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Daily Press Briefing

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 9, 2015

Index for Today's Briefing




1:44 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: I have a couple of items for all of you at the top. Secretary Kerry will travel to Egypt and Switzerland later this week. He will travel to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on March 12th to attend the Egypt Economic Development Conference. While in Sharm el-Sheikh, Secretary Kerry will also meet with President al-Sisi and other senior Egyptian leaders to discuss a range of bilateral and global issues, including Coalition efforts against ISIL, the situation in Libya, and the ongoing crisis in Syria. Other meetings may be added, as often happens, as you all know.

The United States is committed to strengthening its long-term strategic and economic partnership with Egypt. We continue to work with the Egyptian Government to help the Egyptian people stabilize and grow the economy, create jobs, educate young people, improve access to health care, and to help realize the aspirations of the Egyptian people for an inclusive, rights-and-freedoms-respecting, and peaceful political climate.

The Secretary will then travel to Switzerland on March 15th to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif as part of the ongoing EU-coordinated P5+1 nuclear negotiations. That is the only item I have for you at the top. I thought I had a few.


MS. PSAKI: Oh, actually, sorry, one more. We have a couple of visitors in the back, Kit Rasmussen from Seattle, Washington, a return visitor to the briefing room because it's so fun in here, who is also Amy's mother, and Steve and Cheryl Schurtz from Mason City, Iowa. So thank you for joining us here today.

Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just start with the trip for one second?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Where in Switzerland?

MS. PSAKI: Lausanne.

QUESTION: Lausanne?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. I'm just curious why – who is the – who is officially the host of this next --

MS. PSAKI: The United – we – we are. Well, the --

QUESTION: Is there – I'm just curious. I mean, a lot of – these meetings are making Swiss hoteliers very rich. (Laughter.) I'm just wondering if anyone has thought about maybe changing the venue back to Vienna or something like that. Is there some reason why they have to be in Switzerland, particularly when there seem to be hotel inconveniences all the time, like not being able to stay in Geneva?

MS. PSAKI: I know you have a penchant for Vienna, Matt, but we like Vienna as well. There are obviously a range of factors, including hotel availability and the accommodations and what's available. So those are all factored into decisions.

QUESTION: More substantively, on Iran --


QUESTION: -- and I know that your colleague at the White House spent a good deal of time addressing this, but I wanted to ask you here as well about the letter that these Republican senators have sent or published. Your colleague at the White House said that this is an attempt to undermine the Administration's diplomacy and a key foreign policy goal of the President. And I'm just – well, do you share that?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I'm happy to repeat, but obviously, my colleague has spoken to it. So --

QUESTION: There is nothing in this letter that provides the Iranians with any secret special insight into the workings of the U.S. Government. I mean, it's all pretty much – if it's not common knowledge, you can find it online in two seconds. And it's not as though the people in the Iranian Government, particularly Foreign Minister Zarif, are uneducated rubes who don't know what's going on, how the U.S. Government works. If that's – and given that that is the case, if this just sets out what – how the executive and the legislative branch work on foreign policy, what's the problem with it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as my colleague may have stated, our view – I mean, what we're talking about here is an arrangement between countries that – an executive arrangement between countries. And I know we've talked about this quite a bit, but clearly, our view, as my colleague stated, is that this type of letter signed by dozens of members of Congress undermines our efforts and what the ability of the Commander-in-Chief and the executive branch is to undertake as it relates to negotiations.

QUESTION: I don't understand how it undermines. How does it undermined – how does it undermine the ability of the Administration to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our point is that it's a letter that was sent on behalf of representatives of the United States Government, members of Congress, and it doesn't represent how, actually, these negotiations would work or how they should work or history. And frankly, as my colleague may have outlined, there are many – our view is that this – this letter designed to score political points would ignore – ignores the fact that executive agreements between countries provide things like protections for troops that we rely on every day, allows for the basing of American service members overseas, allows to disrupt – us to disrupt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction on the high seas. There are several inaccuracies in the letter about how things work. And yes, you may feel – and we all know how this works and the Iranians may know how our system works, but it's important for us to convey what the actual facts are when you have this outlined from 43 members of Congress.

QUESTION: Forty-seven. But --

MS. PSAKI: Forty-seven. I apologize.

QUESTION: But I don't understand, though, why – surely the Iranians are aware that this is not an agreement that the President envisions sending to Congress for their advice and consent.

MS. PSAKI: As we've said publicly, yes.

QUESTION: So they already know this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it's important for us to convey how this process works, how it would work. And when there's inaccurate information put out that --

QUESTION: Okay. What's inaccurate about it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, Congress doesn't have the power to alter the terms of international arrangements negotiated by the Executive. The letter is incorrect when it says that Congress could modify the terms of the agreement at any time. There are – that is just one example, but a significant one.

QUESTION: Well, that's if it goes – that's if it goes through them, right? In other words, if the President presents a treaty to the Senate for --

MS. PSAKI: It's not a treaty, as we know.

QUESTION: I understand that. But if the Senate – if the President presents a treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent, they can withhold their consent, and that means that it can't be ratified. So I don't understand – if it's an executive agreement and the President is no longer the President because his term has expired, that doesn't bind the next president. Or are you saying it does?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm suggesting that – not just suggesting, but the Constitution assigns the authority to the Executive to negotiate these deals with foreign partners. And so implying that Congress has a role that was implied in this letter is inaccurate. It's also a negotiation and it's important to us – for us to send this message to our partners around the world. That is with not just the United States and Iran, but with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the European Union, China, and Russia.

QUESTION: Well, if it's inaccurate --

MS. PSAKI: This is a multilateral effort.

QUESTION: If it's inaccurate, then, I don't understand why you're concerned. Has the Secretary gotten on the phone with Foreign Minister Zarif or some other Iranian and said, "Hey, don't worry about this"?

MS. PSAKI: No, he has not spoken to him, but we felt it was important to speak out strongly about what's inaccurate here, how it doesn't represent how the negotiations go, and --

QUESTION: Well, but it does represent how almost half of the Senate feels.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we're conveying what the authority is of the Commander-in-Chief and the executive branch of government.

QUESTION: Right. And so it doesn't matter, you're saying, what the Senate – what half of the Senate thinks.

MS. PSAKI: I didn't say that. I was saying it's important --

QUESTION: Well, you said that it's intended to score – your words – you said "to score political points." And I'm just curious, what is the political point there's – that is scored here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the letter implying that Congress could modify the terms of the agreement at any time is just not accurate with how our Constitution works.

QUESTION: Can you tell us if you – to the best of your recollection, if there is any agreement in the history of the United States where it was once the President is gone under whose administration this treaty was signed ceased to exist?

MS. PSAKI: Any agreement – well, this isn't a treaty. It's an international --

QUESTION: No, I mean any agreement. I mean, at the end of the day, there's going to be some sort of an agreement. I don't know under what legal term it would be signed, but there is an agreement that is – that has an international dimension. To the best of your knowledge, has there been a case where an international agreement signed by a president of the United States became null and void once he left office?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I encourage you to write a story about that and spend your afternoon doing research.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: I would rely on you to do that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Looking forward to the talks on March 15th --


QUESTION: -- are you anywhere close to some kind of a political framework deal? I mean, or are these – well, let's start with that one.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as the President said over the weekend, we've made progress in narrowing the gaps, but gaps still exist. Over the next couple of weeks, we're going to be able to determine whether or not Iran is willing to make the difficult decisions. You obviously get to a point in negotiation where it's not just a matter of technical issues anymore; it's also about political decisions and political – tough political decision making. So clearly, the coming weeks are pivotal in that regard, but I'm not going to make a prediction of where we'll end at the end.

QUESTION: And will there be foreign ministers from elsewhere, or is this still just Kerry-Zarif?

MS. PSAKI: Next week – I do expect that they will be a part of this as well, but we'll let them announce their participation.

Do we have any more on Iran before we continue?

QUESTION: I just want to go back – I want to go back to the letter for a second because I don't understand. I mean, you can make the argument that these senators are not simply trying to educate the Iranian leadership on the fundamentals of how our constitutional democracy works. You could make that argument that this is intended to score political points. But I don't – I still haven't – I still don't get how it undermines the President or the Secretary of State's ability to negotiate with the Iranians who presumably are already aware of what's in the letter, inaccuracies and all.

MS. PSAKI: Of how the process works? Sure.


MS. PSAKI: But, Matt, I think there is, as we've talked about a little bit already – but there are centuries of precedent here in terms of the authority of the executive branch, of the President of the United States, in terms of international negotiations. And so an attempt to suggest otherwise is something that we naturally felt strongly about refuting.

QUESTION: I – okay, I understand that, but how does that undermine your negotiate – your ability to – how does that undermine this foreign policy goal?

MS. PSAKI: I think the point is, Matt, that the letter itself was an effort to do that and that was why we came out strongly to refute the accuracy of the letter and how these negotiations work.

QUESTION: Right. And then just you said that the Secretary has not been in touch with him. Do you know if there has been any contact with the Iranians about the letter and what you think about --

MS. PSAKI: Not that I'm aware of, Matt.

QUESTION: -- what you think about it? You know that Foreign Minister Zarif has said it's propaganda and do --

MS. PSAKI: I've seen his reported comments.

QUESTION: So you would agree with the Iranian foreign minister's assessment?

MS. PSAKI: We wouldn't put it in the same terms. I think I'd leave it as I just stated it.

QUESTION: But your assessment is roughly the same, that it doesn't make any difference.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it's not an accurate assessment of how negotiations work. So in that regard it doesn't.

QUESTION: The President said yesterday that if it's not to our liking we will just walk away. What does that do to the process? Does that completely scuttle everything that has been done? Or if there's a point in the future where we can begin, you begin from the point where it stopped? What happens in this case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it's not a question we can answer. Obviously, Said, our preference is to come to a framework, an understanding – a political understanding – so that we can move these negotiations forward. But the point the President was making, that the Secretary has made as well: We're not going to accept a bad deal. We're willing to walk away. The question now is whether the Iranians will make the difficult choices necessary. As to what's next, certainly that's not our preference.

Iran or – Iran? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, on the Secretary's statement on Robert Levinson.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In light of this anniversary, can we expect any kind of renewed push on this issue – maybe on the sidelines of these talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Secretary Kerry has raised Mr. Levinson's case directly with Foreign Minister Zarif on several occasions, in addition to the cases of detained U.S. citizens – Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Jason Rezaian. He will continue to do that. So it is not about a renewed push; there's been a consistent push. And obviously, seeing these American citizens come home is – remains a top priority.

QUESTION: Is there hope that as there's increased dialogue with the Iranian delegation on the nuclear issue that that could lead to perhaps a goodwill gesture on the part of the Iranian Government when it comes to these Americans?

MS. PSAKI: I just wouldn't want to speculate on that. Obviously, we've raised these issues. Our Swiss protecting power have also been a tremendous help to us over the past eight years – not just on the Levinson case but on all cases related to United States citizens. So I can't predict for you what will happen; we will continue to press as we have been.

QUESTION: Does the State Department view ISIS as a bigger threat than Iran to U.S. security?

MS. PSAKI: I don't think we are in the business – or, I'm not in the business of ranking threats or priorities from here, Lucas.

QUESTION: Are they on the same level, would you say?

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate the opportunity, but I'm just not going to take your bait.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we talk about Iran's role in Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: In Iraq – or can we finish Iran? Is there any more on Iran before we continue?

QUESTION: About the other leg of the trip – Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let's finish Iran-Iraq and we'll go to Egypt.


MS. PSAKI: Did you have an Iran question, Abby?

QUESTION: Sorry, this is more of a technical understanding --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- but as far as the political framework, what part of that would be publicly presented to understand what has been negotiated?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know senior officials have spoken to this – on background, I should say. It's not something I can give you a preview of at this point. Obviously, it's a political understanding to lay out a path for moving forward and focus on the appendixes and the technical details moving forward. But I can't lay out for you at this point what it will look like.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Local media has reported in numerous articles that the Iranian Government is intervening – helping the Iraqi Government retake Tikrit. There are reports that Qasem Soleimani is there. So I just want to know whether you agree with any of these local reports that Iran plays a role in retaking Tikrit.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we've spoken to this before. We've said previously we are aware Iran has sent some operatives into Iraq that are training and advising some Iraqi Security Forces. We also know that Iran has provided some supplies, arms, ammunition and aircraft for Iraq's armed forces. I would point you to what the Secretary said on Saturday, where he addressed a very similar question.

QUESTION: On Tikrit specifically?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, he did on Saturday. I would look at his press avail.

QUESTION: But you're not opposed to the Iranians being there fighting ISIS, are you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we've addressed this many times, Said. We've been clear that Iran – Iraq can best counter the threat from ISIL with a government and security forces that are inclusive, and if the interests of all groups are respected. With respect to the activities of any country in Iraq, including Iran, we believe strongly that Iraq's sovereignty must be respected and the Government of Iraq must focus on strengthening its internal political and security situation – institutions in an inclusive way. Clearly, that's what our focus is on. We're not coordinating with the Iranians; nothing has changed in that regard.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that the militia al-Hashd al-Shaabi, which is an Iranian-backed militia – in fact, an Iranian militia – is – there are claims that they are doing some terrible things to the Sunni populations and so on. How do you raise these issues with the Iranians directly?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we've also spoken to this a number of times, but I'm happy to reiterate.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) last 24 hours.

MS. PSAKI: And Prime Minister Abadi has also spoken to this, including, I believe, in his inaugural address, and his efforts to not only regulate militias but to look into these reports. That's something we certainly support. We've raised this issue with – from Washington, D.C. as well as from our Embassy in Baghdad, and we'll continue to do that.

QUESTION: I have been following the CENTCOM announcements. I haven't seen airstrikes being carried out to help Iraqi forces to retake Tikrit. Why so?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Iraqi forces continue to advance on the city of Tikrit with a combination of regular Iraqi Security Forces, militias and tribes. We've seen some success by the Iraqi Security Forces in pushing ISIL back in a number of towns and villages around Tikrit, but operations remains ongoing. Tikrit is one operation of many Iraqi-led efforts to push back against ISIL. The United States and our Coalition partners have assisted Iraqi ground forces in over 20 counter-ISIL operations across Iraq, all of them successful. I would refer you to the Department of Defense about airstrikes.

QUESTION: But why don't you help them in Tikrit? Is it because of Iran's role? Do you not want to cooperate with Iran?

MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to the Department of Defense about military action.

QUESTION: This is a political --

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Iraq?


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The government is digging a trench right along the entire length of the border with Anbar, between Anbar and the heartland. Are you concerned that this may be sort of a prelude to dividing the country?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen the report you're referring to, Said, and I don't think your question is accurate with what's happening on the ground.

QUESTION: There's been over 2,700 airstrikes among the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria. Would you like to see other countries do more – Egypt, for example?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a number of countries, as you know. There are 60 countries in the coalition. Certainly, the military component is a very important component of it. There are a number of countries that have participated in that. But as we've long said, it's not just a military effort to degrade and defeat ISIL. There are several other components many countries are participating in. We also continue to have discussions with a range of countries about the role that they can play. We'll let them speak to what role they're going to play.

QUESTION: The United States has taken part in over 81 percent of the strikes. Would you like to see other countries do more? Would you like to see --

MS. PSAKI: I think I've addressed the question.

Any more on Iraq? All right, should we move on? Oh, Egypt. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, please. You mentioned at the beginning of this briefing the trip of Secretary Kerry to Egypt --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to attend Egypt's economic development conference. Knowing the nature of the conference, do you expect anything to be announced regarding support, economic support? And when I say economic support, I expect money, not words, you know?

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) I know what economic support means. I don't have anything to preview for you. I expect if there is anything to preview, we would do that later in the week. But this is certainly just an opportunity to discuss Egypt's needs. Certainly, we're committed to seeing Egypt continue to grow economically and prosper, and that's in the best interests of the Egyptian people.

QUESTION: So my second question regarding the members of the team that they are going to accompany Secretary Kerry – is it clear from now who is going to be with him beside assistant secretaries, secretary of trade, or somebody else?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have more details on who's accompanying. I'm sure we can look into that and get you more later this week.

QUESTION: There's another question you raised in the statement --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- that you said about the coalition efforts to combat terrorism. In the recent weeks, not just in Egypt – I mean, the recent days, let's say, even in Riyadh and other – even Arab League today, they are discussing the issue of the forming an Arab joint forces. Do you discuss this issue before with the Egyptians or Arabs in general or Saudis?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there have been many public reports about interests or desires of some countries in the region to form a coalition. We haven't seen details of what that proposal would be. So they've discussed it publicly. Certainly, we've discussed it privately, but there aren't more details to share at this point.

QUESTION: So, I mean, do you accept the concept or do you reject it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there aren't a lot of details at this point. So we've seen many comments publicly from Egypt and other countries about this, but there aren't a great number of details in terms of any proposal of how this would work or what it would be.

QUESTION: The reason I'm asking is because one of the talks that this town is talking about the necessity of requirement or having, let's say, quote/unquote, "Sunni forces" to be against ISIL or ISIS or Daesh, as the Secretary said usually. So do you – what is your – did you discuss this issue before?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I just said that we discuss with Arab countries, with countries in the region, what role they can continue to play in this coalition. But there aren't – there's not meat on the bones at this point in terms of this proposal, so there aren't more details I can respond to.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: Can we go to Venezuela?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Venezuela?

QUESTION: Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I was going to ask --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Whoa. This is like a merging of minds here, okay.

QUESTION: We have a merging of minds. So the President declared Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security. What exactly does that mean – I mean, entail? Does it change any status that Venezuela is under that it can do, or just technically? I know it's quite technical, but how does it change the relationship in any way?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not aware of any technical changes in terms of the relationship. And I think you're referring to the executive order that was put out this morning --

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. PSAKI: -- and announced that expands upon the legislation the President signed into law in December. So really, this is an implementation of what we've been working on for months, which is cracking down on those who are violating human rights and abusers and those who are cracking down on civil society. And we announced also a couple of individuals who will be named in the first tranche of this today.

QUESTION: So doesn't that imply that there would be now certain restrictions between the countries as far as even travel or business-related or – I'm just, I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the executive order was related to seven individuals, so certainly against them there would be. And as you know in the past, we also announced visa bans against a number – I think it was more than 50 individuals, although we don't release those names because of privacy reasons. So there are certainly restrictions against individuals. Separately, we also put out last week some information about what will be required to travel to Venezuela in terms of visas given the restrictions put in place. So there's a couple of things happening at once.

Clearly, we've also seen a pattern over the past several months of President Maduro accusing the United States of being involved in transgressions that we have no involvement in that are, frankly, outrageous and distract from the problems they have in their own country. So in that regard, certainly we've been dealing with an uptick in that in recent months.


QUESTION: Well, but Jen, any leader is free to attack the U.S. for its policies. Given that the legislation was signed back in December, why did it take until now for the Obama Administration to take this action against these officials?

MS. PSAKI: Well, just to be absolutely clear – and I know you didn't ask this question, but in case it's a follow-up – this has nothing to do with the President's comments. This is – it takes a while to implement and put in place executive orders that – actually, this one takes it a step farther than the legislation did. It takes some time to work through the process internally. We're at the point where we finalized that and were able to announce it and obviously implement it with the naming of seven individuals.

QUESTION: But it's worth pointing out that one of those seven individuals, the prosecutor only very recently brought forth the case against the mayor of Caracas, who is now sitting in jail. That seems pretty quick. Is it really a matter of needing the time, or is this simply sending a message to the Maduro government we don't like the way that you're behaving?

MS. PSAKI: No. Roz, we're talking about two different things. One is the time it takes to put an executive order in place, which takes some time. It's not something you can do overnight. There's an entire interagency process on that. That's something we've been working on over the past couple of months. Obviously, there are certain individuals who met the criteria to be named on this list. And this gives the President the authority moving forward, if needed, to name additional individuals.

QUESTION: And what about the ongoing dispute over the number of U.S. diplomats who can be serving on the ground in Venezuela? Did that play a role at all in the Administration's decision --


QUESTION: -- to levy these sanctions now?

MS. PSAKI: No, it did not. There's an ongoing discussion about that as my colleague, Marie, addressed last week. Clearly, there are far more individuals working in the United States from the Venezuelan Government than they originally stated, but this is an ongoing discussion. I don't have a new update on it today.

QUESTION: How likely is it, then, that the Venezuelans are going to be open to the Americans' argument that its diplomatic corps should be allowed to stay in its full staffing capacity and that they shouldn't have to worry about any potential retaliation on having their diplomats sent back to Venezuela?

MS. PSAKI: Well, these are separate issues, just to be clear. And one of the points that we've made to the Venezuelans is that there are certain capabilities – or certain services, I should say, that our embassies and posts provide when we have a presence on the ground. And when you reduce that you could potentially limit those services. And so that is certainly a factor.

QUESTION: So those discussions about the numbers – that is continuing on a whole separate track?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And you don't think it's going to influence what happened today?

MS. PSAKI: The executive order?


MS. PSAKI: Well, in what capacity are you suggesting it would --

QUESTION: Influence what Venezuela – as Roz was saying, that Venezuela will not likely want to see the – I mean, have a big staff of the U.S. in Caracas – given what's happened today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what I was trying to get at is that there is a benefit to have a presence on the ground because of the services that are provided. That is separate from an issue of an executive order put in place to, as the press release clearly outlined and as the President's statements spoke to, follows up on legislation that the United States Congress put in place that targets individuals and entities responsible for undermining democratic processes or institutions. So there's an ongoing discussion. We're a part of that discussion clearly. I don't have a new update on that today, though.

QUESTION: To put a finer point on the diplomatic spat, is it stressing to the Venezuelans that individual Venezuelan citizens could be hurt if, for example, they're not able to meet with a consular official to apply for a visa to come to the U.S. for business or for pleasure?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, and I think my colleague referred to past – I think 2002 was an example she gave last week – when you have reduced staff in a place, it certainly impacts the services that you're able to provide. That's just a fact.

QUESTION: So I – obviously, I was away last week, so – and I know you were too. So you're saying that Marie addressed all this. You have asked the Venezuelans to drop their order to reduce staff? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: No. We – what she said was, and what I was just reiterating, is that we're in a discussion with the Venezuelans about this, but I don't have a new update on it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Right, but presumably you're asking them not to force you to reduce this number of staff, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we're conveying that the benefit of having staff on the ground is to provide the types of services that they would provide.

QUESTION: Right. But you were saying to the Venezuelans: We think this is a bad idea; don't do this.

MS. PSAKI: I don't think we stated exactly that way. We have – we're having diplomatic discussions about it. I don't have anything more to update on it.

QUESTION: Well, so they haven't left yet? I mean, the staff is still the same size as it was since before the President made his comments?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not aware of it changing, no.

QUESTION: Well, isn't it correct, though, that if they go ahead and do this, you will order them to reduce their staff significantly too here?

MS. PSAKI: We're having a discussion with them now about it, Matt. I don't – I'm sure we'll keep talking about this, but I don't have anything else to lay out for you.



MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Why exactly does the U.S. believe that Venezuela is a threat to its national security?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the President was conveying that in his remarks. I'd point you to the White House if you would like to talk about that further.

QUESTION: I mean, I'm just curious about the reason. I mean, I understand all of your concerns about civil rights – civil society and human rights and violence and things like that. Is there some concern that the violence in Venezuela could spread into the U.S., for some reason?

MS. PSAKI: I don't think that's what he was portraying. I would point you to the White House if you want to talk about the President's remarks.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: The placement of the people on that list, is that permanent? Is there a way that they get back off the list?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --

QUESTION: And do you – and are more people expected to be placed on that particular list?

MS. PSAKI: Sure – well, broadly speaking, there – it's rarely, if ever, permanent. Obviously, it's impacted by events on the ground, what happens, steps that are taken. But I don't have any prediction of that. This gives the authority to the President to put additional names on the list or entities, but I'm not going to make a prediction of whether that will happen or when.

QUESTION: What steps on the ground would have to be taken from them to have their names moved off the list?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm not going to get into details of that. I'm just making the point that stating it's permanent, I think, is not exactly the accurate way of describing any individual who's been listed in this capacity.

Any more on Venezuela?


MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I go to something else --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- that we were both missing for last week that erupted onto the Washington stage, and that is the former Secretary Clinton's emails. How is the review of the pages going?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it's underway.

QUESTION: The 55,000.

MS. PSAKI: It's underway. As my colleague mentioned last week, given it's 55,000 pages, that takes some time. We expect it will take several months.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you say whether you will wait until the review of all 55,000 pages is done before you release any, or will you look at one and say, "Okay, this one is okay," and then turn it over?

MS. PSAKI: I would not anticipate we release page by page, but I don't have any prediction for how the process will run at this point in terms of the public release.

QUESTION: And did you ever get the answer – and I – you may have, I don't know; and I apologize because I wasn't here – whether these were handed – were given to you by her office electronically or in paper?

MS. PSAKI: In paper.

QUESTION: So they pulled up a backloader or something into the – (laughter) – I mean, what did they come in with, a truck full of – 55,000 pages is a lot, so --

MS. PSAKI: That is a lot, yes.

QUESTION: So I'm just curious, were they boxed up? Were they – are they just all jumbled together? Are they in order of date or by topic?

MS. PSAKI: There were several boxes back --

QUESTION: Several?


QUESTION: 55,000 pages, several boxes? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: That is quite a few boxes, which speaks to – it did cover – these do cover the span of her time at the State Department. In terms of what the boxes look like or the order, I don't have that level of detail.

QUESTION: Okay. But I mean, you believe – and you're taking them at their word that they separated out all of the emails from her private account that are business related, and that that 55,000 pages is the universe but – and you think that they've been cooperative. So that would imply that you don't think that they just dumped them in all in a box willy-nilly – or boxes – and gave them to you.

I mean, how exactly is this review going about? Is it chronological? Are you just picking up a box – or whoever's doing it – just picking up one box here and going through this? I'm just wondering if there's any order or system to --

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand your questions. Because this is just underway – obviously, this is new as of last week, as you just outlined in your question – I don't have anything at this point to outline in terms of the order of the process. If there's more details, I'm sure we can share those.

QUESTION: I believe the question came up last week about whether IRM, your Information Resources Management people, or DS had taken a look at the arrangements that she had at her home in Chappaqua and determined that they were okay and not – that they met standards for not being compromised.

MS. PSAKI: It did come up last week. I don't have any update on that at this point.

QUESTION: So does that mean that you just haven't gotten an answer, or does that mean that you – that there was no check done on this?

MS. PSAKI: It just means I don't have any information to provide at this point.

QUESTION: Well, is someone looking into it? It would seem that --

MS. PSAKI: We are certainly looking into it, as we venture to look into all of your questions.

QUESTION: Well, it would seem – right, right. Well, it's not just our questions; there's a lot of other people with them.

MS. PSAKI: I understand. I'm – you're referring to --

QUESTION: Some of your favorite 47 senators have some of them, too.

MS. PSAKI: -- something from six years ago. So --

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: -- we are looking into your question.


MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything to update on you on today.

QUESTION: But presumably, if they had come back and said, "No, this is a problem," she would have stopped using it, right? Or maybe not. I don't know. So that's why the question is relevant.

MS. PSAKI: I understand that. I'm not going to speculate on that, obviously.

QUESTION: Jen, who does this --

QUESTION: And are you --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Am I correct in thinking that you are satisfied with – that the 55,000 pages turned over from this larger universe, however large it is, is in fact the totality of the business-related emails that are there?

MS. PSAKI: That is what Secretary Clinton's team has conveyed.

QUESTION: And so you're taking them – you're satisfied with that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I would ask them that question, but they submitted --

QUESTION: Well, the question is to you, not to them.

MS. PSAKI: -- they submitted emails that are – cover the span of her time – voluntarily, I would also note. So I don't have anything more for you on that.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you --

QUESTION: Well, voluntarily --

MS. PSAKI: We asked --

QUESTION: I suppose, yes, they didn't – weren't – that there was no court order required. But I mean, you do agree that these – that at least the business-related emails are required to be archived, right?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, to be preserved. Yes, exactly.

QUESTION: Who did the sorting after or the archiving? Are they government employees, or are they – who is former Secretary Clinton's team? Are they Foundation --

MS. PSAKI: I would ask former Secretary Clinton that question.

QUESTION: So how are the people from the State Department involved? I mean, who are the ones that go and check these things, do the fact checking?

MS. PSAKI: Well, just to reiterate a couple of --


MS. PSAKI: -- the facts, and I will not bore you --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: -- with all of the details my colleague talked about last week, but we sent a letter to all former secretaries last October that Under Secretary Pat Kennedy signed. I know that was a question last week. And in response, Secretary Clinton and her team submitted 55,000 pages of emails that span her time at the Department. You'd have to ask her in terms of – or her team who scanned that. Obviously, here there'll be a review in response to her request for these to be released publicly. I don't have anything to outline for you in terms of the process. Obviously, our legal team will be involved in that.

QUESTION: Can you say authoritatively that the 300 emails that were turned over to the select committee are the total number that relate to Benghazi from the 55,000 pages that they gave you?


QUESTION: You can. So I don't know if you saw that Congressman Gowdy, who is the chairman of this select committee, said that there are big gaps related to Benghazi. He specifically pointed out the – there was no email related to Libya from the day of the secretary's trip. I've seen some reports that mistakenly say that that trip happened after the Benghazi attack, but it was not. But are you saying that that – any email related to Libya before September 11th, 2012 would not be turned over to the committee because it's not relevant?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we --


MS. PSAKI: -- responded to the select committee with emails that were responsive. It was, yes, 300 emails, but that was 900 pages of emails that were sent back. In terms of the specific day or the secretary's trip to Libya, it's probably a question more appropriately posed to her and her team. I know we've all been on trips. I obviously wasn't on that trip, but I've been on many with the Secretary of State – the current Secretary – where there are communications issues, where you really don't send emails given communications issues or given that the staff you need to ask questions of are right around you. So --

QUESTION: Well, I'm just curious if the select committee's request for emails would have, to your understanding, included all Libya-related emails or just those related to what happened in terms of securing the mission in Benghazi before the attack, during the attack, and then after the attack. Is that your --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don't have the language, unfortunately – I wish I did – in front of me of what their exact request was, which is what our response was to. So why don't we see if we can get their exact request language to all of you.

QUESTION: But – okay. But your position is that the – their request – although you don't have the language in front of you right now, their request was – these are the only emails in that 55,000 pages – these 300 emails are the only ones that are responsive to their – to what they asked for.

MS. PSAKI: That's correct.

QUESTION: That's right.

QUESTION: And do you --

QUESTION: Can I just ask a follow-up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Were those emails – the 300 that you submitted, were those on the unclassified section of her emails? In other words, could --

MS. PSAKI: All of the 55,000 are unclassified.

QUESTION: Could there have been, then, on those days where there were not – no unclassified emails, could there have been, therefore, classified emails to that subject which are not being released?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will just say, broadly speaking, that when you're on a trip to a country like Libya, you're not sending classified emails, so – typically. But I would point you to Secretary Clinton and her team on that question.

QUESTION: Following on classification --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- how is your Department in a position to assert with any level of confidence that Secretary Clinton did not traffic in any classified information when using this private email account?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think my colleague addressed this pretty extensively last week, so I would point all of you to her comments. Obviously, the purpose of the review is to determine what can be publicly released. As a part of that, there will be – we'll look at whether there's sensitive information like personally identifying information, et cetera. But there was – this was an unclassified email that would've been used in this email.

QUESTION: But is there any way right now to say that no classified information was sent out over this --

MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to prejudge a process that's just underway.

QUESTION: Just a few more.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: Has the Department – thank you – in any way been apprised of the physical location of the server that hosted Secretary Clinton's --

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any update on the server.

QUESTION: And – okay. Has the U.S. Government determined whether Secretary Clinton's private email account while she was serving as secretary and using it – was it adequately secured against hacking or any kind of outside --

MS. PSAKI: I think it's similar to the question Matt asked. I don't have any update on that.

QUESTION: The story – more information out today from the White House, and the new information was that Obama and this secretary obviously exchanged email during that time and that the President only learned of this latest controversy through the media. So the question would be, then, are the – is that exchange between Clinton and Obama going to be released as well and were those turned over, or don't you know that information?

MS. PSAKI: I would check with the White House on that particular question.

QUESTION: Different subject?

QUESTION: Well, wait. Hold on. Just one – the question --

MS. PSAKI: And I would say just one more thing – that obviously, the President's emails are part of the Presidential Records Act. It's something a little bit different, so it's governed by something slightly different. So that's why I would encourage you to ask them.

QUESTION: On the issue of the security or – well, the security of the server – of the actual server, do you have any reason to believe that it was compromised at all?

MS. PSAKI: We don't have any reason to believe that. Obviously, her email wasn't hacked, as there were some reports that previously suggested, but I just don't have any update on the precautions or steps that were taken.

QUESTION: It's only the State Department, the state.gov emails, that get hacked, right? So Secretary Clinton's, then – former Secretary Clinton's might have been --

MS. PSAKI: There have been several days where I have not had access to my state.gov email, I will say.

QUESTION: So they might have actually been safer in a private server than – it just – it seems to me a little bit unusual where we're in a position where hackers from Russia or from wherever they are have more access to the State Department records and archives than the American public and Congress do. Does that not strike you as being odd?

MS. PSAKI: And in what capacity, Matt?

QUESTION: Well, they hacked your email system. You had to shut it all down --


QUESTION: -- and they're still in there apparently, or whatever it is. So they're seeing stuff that the rest of us can't see, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don't think you have an assessment of – unless there's something I don't know about your email capacity – of what actually they had access to. We take precautions. We fight thousands of attacks every single day.

QUESTION: Right, but that's still an issue as far as you know?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we've said, it continues to be an issue. Obviously, cyber security remains a threat and --

QUESTION: No, but from this one – the one attack that caused the whole system to – caused you to shut down the whole OpenNet system?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm just not going to get that specific. There are thousands of attacks we deal with every day. Obviously, we continue to combat them.

QUESTION: A follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: Right now the State Department does not know physically where this server resides?

MS. PSAKI: I just don't have any update or more information for you on it.

QUESTION: You can't say yes or no whether you know where the location --

MS. PSAKI: If I had more information, I would certainly share it with you.

Abby, do you – on this issue?


MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: If it is discovered in the course of reviewing email – and I understand you're not prejudging – but if it's discovered that there is a gap of time where emails were not provided, would that violate any rule or regulation or guideline that exists, or is that – would that be something that would be looked into further, or --

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to speculate on that. Again, it's a question that anyone is welcome to ask Secretary Clinton and her team.

Laura, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. If, in the context of the review, it's discovered that there was either classified information or sensitive but unclassified information, would that automatically trigger an investigation into wrongdoing?

MS. PSAKI: We're not going to prejudge the outcome of a process that is just underway. I would just reiterate what my colleague said yester – last week, yesterday – sorry, that was Sunday – which is that contrary to press reports, she would not – Secretary Clinton would not automatically be out of step with the FAM provision by using a personal email for official business. It's a policy; it's not a federal regulation. But again, we're going to let this process move forward, and obviously, we'll speak to it, I'm sure, throughout and at the conclusion.

QUESTION: I understand not prejudging the outcome of the review, but as a general matter, if there are allegations that – if any State Department employee's emails are found to have sensitive but unclassified information that should not be on a particular server or classified information that should not have been shared in a particular way, would that automatically trigger an investigation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm not going to speculate on a hypothetical, Laura, and that's something that I'm not – there's not a specific instance we're referring to, so I'm not going to speak to that.

QUESTION: One other sort of related.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, go ahead.

QUESTION: Has there been any additional response from former Secretary Powell's folks about his emails? I know you said that former Secretary Rice didn't really use email. But have his been located and shared with the State Department?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I think my colleague also noted, Secretary Powell wrote in his book about his efforts to bring the State Department into the email age. He also spoke about use of his personal laptop. We have only received records in response from Secretary Clinton. We're working with the remaining secretaries, including Secretary Powell – and I believe he spoke to this himself yesterday during a Sunday show interview – to see if there's anything that they intend to provide. So that's – those are ongoing discussions. I don't have a new update on it today.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more thing about what you would --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In the universe of the documents, the 55,000 pages, are any of those – are you aware if you – if any of those relate to the work of the foundation, the Clinton Foundation?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have an assessment for you of what's in the documents that we --

QUESTION: Okay. Well --

MS. PSAKI: -- haven't yet completed the review of. Far from it.

QUESTION: Well, would – does the State Department believe that emails that were sent on this server, which may not have to do specifically with State Department business matters but have to deal – have to do with the foundation's activities overseas, would those – would you consider – would the building consider those to be business-related emails or not?

MS. PSAKI: I think, just like any email, it would be – it would pertain to the content of an email. So I don't want to speak to that before we've had a chance to review.

QUESTION: Well, doesn't that then suggest that you would need to go through the whole of the server, not just the ones that they gave you, to determine whether the business – whether you have got all the ones that related to work?

MS. PSAKI: No, we – that was a step taken, which was the policy for any secretary and any secretary's team to be responsible for the review of what documents needed to be archived. That's been done. They've submitted the time that spanned her time. What I was more getting at – and maybe this is a better way to describe it – is there's no doubt there are probably personal emails that are unrelated to her State Department work that wouldn't be for public release in this set of documents.

QUESTION: Right. I don't think anyone would doubt that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I'm just wondering if the Department believes that any – because she was in the position that she was in as the chief U.S. diplomat and dealing with countries, if private emails that have to do with foreign governments or with foreign countries and the work of the foundation, which she was obviously unaware – obviously aware of, but while not taking active part in it --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- would the State Department consider those to be relevant work emails that should be turned over?

MS. PSAKI: I understand your question. I can't – I just can't speak to whether that's even applicable in this case. And obviously, there'll be a process that reviews.

Any more on this before we continue?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Okay, Asia? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, different issue. On the U.S. Embassy, the Mark Lippert incident --


QUESTION: -- did United States give any guidance for the investigation to South Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Did we give any guidance to the investigation?


MS. PSAKI: What do you mean specifically by that?

QUESTION: Yeah, something like if you have any diplomatic matters, for instance, over this? It's concerning about any diplomatic matters between U.S. and South Korea, and what kind of – so his punishment of this incident. Do you have any detail about your – the U.S. state of mind of it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you may know, but for those of you who haven't been following this as closely, the attack is currently under investigation by the Korean National Police, who are closely coordinating with the Embassy in Seoul. We appreciate the swift response by the Government of the Republic of Korea, statements of support for Ambassador Lippert, and the government's commitment to ensuring the safety of the ambassador and all diplomats to the Republic of Korea. We certainly have been working with the government, but beyond that, they obviously have the lead on the investigation.

Let me just do one update on Ambassador Lippert. I think that may be somebody's question, so I'll proactively answer it. He is in stable condition in spite of his injuries and is expected to be released the afternoon of March 10th, which is, of course, tomorrow. The ambassador, as you may have seen on Twitter, is active and in good spirits. He's resting comfortably in the hospital and wishes to thank the medical teams at Samsung and Severance hospitals for their excellent care. He underwent successful surgery Thursday afternoon in Seoul. The medical team at Severance is giving periodic televised updates to the press gathered at the hospital. He also again reiterates his deep gratitude for all the messages of concern and support from friends in the Republic of Korea and the United States, including the visit by President Park to his hospital room.

QUESTION: Was Secretary Kerry send official letter to South Korean Government on this diplomatic matter?

MS. PSAKI: Has he sent a letter?

QUESTION: Yes, official letter.

MS. PSAKI: I don't – he's – we've certainly been in close touch with the South Korean Government. He's spoken with Ambassador Lippert twice as well. Again, he feels the same way as Ambassador Lippert has that he certainly has deep gratitude for the responsiveness of the South Korean Government, and they've worked very closely with us.

QUESTION: He did not mention any concern about the U.S. and South Korea diplomatic relationships?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly not. Certainly not. South Korea remains one of our important – most important partners. That will continue. And obviously, their response, their outpouring of support, the fact that President Park went and visited Ambassador Lippert in his hotel room, speaks to the strength and vitality of our relationship.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Investigation is underway to determine the motivations of this attacker, including the possibility of his possible link to North Korea. If he is found to have some link to North Korea, would it be possible to put North Korea back onto the list of states sponsoring of terrorism?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that's several steps ahead of where things are. We'll let the investigation play itself through. I'm not going to speculate on the motivation. Obviously, there have been a range of reports, but the Government of South Korea has the lead on this investigation. Beyond that, I'm just not going to speculate.

Any more on this before we – go ahead. On Ambassador Lippert?

QUESTION: No, just a different place in Asia, actually.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, another place in Asia. Go ahead.

QUESTION: There's reports about new construction in the Spratly islands by the Chinese. Do you have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. China's land reclamation and construction activities are fueling greater anxiety within the region about China's intentions amid concerns they may militarize outposts on disputed land features in the South China Sea. We are watching these developments closely and will continue to raise our concerns with China as well as with others in the region to urge all parties to avoid destabilizing activities. As we've said many times, we encourage all claimants to pursue peaceful and diplomatic approaches to maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

QUESTION: One more follow-up. Are there any U.S. citizens detainees in North Korea currently?

MS. PSAKI: Are there any – I'm sorry?

QUESTION: U.S. citizens detainees.

MS. PSAKI: I just don't have any more information on that.

Go ahead. Welcome back. You've been a frequent visitor lately.

QUESTION: Thank you. I – first, I enjoy being here. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, good.

QUESTION: I enjoy being in your briefing. You all look very well.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

QUESTION: Congratulations on the Women's Day. Today is a holiday in Russia.

MS. PSAKI: For all women.

QUESTION: For all women.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Congratulations to all women.

QUESTION: Absolutely.


QUESTION: Absolutely. It's nice to be with the women representing the State Department.

MS. PSAKI: Good. And representing the press corps.

QUESTION: I – right, and representing the press corps, obviously. Hi, Lesley. (Laughter.)

I'm here because when I asked you my question about aid to Russia – any programs left about aid to Russia, the European press said that they prepared the answer and gave it to you, but wouldn't you read to me --

MS. PSAKI: Well, you didn't ask me, so now we have the opportunity.

QUESTION: So I'm now asking: Are there any programs of aid to Russia that are still standing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we, the State Department, no longer provide foreign assistance to the Russian Government. The USAID mission in Moscow closed in 2012, as you know. We continue to engage with Russian partners where possible on areas of mutual interest on a cooperative basis, and certainly, that is ongoing. And as you've seen probably in the budget that was released and the Secretary testified on just a few weeks ago, there is no line item for Russia in our foreign assistance budget. There is still nonproliferation money spent by DOD and DOE, which are not funded by State and the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act.

QUESTION: Right. So when people suggest – now, people actually suggested to us, to me, asking us if we are interested in a journalistic exchange, for instance, where does that money come from? Like, the press --

MS. PSAKI: IVLP programs?


MS. PSAKI: Programs like that?

QUESTION: Like exchange of journalists, support of democracy and all that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that's not money directly to the Russian Government, so it's – there are different pots of assistance, obviously.

QUESTION: So those programs still exist? Do I understand that correctly?

MS. PSAKI: I believe there may be some Russian journalists in town over the next couple of days.

QUESTION: Do I also understand correctly that the money that was allocated originally for the bilateral presidential commission, U.S.-Russian, that it's now been reallocated for Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I'd have to check on that specific pot of money.

QUESTION: And lastly, I also asked you when I was here about the plans for Secretary's visit to Moscow. At that point, those were denied. So my question now is, if the plans still exist, if the idea still exists of a visit to Moscow?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he does have almost two more years here at the State Department, so I expect, though, that his interaction with his counterparts, specifically Foreign Minister Lavrov, will be around the Iran nuclear talks over the next couple of weeks, and we're really not much farther ahead than that in the schedule.

QUESTION: All right. Obviously, I meant immediate plans, plans for immediate future.

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any immediate plans to outline for you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I'm wondering – I know, or at least I'm under the impression that your Embassy in Moscow took notice of these comments that President Putin has made in a documentary, or at least a trailer for a documentary about Crimea. I'm wondering if you have any – if you've noticed them here, and what you have to say about them, if anything.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have certainly seen the reports of the content of the documentary. I have not seen more than the reports at this point in time. Certainly, what we've seen is consistent with the deceitful approach we've seen when denying Russia's involvement in eastern Ukraine. So our focus remains on where we are with Ukraine moving forward, how we can work with the international community to stand up for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and we will look forward to hearing more reports from the documentary.

QUESTION: When you say that you've seen or what people – U.S. officials have "seen is consistent with the deceitful approach," what specifically can – are you talking about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, meaning a denial of involvement or desire to overtake Crimea, which the documentary seems to suggest otherwise. I don't have any confirmation of it. I haven't seen the context of it. I don't have more details on it.


QUESTION: Can we go to Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Israel?


MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Maybe if I could for just one second just stay with --

MS. PSAKI: Can you speak to the documentary on behalf of your government?

QUESTION: Yes, stay with the – no, of course not.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I am not with the government.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I've seen reports about the Ukrainian rebels claiming that the government did not move their heavy artillery far enough from the separation line, that they are afraid that the weapons can be moved back very quickly. Have you seen these reports?

MS. PSAKI: The claims of the Ukrainian Government that the weapons have – or --

QUESTION: No, the other way around.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The other way around. The people in eastern Ukraine who are defending, as they see it, defending the territory where they live from an onslaught from the government forces, they say that now that there is this ceasefire they are supposed to move their heavy weapons away from the line of separation.

MS. PSAKI: That's correct.

QUESTION: And – right. And so the eastern Ukrainians say that the government has not moved the heavy equipment far enough as agreed and they are afraid that the weapon can be moved back quickly and that the shelling may resume. Have you seen these reports, and what can you say about them?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen the reports. I will say the way to validate or confirm any report would be for the Russian-backed separatists to allow the OSCE, the independent monitoring mission, in to see what's happening. Otherwise I certainly – it's tough to speak to reports.

QUESTION: Just going back to the Iran nuclear deal and the letter, a short time ago Senator Harry Reid took to the Senate floor to call the letter by 47 Republican senators led by freshman Senator Tom Cotton, Reid called the letter unprecedented and empowers the ayatollahs. Would you agree with that statement?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly believe it's unprecedented, and I think it's consistent with the language we've used to speak to the letter.

QUESTION: When Reid says it empowers the ayatollahs, do you have a take on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, suggesting that the process works in a different way than the process has worked for centuries.

QUESTION: Are you concerned with the ongoing negotiations that there is a nuclear proliferation spreading in the region, that Saudi state – excuse me, states in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, are looking at pursuing nuclear weapons? In fact, the day before Secretary Kerry arrived in Riyadh, the king hosted Pakistan's Prime Minister Sharif. Does the State Department have a take on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there's a couple different things you're talking about there. One, we support peaceful nuclear power programs as long as they're consistent with international obligations, including the NPT and the IAEA Safeguards, and if the IAEA Safeguards, I should say, are fully met, and the highest international standards regulating safety, nonproliferation, export controls, and physical security are strictly followed.

The reason we pursue these civil nuclear arrangements under the NPT, which we have with many countries, is so that countries can reap the benefits of peaceful nuclear power by committing not to seek nuclear weapons. So it's actually helping countries have a source of power but they're also abiding by several restrictions that are also in the NPT and the IAEA restrictions. So any suggestion that we are supporting or open to anything otherwise are simply inaccurate.

QUESTION: Well, my question was: Is there concern in this building that Saudi Arabia would be pursuing a nuclear weapons program by hosting the Pakistan prime minister? And the month before that they hosted --

MS. PSAKI: By hosting the Pakistani prime minister? In what capacity?

QUESTION: Well, the month before that the Saudis hosted the head of the Pakistani military, and there's been some talk among experts that Saudi Arabia is pursuing a nuclear weapons program. And I was just wondering if there is concern.

MS. PSAKI: I don't think – I think, again, we have supported civil – peaceful civil nuclear programs with a number of countries. Obviously, abiding by the NPT would require that they are not moving toward a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Can we move to --

QUESTION: Can we stay on Saudi just for a second?

MS. PSAKI: On Saudi? Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. I just want to go back to the Secretary's meetings.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: We didn't get a chance to ask him about his meetings there as they related to human rights issues. And I wanted to ask about both with the Saudi king and with the pull-aside meeting that he had with the Bahraini foreign minister on the sidelines of the GCC meeting. Are you are if the Secretary raised any specific cases in either of those meetings, cases of concern --

MS. PSAKI: He always raises human rights at every opportunity. I can certainly check. The Bahraini meeting was not a meeting. It was kind of a very, very quick greeting in the hallway. Bu I'll certainly check and look back at my notes as well about the Saudi meeting.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

QUESTION: Can we go to Israel?

MS. PSAKI: To India?


MS. PSAKI: Oh, I was like, India, a new one.

QUESTION: Okay, we can go to India. I like India.

MS. PSAKI: Well, you can ask about India too. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Today Mr. Netanyahu's opponents basically released a document in the Israeli press saying that he has signed on a deal – not a deal but on a possible agreement for a two-state solution that was basically husbanded by the United States of America back in August 2013, where he agrees to a Palestinian state basically on 1967 borders. First of all, can you comment on this since this happened under your auspices?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, the launching of the negotiations was in August of 2013. The reports I have seen are referring to past comments by Prime Minister Netanyahu. Obviously – and something that they have also spoken to. So I'm not going to weigh in on internal Israeli politics.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but this is apparently something that happened through the negotiation period.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the negotiations started in August 2013.

QUESTION: In August, that's exactly – and there – right thereafter in the same – during the same period of time, Mr. Yitzhak Molho apparently – or they claim that he gave a document to you and to the Palestinians that stipulates or states exactly what needs to be done, including exchange of land and all these things. Can you at least say that something like this has happened?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to speak to negotiations that we've never spoken to that happened a year and a half ago.

QUESTION: Okay. Now staying in the region, today the Israelis are plowing, actually – they confiscated some land – I don't know if you can look into it – right in the Bethlehem area and the (inaudible) area. It's about 400 (inaudible). Would you look into that?

MS. PSAKI: I'm happy to look into it. I don't have any information in front of me, though.

QUESTION: Okay. And finally, on the issue of the Women's Day – and I know the Secretary spoke about Arab women and so on --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yeah.

QUESTION: -- a little while ago. Is he aware of the situation of Palestinian women, especially those that are incarcerated in Israeli prisons?

MS. PSAKI: Are you speaking to a specific individual, or --

QUESTION: Yeah, there are a number of Palestinian political women and – or political prisoners of women, in prison. Some, in fact, gave birth to children while in prison. Do you bring these issues from a human rights point of view or from any other point of view --

MS. PSAKI: If you have specific cases, we're happy to speak to those, Said. Perhaps we can talk after the briefing.

QUESTION: I can supply those specific --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Can we stay on this --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- on Israel just for a second?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The comments that Prime Minister Netanyahu made yesterday at his cabinet meeting – I believe it was at his cabinet meeting. They're saying that a two-state deal isn't going to work --

MS. PSAKI: That's what I thought Said was referring to, but it seemed to be something slightly different. But go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, do you have anything to say about – does this concern you at all that the prime minister is saying that basically it can't be done, the plan for peace won't work now, the threat from Islamic extremism is too much?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I would say that – just to reiterate, of course, our commitment to achieving an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state negotiated solution remains strong. We count on having Israeli and Palestinian partners who are also committed to that goal. A lot of things are said during election campaigns. We'll wait to see the policies of the next Israeli Government.

QUESTION: So you're – but as it relates, whether or not he's elected or not, you think that – or reelected or not, you think that this is just campaign rhetoric, or maybe just campaign rhetoric?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we'll see, Matt. We'll see what happens through the course of the elections, and we certainly look forward to having partners who want to pursue --

QUESTION: Right. Well, but here's the thing. Because he said this; he is the prime minister now. Should he win, he will be prime minister (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: That's usually how elections work.

QUESTION: Right. His position on this is unlikely to change until at least the – what he said the imminent threat, the possibility of a Palestinian state being taken over by extremist radicals – that suggests that he would not be interested in pursuing a two-state solution. Does that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we'll see what happens.

QUESTION: So you're just going to wait until --

MS. PSAKI: We will.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: We'll look forward to discussing it in the future.

QUESTION: Could I ask you on the status of, let's say, the tax money or – on the aid to the Palestinians, if there is any change as far as you know, or --

MS. PSAKI: There isn't a change. I think – but I'm happy to reiterate that we are – we remain very concerned about the continued viability of the Palestinian Authority if they do not receive their tax revenue soon. We have continued to engage with key stakeholders – including with the Israelis, Palestinians, EU, UN, Russians, Arab League, and others – to try to address the situation before it becomes a crisis that harms all of our interests. I think I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but in terms of U.S. assistance to the Palestinians, well, we've given a great deal, as you know, over the course of time. We don't believe it would be possible to get any further assistance through Congress in the near future. Even if Congress was willing to let it go through this process takes months to actually get the funding. And of course, we're continuing to engage with our partners, as I mentioned, on how to address this situation.

On this, or a new topic?

QUESTION: On a new topic.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Nigeria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Boko Haram has come out with a message pledging allegiance to ISIS. What is your take on that message? Is this a propaganda tool? Do they have an operational link in place? What's the assessment at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we've seen the reports of a Twitter message, which is, I think, how this – how these reports came out, purportedly from Boko Haram's leadership pledging allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. We're undertaking to assess the validity of these reports. Regardless of what links may or may not exist, Boko Haram remains a tremendous threat to the stability of the region and the safety of civilians.

I think it's important to also note that Boko Haram has previously pledged allegiance to both AQIM and al-Qaida core in the past, but those pledges were assessed to be pledges of solidarity rather than any indication that its leadership plan to take orders from or allow these groups to usurp control. In fact, we observed minimal operational cooperation among the groups in that particular case. So I just thought that was relevant information in terms of what's happened in the past. Obviously, we'll look into this, but we've also seen similar claims that are more designed for propaganda purposes than operational engagement.

QUESTION: So there's no indication at this point that these particular claims differ from the previous ones?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, but we'll, of course, assess the validity. We'll assess what it means. We continue to watch closely, and obviously, we take any of this seriously.

QUESTION: Okay. And then related to that, there are reports of ground troops from Chad and Niger launching a ground offensive and an air offensive against Boko Haram. Is that something that the U.S. is providing any consultation or support on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of reports that Chadian and Nigerian troops are taking action against Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria, as are Nigerian forces. We welcome the coordinated efforts by the defense and security forces of the region to protect civilians from Boko Haram. We are providing general support for the counter-Boko Haram effort, including equipment, training, and intelligence. We'll consider additional equipment, training, advisory, and logistics support in the weeks ahead, and that's something that has been ongoing in terms of our support for the counter-Boko Haram efforts for some time now.


QUESTION: Could I ask you a quick question on Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: On Yemen? Sure.

QUESTION: On Yemen, yes, please. Yesterday there was talk that there may be some sort of a conference that will be taking place in Saudi Arabia to bring all the parties together. Are you aware of that – this effort? Is that something that the Secretary spoke, let's say, with his Saudi counterpart?

MS. PSAKI: This was something that was certainly raised without a great deal – level of detail. The way forward, in our view, needs to reflect the aspirations of all Yemeni people. Any future location of UN-led talks should reflect a location agreed on by all participants so they can come together to continue discussing a political transition that will keep Yemen unified and united. We continue to urge a peaceful political resolution that is in keeping with the principles of the GCC initiative. Obviously, the UN continues to lead this effort, so I would certainly point you to them.

QUESTION: Also, the head of the army moved to Aden in the south, and a lot of the government ministers and so on. Would you consider sending an ambassador to Aden, at least for the time being?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our ambassador has been relocated to Jeddah with some staff, so no, that's where we plan to have his – him located. It's easy for him to move in and meet with officials, as he did with President Hadi just last week.

QUESTION: Jen, sort of a follow-up. I was thinking about the VE Day, Victory Europe Day, that's coming up in May.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And as we know, people from all over the world have been invited. The White House has already indicated that we should not be expecting President Obama there, but I was thinking maybe for the Secretary it might be a good opportunity to turn up in Moscow. Have you heard anything about this?

MS. PSAKI: I will pass on your recommendation and invitation.

QUESTION: No, I'm asking this as a question. Might that --

MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything to outline for you in terms of his future schedule. And as I mentioned earlier, our focus really is on the next couple of weeks. And as many of the reporters who travel with us can speak to, we rarely are far – much far ahead of that in terms of planning.

QUESTION: Do you know if there are any plans of sending any delegation to Moscow for those celebrations?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have – it's still a bit of time away, so I don't have anything to predict for you at this point.

QUESTION: Jen, just one thing I want to clarify --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: – on an earlier question I asked about Iran's role in Iraq. So I just want to know whether it causes any concern on the part of the U.S. – on the – your – I'm sorry, your Administration when you see Iran contribute so much to the war against ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Again, as I said earlier, the Secretary spoke to this exact question two days ago, so I would point you to that.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: Is there any update just overall on the battle for Tikrit, where things stand?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have more of an update than what I offered. Obviously, the Iraqi Security Forces remain in the lead. They're continuing to take steps forward, but I don't have any on-the-ground update beyond that at this point in time.

QUESTION: I want to go back to one of the questions about the emails. When you talked about the --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- Foreign Affairs manual, the FAM --


QUESTION: -- and you said that it was – can you remind me?

MS. PSAKI: A policy, not a regulation.

QUESTION: So it is – but the secretary of state, whoever that secretary of state is, is bound by the policies in the FAM, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the policy in the FAM is also --

QUESTION: Or does that only apply to the --

MS. PSAKI: No, no, but I – but also --

QUESTION: -- drones and minions and peons?

MS. PSAKI: The policy in the FAM is also related to sensitive but unclassified information. That's what the policy is related to, so obviously, we'll be reviewing these – her emails for public release, and I'm not going to prejudge what is in the content of the emails.

QUESTION: So things – the policies in the FAM as they relate to anything, not just emails – whoever the secretary is is bound to – obligated to follow those procedures, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --


MS. PSAKI: -- they seek to abide by them, sure, yes.

QUESTION: But are they required to, or is it because they're the head of the agency --

MS. PSAKI: Well, they're guiding policies. They're not regulations. So it's a little formal to say "bound by."

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but when people are – often, when IG reports come out, it talks about how someone or so-and-so X didn't follow the FAM, didn't follow the regulations --

MS. PSAKI: Right. So what I was getting at was it refers to SBU. It's not a reference to the use of a private email.

QUESTION: Right. My question – forget about the email altogether.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: My question is just the Foreign Affairs Manual --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and the pages and pages and pages of policy guidelines --


QUESTION: -- and regulations that it puts out – the secretary of state, whoever that is, is supposed to follow those, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: As are all the employees underneath him or her.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. The point I was making is it's policy; it's not law.

Do you have – Elliot? Or were you – no, you're just stretching your hands?


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: So on Iraq, reports are saying that General Allen in the last week, he was talking about that the U.S. will provide the arms to Peshmerga directly. But yesterday, the consul general of the United States in Erbil, Joseph Pennington, he was talking to my TV. He said that they are not going to directly arm Peshmerga. Do you have any comment?

MS. PSAKI: I haven't seen the comments you're referring to of General Allen's. I'm happy to take a look at them. Our policy has consistently been that we provide them through the central Government of Iraq. That hasn't changed.

QUESTION: Actually, General Allen told me himself.

QUESTION: At the Atlantic Council, then, the weapons physically, directly don't go anymore to Baghdad for inspection. They go directly to Erbil. That's what he said. But he said the coordination with Baghdad is still, like, a requirement (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: Which is what we've spoken to in the past.

QUESTION: So – well, we heard from the ministry of Peshmerga that they are getting only 10 percent of the MRAPs and others – other heavy weapons. So who is going to decide on the share of the Peshmerga? Is the United States going to decide this is the Peshmerga share, or it's Baghdad?

MS. PSAKI: Ten percent of the weapons that go to Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes, that's what they said.

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any validation of that particular term. It's not just the – or that particular statistic, I should say. It's not just the United States; it's many countries, as I've provided in the – that provide assistance through the Government of Iraq to the Peshmerga. I have provided to you specifically on many occasions exactly what we've provided to the Peshmerga, which is – I can't even remember the statistics, but quite a bit of assistance. So that's something we work with the Government on Iraq on. We'll continue to.

QUESTION: Yeah. You provided that. You said it's out of – according to the information you gave to me, it was 20 – 250 MRAPs, which is --

MS. PSAKI: Great. I'm glad you have it in front of you.



QUESTION: The Peshmerga, they got only, I think, 25 of them, which is 10 percent. And they said that's the share the United States is sending to Iraq; they get 10 percent.

MS. PSAKI: I'm sure we can get – we can have somebody who handles this get in touch with you directly about this question.

QUESTION: Okay, but there's just one more.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Who is deciding on who is getting what? Who is --

MS. PSAKI: We work with the Government of Iraq, as I've said many, many times.

QUESTION: Is it --

MS. PSAKI: And we coordinate with them.

Go ahead in the back. Last one here.


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.


MS. PSAKI: Libya. Sure.

QUESTION: There were reports that Islamic State militants attacked a Libyan oil field and kidnapped 10 foreign workers. I want to ask about your position on the strengthening of the IS presence in Libya, whether that has now become operational, and also the impact on the international presence in Libya given the latest kidnappings.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we've seen the media reports. We don't have confirmation of the details or the claim of who's responsible. We continue to monitor closely and with deep concern indications that the influence of self-proclaimed ISIL affiliates is expanding in Libya. As I've noted in the past, the question of – and I think this is something Laura and I have talked about a bit in here – of whether that is operational or, as I mentioned, self-proclaimed is something we keep – continue to look at. And there is a history of affiliating – publicly claiming affiliation for propaganda purposes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:01 p.m.)

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