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President Joe Biden issued a major disaster declaration for Kentucky Friday, as record flash flooding killed at least 16 people in the eastern part of the state and swamped entire Appalachian towns, prompting a frenzied search for survivors.
Watch the briefing in the video player above.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre made the announcement at the briefing saying, “our hearts break for the families of those who have lost their lives or are missing and to all those who have been impacted.”
She said FEMA has deployed search and rescue teams to Kentucky to help with the efforts and the White House will continue to monitor the situation and provide additional assistance.
Heavy rain continued to pound the region Friday and authorities warned the death toll would likely grow sharply. Some waterways were not expected to crest until Saturday.
Jean-Pierre also addressed Biden’s prison swap offer to Russia, brushing off concerns the proposal could be seen as “legitimizing” Moscow during it’s war against Ukraine.
WATCH: Hundreds rescued from devastating flooding in St. Louis area
“I don’t see how they are legitimized at all,” Jean-Pierre said. “If anything, they are now a pariah in in in the global stage because of what they’re doing.”
Earlier Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to urge Moscow to accept the U.S. offer to release WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American detainee, Paul Whelan in exchange for a Russian detainee.
The conversation ended months of diplomatic estrangement between the men, who had last spoken in February before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Jean-Pierre said there are no plans for Biden to call Russian President Vladimir Putin on the matter.
“We are under no illusions that Moscow is prepared to engage meaningfully and constructively yet,” she said.
Asked about a flurry of recent polls showing Democrats are less than enthusiastic about Biden making a second run for the White House in 2024, Jean-Pierre dismissed the idea that the president won’t seek a second term.
“The president intends to run in 2024,” she said. “We are going to continue to focus on doing the business of the American people by delivering for families, by lowering costs for families.”
“Those are the things that we’re going to continue to focus on and much more. And so right now, the 2024 is so far away,” Jean-Pierre added.
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