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Isa Soares Tonight

Dozens Killed By Russian Missile Strikes Across Ukraine; Political Turmoil In France After Parliamentary Elections; Biden Writes To Lawmakers And Fundraisers That He's Staying In The Race; White House Discusses Ukraine Aid Ahead Of NATO Summit In Washington; White House Holding Press Briefing Amid Pressure On Biden. 2-3p ET

Aired July 08, 2024 - 14:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: A very warm welcome to the show, everyone, I'm Isa Soares coming to you live from Paris. Tonight, a deadly

day in Ukraine as Russia strikes hit a children's hospital and residential buildings killing dozens. We will have the very latest for you.

Then, political turmoil here in France as a left-wing coalition force the far-right in a stunning result. I'll dig into what this means for President

Macron and the country as a whole. Plus, a defiant Joe Biden says he's not going anywhere as the pressure builds on him to drop his presidential bid,

that and much more ahead this hour.

But first, tonight, I'm here in Paris for you, the capital of France where the country has been plunged into political uncertainty. In a shock

victory, the left-wing coalition has won the most seats in parliament, faulting really the far-right's attempt to take power.

But with no party gaining a majority, there is political turmoil ahead, I am going to be digging into all of this in more detail in just a moment.

But first, I want to begin with other major news out of Europe, and a deadly day in Ukraine after Russian attacks killed more than 30 people

across the country.

This is new video you're looking at from inside Kyiv's Children's Medical Center, and that is the largest in Ukraine. Large parts of the complex were

reduced basically to rubble in that attack. Volunteers and hospital staff scrambled to remove debris brick-by-brick as you can see there on your

screen, and help evacuate the young patients, two of which were said to be in the operating room when the hospital was hit.

They were taken to safety in the basement, dozens were killed and more than 120 people injured after Russian strikes targeted cities across Ukraine

during morning rush hour. In Poland for meetings, Ukraine's President said justice will come to the Kremlin for ordering those attacks. Have a listen

to this.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, PRESIDENT, UKRAINE (through translator): Beyond any doubt, we are going to rebuild everything that these Russian terrorists

have destroyed. And beyond any doubt, we are going to answer these savages from Russia. Everybody that was injured will get all the help they need,

and will pledge to work on bringing Russia to justice for the terror and Putin for his orders to carry out these strikes.


SOARES: Well, the attacks on Ukraine come as NATO leaders gather in Washington, and as Hungary's Prime Minister meets with NATO's adversaries -

- China, adversary I should say, China and Russia. Our Fred Pleitgen has the very latest for you.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A massive attack in broad daylight. The social media video purporting to show

the moment a Russian missile hit Kyiv's main children's hospital. The building flattened.


PLEITGEN: Desperate first responders, but also hospital staff trying to find survivors under the debris. 'There are people under the rubble",

Kyiv's mayor says, "there may be children among them." This woman in tears, "we came here five minutes before it all happened", she says, "we managed

to get to the pediatric ward, it's a nightmare."

Just days before, Vladimir Putin's military bombed Ukraine's civilian infrastructure, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban, currently holding

the European Union Presidency was in Moscow, a trip that other EU leaders have rejected and criticized. Putin using the platform to attack the U.S.

and its allies.

"The sponsors of Ukraine continue to try to use this country and its people as a battering ram", Putin said, a victim in the confrontation with Russia.

Orban is not only arguably Vladimir Putin's staunchest ally in Europe, he's also a major supporter of former President Donald Trump, celebrating a

March visit to Mar-a-Lago on his Instagram page, and telling German outlet "Bild", he supports Trump's presidential bid in an exclusive



VIKTOR ORBAN, PRIME MINISTER, HUNGARY: So, he's a -- he's a businessman. He's a self-made man. He has a different approach to everything, and I

believe that will be good for the word, politics. Don't forget that he is the man after peace.

PLEITGEN: Orban cozying up to other U.S. adversaries as well, currently on a visit to China, meeting President Xi Jinping. Beijing saying they're

pleased with Orban's efforts to end the war in Ukraine. This has, China has just sent troops to neighboring Belarus, close to NATO's eastern flank for

military exercises.

The Ukrainians say, rather than proposals for their de-facto surrender, they need more air defense systems to help prevent strikes like the one

that destroyed the children's hospital. Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Berlin.


SOARES: And our thanks for Fred Pleitgen for that report. Let's get more, CNN international diplomatic editor, Nic Robertson joins me from London.

And Nic, these are multiple strikes across numerous cities really taking place like Fred was saying there. On the eve of this NATO Summit in


So, I guess the question is, what is the message that President Putin is trying to send here with these attacks?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: The message is very simple, there's nothing that he won't do. And I think we've already heard,

you know, because those children's hospital appears to have been targeted. These are highly precise missiles.

There were multiple fired into Ukraine today by Russia, 38, 30 of them were taken out of the skies, but it's a very clear message from Vladimir Putin

that is willing to charge -- target a children's hospital. The ICU, the oncology unit, surgical areas in the hospital hit with, you know, you hear

language coming from the new British Prime Minister today describing it as depraved.

You have message -- you have been described by the French Foreign Minister as barbaric, ruthless is how Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief

put it. Language doesn't really get stronger than that. And that's --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: What this is. It is a message of what Putin is willing to do. And you can see that it conjures the strongest of emotions from the leaders

that he's intending to send this message to. And no surprise that U.N. has decided to call a Security Council meeting early tomorrow because of this

international humanitarian law absolutely forbids in military times --

SOARES: Yes --

ROBERTSON: In times of war, targeting infrastructure, civilian infrastructure like this.

SOARES: Yes, and this is absolutely heartbreaking like you said, civilian infrastructure being targeted, something that we're seeing right from the

onset of this war. And Nic, I want to turn to -- put your diplomatic editor hat on and refocus on the summit that we are expecting of NATO.

This is a landmark summit. I think it commemorates something like 75 years in NATO. What about security guarantees for Ukraine NATO membership? Given

this, what can we expect to come out of this summit?

ROBERTSON: Well, President Zelenskyy has today reiterated his continuous calls for air defenses. Isa, we expect concrete -- those were his words,

concrete answers and steps for NATO providing us with more air defense systems. Is what he desperately needs.

We know the United States is prioritizing getting him more Patriot systems, not sending them to some other countries that have requested them,

including Israel prioritizing Ukraine, there needs -- the United States believes is greater right now, and this is an example.

Zelenskyy will be able to say precisely why he needs those systems now. The support and security that he gets from NATO is not what he wanted when he

went to the NATO leaders summit last Summer. He -- the assessment there was he came in and it was a bit bold and a bit brash, and you know, every

Ukrainian official you listen to talking about support coming from NATO allies and partners since then, reiterates the mantra, thank you, we're

grateful, thank you, we're grateful.

And you'll hear Zelenskyy say that, but is also -- you know, he's also going to say the gratitude is not enough. So, what does he have at the

moment? Not the NATO Article 5 umbrella that if you're inside NATO and you're hit, then all others will come to support you.

He has -- is building up, I think this getting close to about 20 now bilateral security arrangements with the different NATO members. And I

think he'll be hoping to get some others to sign up while he's there in Washington.

SOARES: Nic Robertson for the very latest there. Thanks very much, Nic, appreciate it. Well, India's Prime Minister has kicked off a two-day

visit to Moscow. It is the first time Narendra Modi has visited the Russian capital since the country launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Despite close ties with the West, India also has decades of defense and military cooperation with Russia as well as the Soviet Union.


And this is widely seen as a dent in efforts by western leaders to isolate Vladimir Putin. Mr. Modi and the Russian President are expected to discuss,

quote, "regional and global issues of quote, 'mutual interest.'" We'll stay across that story of course for you.

Well, a source close to French President Emmanuel Macron tells CNN negotiations are underway to form a new government. Just a few weeks before

the Paris Olympics, many here in France are asking the question, what happens now? That's after the stunning results of the country's

parliamentary elections which have thrown the country into political chaos.

A left-wing coalition unexpectedly managed to keep the far-right from grabbing power. But the win by the National Popular Front was not a

decisive one, leaving the parliament in gridlock. And despite a third-place finish, the far-right won 143 seats, that is the most in its history.

Our Melissa Bell has been tracking the election results and joins us now. So, Melissa, I think it's fair to say, you know, jubilation, relief for

many in France as the far-right are kind of kept away from power. But now, the country is facing political gridlock and a hung parliament. Just talk

us through the machinations and what could potentially happen next.

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was -- this has been, I mean, just to remind our viewers, Isa, the results of so many weeks of

speculation about just how strong the National Rally had become. Remember that this whole process was set off by the European elections that saw the

party long, a fringe party, considered fairly extreme, how it seemed to have taken over and certainly appeared to be the most popular party in


Hence, Emmanuel Macron's decision to hold the elections, hence, the success of the National Rally in the first round. But a week is a long time in

politics, and here in France, specifically, so much can happen.



BELL (voice-over): Disbelief and joy on the streets of Paris as news of the far-right's defeat was announced.

JEAN-LUC MELENCHON, LEADER OF THE FRANCE UNBOWED PARTY (through translator): The united left has shown that it has risen to this historical


BELL: Even that unified left seemed astonished by its own success. An improbable coalition of ecologists, socialists and communist that was only

created a month ago.

FRANCOIS HOLLANDE, FORMER FRENCH PRESIDENT & SOCIALIST (through translator): I am indeed a leftist, and I probably wouldn't have won if the

left hadn't come together. And I'm well aware of that.

BELL: As Paris celebrated the coalition's victory, there were already questions though about how such a varied group of parties will actually


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are quite happy because the left is getting a majority at the parliament, but we are a bit scared as well because the

union is not really solid. So, maybe, there will be betrayal. But tonight, we're celebrating.


BELL (on camera): The biggest disappointment of all, of course, for Marine Le Pen, she had hoped that her National Rally Party would finally be able

to govern. In fact, it came in third, but still recorded the party's best ever electoral success.

(voice-over): Doubling the number of its parliamentary seats, with a far- left doing well too, the radical parties gains largely made at the expense of President Macron's centrist. A reflection of growing anger, much of it

outside of Paris. Like here in Normandy, where the National Rally won outright in the first round.

DEPUTY MAYOR JEAN-PAUL RIBIERE, TALMONTIERS, FRANCE (through translator): The vote here is more of disapproval of what's happening in Paris compared

to what's happening in the rural world, which is that no one listens to us, no one hears us.

BELL: Yes, the images of the far-right celebrating their first-round success appear to have focused the minds and the votes of those who wanted

more than anything else to keep them away from power for now.


BELL: But of course, Isa, inevitably, as the country wakes up this Monday to the political gridlock that is ahead to the divided National Assembly

that is behind me to a far-left, to a left-wing alliance -- I'm sorry, that includes the far-left, that is now the biggest bloc in France as part of


With all the questions about how they're going to agree on between themselves on what candidate to put forward to be the next prime minister,

even as all those questions hang in the balance. As you can imagine, the far-right National Rally have seized on what's happened, describing in the

words of Jordan Bardella, I mean hoped after all he might become prime minister should his far-right party get an absolute majority.

In his words last night at a very disappointing event that should have been a party for them, turned out to be something much more somber. He said,

look, these are the political machinations of the Parisian political elites, speaking to his base, speaking to those people, not just those who

voted at those constituencies like the one we were in that voted outright in the first round for them.


But those vast numbers of supporters they have out there that are convinced that they are being kept from power quite unfairly, Isa.

SOARES: And Melissa, like you alluded to in your piece, I mean, Macron may have seen off the threat of the far-right, but now faces as you laid out, a

pretty frustrating kind of final three years in office, facing a disorderly parliament. Just speak to the political risk and uncertainty right now,

because no one knows how long all these -- the politicking will take now.

BELL: And no one quite knows, Isa, exactly why he took the extraordinary decision that he did to dissolve the parliament to begin with. Again, this

was a decision he did not have to make. The far-right could have done well in European elections, he could have said, well, those are European

elections, they're very different to national ones.

Instead, to much of the surprise of a great deal of his party and all of France's political classes, apart from a bit -- a little group of

counselors and close advisors around him, he made the extraordinary decision to dissolve parliament, wanting to listen to what the people had


This of course, has thrown the country into this, particularly a curious level of political turmoil. But what it has meant is that he now faces --

he's going to have to work with the National Assembly that is more fractious, more divided than it was before he dissolved the election with

the radical parties, both the far-right and the far-left emboldened with more seats than they had before.

And therefore a harder National Assembly with which to work for and with, and that is even before we figure out who the next prime minister he's

going to be working --

SOARES: Yes --

BELL: With is going to be, Isa.

SOARES: Yes, perhaps hubris, who knows? Melissa, I know you and I will be talking about half an hour or so, appreciate it --

BELL: Yes --

SOARES: Thanks very much. Well, U.S. President Joe Biden sending a strong message to Democrats, he is not backing down from the race. Details ahead

on those tense discussions and we'll have a preview of Donald Trump's major event happening next week. That is next.


SOARES: Well, the pressure is heating up for U.S. President Joe Biden. In this critical week, he will not only host a NATO Summit as you heard our

correspondent just say at the top of the hour, Nic Robertson. But he's also pursuing a redemption arc.


He needs to win back members of his own party after last month's disastrous debate right here on CNN. So, the President has written a letter to

congressional Democrats telling them he is staying in the race. This as a growing number of House Democrats say he needs to bow out.

The Biden-Harris teams also reached out with a fundraising letter, setting a defiant tone and making it clear, the President is running. On top of

that, Mr. Biden is getting some help from his wife, he has no scheduled campaign events today, but Jill Biden has three.

The President has been speaking out though, and he is making his message to critics hours ago just on "MSNBC", have a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): I'm getting so frustrated by the elites, now I'm not talking about you guys, but about the

elites in the party, who they know so much more. But many of these guys --


BIDEN: Don't think I should run, run against me. Go -- announce to the President. Challenge him at the convention.


SOARES: Well, our team is covering the story from all angles as you would expect, joining us now from Washington D.C., and White House reporter

Camila DeChalus and CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju. And Manu, first to you, I mean, we heard a fiery President Biden with a clear

message to the elites.

And this, of course, coming as the pressures we lined out just there continues to mount from within his own party. I want to just play a little

clip of some of those from the Democratic Party and what they've been saying over the weekend. Have a listen.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I love Joe Biden. I don't know that the interview on Friday night did enough to answer those questions. And so, I think this

week is going to be absolutely critical. I think it's --

REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): Biden is not going anywhere. He has been strong in saying that in the last day or two, he's not going to be pushed out.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): He should take a moment to make the best-informed judgment. And if the judgment is run, then run hard and beat that S.O.B.


SOARES: So, are these voice or voices, Manu, and a handful of them is fair to say, a sign of these growing fractures. Just speak to the mood in the

Democratic Party right now.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, the question will be for those Democrats who have stayed silent for the past week or so,

because Congress has been on a recess due to the 4th of July holiday was last week, Congress was not in session.

So, very few members actually have weighed in about their views, about their concerns. Some of them have talked privately, have given anonymous

quotes to reporters about their concerns, but will they go public? That is a big question right now, Isa.

And the big question too, is what the Democratic leaders Hakeem Jeffries and the House and Chuck Schumer in the Senate, what they say, their

messaging will be critically important if they side with Joe Biden, perhaps that could tamp down those calls within the ranks to push him out.

But if they believe there should be a change because of their concerns that Biden at the top of the ticket could undermine their efforts to take back

control of the House and keep control of the United States Senate, if they come out and raise concerns about Joe Biden staying on the top of the

ticket, pressure will undoubtedly mount.

So, upcoming, Isa, are key meetings, one, tomorrow morning and the House Democratic caucus behind closed doors, members will be talking about Joe

Biden airing their concerns and saying whether or not they believe he should stay. And then Tuesday afternoon, there will be a meeting with

Senate Democrats over lunch.

Their weekly lunch. The first time they will meet since the debate -- disastrous debate performance by President Biden. So, they will air their

concerns there, and what is the messaging out of those two meetings that will be critically important for -- to see whether the pressure continues

to mount or whether Joe Biden on the offensive has tampered things down.

SOARES: Stay with us, Manu, let me just go to Camila. And Camila, President Biden has said emphatically that he was staying in the race. But like Manu

was just saying, I mean, this is a critical week for him with the president and his performances, clearly, potentially facing a greater scrutiny.

How is the President been reacting to this, to some of the criticisms, some of the -- some of the Democrats coming out and asking for him to step down,

calling on him to step down?

CAMILA DECHALUS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: President Biden has really doubled-down as is -- in his messaging that he feels like he is the best

candidate in the Democratic Party to run for office and to be re-elected. Time and time again, he's talked about what he has done since he came to

the Oval Office.

And he's also talked about what he plans to do if he gets re-elected. And that has not changed. Now, as you mentioned since his first presidential

debate, he's admitted that his performance was not the best, but he said that he didn't want that 90-minute debate performance to diminish or

overshadow what he has accomplished in the last three years.

And even though you have Democrats coming out, drawing and just expressing their concerns about Biden running again, he said, look, there's other

Democrats who also feel that he should continue to run, and that he's the best candidate and he has his campaign surrogates on the campaign trail

saying that message as well.


As you mentioned, this week is a really big week for Biden. He's attending the NATO Summit, where he's going to meet with dozens of world leaders, and

he's going to be heavily scrutinized. But you will see that he's going to really use this opportunity at the NATO Summit, and then later this week

when he's attending a campaign event to really showcase why he's committed to running for office, and why he's the best candidate --

SOARES: Camila, I'm sorry to interrupt, Camila, apologies to interrupt -- oh, you're talking about NATO Summit. I want to go to the White House

because we are hearing John Kirby speaking about this. Let's listen --


alliance in 2021 and 2022 to build a global coalition to respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and to provide indispensable support to that


And I'll get that -- more on that in just a second. President has also strongly encouraged greater partnerships between the NATO alliance and

friendly nations around the world, particularly in the Indo-Pacific as you will see. And the president knows that the global threats and challenges

that we all face, including from authoritarian actors and terrorist organizations are inextricably linked.

He has also encouraged our NATO allies to join him in making significant investments in our mutual defense and deterrence capabilities. And when the

Biden-Harris administration took office, only nine NATO allies were spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense, 2

percent was the whale's pledge.

That was the goal that every member of the alliance had swore that they would get to. Today, a record 23 NATO allies are at or above the minimum

level of 2 percent of GDP on defense spending. More than twice as many as in 2020, and nearly eight times higher than when the allies first set that

2 percent benchmark a decade ago.

Now, just quickly turning to the schedule. Tomorrow evening, President Biden will welcome NATO leaders and he and Dr. Biden will host a 75th

anniversary commemoration event at the Mellon auditorium. That is the site. I think you all know when NATO treaty was formally signed in 1949.

On Wednesday, the President will hold his first bilateral meeting with the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Keir Starmer here at the White

House. The President will also meet with the 32 members of the alliance at the Convention Center. And then later that evening, he and Dr. Biden will

host NATO leaders for a dinner again here at the White House.

On Thursday morning, NATO will hold a meeting with the EU and with NATO's Indo-Pacific partners, that's Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and

New Zealand to deepen our cooperation.

And then on Thursday afternoon, there will be a meeting of the NATO Ukraine Council, after which the President will host an event with President

Zelenskyy and nearly two dozen of our allies and partners who have signed bilateral security agreement with Ukraine just as the President did, as you

saw in Italy a week or so ago. After that, the President will hold a press conference, I guess a big boy press conferences --


KIRBY: Is what we're calling it, and take some questions from you all. Now, we're working to also set up some additional meetings, bilateral meetings,

the only two that I can speak to right now are with the U.K. Prime Minister and President Zelenskyy, but I have no doubt there will be additional

bilats, and as we get more fidelity on those, we'll let you know.

Finally as customary for -- as customary for summits the United States hosts, there will be a leader, spouses and partners program hosted by Dr.

Biden. Now, if I could just quickly turn to Ukraine because back to the context for what this meeting is all about, I think it's important to just

do a quick update here with what the situation is on the ground.

Since the passage of the supplemental in April, the president has authorized seven security packages to help Ukraine, including five draw-

downs of munitions and equipment. The resumption of that, U.S. aid has made a significant impact on the battlefield instead of the nightmare scenarios

that were predicted several months ago about what we could see heading into the NATO Summit.

We've seen the situation stabilize. Ukrainian forces have successfully stopped Russia's attack north of Kharkiv, denying Russia the ability to

take that city and limiting Russian gains to areas just across the border. The Ukrainians have held the line in Chasiv Yar, they've held fast east of

Pokrovsk, hardening their defenses and ensuring that Russia will not break through, and they've halted Russian attacks in Zaporizhzhia.

Throughout these last three months, the Russians have attacked relentlessly across all those fronts and the price that they have paid for the few

meters they have gained here and there, has been extensive -- heavy casualties, destroyed equipment, disrupted supply lines, degraded morale.

The people of Ukraine have yet again demonstrated that when supplied and when supported by the international community and the United States, they

can hold off the largest, though certainly not -- I think is clearly evident the most capable army in Europe.

Their success is not just limited to the front. Ukraine has put U.S.- provided ATCMs, the long-range strike missiles to good use in Crimea, destroying Russian surface-to-air missile systems, commandos, airfields,

they sunk the last cruise-missile-capable warship in the Port of Sebastopol, and the Russian Black Sea now -- Black Sea fleet has now fled

Crimea in response.

Well, it's been heartening to see Ukraine hold on in this critical period, we should not forget the grim reality. Russia continues to bombard

frontline towns with massive and low-accuracy glide bombs and sending missiles at Ukrainian cities, including over just the past weekend where

they hit a hospital, a children's hospital. Russia's ramped its campaign against Ukrainian electrical generation, depriving civilian population of

power and attempting to set the conditions to punish them over the fall and the winter.


To strengthen Ukraine's air defenses and to help Ukraine protect its cities and its grid, the United States and several of our allies will have several

big announcements at this week's summit. And the NATO Allowance will announce significant new steps to strengthen its military and political

partnership with Ukraine to help Ukraine continue to defend themselves today and to deter Russian aggression well into the future.

These elements, taken together with bilateral support, are part of a bridge to Ukraine's deep NATO membership. Together, the Washington summit will

send a strong signal to Mr. Putin that if he thinks he can outlast the coalition of countries that are supporting Ukraine, he's dead wrong again.

As President Biden has said himself, Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and


REPORTER: Thanks, Ben.

REPORTER: Thanks, John. You mentioned the context of this summit this week. It's also the first time the President has interacted with these world

leaders since that disastrous debate against former President Trump 10 days or so ago, where the President struggled to confront the former president

on all sorts of things.

What is the President's -- you know, does the President feel he -- how does he plan to reassure American allies in NATO that he is up for the job now

when he couldn't confront Trump on stage day?

KIRBY: I think your question presupposes the notion that they need to be reassured of American leadership and President Biden's commitment, and I

don't believe that's the case. We're not picking up any signs of that from our allies at all. Quite the contrary.

The conversations that we're having with them in advance, they're excited about this summit. They're excited about the possibilities and the things

that we're going to be doing together specifically to help Ukraine.

REPORTER: So you've seen zero -- I mean, there have been stories in multiple outlets from both sides of the Atlantic over the last several days

with questions from European leaders about the President's capacity to lead the United States. Are you just denying that?

KIRBY: I'm not aware of any such conversations that have been had, certainly none with us and here at the White House and with our staff.

We're looking forward to it.

I want to, you know, go back to what I said at the beginning. In the last three years, rather than browbeaten and insulting and demeaning allies,

this President has invested in allies and partnerships. And when he took office, what I said, nine -- only nine allies had reached the two percent

level. Now 23. That's not by accident. That's because of leadership. That's because of constant stewardship of the alliance and other partnerships

around the world.

The President's record speaks for itself. And the allies and the non-NATO friends and partners that are coming as well, they know that. They wouldn't

be coming, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, to a NATO summit if they didn't believe in American leadership and how important it is, and if they didn't

believe that President Biden takes that responsibility extremely seriously.

REPORTER: Admiral, good to see you. On the point about European countries, the NATO members boosting their defense spending, that was something,

though, that was a big concern of the last President. It's part of the reason many of them are boosting their funding.

KIRBY: And it was a concern of the President before the last President. As you recall, President Obama said the same thing. This pledge goes back a

decade or so. But the numbers speak for themselves, Ed. And rather than browbeaten and yelling and screaming and complaining and whining about it,

President Biden invested in this alliance.

And in just the last three and a half years now, more than double the number of allies have reached that two percent.

REPORTER: Two questions on the follow-up from the debate. Have you, in your meetings with him, ever seen him appear similarly to the way he did on

debate night?

KIRBY: Look, I'm a spokesman. And the last --

REPORTER: And you're in a lot of meetings with him.

KIRBY: I am. The last thing I'm going to do is sit here and talk about every meeting I've had with the President. And what I can tell you is what

I saw in that debate is not reflective of the man and the leader and the commander-in-chief that I have spent many, many hours with over the last

two and a half years in terms of the specificity of the way he probes, the questions he asks.

Hey, just this morning, he was asking me questions about the situation on the European continent that I couldn't answer. And I told him I had to get

back to him.

REPORTER: On another -- when he spent with governors last week, he suggested he'd like to curtail events that begin after 8:00 p.m. at night

just because he'd rather focus on resting and doesn't want to have a long day. In your understanding of things, has the National Security Council

ever withheld information from him he should have known late at night out of concern he might not be able to process it?



MARY, REPORTER: Go ahead, Mary. Russia has bombed Ukraine's largest children's hospital, as you noted. Do you believe the timing of these

strikes is meant to send a message to NATO ahead of this week's summit?

KIRBY: It's hard to draw a line, Mary, to that. I mean, sadly.


This is par for the course for Mr. Putin to hit civilian infrastructure, and he doesn't care whether you're sitting in hospitals or residential

buildings. I can't draw the line that this is some sort of message.

But look, I mean, as I said, what you're going to see over the course of the week is a very set of strong signals and messages to Mr. Putin, that he

can't wait NATO out, can't wait the United States out, that we're going to continue to support Ukraine.


REPORTER: I just wanted to ask about the air defenses and some of the sort of the deliverables that are coming out of the NATO summit. Can you walk us

through what you think will be happening in terms of any additional commitments and additional funding packages that come? And can you say a

few words about this project to sort of consolidate the way that weapons are going to Ukraine through the distribution center that I think there's a

center that will be set up in Vista and some of the other --

KIRBY: Coordination's.

REPORTER: Coordination's.

KIRBY: Yes. I mean, I don't -- the purpose for me to come today was just kind of give you the lay down of the summit ahead and not to get too far

ahead of the leaders in the specific deliverables. But -- so without doing that and without getting fired, I'll just tell you that you're going to see

some announcements on air defense. You're going to see some announcements on deterrence capabilities, not just with respect to helping Ukraine but

boosting the alliance.

You're going to see some announcements with respect to the defense industrial base and how to shore up that and make it more resilient and

invest in it more, including in our own industrial base here in the United States. And you're going to see, as I alluded to, some discussion about

Ukraine's path to NATO and what that can look like, and a reaffirmation of what the President has long said, that NATO is in Ukraine's future.

REPORTER: Just to follow up on that, can you say whether the word irreversible will be in the communique?

KIRBY: I'm not going to get ahead of the specific language one way or the other.

REPORTER: And then just on Israel and Gaza, can you say anything about the Israeli response to the Hamas response to the ceasefire proposal? Lots of

responses, yes.

KIRBY: So no surprise to you all that I'm not going to negotiate here from the podium or public. I would just tell you that there has been some back

and forth. As you know, we have a team in Cairo right now that includes Brett McGurk and the director of the CIA. They're meeting with their

Egyptian, Israeli, and Jordanian counterparts, and there'll be follow-on discussions after that over the next few days.

Look, we've been working this very, very hard, and there are still some gaps that remain in the two sides in the positions. But we wouldn't have

sent a team over there if we didn't think that we had a shot here, and we're going to take every shot we can to see if we can't get this ceasefire

deal in place.

REPORTER: Within days?

KIRBY: I couldn't give you a date certain.


KIRBY: Thank you.

REPORTER: John, thanks for doing this. First, just to follow up on the communique, even if you can't get into irreversible, the President's

objection last year, and Chancellor Schultz's objection, if I remember Vilnius correctly, was that neither one of them wanted a date set for fear,

I assume, that the United States and its allies would be drawn into the ground, or if Ukraine was still at war while a NATO member.

Does that remain today to be his primary objection? Is he willing to do wording that just is short of a date? Because even if you do the word

irreversible or not, it doesn't really change the meaning very much of what you published in Vilnius. And I have a second on just the level of --

KIRBY: I'll make this simple but unsatisfying. Again, I'm not going to get into the text and the discussions about what the draft's going to look

like, David. I think you can understand that. But I do think your question is important to provide some context to.

The President still believes that NATO is in Ukraine's future. What that future looks like depends on an awful lot of factors. Right now, you've got

a war going on inside Ukraine, and the focus rightly has got to be on helping them win that war. And we are, as I detailed in my opening


Number two, for any country that wants to join NATO, any country, and it's an alliance of democracies, democracies have to meet certain guidelines,

particularly when it comes to governance. And we are and will continue to work with Ukraine on reforms that are necessary for any democracy that

wants to be a member of NATO.

And then the third thing I'd say is, you know, it's a unanimous vote. Everybody has to be on board with that, and that can take some time as

well. So the focus is on making sure that they can win now and that we can continue to work with Ukraine so that there is a path to NATO.


The last thing I'd say is back to the bilateral security agreement that the President signed with President Zelenskyy at the G7 in Italy. I mean, we're

one of many other nations that have done that too, because we know that whenever this war ends, however it ends, and whatever the border looks

like, Ukraine's still going to have a long border with Russia that's going to need to be defended.

And they're going to need the reassurance of being able to put forth a capable and competent defensive capability against Russian forces going

forward. And that's why we're making sure that there are things in line to make sure that Ukraine can defend itself.

REPORTER: Just one follow-up. You mentioned that it was 10 years ago that the two percent GDP goal was set. Obviously, there was no war underway at

that time, and so the entire security situation looks radically different than it does -- than it did when that was set.

KIRBY: Well, I beg to differ. There was fighting in Afghanistan, and Mr. Putin invaded Ukraine in 2014.

REPORTER: In 2014, yeas But I think the two percent may have been set.

KIRBY: It was in Wales. It might have been set before the invasion, but nevertheless, it was still a tense security environment.

REPORTER: Right. We're in something much different today. I think we're all in agreement, just given the amount of arms that's worth going in. So is

part of the President's message at this summit that two percent is in the rearview mirror, that the NATO allies are going to have to be spending

significantly more than that, maybe double that, for some countries, some larger economies? Or is he going to stay away from numbers? I know it's

politically sensitive with all of them.

You also -- you mentioned the word win. I was wondering how you're defining that.

KIRBY: OK. There's a lot there. The President's not going to set a new bar or a new level of GDP spending on defense here at this summit. The goal is

two percent. It was a commitment everybody made 10 years ago. Not everybody's there. Most of the remaining nations that haven't reached two

percent, most of them, not all, are working on it and are getting there.

And so I think the President wants, you know, to focus on that, wants to laud and commemorate those who have, but also make it clear that those who

haven't still have some -- they still have some work to do.

On win, I think we've been consistent about this. I mean, at least I think I have. I mean, we want all of Ukraine's sovereign territory respected,

which means we want no Russian forces in any part of Ukraine by the internationally recognized boundaries.


REPORTER: John, you just said, answering a question to Zeke, you're not picking up on signs of allies needing reassurances when it comes to

President Biden. But the allies also look for a secure United States. Have you heard any conversations from the allies about issues of the elections

process here, what they've been seeing, and the stability of the United States in the next few months, couple of years, et cetera?

KIRBY: I'm not aware of any specific conversations with respect to our domestic political situation. But look, April, we watch the domestic

political situation of our allies and partners. Of course, like we did with the U.K. and with France over the weekend, and we have no doubt that

they're watching ours as well and that they'll be watching our election with, you know, with a lot of keen interest. We certainly would expect


But I'm not aware of any conversations that we've had at senior levels here at the NSC or elsewhere here at the White House from allies specifically

about this particular election.

REPORTER: Are there any members of the European Union who gathered reporters a couple of years ago with concerns about democracy here?

KIRBY: They might be talking to you all, but I'm not aware of any specific conversations here.

REPORTER: Just want to circle back, Admiral, on Ed's question. So you said broadly that the President, in your view, is not represented by what was on

the debate stage. Then you gave us an anecdote about a meeting today where he was engaged and so forth. Are you saying you have never encountered a

situation where you thought that he was displaying any of those symptoms or affectations or, you know, something that would give pause, or are you just

declining to answer one way or another?

KIRBY: Well, I'm a little uncomfortable answering these kinds of questions because, as a spokesman, my job is to be an advisor and counselor, and I

don't think it's appropriate for a spokesman to --

REPORTER: But you --

KIRBY: Yes, I did because I wanted to make it clear. So yes, I'm uncomfortable with these kinds of questions. But to answer your specific

question, in my experience the last two and a half years, I have not seen any reason whatsoever to question or doubt his lucidity, his grasp of

context, his probing nature.


And the degree to which he is completely in charge of facts and figures. And if he isn't, what I've seen is, because it happened to me this morning,

when he isn't, and when I can't be in command of those facts and figures, I have to fess up and go get the information that he's asking for, and he

asked me some questions this morning I didn't have answers for.


REPORTER: Thank you, Karine. Two questions on the Middle East. Israel has conducted the largest seizure of land in the West Bank, which undermines

the President's vision for a two-state solution. So, why the White House have been mum on that? And will the President have --

KIRBY: Yes, no, it's not that we've been mum. There was a -- there's -- we have -- there was a statement put out by the State Department about this

call for settlements. We -- nothing's changed about our view that settlements continue to be counterproductive to peace and stability and the

possibility of a two-state solution. We don't support that.

REPORTER: OK. And second, you mentioned about the Ukraine and Russia in terms of the civilian casualties. The U.N. said today that actually half of

the facilities of UNRWA has been hit and 520 people have been killed in addition to the aid workers.

So do you still believe that Israel is doing what it takes to protect civilian lives, including women and children?

KIRBY: We certainly believe that they need to continue to do more to protect innocent civilian life.

REPORTER: Yes, but they're not doing much. I mean, we've been -- I've been asking this question for nine months.

KIRBY: Your question wasn't about what they're doing or not doing. Your question was do we believe that they should do more. And my answer is yes,

they need to do more to protect civilian life. And we're going to continue to have conversations with them about how they're prosecuting these


REPORTER: Thanks, John. Just sticking with the Middle East but connecting it to the other big story. At the -- during the ABC News interview on

Friday, George Stephanopoulos asked the President was he, "the same man today that you were when you took office three and a half years ago." And

the President replied again, "In terms of successes, yes, I was also the guy who put together a peace plan for the Middle East that may be coming to


Now, it may or may not be coming to fruition. We don't know. We do know 38,000 people have been killed in Gaza, almost two million displaced, and

according to UNICEF, one in three children under the age of two is suffering from acute malnutrition. Does the President consider his Gaza

policy a success?

KIRBY: The President believes wholeheartedly that the ceasefire proposal that we are trying to get done will make a big difference in terms of not

only temporarily ceasing hostilities but potentially giving us an opening to end this conflict.

It's important to remember how this started, and you talked about our Gaza policy. I'll state it for you again. We want to make sure Israel has a

right to defend itself from the kinds of attacks it suffered on the 7th of October, which I know is easy for people to forget, 1,200 people

slaughtered, most at a music festival.

Number two, that Israel is doing everything they can to protect innocent civilian life. Is it enough? No. They need to continue to do more, and that

we are doing everything we can to get humanitarian assistance into the people of Gaza, that's our Gaza policy.

And as the President has also said, we would be and will still continue to be willing to adjust the policies that we are executing with respect to

Gaza as we see things unfold on the ground.

REPORTER: But the broader question was, does he consider his policy to have been successful?

KIRBY: Israel is defending itself against a terrorist attack, so we can check that off. Humanitarian assistance continues to flow. In fact, if it

wasn't for the United States, I daresay that not a fraction of the humanitarian assistance that is getting into Gaza would get in. Is it

enough? No. And the Israelis have taken some steps to be more precise, more discriminant, and more careful in their operations.

Is it enough? No. So we're going to keep at it, we're going to keep working on this.

REPORTER: You keep saying, is it enough? No. The President described Israel as bombing -- indiscriminate bombing in December. Seven months have passed

and you have paused one arms shipment, as I understand. Is that correct?

KIRBY: That's right. What's your -- is there a question here?

REPORTER: Do you think that that's an effective response to the indiscriminate bombing of a civilian population?

KIRBY: It's never right to be conducting indiscriminate bombing of a civilian population. That's why we continue to work with the Israelis to be

more precise, to be more careful.

JEAN-PIERRE: All right, just a couple more. Go ahead, Michael.

REPORTER: Sorry, sorry. Hi, Admiral. Can I just start with the Middle East as well? Hamas has accused Netanyahu of putting obstacles in the way of the

ceasefire deal that is being talked about now. Does the U.S. think that Netanyahu's government is doing everything it can to secure the ceasefire


KIRBY: We're working hard to get that ceasefire deal in place. I'm not going to negotiate here from public -- in public or talk about who's saying

what and who's doing what.


We have seen both sides now, as Andrea rightly asked in her question. We've seen both sides come out with some public statements with respect to the

text. The last thing I'm going to do is get into bartering here. We're trying to close those gaps as best we can. We wouldn't have sent the CIA

director or Brett McGurk to Cairo if we didn't believe it was worth a shot.

I would also add that on both sides, you see public comments that aren't necessarily fully reflective of the conversations that we're having

privately with them or their interlocutors.

REPORTER: Certainly, just on Ukraine, there's been an information battle over the weekend. The Russians said that they've destroyed two Ukrainian

Patriot missile systems. The Ukrainians said that they were decoys. Does the U.S. have its own independent evaluation of what happens during that

strike? And what is the state of Ukraine's air defense system when it comes to Patriot missile systems?

KIRBY: Yes, we do. I'm not going to talk about it. And I think you're going to hear more here this week about what the allies and the United States are

going to do to continue to bolster Ukrainian air defense. Look, I know we get hung up on the Patriots, and I get that. There has been contributions

of Patriot systems by other nations. You talked -- we talked about how we're re-sequencing some of our deliveries of Patriot interceptors from

some countries, now diverting them to Ukraine. We're doing that.

Other nations are also trying to contribute Patriots. But let's not get caught up on just one system. There's short-range, there's medium range,

and there's long-range air defense. And Ukraine needs all of it. And again, I think you're going to see this week the Allies really stepping up and

showing that they're willing to continue to provide those kinds of capabilities.

JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Josh.

KIRBY: John, Viktor Orban is visiting China right now on the heels of a visit to Russia. I'm wondering whether the U.S. has any views on that and

what impact it might have on the situation in Ukraine.

KIRBY: Yes, we're concerned about it. It certainly doesn't seem to be productive in terms of trying to get things done in Ukraine and trying to

move forward to achieve this just piece that President Zelenskyy continues to work hard and we continue to try to operationalize. But yes, it's


REPORTER: Was there any advance notification given to the U.S. to either trip Russia or not?


REPORTER: Can I try one more time on irreversible?

KIRBY: Yes, you can try.

REPORTER: Yes, it's worth the shot. Does the U.S. have a position on the conclusion of that word?

KIRBY: Our position is that NATO is going to be in Ukraine's future. There's a lot of work that needs to be done to get to that point. And the

President is looking forward to talking to President Zelenskyy and our NATO allies about that path, that bridge to NATO.

REPORTER: Thank you so much, John. A question on Ukraine and one on Iran. Starting with Ukraine and this Russian rocket attack that killed 30 people

at the largest children's hospital, does this shift the U.S.'s position on not allowing Ukraine to strike directly at Russian airfields that

originated these attacks?

KIRBY: Shift the position?

REPORTER: Yes. Has the U.S. changed its mind about not allowing that? And how do you justify not giving Ukraine permission to attack?

KIRBY: There's been no change in our policy. You saw that the President several weeks ago gave guidance to Ukraine that they can use U.S.-supplied

weapons to strike targets just over the border. That's still the case.

REPORTER: On Iran, we've heard the U.S. say that this election, this presidential election, is not free and fair, that they have doubts if this

is going to change anything meaningfully. But we've also heard the U.S. say that they will negotiate or do diplomacy with Iran when it serves our

national interest.

So is the U.S. now ready to resume nuclear talks, other talks, or make any diplomatic moves with Iran in light of this new president?


JEAN-PIERRE: OK. Ariana, I'm sorry.

REPORTER: You said no. Can you elaborate, please?

KIRBY: Well, it seemed like a pretty easy question to answer. No, we're not in a position where we're willing to get back to the negotiating table with

Iran just based on the fact that they've elected a new president.

They're still supporting terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. They're still supporting the Houthis as the Houthis attack ships in the Red Sea.

They're still attacking shipping as well.

And they're still supplying drones and drone technology and drone expertise to the Russians so that the Russians can continue to kill innocent

Ukrainians like they did over the weekend. So no, no.

REPORTER: This guy seems a bit more moderate. Do you see any opening?

KIRBY: Look, we'll see what this guy wants to get done, but we are not expecting any changes in Iranian behavior, sadly.

JEAN-PIERRE: We've got a -- Ariel, go ahead.

REPORTER: Thank you so much. John, this morning the President said that France rejected extremism during the latest parliamentary election and

expressed his confidence that the United States would also do so. So France has a very different electoral system, as you know. So why this optimism

from the President?

And more broadly, was there a sense of relief in the Administration that the election turned out the way it did?

KIRBY: I think it's pretty clear from the election that the far right didn't find the purchase that it wanted to find and that compromise in a

democracy is going to have to still be the watchword in France, as it is here in the United States.


And it's not going to change our strong relationship with France. It's not going to change the fact that France is a valued NATO ally. And the

President is looking forward to continuing to work with President Macron and the entire team.

JEAN-PIERRE: All right, last question. Go ahead.

REPORTER: Thank you, Karine. Thank you, Admiral. I was just wondering, with the renewed spotlight and scrutiny on President Biden in public settings

this week, how he's preparing for the NATO summit, how you guys are deciding how many questions to take at the press conference.

KIRBY: You've got to ask the press secretary that one.

REPORTER: Everyone who's prepping him for a lot of this on matters of national security and foreign policy.

KIRBY: Well, so am I. Yes, exactly. It's a team effort. Yes, I will let Karine talk about the press conference, the big boy press conference that

you all are planning to have.

But he has already had discussions with his national security team in the lead-up to the summit, as you might expect that he would. He's reviewing

material. He's doing his homework and getting ready.

He's got the first major set of remarks tomorrow night at the Mellon Auditorium. He's working his way through those remarks, as you would expect

him to do. And he's getting ready for the -- at least the two bilateral meetings that we know he's going to have specifically with the new prime

minister of the U.K. and President Zelenskyy later in the week.

So what I have seen from my perch is the normal amount of preparatory work that he does before a major international conference, no different than how

he prepared for the G7 or for the events in Normandy or previous international fora. So it's pretty typical from what I've seen.

REPORTER: And do you expect Vice President Harris to play a role in the events this week or to take any meetings during the time that she'll be in


KIRBY: I can't speak for the Vice President's staff and team, but I can have them get back to you about what her schedule's going to look like.

REPORTER: Thank you so much, Admiral. Appreciate it.

KIRBY: Thank you. Thank you. You guys.

JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, Admiral. OK. Well, all the debate questions have been answered. Press conference answered. Let

me close my book and get out of here. Hi, Zeke.

REPORTER: Thanks, Karine. My first to you is on the credibility of this White House when it comes to talking about the President's health. When you

were here last Tuesday, you were asked if the President had any medical examinations since his physical in February or that included the time

period after the debate.

You said flatly no. Three days later, you admitted that the President had a short check-in with the medical team thereafter. I mean, those are two very

different answers.

JEAN-PIERRE: No, no, no, no, no. Actually, if you were to listen to the -- I think I did a 30-minute gavel on Friday, 30 minutes, with -- I think it

was -- with the pool. And I said he did not have a -- I cleared it up. You're right. You're correct. I said he didn't -- I still stand, but he

didn't have a medical exam.

I said that in the gavel, and you're right, I said that in the briefing. He had a check-in with -- and he said this on Friday. He had a check-in with

his medical doctor, which is something that he does a couple times a week, as you know, and I stated this as well.

He has -- for those who don't know, obviously, outside of the briefing room, outside of the White House, many Americans don't actually understand

this, let's take a step back. They deal with their medical issues or physicals very, very differently. They are very, you know, they are lucky

if they get to see their doctor once or twice a year, right? They have to get in a car, they have to either take public transportation in order to

make that happen.

The President's medical unit is literally down on the other side of the colonnade. It's just down the steps from the residence, and so a couple

times a week he does a check-in, a verbal check-in with his doctor while he's exercising. That is something that happens often.

Matter of fact, he did a check-in today because I know folks were going to ask about if he was tested for COVID. He was not. We are following CDC

guidance. He was not tested for COVID, just to let you guys know about that one. And if he has any symptoms, obviously, we would test him. But --

REPORTER: Is that in the context of the Second Gentleman's diagnosis?

JEAN-PIERRE: Yes, yes, which is why. No, no, no, it's in context of the Second Gentleman. But to answer your point, he did not have a medical exam.

He did not have a physical. He did do like a verbal check-in with his doctor a couple days after the debate. And it was very quick. It was a

couple of words that were spoken to each other, and that's how we were able to give you that answer.

But he did not have a medical exam. He did not have a physical.

REPORTER: You said no though, last Tuesday.


REPORTER: Did you know about that verbal check-in?


REPORTER: Or did we just not ask precise enough questions?

JEAN-PIERRE: No. So the line of questions that I was getting that day was the way that I was hearing the question was about the medical exam. I

answered MJ's question when she asked about, medical exam, and I answered and I said no, physical.

And then somebody else asked me, was there a check-in? I did not mean to steer anybody wrong. I was still thinking about the medical exam, I was

still thinking about the physical, that's how I answered the question.

And then when it became -- when the president actually spoke it, we actually -- I went back, asked the medical doctor and he said they had a

verbal --