issues about some of the way things are being done, we also make no bones about the fact that Israel is going to continue to have American support for the fight that they're in to eliminate the threat from Hamas.

Q You said earlier that you would first need to see the results of the investigation before you can speak to what actions the U.S. might take after this incident. You said yourself, though, that Israel has already said, you know, it was their mistake, it was their fault. And we already know, of course, that seven people are dead. So what more do you think the administration could possibly learn from the investigation?

MR. KIRBY: I think the Israelis want to learn from the investigation. They want to learn exactly how it happened. And it's one thing to be able to admit, and they have, that they perpetrated this attack and that they — and that, obviously, it was not the intended result. But they, too, want to learn what decisions were made that led to this attack and where the fault lies.

And as I said yesterday, we firmly believe that if accountability needs to be observed, then we want to see accountability observed for people who may have — you know, who may have acted here inappropriately. But again, we don't know that.

So we need to let the investigation conclude. We need to see what they learn. And we need to see, just as importantly, what they do about what they've learned, what changes they're willing to make, what accountability they're willing to observe. We're just not there yet. So we need to let them finish their work.

In the meantime, we have made very clear, all the way up to the President's level, our outrage about this attack and the result of it, of course, and our deep, deep concern about this particular operation.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Justin with ABC.

Q Hey, good morning, Kirby. Thanks for doing this. The Human Rights Watch director told ABC today that the U.S. could be legally complicit in supplying weapons to countries that are blocking aid, speaking about the war in Gaza. She said, "If you're helping another party commit grave abuses against civilians, then you risk being complicit in those abuses," saying that's "a matter of international law." Just wanted to get your response to the director.

MR. KIRBY: I'm not an international lawyer. I can tell you that we share the concerns of so many groups out there about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, which is why almost — well, not almost; actually, from the beginning of this conflict — and then urging and pushing the Israelis to do more to get humanitarian assistance in to allow the flow into Gaza. It's why we're doing airdrops. It's why we got a temporary pier that's on the way over there to be able to assist with maritime loading of humanitarian assistance and getting that into Gaza.

So we share the concerns over what's going on inside Gaza with the Palestinian people, and we're doing everything we can to try to alleviate that.

It's also why we continue to push for a ceasefire that will allow for the hostages to get out and a period of calm for about six weeks so that more humanitarian assistance can get in.

Again, I'm not a lawyer here, but I would also tell you, as I said yesterday from the podium, the State Department continues to review incidents as they arise. And as I said yesterday, they haven't found an incident yet that has pointed to a violation of international humanitarian law. But they continue to do that work, as they should.

Q And we also saw the Australian Prime Minister speak directly to Prime Minister Netanyahu following the strike. Should we expect President Biden to do the same? And if not, why isn't he picking up the phone to speak to Netanyahu if an American was killed in this strike?

MR. KIRBY: The President, as you know, speaks routinely and as appropriate with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has spoken to him many times in the past since the 7th of October. He will speak to him again. I don't have a call to speak to or to preview at this time.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Asma with NPR.

Q Hi there. Thanks, Kirby. I had (inaudible) questions. Yesterday, I know there were a couple of doctors who were at the White House, meeting with the President, who'd recently been inside of Gaza. And the way they characterized their meeting was that they were — the first time since October 7th that the President had heard from anybody who's been inside of Gaza. And I wanted to assess: Is that accurate? Had the President, prior to yesterday, not spoken to any aid workers or anybody else who had been inside of Gaza since October 7th?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I'm going to have to take your question.

MODERATOR: We're going to go on to our next question. Morgan with Semafor.

Q Hey, John. Thanks so much for doing this. I have two questions. Just, first, on the (inaudible) earthquake in Taiwan. I'm just wondering how worried the White House is about the impact on the chip supply chain and if there's anything you're doing to address those concerns.

And then secondly, I know you mentioned yesterday that the President and President Xi talked about TikTok, and I was just wondering if you could say how that came up on the call yesterday. Did President Xi raise it? Is that something that President Biden raised? Just a little more detail there.

MR. KIRBY: So, on the earthquake, I mean, our first and, frankly, our only concern right now is for the safety and security of people in the region who could be affected by the earthquake and its aftermath.

And we're in touch with authorities, as you might expect we would be. We certainly stand by to assist in any way that might be required. But that's where our focus is right now, not on follow-on potential economic impact one way or the other, or for high tech. Our concern is for the lives and livelihoods. And our thoughts and prayers are with everybody who was affected by the earthquake. We'll continue to monitor it as we have overnight.

On TikTok, President Xi raised the issue, and President Biden responded to the concerns that President Xi raised. And as I said yesterday at the podium, he responded by making it clear to President Xi that this was not about a ban on TikTok, that this was about divestiture, that this was about preserving the data security of the American people and our own national security interests.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Serena with Scripps.

Q Hey, John. Thanks so much for doing this. I wanted to follow up on last night's meeting at the White House. Are you going to provide a readout of that in any way?

And are there any plans for the President to speak to the American aid worker that was — family that was killed?

MR. KIRBY: I don't know about a readout for the Iftar meeting last night. I'd refer you to White House Communications on that. That's not something that would be handled by the National Security Council.

And, shoot, I forgot your second one. I meant to write it down and I didn't. What was your second one?

Q Oh, the family of the American aid worker.

MR. KIRBY: Oh, yes. As I said yesterday, the State Department has made initial contact with the family. I think you can understand this is a delicate moment for them. And, you know, they did express a desire for some time to process the news. And so, I think we're going to give them that time. But obviously, first and foremost, they have the President's and the First Lady's condolences.

And as he has in the past, when it's appropriate, he'll make the necessary, you know, outreach. But again, right now, the family is going through a very difficult time, and we want to respect their — we want to respect their privacy and, quite frankly, their grieving process.

Q Are there any concerns that that strike on the aid workers are going to impact negatively the ceasefire and hostage negotiations that are ongoing? Is there an update on the proposal that was made to Hamas?

MR. KIRBY: No, I don't have an update for you. I don't know and I wouldn't anticipate any particular impact on those discussions as a result of the strike yesterday. But I also, at the same time, don't have, again, any progress to report to you. We're still working hard at this, trying to get this deal in place. And we're going to — we're going to stay at that work.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Neria with Israel Channel 13.

Q Hi, Admiral. Thank you so much for doing this again. I'm wondering about the meeting — the virtual meeting between the Israelis and Sullivan and the rest of the team here in the U.S. about Rafah. I do understand that there are a few major gaps between Israel and the U.S., mainly regarding the evacuation of the civilians, but other issues as well. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

MR. KIRBY: No. (Laughs.) I don't think that would be useful for me to do in this particular setting, to lay out their views versus our views. The big muscle movements are the same, Neria, which is that we don't support a ground operation in Rafah, and we still believe that whatever the Israelis decide to do about Rafah, they've got to factor in the 1.5 million refugees that are there.

And we were grateful for the opportunity to have that virtual discussion. As I said earlier, hopefully in the next week, sometime in the next week, we hope to do an in-person meeting to continue that discussion.

I would look at what happened in the virtual discussion this week as sort of the beginning of that conversation, the beginning of that process of talking to them about what Rafah looks like now and what their intentions are for operations against those Hamas battalions that are still there.

Q And do you have any news about hostages deal, the negotiations?

MR. KIRBY: No. As I said to the previous question, I don't have an update for you, except to say that we continue to work very, very hard at it.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Danny with AFP.

Q Hi there. Thanks for doing this again. Just going back to the strike on the aid workers in Gaza. I mean, the statement last night from the President was one of his strongest yet, and he said, you know, that his rhetoric has been getting tougher and tougher on Israel about this kind of thing. But they just don't seem to be listening. I mean, this must be a source of frustration for the President, must it not?

MR. KIRBY: I think you could sense the frustration in that statement yesterday.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Nadia.

Q Good morning. Thank you for doing this. Just a follow-up on what happened on the incident with the World Central Kitchen.

John, you said that you're waiting for the results of the investigation to conclude, but can you give us an example of when Israel, in the last six months, investigated any incidents and held anybody accountable, whether civilians carrying white flags were killed, whether civilians at the food trucks were killed, whether mass bodies or mass graves that are being reported and not investigated?

Many people believe the reason the Israelis admitted this time is because they caught red-handed because the workers were international members of the World Central Kitchen. And their government is able to tell that it was an Israeli rocket, and Israelis cannot just basically cloud it and say, "Maybe we don't know, maybe it's crossfire, maybe it's Hamas."

So how can you say with certainty that all these incidents, that could be by mistake, and yet you don't have anybody on the ground — you have no U.S. intelligence on the ground — and you always seem to take the Israeli point of view as a fact?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, look, Nadia, I mean, that's not even really a question, to be honest with you. That is a — that's a statement that you just made. And I understand where you're coming from.

I don't think you can look at what we've been saying, what we've been doing, or even the President's statement last night, and say that we've somehow gone easy on Israel in every regard.

Now, you can talk to the Israelis about their individual events; you seem to have reached conclusions about all of them yourself. So I recommend that you talk to the Israelis about these incidents and see for yourself what their answers are for them.

They have investigated some of these events in the past, and they have — as I've said from the podium, they have taken actions in certain regards and in certain ways to limit and to try to be more mindful of civilian casualties. Is it enough? Absolutely not. It's not enough. And the President said that last night in his statement; there's been too many civilian casualties. And the President said in his statement last night that he's outraged about this attack.

And I have said myself, today and yesterday, that we're going to see what the investigation says, and then we'll — you know, we'll make decisions as a result of that.

But I don't know how differently to put it. Israel has a right to defend itself. Maybe not everybody believes that, but they do.

Q Oh, I think —

MR. KIRBY: And maybe not everybody believes — wait a second. Maybe not everybody believes that they're living next to a genocidal threat, but they are.

And so, we're going to continue to support them. No country should have to live like that. No country should have to be attacked, like they were on the 7th of October, with 1,200 people slaughtered.

At the same time, as a modern military and a democracy, they have obligations to the innocent people of Gaza. And they have not always met those obligations.

And the United States, more than any other nation — and you can't name me another nation, Nadia — that hasn't also put it directly to the Israelis about concerns about how they have not allowed more humanitarian assistance again, about how they have to be more careful about civilian casualties. You name me another leader that has been more direct and more consistent than President Biden and this administration.

So, again, I'm sorry, I'm just going to have to take issue with the premise of your statement. We are working very closely with them. We will continue to work closely with them to make sure they can defend themselves but also that they do it in a way that is in keeping with the highest standards of the law of armed conflict.

Q John, I just want to put it on the record: Neither me or any of my colleagues ever question the right of Israel to defend itself. That's for the record. So I just wanted to tell you that our questions are always about the methods, not about the right to defend — Israel's right to defend itself. Just want to make that clear.

MR. KIRBY: And my response, Nadia, is that we're concerned about the methods too. I don't know how we can be more clear. Every single day we're talking about the way this war is being prosecuted. And it's important to us; it matters how they do this. And that is why we are having these tough conversations with them. And that is why you've heard — you saw it for yourself in the statement that the President issued, you know, his outrage, his frustration over this particular attack as it reflects a culmination of similar events. I said yesterday it's not the first time that this has happened. And so, yes, we're frustrated by this.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will go to Alex with Politico.

Q Yeah, thanks, John. So just, I guess, to put an overall cap on this, it sounds like the administration will not change its approach to Israel after the strike; it's going to continue as is, the same sort of criticisms and the same sort of

support. So there's that.

MR. KIRBY: Well, wait. Hang on just second now.

Q Go ahead. Go ahead.

MR. KIRBY: What I said was: We are still supporting their right to defend themselves, and we're going to continue to do that. We're also going to see what the results of the investigation is. I'm not going to get ahead of decisions that haven't been made yet.

Q Okay. Gotcha. On the Biden-Xi call, did they discuss anything about the plans to have the trilateral patrols of the South China Sea with the Philippines and Japan?


Q Okay. And last bit. Did the strike complicate any efforts by the administration to recruit that aid partner to distribute more aid into Gaza from the temporary pier?

MR. KIRBY: What aid partner are you speaking about, Alex?

Q Or is the U.S. trying to — isn't the U.S. trying to recruit somebody to help bring the aid to sort of that last mile? Or do I have that wrong?

MR. KIRBY: Oh, okay. I'm sorry, I didn't understand your question.

I don't know of any effect on those efforts at this early time, Alex. You know, I know that Chef Andrés said he was going to stop for a while. We know the World Food Program has said that too. But we're still discussing the modalities of — well, the maritime effort to get humanitarian assistance in and what that's going to look like. And I think, you know, we're just — it's just too soon after the strike to know what sort of larger strategic impact this is going to have.

We obviously are going to do everything we can to work towards the continued delivery of humanitarian assistance at an increased level. So while we certainly understand why some aid organizations would have qualms about this — certainly within their rights to do that, given what happened; no question about it — but it's not going to stop or lessen our efforts to do what we can to increase the flow of aid. That's, again, while our airdrops continue, while we're working on this temporary pier, all that is indicative of our effort to try to increase the flow.

And I want to come back, if I can, to foot-stomping that that's why we're working so hard on this temporary ceasefire — to get some security, some calm in place, not only so that the hostages can move safely home and out but so that more aid can get in and around.

One of the challenges of humanitarian assistance — and there are many — is, in fact, the combat operations themselves. It's a war zone. And it's difficult to move trucks around inside a combat zone and particularly a confined urban environment like that.

MODERATOR: Thank you. I think we have time for one more question, so we'll go to James Rosen.

Q Samantha, thank you. Admiral, thank you. Thank you both, as always. Since we hear and see so little of each other these days, I was hoping you might indulge three questions from me, in keeping with the multiple-question format employed by some of the reporters on the call. I have in mind three different topics. At least two of them can be addressed through simple yes-or-no answers.

First, on the Mideast, is it the assessment of NSC that the airstrikes the U.S. conducted earlier this year against the Houthis and the Islamic Resistance in Iraq succeeded in establishing deterrence in the region?

MR. KIRBY: Well, what we believe is that these attacks have definitely degraded Houthi capabilities. Have they eliminated them? No. And the Houthis still conduct attacks.

I want to make it clear though, at the front, James — and you don't have to look any further than the Secretary of Defense, who made this more clear than I — this is about, and has been from the beginning, about taking away capability from the Houthis. That's the purpose of it.

Q Second question. Can you confirm that no facet or component of the national security apparatus, including but not limited to investigations on masking or surveillance in any form, is presently trained or focused on any current American political campaign?

MR. KIRBY: I am not sure how to answer that question. Are you suggesting or you're asking —

Q I'll repeat it, if that would help.

MR. KIRBY: — is the intelligence community spying on a political candidate?

Q Correct. Can you confirm that no facet or component of the national security apparatus is presently trained or focused on any current American political campaign?

MR. KIRBY: This is a question beyond the NSC's purview. But just to put a fork in it, there's no spying on a political candidate.

Q Lastly, on TikTok, which examples should Americans regard as a model for them to follow: that of the Biden administration, which has banned TikTok from federal devices, or that of the Biden campaign, which makes active use of TikTok?

MR. KIRBY: The President has been very clear about this. Because of —

Q I don't think it's very clear, John. I think it's very confused messaging.

MR. KIRBY: Well, so if you just let me finish, maybe we can help clear this up.

TikTok's ownership by ByteDance gives us pause and reason to be concerned about the security of data on that application and the use of that data by a company that has close ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

We don't want to ban the application. We want divestiture of the ownership of the company so that Americans, and certainly inside the national security establishment, we can take a measure of comfort that that data is not going to be mishandled. That is very consistent. That's what we've been doing.

I'm not going to speak for the campaign. I can only speak for the National Security Council and speak for the President in the context of the National Security Council. And from that perspective, we have been nothing but consistent.

Q Well, can't you understand how Americans might be confused when they see a chief executive who declares the use of this platform a national security problem, and a candidate, in the very same person, who makes active use of that platform? You can understand why Americans might be confused about that, can't you?

MR. KIRBY: I never make the mistake of trying to speak for the American people or trying to claim that I understand what they are or are not confused about.

All I can tell you — and I'm not confused about this — is that there are significant national security concerns about that application on government devices, which is why we're not allowed to use it on government devices.

And number two, that is why the President continues to want to see a divestiture of the company so that it's not owned by ByteDance, so that the Chinese Communist Party is not in control of the data that TikTok is able to assemble on its users.

And I think that that — there's reassurance there if, in fact, we can move towards that divest issue.

MODERATOR: Thank you. And as always, if we weren't able to get to you, hit up the distro and we'll try to get back to you as quick as possible. Thanks, everyone.

10:51 A.M. EDT

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