White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who took over as President Joe Biden’s chief spokeswoman just over three weeks ago, told “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. ABC that Biden was “very encouraged” by gun safety negotiations in Congress as lawmakers urgently try to reach a tentative agreement this week in the wake of recent shootings.
“It’s a priority for him. It’s a very serious issue for this president, but right now we’re looking at what Congress is doing, because we can’t do it alone, he can’t do it alone, and we’re very encouraged,” Jean-Pierre told ‘GMA’ co-anchor Robin Roberts, who pressed her on whether Biden was personally lobbying senators after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. , in which 19 children and 2 teachers were killed.
“So, I will say this, the president was very clear,” continued Jean-Pierre. “He delivered his speech on Thursday. He spoke directly to the American public to continue to explain the importance of addressing gun violence, how it clearly destroys schools and communities and how we must act now and we cannot. no more waiting.”
“But he wants to give the Senate and Congress on the Hill some space to have this conversation,” she added. “It looks very promising. We are encouraged by that.”
Jean-Pierre said the White House Office of Legislative Affairs had direct communications with negotiators “dozens of times.”
“So that’s how we’ve really dealt with it – making sure we can do whatever we can on our end and also getting updates from them,” she added.
The exclusive interview comes as Biden has called on lawmakers to act on gun safety legislation, but Senate negotiators are eyeing a much narrower package than he has asked for.
Biden called for an assault weapons ban, and if not, he said, raising the age to buy assault weapons from 18 to 21. Instead, lawmakers are considering measures like expanded background checks, incentives for states and localities to institute red flag laws, and increased funding for school safety and mental health programs.
Throughout the negotiations, Jean-Pierre has been defensive about Biden’s involvement, with some questioning whether the president should play a bigger role in the talks. She argued that Biden had been involved for decades and was giving senators “some breathing room” to work in.
During Monday’s press conference, Jean-Pierre indicated that even if senators ultimately come up with a package that falls far short of the wish list Biden outlined in his prime-time remarks last week, incremental changes would be acceptable to Biden. When reporters pressed her about the president’s lack of personal involvement in the talks, she backed up Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy’s claim that he’s spoken with the White House every day since talks began – but it may be at the staff level, not directly with Biden.
Jean-Pierre made history when she succeeded Jen Psaki on May 13, becoming the first black woman and first openly gay person to serve as White House press secretary.
When Jean-Pierre anchored her first White House briefing last year as she replaced Psaki, ABC News’ senior White House correspondent Mary Bruce asked her to do the story on the podium.
“It’s a real honor to be here today,” said Jean-Pierre. “I appreciate the historic nature, really, but I believe that being behind that podium, being in that room, being in that building, is not about one person. It’s about what we do on behalf of the people. American.”
Previously, Jean-Pierre served as the White House’s senior deputy press secretary, and during the 2020 presidential campaign, she served as chief of staff to then-candidate Kamala Harris. She also served in the Obama White House as Regional Director of the Office of Political Affairs for the Northeast. Prior to joining the Biden campaign, she was a senior executive at MoveOn.org and an MSNBC analyst.
Jean-Pierre was born in Fort-de-France, Martinique to Haitian parents, who later moved briefly to France, then immigrated to the United States and settled in Queens when he was five years old. They then moved to Hempstead, Long Island, where her father worked as a taxi driver and her mother as a home health aide. Although Jean-Pierre was not born in Haiti, she calls herself “proud Haitian-American”.
She and her partner have a daughter, Soleil.
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