Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Aboard Air Force One En Route Plains, GA
April 29, 2021
12:05 P.M. EDT
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hey, everybody. Happy 100 Days. I'm going to start with something at the top here for folks. The key components of the American Families Plan that the President unveiled last night are incredibly popular because they deliver for the American people. Fifty-eight percent of Americans support universal pre-K. Fifty-eight percent also support expanding Affordable Care Act subsidies for low- and middle-income Americans to buy health insurance.
Seventy-three percent of Americans, including sixty percent of Republicans, support expanding access to childcare for working families. Seventy-five percent of Americans, including sixty-four percent of Republicans, support ensuring all workers have access to paid leave. And 62 percent support an extension of the Child Tax Credit expansion.
And the President's proposals for paying for these investments are also widely supported by the public. Sixty-nine percent of Americans support raising taxes on the wealthy. Sixty-four percent agree that they — that the very rich should contribute an extra share of wealth each year to support public programs. Fifty-nine percent of respondents, including sixty-six percent of independents and sixty-eight percent of Republicans, opposes gas taxes. And 86 percent of respondents supported increasing — increased IRS enforcement, including 84 percent of Republicans.
The American Families Plan is a combination of popular public investments, pop- — and popular ways to pay for them. It's no surprise that the plan already has bipartisan support among the American people.
And the administration and the President's newly announced Families Cabinet are going to spend the coming days continuing to make the case for why Congress should act on these vital investments in the economic security of the middle class.
For — as for our trip today, on the President's 100th day in office, he and the First Lady are returning to Georgia to talk about getting America back on track. Thanks to the Rescue — to the American Rescue Plan, more than 150 million Americans have received direct checks, including more than 6 million adults and nearly 3 million children in Georgia.
Schools now have the resources they need to safely reopen and get kids back — kids — kids and teachers back into the classroom. Small businesses have the support they need to keep their doors open.
When the President came into office, he set the ambitious goal of getting 100 million shots into arms by today. We've now more than doubled that: Over 220 million vaccine shots have been administered across the country. Ninety percent of Americans now live within five miles of a vaccination site.
The economy created more than 1.3 million jobs — more new jobs in the first 100 days than any President on record.
The American Rescue Plan provided two years of lower health insurance premiums for those who buy coverage on their own. In Georgia, that means nearly 200,000 uninsured people will gain coverage and more than 260,000 will save hundreds of dollars per year on premiums.
The President has delivered for our country. The country is starting to get back on track. But there's more work to do to build back not just to the way things are, but to build back better.
Today, the President will talk about the need to seize this opportunity to invest in our competitiveness, our economy, and our families with the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. And he'll acknowledge the crucial role Georgia's voters have played in allowing this to become a reality not just by electing him President, but also electing Senator Warnock and Senator Ossoff, who, in their first few months in office, have also proven to be two tireless champions for Georgia's working families.
We're looking forward to being back in Georgia to highlight clearly to Georgians the tangible outcomes of the Build Back Better agenda they voted for and are already seeing take shape.
Today's positive GDP report is another welcome sign that our economy is healing, and the — and that America is on the move once again. This economic recovery is the result of a robust vaccination program that has helped us get the pandemic under control, and an economic strategy that puts America's hardworking families first and rebuilds from the bottom up.
With that, Zeke, you got the first one.
Q Yeah, just a couple for you. First off, who is paying for the rally this evening? Is that a White House event? Is it a DNC event? Is it a Biden campaign event?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The rally this evening is a DNC event.
Q Okay. Thank you. And then, on the — on the virus: Has the White House seen New York City Mayor de Blasio announce that the city is going to reopen to 100 percent on July 1st? That's restaurants, bars, nightclubs — the works. Does the President believe that that is prudent and founded in science?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, here's — here's what I can say: You know, as far — the timeline that we see for — for ourselves, for the country — we don't have a new timeline to share. You know, we believe that we need to continue to listen to experts, to listen to science, to listen to the — to the medical experts. So, we're going to continue to have those conversations with them.
You know, I just talked about how in the first 100 days, we exceeded our goals of 200 — of 200 [million] doses. Our first goal was 100 [million], now we're at over 220 [million]. So, we're going to continue to do that. Our — we see our goal — or our job is to continue to get doses in the arms of Americans and also to make sure that people just get fully vaccinated so that we can fully open and get to a place that we're closer back to normal.
Q So is Mayor de Blasio not following the science if he's doing this — taking this action now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, he's the — that's — he's the city of — the mayor of New York City. I'm assuming that he's listening to the experts on this. We leave that decision to him. We can only speak for what we're trying to do as an administration, which is making sure that people get vaccinated and follow the CDC guidelines and follow the experts.
Q And just one last one. On the speech last night: There were only 200 people in the room for the speech. Many of them — most of them were vaccinated. The President lingered, clearly, in close contact with many of those people. Do you believe — does the White House believe that the message sent the right — that the speech sent the right message to the American public about the promise of vaccines, given that it was so sparsely attended, even though most of the people there were vaccinated and masked?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, Zeke, if I have the numbers right, there's normally — for a joint session or State of the Union, there's 1,600 people in that room. Last night, you just said — stated that there was 200 people. So, it was done in a COVID — you know, protocols — in a regulated way.
And we trust the Speaker. The Speaker ran the night, last night, on who was invited and how the protocols were met. And we respect that decision.
Look, as you know, the President, for the last 100 days, has talked about following the experts, listening to science. This is an administration that follows science, and that's what we did. He walked in, had his mask on, and only took it off to speak, which we have seen him do over and over again. So, there's nothing new there. People were socially distanced.
And — and so we believe in continuing to follow that COVID protocol. And it seems like, to me, everything was done right. If you have 1,600 people in the room normally and 200 — a little bit more than 200 — that is — that is following COVID protocols. That is a major change to what we saw last night.
Q Has the President invited Senator Scott to the White House to talk about police reform? And why did he set a deadline of next month to have a compromise on this?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So, as you know, when he spoke the night — when he spoke the night that Derek Chauvin's conviction came through, he talked about this being a moment — a moment that we need to act. And he has supported the Geo- — the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act from — from the moment that he was able to as President.
He's put out a statement of support for that act. And he wants to continue to encourage Congress to push that forward. As we know, it went through the House and now it's in the Senate. And the way that he sees it is: He's using — you know, we talk about how — how is he — you know, how is he going to move things forward? He used his platform last night.
He used one of the most important moments of his first 100 days, his joint address, a primetime opportunity, to talk about the police — policing reform because that's how much he believes in it. And he thinks we need to move quickly. We shouldn't hold — we need to move quickly. And he's talked about this. He's gotten to know the George Floyd family. He talks about how much he respects their — their courage and their strength.
And — and so he believes that we need to move quickly for a community — brown and Black community that has been suffering through this when it comes through, you know, policing. And so, we need to see reform, and he believes that we need to act now.
Q But beyond talking about in his speech last night — that's an incredibly tight turnaround to get this done by May 24th, like he said —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, we'll see —
Q What will he do now? And is he going to meet with Senator Scott at the White House?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, he — he has — in the first 100 days, he has met with about 130 congressional members in the White House — not himself, I should — I should be clear here — himself and staff. So — and, he's done — he's done bipartisan meetings throughout these first 100 days. And when he has those meetings with congressional members, they clearly are talking about an array of issues.
And so, he's going to continue to do that. We know that this is a President that believes in bipartisanship. He believes in reaching across the aisle and making big things happen, which we've seen him do when he was senator, we've seen him do when he was Vice President.
And so, this is what he's going to continue to do. He's happy to have conversations with Republicans who want to move this forward and just have a conversation — or about the American Families Plan or the American Jobs Plan, which he has been doing already.
So, that's how he sees this — is to continue to have those bipartisan conversations. He's going to have congressional members over to — over to the — to the Oval Office in the next upcoming weeks.
We've set a date — May 12th — with the — with bipartisan — bipartisanship leaders from both chambers to come in on May 12th in the Oval Office to have a conversation with the President about an array of issues. But clearly, we have the American Jobs Plan that we're trying to push through and the Americans Families Plan.
Q What is happening on May 12th? Sorry.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: There's a — we confirmed yesterday that the President, on May 12th, is going to be sitting down with the "big four," if you will, but — the bipartisan leaders in both the House and the Senate. So that's what's happening on May 12th. So, this is a continuation of him holding bipartisan meetings with Congress.
Q There's no specific outreach to Tim Scott, in particular. I mean, on this (inaudible)–
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Andrea, I don't have anything for you — to preview for you right now, is what I'll say to that answer. But I'm saying that he has been more than willing, as we've known for the past 100 days, to sit down and have conversations with both Democrats and Republicans.
Q Did he have any feedback yesterday from Republicans outside of the, sort of, public comments? Like, you know, just — did he kind of walk away feeling like he'd gotten the message across? Or is it sort of more of the same?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think he got the message across. I mean, look, last night, as we — I've already stated — was a big night, right? It was a joint address, a primetime event. It was — it was the bookend, almost, to his first 100 days.
And he used that opportunity to speak not just to the people in the — in the room — the 200 people in the room and Congress — but also to the American people and to talk about the last — the last year and what we've had to endure with the pandemic. And the first — his first 100 days — the successes that we have seen: the doses in arms, the American Rescue Plan — which we see right now is actually making a difference, and we have evidence of that.
And so he — that's who he was talking to as well. And he laid out his American Families Plan, which is an important, critical investment in people — right? — in families and kids.
Go ahead, Nancy.
Q Can you explain how involved the President was in the decision to ban menthol in cigarettes, and why he felt it was important to take that step?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, with menthol, you know, this is a public health decision that will hurt — that will help curb addiction and save lives — the decision that was made on the FDA menthol and flavored cigars ban.
But let's be clear here, if implemented, these rules affect only commercial activity. And so, FDA does not regulate the possession of tobacco products by individuals for personal use, and this rule would not make individual consumer possession or use of menthol cigarettes a crime, nor change enforcement standards. So, this was an FDA rule.
Q And as one of the authors of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, what exactly is the Vice President's role in these ongoing negotiations? We know there's a meeting on Capitol Hill this afternoon. Will she be involved in that in any way? What is her role here?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: As you know, the Vice President plays a partner role with the President. She spoke the same night that the — that the verdict came in with Derek Chauvin. She talked in a very, you know, passionate way, and talked about, as you mentioned, her role as being a coauthor. And I think she'll continue to do that, be a co- — a copartner with him as this moves forward.
Q But she doesn't — she doesn't see a need to get involved in the actual negotiations on Capitol Hill right now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, the negotiations that are happening are negotiations that are happening with Tim Scott, you know, I think, congression- — Congresswoman Karen Bass, because she has the House version of the bill, and so — others.
So that's where the negotiations are going to happen — not at the White House; they're going to happen on the Hill. We're just — what the President is doing is, is using his platform. Right? He's using his voice to support the bill and encourage Congress to continue to work on it.
Q And then, I'm sure the President has been briefed about this reported direct energy attack that took place at the Ellipse. What can you tell us about that incident, and whether any additional precautions have been taken since then?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, the health and wellbeing of American public servants is a paramount priority for the Biden administration. We take all reports of health incidents by our personnel extremely seriously. The White House is working closely with departments and agencies to address unexplained health incidents and ensure the safety and security of Americans serving around the world.
Given that we are still evaluating reported incidents and that we need to protect the privacy of individuals reporting incidents, we cannot provide or confirm specific details at this time.
Q You can't tell any — tell us anything about how that person is doing now?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can't share anything at this time.
Q Karine, (inaudible) —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah.
Q Why is he going to see Jimmy Carter today, and is the former President having any health issues or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible) the President — the President and the First Lady have had a longstanding friendship with — with the President Carter and Mrs. Carter.
President Biden actually spoke to them — President Carter — the night before inauguration. As we all know, they were not able to attend. And so this is part — this is part — they had said on that call that they would try to connect after the inauguration. And since they're both — and since they're both in Georgia, they wanted to stop by and say hello.
Q (Inaudible) connected to Walter Mondale's death at all?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: No, this is just — this is, like I said, a longstanding friendship. They were — they said that they were going to see — try and see each other after inauguration. Clearly, the Carters were not able to make it, and so — and I'll add anoth- — and I'll add another nugget: Joe Biden was the first U.S. senator to endorse then former Governor Carter when he ran for President. So they have a longstanding relationship that goes a few decades.
Q We'd love for the Carters to peek their heads out if they could. We'd love for the Carters to peek their heads out, and say "Hi" to us, if they could.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We'll look into that. We'll get back to you on that.
Q Then, to menthol, Reverend Al Sharpton has said that it unfairly targets Black smokers. I mean, are you all afraid of any kind of backlash or political backlash or overreach for — for doing that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I mean, we're totally — we are aware of that, and we take that — we take that seriously — the concerns that have been raised about discriminatory polic- — policing.
And so addressing racial bias in policing is a priority, as you — as you're all aware of; we were just talking about the George Floyd Policing Act for this administration. And so this is why he strongly supports the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and we need legislation to directly address police reform, even as it — as we regulate tobacco industry practices that harm Americans.
Q And then, is there any update on the meeting with Putin? Will it be after the G7 or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to preview for you right now. No updates on timing, location, or — or even confirming that the meeting is happening right now. So I don't have any updates.
Q And then, lastly, President Biden, last night in his speech — his highest-profile speech so far in the office — he declared white supremacy terrorism. Can you say what went into the calculus for him to decide to do that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, he's been very clear, when you think about — even during the campaign, he talked about four crises that we're all facing currently. And, one, he talked about the economic crisis, right? He talked about the pandemic. He talked about climate. And he talked about racial inequality and injustice, and how this country — and, kind of, the — the blinders coming off. And he said that in his speech when he talked with — when Derek Chauvin — the conviction for Derek Chauvin came through. And he talked about how we need to make change now. We need to take action.
And even — if you even go back to when — when Charlottesville happened, and he wrote a letter — an op-ed about Charlottesville and the soul of the nation, which prompted him to run for office back in April of 2019. So this is something that has been, kind of, at the core of how he has been even seeing where we are today as a country, and the work that needs to be done.
And so — and — if you look at the last 100 days, he's been taking on racial equity. Right? If you look at the executive orders where he is looking at federal government (inaudible) executive order to make sure that federal government are practicing — are looking into racial inequities within the agencies. Like, that has never been done.
So this is something that's top of mind for the President; something that he's called out many times — not just as President, but during his candidacy — and he'll continue to do it.
Q Has he been briefed on any imminent threat on white supremacist groups?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to share with you on that.
Q Karine, can you say why Kurt Campbell is on this trip?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm so sorry.
Q Why is Kurt Campbell on this trip? What — is there — is he getting a briefing on India and some of those efforts or —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, I can give more on that later, but we usually have — we usually have an NSC — a national security person traveling with the President.
Q And then, just on that —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: But that's nothing — that's nothing unnor— unusual.
Q Okay. I was wondering if there was a special, sort of, you know —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible) going on.
Q Okay. And then, just on that climate change stuff. There was some discussion about having an executive order on climate change disclosure — disclosure of climate risks. It's been, sort of — it hasn't come out yet. So, I'm wondering if you have any sense of the timing of when that will happen.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I don't have anything more on that — on that executive order, in particular, or timing. I'm happy to talk to our team and get back to you. And I will have someone connect with you.
Q That's great. And then, just one more on (inaudible) and the vaccine issue. There's been some significant engagement by the USTR on this issue. She's been meeting with, you know, the executives of Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax. Can you give us an update on what is happening with that vaccine effort, and whether you've made a decision now, ahead of tomorrow's meeting, on the waiver?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I'll tell you this: We put out a factsheet, I believe, last night. So, I'll give you a little bit of a follow-up. The first of two assistance — assistance flights left the U.S. for India at around 8:00 p.m. and midnight last night, which was April 28. The planes carried the first tranche of the assistance, which includes oxygen cylinders, rapid diagnostic tests, and N95 masks to protect frontline workers.
Additional flights carrying the remaining assistance, including oxygen generators and concentrators, are scheduled to depart in the upcoming days. We will have more details as they — as they develop. And so that is — that is — so that is the update there on the help that we're providing for.
Q That's on India. I was asking about the vaccines and the waiver —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I'm sorry.
Q — the WTO waiver.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, I'm so sorry.
Q No, I'm sorry. That's okay. It's —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I didn't hear you. Oh, the noise, it's so — I'm so sorry. I thought you said "India." And I was like, "Oh, India."
Q I think I was trying to kill two birds with one stone. So — (laughter).
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: You're talking about the intellectual properties? Okay. I'm so sorry.
Yeah, so the W- — the WTO is meeting next week. Is that what you're talking about? I am so —
Q It's — well, there's — there's a meeting tomorrow.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. I'm so sorry. I totally missed that. We're going to do what — what's in the best interest of ending the pandemic. We are already engaged in steps to increase vaccine production.
Moderna announced that it will — it will not enforce its COVID-19-related patents against those making vaccines intended to combat the pandemic. We recently secured a new partnership between Sanofi and Moderna to manufacture 200 million doses.
And — and I want to be clear that no option is off the table and our guiding principle is getting safe vaccines fast.
Q Did you say no option is off? Or what —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, no option is off the table.
Q Karine, could you talk a little bit about the Vice President's role leading on broadband, on infrastructure. How did that come about? What will she be doing? And why just broadband? Like how do you take that out of it and put her in charge of that effort if it's part of the broader thing?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I mean, I'll say this: You know, we have a Jobs Cabinet in place, which is in charge of implementing the American Jobs Plan.
The President asked the Vice President to work with the Jobs Cabinet to lead the effort ensuring broadband access for all Americans. As we know, one of the things that we saw this past year with this pandemic is the inequalities with broadband access and how that affected young people, that affected almost, you know, all Americans regardless of age.
And so this is a critically important issue that she's working on and — but, all in all, as we know, she is a partner with the President, as I just mentioned earlier, and this is just a key component that she's going to be, kind of, help — working closely with the Jobs Cabinet on.
Q (Inaudible) make sure it gets in the bill that's
being written now? I mean, why isolate this if it's part of a larger $2.3 trillion package?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I think — I think the issue is such an important issue. I mean, all of them — all the elements of the Jobs Plan clearly are. And I think this is something that was important to her, that she wanted to take on specifically. I don't have anything more on that.
Q Karine, it looks like there's a report that the U.S. troops have started withdrawing from Afghanistan. Is
there any comment the administration can offer on that?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Inaudible.) So, the drawdown is underway, as you just stated, Eli. Last week, Secretary of Defense approved a request from U.S. Central Command for the temporary deployment of additional military assets into the CENT- — CENTCOM AOR in order to support a safe and deliberate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
The B-52H Stratofortress aircraft were for- — were forward deployed to the CENT- — CENTCOM area of responsibility — that's what "AOR" stands — "AOR" stands for — to protect U.S. and coalition forces as they conduct an orderly drawdown of our forces in Afghanistan.
Additionally, the Secretary has directed that a carrier strike group will provide sustained additional force protection capabilities in the CENTCOM AOR throughout the withdrawal. Initially, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower strike group will continue its current mission and is now scheduled to complete its deployment in July.
Finally, elements of an Army Ranger task force will temporarily deploy to Afghanistan to assist with the force protection of forces on the ground as they initiate withdrawal operations.
Let me just say this: In the weeks and months ahead, the U.S. Central Command will continually assess force protection requirements in coordination with U.S. Forces Afghanistan and has the flexibility to move additional capabilities in the AOR into and out of Afghanistan as required. While these actions will initially result in increased forces levels, we remain committed to having all U.S. military personnel out of Afghanistan by September 11, 2021.
The President's intent is clear: The U.S. military's departure from Afghanistan will not be rushed or hasty; it will be deliberate and conducted in a safe and responsible manner that ensures the protection of our forces.
Potential advers- — adversaries should know that if — if they attack us — our withdrawal — we will defend ourselves, our partners with all the tools at our disposal. These deployments represent some of those tools.
Q Karine, yesterday, the President said that the threats have moved on since Afghanistan and that you're keeping a close eye on it. Can you highlight — tick for us where you think the next big trouble spots are or where the — what the source is of that foreign terrorism?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, I don't have more on — on that to share as it relates to Afghanistan. But like I said, you know, we're going to keep an eye. We're going to do this not in a hasty way. We're going to be very — work — work alongside with the government and just — and just be — you know, just be smart.
Q In that region, we still have Austin Tice — is — Austin Tice, the journalist, is still being held in Syria. Is there any chance of getting him out?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I can get back to you on that one. Yeah, I'll talk to our team about (inaudible).
Q One last one. Since we're going to Georgia, the — since we're on our way to Georgia, a local — one issue there: Stone Mountain.
A commission appointed by the governor recommended bringing down the Confederate flag at Stone Mountain, but stopping short of bringing down Confederates' icons, iconography, and statues, and the like. Does the President believe that goes far enough? Or when he's down there, does he intend to weigh in on the subject?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I — I don't believe that he will weigh in on the subject today. But his — you know, his position stays the same when it comes to statues and Confederate flags. I'm happy to get back to you on any update that we may have.
Q And he'll be meeting with the senators?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So the senators stayed in town for — to do some votes. They are going to try to make it to Georgia after they're done voting for some critical votes. And so — and so that's going to be — that's — we're going to see if they make it. (Laughs.)
Q Any — any other guests that he'll be meeting with?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: He'll probably — Stacey Abrams will be there. The mayor — the mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms, will be there. So we'll be — you know, we'll be — it'll be good to see them.
Q Will voting rights be a big theme? Voting —
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm so sorry.
Q — voting rights be a big theme?
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I mean, you know, when we were here the last time, clearly that was a conversation that — a meeting that he had with Stacey Abrams about that — who's been a leader on voting rights not just in Georgia, but nationally.
But, you know, this — this trip, as I was saying before, is really focusing about the American people, about the American Jobs — Jobs Plan, and the American Families Plan, and what we need to do next now that we're past this first 100 days to really do the big once-in-a-generation investments in families, in kids, you know, in infrastructure. And — and, really — as it comes to the American Jobs Plan, really create jobs.
And that's going to be his focus today. And he'll talk about the successes of the American Rescue Plan, which really met the moment, as we know, in this crisis — this pandemic that we're dealing with. And so that's going to be his focus today.
Q (Inaudible) obvious request — sorry — we'd love to be able to ask the President about the meeting with President Carter afterwards. So if there's any chance that we could get to have (inaudible), that would be perfect.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know you guys — I know. I know. I heard. (Laughter.) Well, we'll get to it. We'll look into it. (Laughter.)
Q Thank you.
Q And obviously, if we would be able to get a shot of
the President and the First Lady walking into the house.
Q Thank you.
MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, we'll look into it. Thanks, everybody.
Q Thank you, Karine. We appreciate it.
12:35 P.M. EDT
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