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Biden meets with U.K. PM Rishi Sunak about Northern Ireland and war in Ukraine


President Biden was supposed to hold a big Pride month celebration tonight at the White House. The dangerous air quality here caused by those wildfires in Canada means he has to postpone the event. He did take the opportunity during a press conference to talk about some of the issues facing the LGBTQ community, notably anti-trans laws that are being signed in Republican-led states around the country.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It's wrong that extreme officials are pushing hateful bills targeting transgender children, terrifying families and criminalizing doctors. These are our kids. These are our neighbors.

KELLY: NPR's Franco Ordoñez was at that press conference and joins me now. Hey, Franco.


KELLY: OK. So the president was attacking the state laws, laws that target transgender kids and their families. Is he actually proposing to do something about them?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, I mean, one thing is he wanted to say some of the things that he was planning to talk about tonight before he had postponed the event, and he started off by condemning what he described as a wave of cruel laws that he said play on people's fears.


BIDEN: We have some hysterical and, I would argue, prejudiced people who are engaged in all what you see going on around the country. It's an appeal to fear, and it's an appeal that is totally, thoroughly unjustified and ugly.

ORDOÑEZ: Now, he wants Congress to pass the Equality Act. But in the meantime, his administration is taking a few steps on its own - for example, naming a new point person at the Education Department to address an increase in book bans. That person is going to let schools know about the bans and that they can violate federal civil rights laws if they create a hostile environment for students. And there's also going to be some more training on threats for community centers and clinics and small businesses.

KELLY: I will note that all this came up during a press conference with the British prime minister, Rishi Sunak. What did he and Biden talk about? What'd they agree to in their meetings?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, what they agreed to was to work together on some mutual interests, such as critical minerals. Those are those elements used in important technology like semiconductors and clean energy. Biden emphasized the need to strengthen supply chains of critical minerals to protect the national security interests of both countries. And they also agreed to work together on artificial intelligence safety. Sunak boasted that the U.K. will be hosting the first global summit on AI safety later this year. It is a touchy issue, though, because Biden is also working with the European Union on AI issues, and the U.K. is not part of the EU, obviously. But the White House has been taking a closer look, and Biden said there are some security risks that must be addressed.

KELLY: And did they also talk about Ukraine? - because the U.K., along with the U.S., has been at the forefront of supporting Ukraine against Russia. Did that come up?

ORDOÑEZ: Absolutely. I mean, their message was that they can't let up support. The U.S. and U.K. are two of the leading providers of military aid. They are the two leading providers, and there are a lot of questions about whether the House Republican leaders will continue to back such large aid packages. Sunak actually spent some time on Capitol Hill talking to those leaders, and he says Western leaders need to send a message to Russian President Putin that the Western support is not going to go away.

KELLY: White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Thanks.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you, Mary Louise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.