Acting Assistant Attorney General Leslie Overton of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division provided a statement today after the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of New York issued an order regarding a remedy to address American Express’s illegal conduct.
Daily Press Briefing
1:57 p.m. EDT
MS HARF: Hi, everyone. I’m really sorry I’m late. I know; it’s my fault today.
Okay, Free the Press. Let’s start with that. We continue our Free the Press campaign with two more cases today. The first comes from Azerbaijan, where 12 journalists and bloggers remain detained or imprisoned on government orders. Among the 12, Mr. Hilal Mammadov – Mammadov, I think – has been imprisoned since 2013. There he is on the screen. He was arrested in 2012 on charges of treason, incitement of ethnic hatred, and drug possession, and sentenced to five years in prison in 2013.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers his detention arbitrary, and has requested his immediate release in March 2014. A number of international human rights groups have also called for his release. We join them in calling for the immediate release of him and other journalists and bloggers who were incarcerated for simply exercising their right to freedom of expression. We call for an end to all such prosecutions and other forms of pressure on the independent press, and for Azerbaijan to honor its commitments to freedom of expression.
Let’s go to the second one. Our second case comes from Swaziland. Prominent journalist Bheki Makhubu and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko are currently serving two-year sentences for charges based on their criticisms – criticism of Swaziland’s judicial system. The charges arose from an article they wrote for Swaziland’s The Nation magazine. The article criticized the judiciary’s handling of another case and the lack of an independent judiciary. Both men were found guilty of contempt and sentenced to two years in prison. We continue to call for the immediate release of both individuals, who were arrested and remain imprisoned merely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We call on Swaziland as well to honor its international human rights commitments.
And then a quick update on what we’re doing in terms of the earthquake assistance. I know folks have asked about this, so I just wanted to do a little bit at the top. USAID is contributing an additional $2.5 million to the UN World Food Program to help the estimated 1.4 million people in Nepal that will require food assistance over the next three months. The funding will be used to purchase 1,390 metric tons of rice, which is expected to help 120,000 people for one month. Total U.S. humanitarian funding for the Nepal earthquake response now stands at $12.5 million. The Lukla Airport in the Everest region remained open today and commercial flights were transporting people back to Kathmandu. Two U.S. military service members have stayed there to provide medical care and ensure evacuation of trekkers from the region.
We can confirm that a U.S. embassy privately-contracted helicopter with both U.S. military service members and a consular officer on board rescued three U.S. citizens as well as 19 citizens from other countries from the Langtang region yesterday, I believe. We are also aware of reports of several groups of U.S. citizens who were rescued by the Nepali army from various remote locations in Nepal, and we are extremely grateful for the Government of Nepal’s efforts to rescue U.S. citizens. As you probably saw, President Obama spoke yesterday with the prime minister to convey the deep condolences of the American people, to discuss these ongoing efforts.
And finally, today, urban search and rescue teams with the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team pulled a 15-year-old boy out of the rubble in the north Kathmandu five days after the earthquake hit Nepal. The rescue operation took several hours. Thanks to early coordination with the Nepali officials, the teen was quickly transported to a field hospital for treatment.
MS HARF: Whoa.
QUESTION: Whoa. Hello?
MS HARF: Hello.
QUESTION: Hello, hello.
MS HARF: What you’ve always wanted.
QUESTION: An echo. Just what you’ve always wanted, right? (Laughter.) I come at you in stereo. (Laughter.)
MS HARF: Okay. This was a good briefing. I’m going to go ahead and leave. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I want to start with Iran.
MS HARF: See you all in 10 days when we’re back. Yes, go ahead.
MS HARF: Well, working days.
QUESTION: — but actually start with – and I apologize because I’ve been gone for three days and I – when you began this Free the Press thing – has Jason Rezaian been featured in this yet?
MS HARF: We’ve spoken – I mean, I’ve spoken about Jason, but I don’t think he’s been featured as part of the Free the Press campaign specifically.
QUESTION: Do you know if – is that planned? Or —
MS HARF: I don’t know who’s on tap for tomorrow —
MS HARF: — but every time I’m asked about Jason.
MS HARF: The President spoke about Jason at the Correspondents’ Dinner on Saturday.
QUESTION: I understand. I’m just curious —
MS HARF: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: — because I missed the last couple of briefings.
You will have seen – this is Iran but a different subject. You will have seen a report this morning, or overnight, that was remarkably similar to a report that came out in December —
MS HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: — by another news organization talking about a country on the UN sanctions – the Panel of Experts sanctions that found – that says that this one country thinks that Iran is actively involved still in procurement activities.
MS HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: What do you make of that? We’re not – you did not – this building or the Administration didn’t seem to be too impressed with the report in December in terms of what this might mean for the ongoing negotiations.
MS HARF: Right.
QUESTION: I’m wondering what you make of this report now.
MS HARF: Well, as we said back in December, people were sort of reporting it as breaking news that we think Iran is still undertaking problematic procurement activities. We have publicly designated entities for procurement for Iran even since the Joint Plan of Action was put into place. So this is in no way sort of something new, and it’s in no way breaking news, I don’t think. I understand sometimes people aren’t as familiar with what we’ve done. We have ongoing discussions with the UN. We’ve raised concerns. We’ve repeatedly spoken about these same concerns publicly. And we all know Iran has been in noncompliance with its Security Council obligations for a very long time.
The IAEA has confirmed they’ve adhered to everything they were supposed to do in the Joint Plan of Action, to the commitments there, but again, we have, because we remain concerned about their procurement, taken steps to designate entities for procurement in the recent past.
QUESTION: So – and I think that we went through this in December. Maybe it was with Jen; I don’t remember if it was with her or you. But does that mean, then, that the JPOA does not require Iran to fulfill all of its UN Security Council resolution obligations?
MS HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: Is that – that’s correct?
MS HARF: Everything that’s outlined in the Joint Plan of Action is their commitments. The Joint Plan of Action also talks about – and I’m not – I’m paraphrasing here, but how for a final agreement the UN Security Council resolutions need to be dealt with, and I’m not using the exact language here, but they are – they remain in compliance with all of their JPOA commitments.
QUESTION: When you say that they need to be dealt with, the UN Security Council – what does that mean? Does that mean they actually have to comply with what the UN —
MS HARF: Well, I mean, that’s an ongoing topic of negotiation about what that will actually look like. I would refer you to the language as exactly as it was in the Joint Plan of Action.
QUESTION: Okay, but that seems to leave open the door that a successful agreement with Iran – concluding an agreement with Iran and then implementing it in full, 100 percent – does not necessarily mean that they would have to comply with all of the previous UNSCR – the UN Security Council resolutions.
MS HARF: I want you to take a look at the Joint Plan of Action language because I don’t want to paraphrase it. It was very specifically written for a very specific reason, so I’m going to point you back there.
QUESTION: Okay. Also on Iran, I don’t know – maybe this was answered yesterday. Have you guys figured out exactly how you’re going to help – or not help, maybe, if your help isn’t needed – with this ship, this Marshall Islands ship? Has there been any more discussion with them about this?
MS HARF: We’re – there have been additional discussions with the Marshall Islands. We are working to see – with them to see how best we can be helpful. I don’t have much more update for you than that.
QUESTION: All right. And then my last one on Iran, and I understand that you were asked a question about social media yesterday involving yourself.
MS HARF: I was.
QUESTION: Given that you have vast experience in the social media realm, I’m wondering if you’re familiar with this exchange between Senator Cotton and Foreign Minister Zarif —
MS HARF: I heard —
QUESTION: — and if you might have any advice for either one of them given your vast experience in —
MS HARF: I don’t know, you have vast experience in it too. Do you have any advice for them?
To be fair, I didn’t actually look at it. I’m probably not going to weigh in on that.
QUESTION: Fair enough.
MS HARF: Yes, Michelle.
QUESTION: Question about these Guantanamo Bay former detainees that are – been encamped outside of the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay. Wondering if the U.S. has any sort of financial obligations to these men, having negotiated this agreement to resettle them into Uruguay.
MS HARF: We do not. As a general matter under the law of war, there is no obligation to provide direct compensation to individuals detained under the law of war for their detention.
QUESTION: But has the – I mean, they – the U.S. has provided some money in the past to countries that help resettle these people. Did —
MS HARF: To countries or to individuals? Because I think – were you asking about —
QUESTION: To countries.
MS HARF: — compensation to them, though, right?
QUESTION: Not compensation to them, but —
MS HARF: Isn’t that what you just asked, though?
QUESTION: No, but it costs – no, I asked about the financial obligations to – yes, to the – I asked to these men, but it was —
MS HARF: Oh, okay. Sorry. I just wanted to make sure it was —
QUESTION: It was helping to resettle these people, so countries do get some kind of help sometimes to resettle these people. Was that part of the deal with Uruguay at all?
MS HARF: Well, as I said, I was answering the question about compensation to them. I can check in and see what our diplomatic discussions are like with countries who agree to resettle detainees, which is a slightly different question, I think.
MS HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the Secretary’s meeting with the Syrian opposition leader?
MS HARF: Yes, I can. Just give me one second.
The Secretary of State met today with Khaled Khoja, president of the Syrian Opposition Coalition, to discuss the crisis in Syria, ways to increase assistance to Syrians struggling against the Assad regime and extremist groups, and the U.S.’s commitment to reaching a negotiated political solution to end the conflict. Secretary Kerry reaffirmed the United States’ strong commitment to helping bring about a political transition that is based on the Geneva communique and that leads to a representative government and a future of freedom, dignity, and security for all Syrians.
And the Secretary also emphasized the Bashar al-Assad long ago lost all legitimacy to lead Syria and cannot be part of its future. The Secretary underscored the Assad regime’s continued crimes and atrocities against the Syrian people, including the use of barrel bombs and chemical weapons have aided and abetted a magnet for extremism in Syria, as we’ve talked about. And the Secretary made clear that the Assad regime cannot be a partner against this terrorism that it cultivates and that, quite frankly, it fails to confront.
He expressed his gratitude to the SOC president for his leadership of Syria’s moderate political opposition and welcomed its announcement that it will participate in UN-led consultations in Geneva next month.
QUESTION: He asked for help to establish safety zones for – in areas that will be liberated. Will you consider this request?
MS HARF: Well, I don’t have more details to read out from the meeting than that.
QUESTION: That was my question as well.
MS HARF: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: I mean, would that be something that you would support?
MS HARF: I just don’t have more details on that. I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Was it raised? He said he was going to ask about —
MS HARF: I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: And can I just ask – there was a meeting in Tehran today between the Syrian defense minister and some Iranian leaders at which they agreed to intensify their efforts to fight terrorism in Syria. Do – what would be your reaction to that?
MS HARF: Well, I actually hadn’t seen the reports of that meeting. But as I just said, the Secretary made clear in his meeting today that the Assad regime can’t be a partner in fighting terrorism here. It’s cultivated terrorism. It fails to confront terrorism even if at times it makes a show of taking some steps. The terrorism in Syria has been able to flourish because of the Assad regime, so I think we’ve been clear where we stand on that.
I’ll go to you next.
QUESTION: And I understand that assistant secretary – or Envoy Rubinstein is going to be part of the talks in Geneva on Monday. Is that correct?
MS HARF: Correct, yes. That’s right.
QUESTION: What is it that the United States —
MS HARF: Yes, he will be.
QUESTION: Yeah. What is it that the United States is hoping will actually come out of these talks?
MS HARF: Well, of course, these are – this is a UN-led process, as we’ve talked about. And we need efforts – we support efforts to restart meaningful dialogue on a political track. So we are obviously working with the moderate Syrian opposition so they can participate sort of more effectively in a negotiation for this transition. This is something – we’ll see what comes out of them. This is just one meeting in the start of, I think, probably a very long process.
QUESTION: And as to the structure, just as sort of a logistical question, there are going to be separate talks between Envoy de Mistura and the opposition, and Envoy de Mistura perhaps and the regime, although I’m not sure that the regime has actually said that they’re going to go. At what point would Envoy Rubinstein actually be – Ambassador Rubinstein actually be involved?
MS HARF: It’s – yeah, it’s a good question. First, I think that the special envoy has emphasized these are consultations; they’re not negotiations. This isn’t Geneva III, just to be clear. And I think the – sort of the scope and the participation and how it will work is still being worked out. So I – we’re just not sure yet.
QUESTION: You don’t anticipate, though, that he could be involved if there were perhaps talks between de Mistura and regime representatives?
MS HARF: We’re just not sure. I just don’t want to guess because I don’t know.
MS HARF: Yes.
MS HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you could comment specifically on the suggestion in the Panel of Experts report that UN member states may have made a political decision not to report Iranian sanctions violations to avoid upsetting the talks.
MS HARF: Well, as I said, from the U.S. perspective, we have continued talking to the UN if we think there are violations. We’ve continued designating entities and individuals if we think they’re involved in illicit activities. So we certainly, on our side, have continued our designation and enforcement process of our sanctions and have encouraged other countries, certainly, to do the same.
QUESTION: But generally, the fact that this report’s coming out and it’s reporting violations, what does it say about the trustworthiness or otherwise of the Iranians if it comes to abiding by an agreement in the future?
MS HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. First, they’ve abided by the Joint Plan of Action. They’ve kept all their commitments under that. So I think that was a good test model for when there are clear, concise responsibilities, the Iranians have lived up to them. But we’ve always said a comprehensive agreement won’t be about trust. It will be about verification. It will be about transparency and monitoring and concrete steps Iran has to take, steps we and the world can see to ensure that they’re pushed to a year breakout and that they – the four pathways to a weapon are cut off. And that’s precisely the reason why we are insisting on such intrusive transparency and monitoring, because it’s not about trust. It’s about what we see and what eyes on we have of the program, and that’s obviously what we’ve been very focused on.
QUESTION: So – wait, wait. Just to follow up on that. Does that mean then, though, that you are accepting the premise of the question that there are ongoing violations?
MS HARF: I – well, what I – I did not accept the premise of the question.
MS HARF: He asked a question about trust. The sanction – this Panel of Experts report is confidential at the moment to the Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee.
QUESTION: Not so confidential anymore.
MS HARF: It’s slated for public release in its entirety in June, so I think —
MS HARF: It’s slated for public release in June. I said – so I’m not going to speak to the report. Broadly speaking, there is a reason we have continued to designate individuals and entities for procurement-related purposes. So we clearly believe that there are – there’s some people that – sanctions that continue to need to be enforced, right? I mean, we’ve publicly done that.
MS HARF: So I think that sort of speaks for itself.
QUESTION: Well, it speaks to the fact that Iran, even while it may be complying, or you say it’s complying with its JPOA agreements, continues —
MS HARF: It’s not us; it’s the IAEA that says it. It’s not us.
QUESTION: — continues to violate – fair enough – the IAEA says it. But they continue to violate UN Security Council resolutions, and that’s —
MS HARF: That there – well, that we have continued to enforce sanctions where we believe they need to enforced.
QUESTION: Right. And you have designated new entities —
MS HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — during the course of the ongoing talks, which —
MS HARF: That is correct. Very publicly designated them.
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Which means they aren’t complying with the Security Council, right?
MS HARF: There’s a reason you enforce sanctions, but what we’re focused on is a comprehensive agreement that meets all of our bottom lines. I mean, I think that’s what we’re working towards. And we’ve been very open about if we think there are – we’ve been very open about the need to continue enforcing sanctions. They’ve lived up to their JPOA commitments and we are trying to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that addresses all the issues it needs to address.
QUESTION: Okay. But – so it – but one – couldn’t one look at this as if you were playing – let’s use a gambling analogy – you’re playing two hands of blackjack, and on one hand you’re counting the cards and cheating, and on the other one, you’re playing by the rules. Doesn’t that —
MS HARF: Play that analogy out a little bit, Matt.
QUESTION: You get tossed from the casino —
MS HARF: But it’s not – it’s not —
QUESTION: — if you’re cheating on one hand and even if you’re playing by the rules on the other hand.
MS HARF: But they’re two separate things. The JPOA laid out very clear commitments Iran had to undertake and keep undertaking. They have done so. Their program is frozen.
QUESTION: Yeah, but on the other hand, they’re cheating —
MS HARF: They’re all —
QUESTION: — continuing to cheat on the (inaudible).
MS HARF: There are other – but look, the point of a comprehensive agreement is to address all of these issues.
QUESTION: Right, but —
MS HARF: And we’re not there yet and —
QUESTION: I understand that.
MS HARF: — we know we’re not there yet.
QUESTION: Right, but you acknowledged, or you said at the beginning, and when I first asked, that you’re not sure how, yet – you’re not sure yet how the UN Security Council resolution compliance will be addressed —
MS HARF: How specifically —
QUESTION: — in the final.
MS HARF: Right, specifically. And again, go back and look at the JPOA language for what we laid out as a standard for a comprehensive agreement on this issue specifically. I’m sorry I don’t have it in front of me.
QUESTION: I thought you had it burned into your memory.
MS HARF: I can’t – you used a different analogy when we had this exact same back and forth in December.
QUESTION: Well, I try to mix things up.
MS HARF: I know, I know. I’m trying to remember what it was now, but – oh, I think it was buying furniture but not actually putting it in your house. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah – no, it was an air —
MS HARF: I think that was —
QUESTION: It was an air conditioning system.
MS HARF: Or an air – right, okay.
QUESTION: Or leaving it outside and not installing it. But anyway —
MS HARF: That may have been it. It just came to me.
QUESTION: But you see – but you do see that there is a bit of a dilemma here if you’re playing two hands and cheating on one hand but not on the other. I mean, you’re going to get tossed anyway, even if you’re playing – they’re not just going to take that one set of cards away and say, “Sorry, you can’t play that.”
MS HARF: Well, international diplomacy is not a casino, Matt.
QUESTION: But it’s more like one than – (laughter) —
QUESTION: But if I – Foreign Minister —
MS HARF: But you see all the points I’m making, yes.
QUESTION: I understand what you’re saying. I’m just not sure that it’s reassuring. Anyway. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: In his speech yesterday —
MS HARF: I will continue to try and reassure you.
QUESTION: In his speech yesterday in New York, Foreign Minister Zarif actually accused the United States of breaking the JPOA precisely by designating more companies —
MS HARF: Well, the —
QUESTION: — and things like that. He said you weren’t playing by the rules.
MS HARF: Well, no, that – everyone has lived up to their obligations. We were very – we have been very clear with Iran, before we finalized the JPOA and during it, when we designate under existing sanctions – he’s right, the rules say no new nuclear-related sanctions, and there have been no nuclear-related sanctions. These are all existing, and he knows that.
QUESTION: More on Iran?
MS HARF: Sure.
QUESTION: So going back to the Maersk, Maersk called it a seizure today in their statement. I was wondering if it could be considered an act of piracy.
MS HARF: I don’t have any more definitions to put on it for you. We are seeing what we can do to help resolve the situation.
QUESTION: Why wouldn’t the $3.6 million be akin to ransom?
MS HARF: What are you referring to?
QUESTION: So the —
MS HARF: I don't know what that sum of money’s referring to.
QUESTION: Right. Iran is now seeking $3.6 million from Maersk for the – for a previous legal dispute, and I was wondering if —
MS HARF: I’m happy to look into that. I hadn’t heard that figure. We’re seeing what we can do to help resolve it.
QUESTION: I had one quick – one more on this as well, because I saw yesterday – but I wasn’t paying total attention because I was not here in town – was it correct that the Pentagon lawyers had determined that you were not legally obligated to help? Is that – was that wrong?
MS HARF: So – no, a little bit wrong. It’s a little complicated, but under the U.S.-Republic of the Marshall Islands Compact of Free Association, the United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense matters in or relating to the RMI, including matters relating to vessels flying their flag. So we’re talking to them about how best we can help and we’re trying to figure that out.
QUESTION: Okay. So you —
MS HARF: But the term is full —
QUESTION: Not responsibility, it’s authority?
MS HARF: — full authority and responsibility.
QUESTION: Oh. Well, then, aren’t you obligated to go do something?
MS HARF: We’re talking to them about how we can best help.
QUESTION: And do you know if it’s the – are you talking to the Marshallese or are you talking to the company involved?
MS HARF: Both, I believe.
QUESTION: Okay. And the company hasn’t said anything about this lawsuit or this claim that (inaudible)?
MS HARF: I haven’t – I honestly haven’t heard any more on that.
QUESTION: All right.
MS HARF: Anything else on Iran?
MS HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I’m just – there was a report yesterday about U.S. asking for the Iranian help with Yemen, and I was wondering if you can confirm that.
MS HARF: I think it was a little more nuanced than that. I think what it was referring to is Secretary Kerry met with Foreign Minister Zarif in New York, and he said in his press conference before their meeting that he expected they would talk about Yemen. And what I’ve said is he said privately what we’ve said publicly – that all sides in this need to get to a political, negotiated process, and that anyone who can help get them to that process, that would be a good thing. So the Iranians obviously have quite a bit of influence over the Houthi, and so obviously, anything the Iranians could do to bring the Houthi to the table would be helpful to getting where we need to be.
QUESTION: But you did not ask them specifically, I mean —
MS HARF: How is that different from what I just said?
QUESTION: No, I mean you said like it’s anyone who can help.
MS HARF: We’ve called on any —
MS HARF: I mean, we’ve called on anyone who can play a role in getting the parties on the ground – I mean, particularly when it comes to the Houthi given they’ve been the aggressor here, and obviously Iran has a lot of influence with the Houthi.
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: — were you asked about this at all? I’m just wondering if you guys —
MS HARF: I haven’t been, but I was up there for it so —
QUESTION: So was I.
MS HARF: I know. You were outside.
MS HARF: Taking photos.
QUESTION: Not allowed in. Did you guys read any —
MS HARF: Sorry we didn’t let you in the meeting. Yes, go ahead. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Did you guys read anything into the venue that they chose?
MS HARF: No. So basically, we switch off hosting locations, and last time we were at New York we hosted them at the Waldorf, where our perm rep lives and where we stay when we’re in town. And it was their turn.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean, they could have done it at the mission, they could have done it at a hotel, they could have – you didn’t see anything symbolic in the fact that they —
MS HARF: No, I did not. And I think the Secretary had been there as a senator as well but not as secretary.
MS HARF: India. Sure.
QUESTION: Two subjects. First is that – do you have anything from the Indian Government about canceling of 9,000 licenses of NGOs?
MS HARF: We know the reports that the Ministry of Home Affairs suspended the licenses of several thousand NGOs. I don’t know if we have a precise number. And we are seeking a clarification on this issue with the appropriate Indian authorities. I don’t have any response to that yet.
QUESTION: Earlier when Greenpeace and Ford Foundation happened, you had said that you are seeking clarification.
MS HARF: Right.
QUESTION: Have you received any clarification?
MS HARF: I’m not sure. Let me check.
QUESTION: Okay. And the second one is: Do you agree with the report that has come out of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom which says that since the BJP-led, Modi-led BJP came to power there has been – it goes on? Do you have – do you agree with it and do you have any assessment?
MS HARF: I’m happy – I hadn’t seen it. I’m happy to check with it. It’s – that’s an independent agency, as I think you know, but let me check. I haven’t seen it.
QUESTION: Different topic?
MS HARF: Yes, Elliot.
QUESTION: On Russia-Ukraine. I don’t know if you guys have had a chance to address this in previous briefings this week —
MS HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: — but earlier on, Russian authorities seized quite a bit of assets of President Poroshenko’s company in Russia, which has been protested as a politically motivated move to further destabilize Ukraine. I was wondering if you have any view on that.
MS HARF: I’m sorry, I actually hadn’t seen that. Let me take it and get back to you.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
QUESTION: Staying on the subject —
QUESTION: I just wondered if you had a reaction – and you may not have because this is just happening – on the statement —
MS HARF: I love when that happens.
QUESTION: Yes, I know. Joint four-way statement from France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine after a telephone call today in which they’ve agreed that ceasefire violations and the fighting must end, particularly in Mariupol, Donetsk, and various other areas. There seems to be some confusion because Ukraine presidency – Kyiv is saying that President – Russian President Putin has agreed to deploy a peacekeeping mission in parts of eastern Ukraine. And I just wondered if you’d heard about that.
MS HARF: I’m sorry, I hadn’t seen that. I’m happy to check. But as we have always said, the Minsk agreements remain the best opportunity to achieve peace in eastern Ukraine. We’ve called for a meeting of the trilateral working group in Minsk as soon as possible so that the working groups can begin their work as called for the in the February 12th Minsk implementation plan. And until this point we’ve seen a lot of lip service from the Russians about its Minsk commitments but not a lot of action. So I’ll take a look at that statement specifically, but in general, this is where we are.
QUESTION: And yesterday Secretary Kerry, when he met with High Representative Mogherini, he was talking about the need for decisions to be made as there are – as there’ll be decisions about whether to continue the sanctions against Russia. Was he particularly talking about the EU sanctions or the U.S. sanctions?
MS HARF: I think in general.
QUESTION: So is there a time limit on the U.S. sanctions?
MS HARF: I can check. I actually don’t know the answer to that question, if they need to be renewed or not. I will check.
QUESTION: Marie —
MS HARF: Wait. I said I was going to Andrei next.
QUESTION: Marie – yes. On Saturday a year ago, a modern act of Holocaust was committed. In Ukraine scores of people were burned alive in a public building in Odessa. And I want to come back to the specific event, but first I want to ask you about whether we know that everything has been done not to have it happen again, because the event at that point was timed to the May holidays which are still celebrated by, I would say, the majority of the population, at least the east of Ukraine. And now we are again on the eve of the May holidays. My first question is: Do you support – you said at the top you support the freedom of expression. That includes political protests, right?
MS HARF: Yes, but —
QUESTION: That —
MS HARF: — did you want me to comment on the specific incident, though?
QUESTION: Then – no. I just ask questions. Then the —
MS HARF: I know, but sometimes they appear unrelated to what you said right before it.
QUESTION: The protest – the peaceful protests include, if they are expressed by people like the communists, like – right?
MS HARF: In general. In general. I don’t know if you’re referring to something specific.
QUESTION: No, in general.
MS HARF: Okay, but in general, we support the right of people to freely and peacefully express themselves.
QUESTION: So have you impressed this upon your proteges in Kyiv that people have the right —
MS HARF: Upon our what in – what was the word you used?
QUESTION: Proteges. (Laughter.) The Government in Kyiv – that people have the right to protest, even the – even if the people are communist?
MS HARF: I think we tell that – we say that to any country around the world.
QUESTION: Can I —
QUESTION: Okay. And – no, no, no. I’m sorry – I’m —
MS HARF: I think we’re just getting started here.
QUESTION: Actually I would prefer an answer to that in a complete sentence that I could use as a quote, because we’ve said that throughout the world is not a good answer.
MS HARF: Well, again, we support the right of people to peacefully protest around the world.
QUESTION: Now, as to the events of a year ago in Odessa, are you satisfied that everything has been done to duly investigate the events and to find the people responsible?
MS HARF: So a couple points on that. We again extend our condolences to the people of Ukraine on the first anniversary of the tragic events in Odessa on May 2nd, when more than 40 people were killed. We reiterate the need for a thorough and transparent investigation so those responsible can ultimately be held accountable. We continue to urge the Ukrainian Government to investigate and bring charges against those culpable for the events in Odessa and to do so as quickly as possible.
I think it’s also important on this anniversary to not lose sight of the bigger picture in Ukraine and that the fact that Russia’s aggression has left more than 6,000 people dead and displaced at least one million more. So what happened in Odessa is a tragic event, we’ve expressed our condolences for that, but I think we need to put all of this in the context of what’s happening overall in Ukraine and that’s why implementation of Minsk is so important.
QUESTION: You sound, whether you want it or not, but you sound as if you are condoning the violence by saying it’s part of a bigger violence.
MS HARF: Not at all. I did not say that. I said, we have urged for a thorough and transparent investigation so those responsible can be held accountable. And that investigation, as I understand it, is ongoing. We’ve urged the Ukrainian Government to do this as quickly as possible. This was a tragic event, of course. We have been very clear about that.
QUESTION: Is there a deadline to ASAP?
MS HARF: I don’t know if there’s a deadline, but as I said, we want them to do this as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: They’ve basically announced that there is nothing to investigate, quite recently.
MS HARF: It’s my – I understand that the investigation is still ongoing.
QUESTION: Marie, but it has been, I mean, almost a year. Does that – is that speedy?
MS HARF: I think we’re encouraging them to —
QUESTION: Move —
MS HARF: — get this done as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Move quickly? And have you been – do you know, can you say if you have been assured by the Ukrainian Government that they —
MS HARF: I’m happy to check. I don’t know.
QUESTION: — that they are? It would be interesting to know what the latest on this is.
MS HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I realize you guys are off tonight, but maybe tomorrow as we approach the actual anniversary on Saturday.
MS HARF: Yes. We’re happy to check.
QUESTION: And share it with us, okay?
MS HARF: We will. And Jeff will be briefing.
QUESTION: A couple questions?
MS HARF: Yes, let’s go here and then you, and then I’m going to Pam.
MS HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: President of Kurdistan region is coming here this – next week. Do you have anything to share with us on that?
MS HARF: I do. I have a little bit on that for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS HARF: Give me a second. Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, will visit Washington next week. He will meet with Administration officials, including here at the State Department with Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken on Wednesday, to discuss a range of issues including the U.S.’s strong and continued support to Iraqi Kurdistan and the Kurdish people, the combined campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, and the status of ongoing political initiatives to address the needs of the Iraqi people, and to foster cooperation across all communities. President Obama will also join Vice President Biden in welcoming President Barzani to the White House.
And I think the delegation – he and his delegation arrive on Sunday for a week-long visit.
QUESTION: Is Secretary Kerry going —
MS HARF: Unfortunately, we’re going to be out of town. We leave tonight for a fairly lengthy trip. I know the Secretary would have liked to be here, and the Deputy Secretary will be meeting with him.
QUESTION: Okay. Just a couple more questions. I know you talked about this yesterday, I think. The House Armed Services Committee bill to —
MS HARF: I did, yes.
QUESTION: — to directly arm the Peshmerga and the Sunni Arab tribes. We’ve seen quite a bit of reaction from the – some communities in Iraq, including Muqtada al-Sadr’s group. Muqtada al-Sadr himself said if that bill becomes a law, if that’s passed, if the United States does that, we will target U.S. – we will strike U.S. targets, whatever we find. Would you find that as a threat, or how would you —
MS HARF: Well, let’s take a step – I know there’s been a lot of commentary about this in Iraq, but let’s just take a step back and – so I can reaffirm what our position is, independent of the commentary in Iraq. The position of this Administration has been clear and consistent in support of a unified Iraq. A unified Iraq is stronger; it’s important to the stability of the region as well. Our military assistance and equipment deliveries: our policy remains that all arms transfers must be coordinated via the sovereign central government of Iraq. We believe this policy is the most effective way to support the coalition’s efforts to combat ISIL and promote our policy of a unified, federal, pluralistic, and democratic state. And as I said yesterday, the current language in the draft NDAA bill in the House on this issue – and again, this is just a draft in the House; it’s at the very beginning of the process here – on this issue, as currently written, does not reflect Administration policy.
QUESTION: So you have problems to the way the bill is written?
MS HARF: And we look forward to – just talking about that piece of it; it’s a huge bill. This Administration looks forward to working with Congress on language that we can support on this important issue. But as I said, the policy of this Administration has been clear in support of a unified Iraq.
QUESTION: But why don’t you support that? I mean, they say it can go – like, only 25 percent will go to the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs. And that’s like their share as well.
MS HARF: Because we believe that a unified Iraq is a stronger Iraq —
QUESTION: But wouldn’t that —
MS HARF: — and it’s important to —
QUESTION: Why wouldn’t that keep Iraq united?
MS HARF: — the stability of the region.
QUESTION: Why wouldn’t that keep Iraq united?
MS HARF: Because we believe this language – first of all, two points.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the country (inaudible).
MS HARF: Our military assistance and equipment deliveries – our policy remains that the most effective way to support the coalition’s efforts to combat ISIL and to promote a policy of a unified, federal, pluralistic, and democratic Iraq is to on all equipment deliveries coordinate them via the sovereign central government. This is what we believe is the best policy.
QUESTION: Do you think that they have been distributing them the way – in the percentages that they should be?
MS HARF: I don’t have percentages for you. But we’ve certainly seen a level of coordination and cooperation we have never seen in the past and I know has been quite good.
QUESTION: So you don’t think that the —
MS HARF: I haven’t heard of issues.
QUESTION: Of issues in terms of the distribution from the central government to the tribes and to the Peshmerga?
MS HARF: Correct. Correct.
MS HARF: It is a process that takes a while, obviously, but I don’t have much —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) they’ve had a lot of issues, actually.
MS HARF: Well, I’m happy for you to assert that, but I’ve talked to our team about this, and we believe this is the best policy. I’m happy to check and see if there’s more for you. Yes.
MS HARF: Oh, wait. I’m actually going to go to Pam. I promised you were next.
MS HARF: She hasn’t had one yet, though. So she’s going to go first.
QUESTION: Going back to Russia-Ukraine for a minute.
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Former President Carter has had some comments coming out of the Elders meeting with President Putin. And one of the things he said was that Russia’s annexation of Crimea was inevitable because of its Soviet Russian roots and that it is what the people of Crimea wanted. He also said he did not think this would be undone anytime soon. First of all, what is your reaction?
MS HARF: Well, I hadn’t seen the comments. But as – from what you’ve said, first, I’m not going to get in the mind of President Putin about why he made decisions about what to do in terms of sending – in terms of Crimea – annexing part of Ukraine, part of another country. I’m just not going to get into the motivations that might have underlied that, certainly, and we have remained consistent that Crimea is a part of Ukraine. That’s why we’ve put sanctions on; that’s why we’ve kept the pressure on. Obviously, there are enormous challenges here.
QUESTION: And —
QUESTION: Well, you won’t get into the mind of President Putin; what about getting into the mind of President Carter?
MS HARF: I’m probably not going to do that, either.
QUESTION: I think he was the one that boycotted the Olympics because of the invasion of Afghanistan, right?
MS HARF: I’m probably not going to do that, either.
QUESTION: Wasn’t he the one that did that?
QUESTION: Carter also —
MS HARF: Probablywould be the right year. I’m – go ahead.
QUESTION: Carter also said that the Elders were pleased with Russia’s allegiance to the Minsk agreement and wanted to see all aspects of it concluded, which appears to differ with the overall U.S. position, which has been that Russia has been not abiding by all of the provisions of Minsk. What is your reaction to that assessment coming from Carter and the Elders?
MS HARF: Again, I hadn’t seen the specifics on that, but we know that Russia has continued to undermine the Minsk implementation plan and the Minsk agreements through ongoing support and resupply of the separatists. They can’t – Russia and the separatists can’t pick and choose which parts of Minsk they want to implement and want not to. They signed these agreements and they most honor them – all of them.
QUESTION: And what about the Kyiv government? Does it have to honor their agreements?
MS HARF: Yes, and Ukraine continues to —
QUESTION: All of them?
MS HARF: Yes, Ukraine continues to make progress in implementing its Minsk commitments. It is the Russians and the separatists they support who continue to engage in activities that undercut the agreements.
QUESTION: What are the examples of them following their agreements other than the separation of forces, which I think is broken by both sides probably there, but —
MS HARF: Well, I’m happy to get you a full list. But the problem here is Russia signed on to the Minsk agreements, and yet they continue to support and actively are a part of the separatists fighting in another country, and that hasn’t stopped.
QUESTION: Marie, can we just – on that point – and I don’t want to belabor this, but it is your position that the allegations made by Russia and its supporters in eastern Ukraine that the military exercises that are going on – the U.S. military exercises that are going on with the government, the Kyiv government —
MS HARF: The training.
QUESTION: The training, right. Would that —
MS HARF: That’s happening in western Ukraine, not eastern Ukraine.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you’re —
MS HARF: They said eastern Ukraine, though, which isn’t true. But —
QUESTION: Right. But you do not believe that is a violation of the Minsk agreement —
MS HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — that no foreign troops should be in Ukraine.
MS HARF: It is not. This has been training that’s been going on for 20 years.
QUESTION: Okay, but —
MS HARF: It is not a violation.
QUESTION: It’s just not covered by Minsk?
MS HARF: Correct. We are there at the invitation of the Ukrainians.
QUESTION: Right. You didn’t – and as you pointed out, you guys did not sign Minsk, but the Ukrainian Government did. So —
MS HARF: Right, the Ukrainian – right.
QUESTION: — you don’t – looking at this from the outside, you don’t see —
MS HARF: No.
QUESTION: — sending soldiers to Ukraine, even if it’s western Ukraine, to be a violation of the no foreign troops part of the —
MS HARF: It is not a violation, no.
QUESTION: Just a clarification from yesterday. That quote from Reuters – you said that Secretary Wendy will not use such words, “hold your horses.” Have you checked that – if she – the quote was right or not?
MS HARF: Oh, I didn’t check. Sorry.
MS HARF: I can. So the Secretary congratulated Mustafa Akinci on his election and wished him well as he assumes his role as leader of the Turkish Cypriot community. The Secretary reaffirmed U.S. support for the negotiation process conducted under the auspices of the UN and Special Advisor Eide to reunify the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. He also reiterated our willingness to assist the process in any way the parties find useful.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I ask you another question —
MS HARF: You can.
QUESTION: — but separate?
MS HARF: Yes.
MS HARF: Anything new? I mean, I’ve spoken about it frequently from the podium.
QUESTION: Yeah, but after the sentence and like – was there any new procedure? Anything? Have you —
MS HARF: Well, we’ve continued to call for his release. Embassy officials have remained in contact with Mr. Soltan. We’ll continue to provide all assistance. We have and will continue to raise the case with the Egyptian Government.
MS HARF: Okay, you’re next.
QUESTION: I realize you didn’t want to – you said you wouldn’t dignify this tweet from the mayor of Ankara with a comment. But do you know if there’s been any kind of – I mean, he’s a mayor; he doesn’t really have anything to do with foreign policy. But still, do you know if there’s been any contact with the – by the American Government with the Turks about this? Because he is a close ally of the president.
MS HARF: I believe the ambassador may have spoken with – I don’t have all the details – and Assistant Secretary Nuland may have as well – not with him; I think with Turkish officials. I’m not sure exactly who, though.
QUESTION: Okay. Could – is it possible to get more?
MS HARF: I can check, yes.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Marie —
QUESTION: Have you seen —
MS HARF: Wait, wait, wait. Yeah, I promised you’re —
QUESTION: And it’s on the tweet.
MS HARF: It’s on the tweet? Okay.
QUESTION: Have you seen the – you haven’t seen the tweet, because it had a picture of Psaki and comment about you. Did you check that? (Laughter.)
MS HARF: I think it actually had a picture of me.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MS HARF: Believe me, I’ve now seen it.
QUESTION: So you have seen it?
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I have one on East Asia.
MS HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: South Korean and Chinese media have been very critical of Prime Minister Abe’s speech or address to Congress that he gave yesterday because they feel that he didn’t adequately address some of the historical issues that those two countries have objections to. I know that in the past some such as Secretary Russel – Assistant Secretary Russel – has urged for Japan and its neighbors to resolve some of the historical issues that affects the relationship between those countries. Are you satisfied that Prime Minister Abe adequately addressed some of those historical issues?
MS HARF: Well, we certainly take note of Prime Minister Abe’s expressions of deep remorse over the war and his reference to Japanese actions that brought suffering to people in Asian countries. We also note his point that he will uphold the views expressed by previous prime ministers in regard to the past, and at the April 28th White House press conference he reaffirmed the Abe cabinet upholds the Kono Statement and has no intention to revise it. So obviously, that was something we also took note of.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS HARF: Yes, Laura.
MS HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: I don’t know if you’ve seen the report that came out late last night from the Washington Institute for Science and International Security about North Korea’s nuclear reactor at Yongbyon, which suggested that because of the snow melt on it that it could actually have started some kind of low-grade activity.
MS HARF: Well, we’ve certainly seen the report from ISIS, unfortunately named now.
MS HARF: We don’t have a comment on the operational status of the facilities at Yongbyon. We don’t tend to comment on those kinds of intelligence matters. But I would remind people that in the – excuse me – in the DNI’s January 2014 report to Congress, the U.S. assessed that the DPRK has expanded the size of its Yongbyon enrichment facility and restarted the reactor that was previously used for plutonium production. So this was in the DNI’s 2014 report to Congress. And so I’d sort of point you there but don’t have much more for you than that.
QUESTION: So you’re not willing to confirm whether this is new activity?
MS HARF: I’m just not going to get into that.
QUESTION: Okay. And can I just stay with North Korea as well? There was an instant today up at the United Nations during the human rights – during a human rights debate in which the North Korean diplomats walked out to protest some testimonies that were given by North Korean defectors. I believe at one point Ambassador Power actually told UN staff to turn off the North Korean diplomat’s microphone because he or she was trying to talk over the top of it.
MS HARF: Oh, I didn’t —
QUESTION: Is that correct?
MS HARF: I don’t know. I’m sorry, I’ll check.
QUESTION: Do you know anything about the protest by the North Koreans?
MS HARF: I did not see that. I really didn’t.
QUESTION: Could you check?
MS HARF: I will.
QUESTION: I was a little surprised that – I mean, does Ambassador Power have the authority to order UN staff to turn off microphones of other diplomats?
MS HARF: I will check for you. I will check for you.
QUESTION: Isn’t this a question best directed to USUN?
MS HARF: I —
QUESTION: Is it?
QUESTION: Marie —
MS HARF: I mean yes, I would check in with USUN. I’m also happy to check. Let’s go to Laura.
QUESTION: Can I jump back to Japan?
QUESTION: I wanted to go back to what you had said at the top about Nepal and this rescue operation that U.S. forces were involved in. Can you say whether the State Department or the embassy in Nepal had anything to do with locating these Americans?
MS HARF: I’m not sure. I’m guessing – I mean, we’ve asked people to reach out to us.
QUESTION: Okay, because (inaudible) coordination.
MS HARF: I don’t know.
MS HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: And then I have a separate topic, but if —
MS HARF: No, go ahead. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Burundi, I wondered if you had anything more on Assistant Secretary Malinowski’s visits and whether you could confirm that there were protests today outside the U.S. embassy and who was involved in that.
MS HARF: So on the protests, we are aware of reports that individuals have gathered outside the embassy. I think it was approximately 200 individuals peacefully. There wasn’t – from the folks that we talked to on the ground – a protest. They were assembled peacefully. The embassy is currently closed and will be closed for the May 1st holiday tomorrow as well.
And in terms of Assistant Secretary Malinowski, I do have something on that, I think, hopefully. Yes. He met with the president of Burundi and reiterated that the Arusha agreement laid out a path to peace from Burundi’s civil war and the accord should be respected. Assistant Secretary Malinowski also met with civil society, political opposition, journalists, activists in the international community. He noted that all those responsible for violence will face consequences, urged all sides to reject violence, and stressed the importance of ensuring space for peaceful protests, assembly, expression, sort of all of the things we’ve talked about, and also noted that there is still time for Burundi to pull back from violence, and we call on all sides to reject it.
QUESTION: How long was the meeting with the president?
MS HARF: I don’t have that in front of me. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: And are you able to tell us what the president’s response was?
MS HARF: I think I’d leave it to them to characterize that.
QUESTION: Yeah, sorry, I was just hoping to home in on the —
MS HARF: Okay.
MS HARF: I don’t think I have much more than I’ve already said on this.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t think it’s an unfair question because —
MS HARF: I just don’t have much more for you than I’ve already said.
MS HARF: Yes.
MS HARF: Yes, it is being finalized. Hopefully it will be – it’s probably not breaking news to anyone that sometimes government reports take a few days longer than they’re supposed to. It’s certainly not breaking news to me. It’s being right now finalized for sort of readability, accuracy, final review, and we anticipate it – the release in May. So as soon as we can get it out.
QUESTION: And would you say that the new relationship with Cuba could possibly be delaying this?
MS HARF: It is in no way – the delay is in no way related to Cuba. It has nothing to do with Cuba.
QUESTION: Well, what about the human rights reports?
MS HARF: That’s a schedule – I think as you see, Assistant Secretary Malinowski is out of town. The Secretary is about to leave on a trip. That is really a scheduling issue.
QUESTION: So when he’s back?
MS HARF: As soon as we can, yeah, when they’re both back.
QUESTION: So it’s done. It’s just a question of when to —
MS HARF: It’s – oh, yeah, yeah. That’s my understanding that it’s finalized. But we’re determining when to announce it. That is my understanding. Yes.
QUESTION: Also —
MS HARF: Yeah, go ahead, go ahead.
MS HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Are you capable to characterize the specific contents of those documents or characterize the majority of them?
MS HARF: Yep. So I can confirm that earlier this month the State Department produced to the Select Committee approximately 4,000 pages of documents that were archived at the conclusion of the ARB, the Accountability Review Board. The department believes that the confidentiality of the ARB process is very important to the ARB’s ability to do its work. I’m not going to characterize the contents of the documents that were provided, except to say that they don’t change the essential facts that have been known since the Accountability Review Board report came out that was based on all of these conversations over two years ago. We’ve been cooperating with the committee on this since it was formed a year ago, providing information to the committee in the order it was requested. They prioritized these documents in late January using a subpoena, and we worked to produce them as quickly as possible. Again, it’s about 4,000 pages.
QUESTION: Does that mean that these pages are all that the ARB used to compile its final report, or there’s still other documents out there?
MS HARF: These are the documents that were archived at the conclusion of the ARB. I don’t have anything else for you than that.
QUESTION: So in other words, this is all their interviews and all their – all the stuff that they compiled to produce their own report.
MS HARF: It was —
QUESTION: This is the raw stuff that they used —
MS HARF: It was the documents related to part of the ARB process that were subject to the subpoena. They – it was a subpoena that they gave us in late January.
QUESTION: I understand. But this is all of what they compiled to produce their report?
MS HARF: I mean, I don’t know if it’s – if any pages were – if there was any reason to withhold any – I just don’t know. It’s my understanding this is everything – everything that was responsive to the subpoena.
QUESTION: Did the department believe that this was necessary, considering that the committee had the actual, finished product?
MS HARF: Right. Well —
QUESTION: I mean, it sounds as though the select committee doesn’t believe the ARB and wants to go back and check its work.
MS HARF: Well, a couple points on this. This specific request is unprecedented. To our knowledge, in the history of the State Department, Congress has never subpoenaed the working files or testimony from an independent ARB. In an effort to be transparent, Secretary Clinton provided the findings to Congress. That also doesn’t happen that often. This is only the second time in the history of the – of ARBs – there have been 18, actually, ARBs – that the State Department has made an ARB report public. So in the interest of transparency, we made the report public for only the second time in history. The other public report was the report on Nairobi, Kenya, and Darussalam, Tanzania.
QUESTION: So if this unprecedented to turn over the working documents that the ARB used to compile its final report, why did you agree to turn it over?
MS HARF: Well, as I said, we told the Committee we were willing to work with them on their request. They sent a subpoena in late January. And we had made clear our concerns to them about the chilling impact this disclosure could have on the work of future ARBs and their ability to help us with the confidentiality. ARB interviews are done based on confidentiality. I think Admiral Mullen spoke about this. But we are working to be as cooperative as possible, and that’s why went to great lengths and produced approximately 4,000 pages of documents to them.
QUESTION: The whole ARB system was set up by Congress; is that not correct?
MS HARF: That’s my under – and it’s an independent process, as you know.
QUESTION: Right. Well, why – has it occurred to anyone that maybe there shouldn’t be an ARB process anymore? Maybe Congress should just take on the whole idea of they should form a select committee every time there’s something that – have you suggested – I don’t know. I’m just wondering.
MS HARF: I’ve not heard anyone suggest that.
QUESTION: If they don’t – because it appears as though they don’t trust the findings of the ARB, which is – I don’t know if that’s reasonable or not, but —
MS HARF: I mean, I’ll let the select committee – and I think there had been —
MS HARF: — previous committees that had asked for these as well. I’ll let the select committee speak to their – why they – why this was something they prioritized with a subpoena. But in an effort to be transparent, we released it publicly, and now we have sent them approximately 4,000 pages.
QUESTION: Can I ask you something that’s tangential to this? And that has to with a question that I asked last week —
MS HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: — on Friday, before I was gone, about the Clinton Foundation, and whether or not – have you address this in the – on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday?
MS HARF: A little bit. But what —
QUESTION: Well, there’s another report today. I mean, they keep coming and coming and coming, all these reports. And this one, today’s, has to do with this health access initiative.
MS HARF: Right.
QUESTION: And I’m just wondering: Does – these reports raise questions. They don’t answer, necessarily, the questions about whether there was any conflict of interest or – but does the department believe that there is a problem here and that these revelations have created the appearance, at least, of a potential conflict of interest or plural conflicts of interest —
MS HARF: Right.
QUESTION: — that should be looked into?
MS HARF: Well, a couple points, and it’s a very good question, Matt. First, as I’ve said many times, I think, last week, she undertook these responsibilities voluntarily that went above and beyond sort of her – the normal responsibility she would have had in assuming this position. So she went above and beyond what her typical responsibilities would have been. These were voluntary.
We have said that we reviewed what was submitted to us, whether it was speeches. Obviously, we’ve said that we reviewed everything that was submitted. We have also said that if there were things that should have been submitted that weren’t, obviously we would have wished they would have been. But I also haven’t seen any evidence and I haven’t talked to anyone who’s seen any evidence of any link between actions taken by Secretary Clinton and donations to the Clinton Foundation or speech honorariums of the former president, which are the two things that fall under the MOU she signed.
So I know there’s a lot of reports coming out. We have a lot of – questions about them, I’m sure, are going to continue coming up. But I think that’s sort of where we are on this issue.
QUESTION: But doesn’t the department think that it is problematic that these oversights or omissions were made in the first place?
MS HARF: Well —
QUESTION: And have you asked for an explanation?
MS HARF: A couple – I don’t know the answer to the second question. But to your first question I wouldn’t automatically assume that – I don’t think we – anyone should assume that it was. As I said, if there were things that should have been submitted that weren’t, we obviously would have appreciated the opportunity to review them per the MOU. And – but I am also not going to recreate history and sort of recreate the facts at the time about how a review would have played out if they had been. So I don’t want to automatically assume that it would be problematic —
QUESTION: No —
MS HARF: — or that is was problematic.
QUESTION: No, the question isn’t whether the actual specific donations were problematic, because you don’t know because they were never submitted to you for approval or disapproval.
MS HARF: And I don’t think you should —
QUESTION: I’m not —
MS HARF: — not you, but people, should assume —
QUESTION: Look, I’m not assuming anything, but —
MS HARF: — that’s why they weren’t submitted.
QUESTION: Isn’t that in itself, the fact that this happened, problematic? Or maybe it’s not. I don’t know.
MS HARF: I just don’t – I don’t have much more for you on this. I know there’s a lot of reports coming out. I’m sure we’ll be talking about this much more in the coming days and weeks.
QUESTION: And the other thing, you say that this was a voluntary – this was undertaken voluntarily —
MS HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — but I mean, I’m – it was taken – undertaken voluntarily only because she wanted the job and she might not have gotten confirmed by the Senate had it not – that’s not really voluntary, is it?
MS HARF: I am happy for you to talk to her, to —
QUESTION: Okay. But I just —
MS HARF: — other folks on that about why she undertook this step.
QUESTION: Can you find – I mean has the State Department, to which these things were supposed to be reported – and maybe they weren’t supposed to be reported. I don’t know. Because my understanding was that some – that it only applied to, at least in terms of the foundation, to government – foreign governments giving money, and that individuals —
MS HARF: Any new donations or substantial increases to —
QUESTION: Right. And that – but —
MS HARF: — so not – nothing ongoing. So I think —
QUESTION: But that —
MS HARF: Yep, go ahead.
QUESTION: — individual donations and donations from charitable organizations were not required to be reported, so —
MS HARF: I think there’s been some question about what was supposed to and what wasn’t, and so our – I’m trying to get a little more for you on that because I understand the importance of the questions and I don’t want to misspeak here. So in general, that’s why I sort of said where our thinking is on this, and if we have more to share, I’m happy to do so.
QUESTION: Okay. But I’m – but mainly what I want – what I’m trying to find out is whether or not the actual donations were problematic or not, isn’t the fact that they weren’t disclosed problematic? You say that you would have liked to have, you would have appreciated it, you would have —
MS HARF: Right.
QUESTION: — welcomed it had it happened, but it didn’t happen.
MS HARF: Right.
QUESTION: So is that a problem for the department, and are you asking for some kind of an explanation?
MS HARF: I just don’t have much more for you on this today.
In the back, yes.
QUESTION: Thank you. Two questions related to a joint U.S.-Honduran anti-drug operation from 2012 – May 2012. There is a joint State Department and Department of Justice investigation into that incident; it’s almost a year old.
MS HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the status of the investigation and when we might expect —
MS HARF: I’m not familiar with the incident or the investigation. I’m happy to check with our team.
QUESTION: Okay. And one other question related to that.
MS HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: In – pardon me – a memo that came to light related to the case of a whistle-blower, former State Department – pardon me, let me start that one again. A memo that came to light related to the case of a whistle-blower in the Department of the – Office of Inspector General —
MS HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: — indicated that Under Secretary William Brownfield was not forthcoming when asked about the incident in Honduras, and that he believed the State Department should not pursue an investigation. Can you tell me more about that answer?
MS HARF: I am not familiar with the incident or the investigation, so I probably can’t go much further but I’m happy to check.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MS HARF: Okay, anything else?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS HARF: I will see you all in —
QUESTION: Next month.
MS HARF: Next month, yes. Next month.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:55 p.m.)
DPB # 74
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Statement from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the House of Representatives’ NASA authorization bill
Particulate matter (PM) associated metals contribute to the adverse cardiopulmonary effects following exposure to air pollution. Here, we investigated how variation in the composition and size of ambient PM collected from two distinct regions in Mexico City relates to toxicity differences. Male Wistar Kyote rats (14 wk) were intratracheally instilled with chemically characterized PM10 and PM2.5 from the North and PM10 from the South of Mexico City (3 mg/kg). Both water-soluble and acid-leachable fractions contained several metals with levels generally higher in PM10 South. The insoluble and total, but not soluble, fractions of all PM induced pulmonary damage that was indicated by significant increases in neutrophilic inflammation, and several lung injury biomarkers including total protein, albumin, lactate dehydrogenase activity, and γ-glutamyl transferase activity 24 and 72 h post-exposure. PM10 North and PM2.5 North also significantly decreased levels of the antioxidant ascorbic acid. Increases in lung mRNA biomarkers of inflammation (TNF-α and MIP-2), oxidative stress (HO-1, LOX-1, and iNOS), and thrombosis (TF and PAI-1), as well as decreased levels of the fibrinolytic protein tPA, further demonstrated pulmonary injury following Mexico City PM exposure. These responses were more pronounced after exposure to PM10 South (PM10 South>PM10 North>PM2.5 North), which contained higher levels of redox active transition metals that may have contributed to these specific differences in selected lung gene markers. These findings provide evidence that the surface chemistry of the PM core and not the water-soluble fraction played an important role in governing in vivo pulmonary toxicity responses of Mexico City PM.
Washington, DC—NEA Chairman Jane Chu will visit Salt Lake City, Utah, on Thursday, May 7, 2015. In addition to giving a keynote address at the Mountain West Arts Conference, Chairman Chu will visit three NEA grantees: University of Utah’s Tanner Dance, Art Access, and the Utah Arts…
Inhalation is one of the most important routes of exposure for chemical warfare agents (CWAs) and thus, the lung remains a critical target of injury. Depending on the mode of action by which the CWAs cause injury, the nature of injury, the location being impacted within the respiratory tract, and the temporality of injury can vary. Nerve agents can impact the nervous system and neurons within respiratory tract but the respiratory effects are manifested secondary to neuronal and cardiovascular impairment. Blistering agents can injure upper respiratory tract upon contact. Pulmonary agents such as arsine can have a variety of effects depending on the encountered dose, while chlorine will injure upper respiratory tract and phosgene will cause deep lung edema. The respiratory failure is often a cause of mortality with a variety of CWAs and thus, the understanding of respiratory toxicity becomes an essential aspect for therapeutic interventions. We discuss biochemical and pathological effects of CWAs on the respiratory tract.
NASA has selected research and technology proposals from 254 small businesses and 39 research institutions in the United States for grants to develop new technologies that will further NASA’s journey to Mars.
A NASA planetary exploration mission came to a planned, but nonetheless dramatic, end Thursday when it slammed into Mercury’s surface at about 8,750 mph and created a new crater on the planet’s surface.
In former mine workers of Libby, Montana, exposure to amphibole-containing vermiculite has been linked to increased rates of asbestosis, lung cancer, and mesothelioma. Although many studies have shown adverse effects of Libby Amphibole (LA) exposure, little is known regarding the relative toxicity compared to regulated asbestos, or the risks associated with acute high dose exposures relative to repeated low dose exposures. In this study, pulmonary function, inflammation and pathology were assessed after single or multiple intratracheal (IT) exposures of LA or a well-characterized amosite (AM) control fiber with equivalent fiber characteristics. Male F344 rats were exposed to an equivalent total mass dose (0.15, 0.5, 1.5, or 5.0 mg/rat) of LA or AM administered either as a single IT instillation, or as multiple ITs given every other week over a 13 week period, and necropsied up to 20 months after the initial IT. In both studies, LA resulted in slightly greater acute neutrophilic inflammation and cellular toxicity than equal doses of AM, but the long-term histopathological changes were approximately equivalent between fibers, suggesting that LA is at least as toxic as AM. Conversely, an equal mass dose given over multiple exposures instead of a single bolus resulted in greater chronic pathological changes in the lung despite the initially weaker acute inflammatory response. Although no dose-response relationship could be discerned, mesothelioma and lung carcinoma were found after exposure to low and high dose levels of LA or AM. Overall, these results suggest that there is a possibility of greater long-term pathological changes with repeated lower LA dose exposures, which more accurately models chronic environmental exposures.
SpaceX now is targeting Wednesday, May 6, for a pad abort test of its Crew Dragon, a spacecraft under final development and certification through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). The test window will open at 7 a.m. EDT.
Agencies issue final rule on minimum requirements for appraisal management companies
Background: Previous studies provided compelling evidences for particulate matter (PM) associated cardiovascular health effects. Elderly individuals, particularly those with preexisting conditions like hypertension are regarded to be vulnerable. Experimental data are warranted to reveal the molecular pathomechanism of PM related cardiovascular impairments among aged/predisposed individuals. Thus we investigated the cardiovascular effects of ultrafine carbon particles (UfCP) on aged (12-13 months) spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) and compared the findings to our pervious study on adult SHRs (6-7 months) to identify age related predisposition events.Methods: Aged SHRs were inhalation exposed to UfCP for 24h (~180µg/m3) followed by radio-telemetric assessment for blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR). Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid cell differentials, interleukin 6 (IL-6) and other proinflammatory cytokines; serum C-reactive protein (CRP) and haptoglobin (HPT); and plasma fibrinogen were measured for assessing pulmonary and systemic inflammation. Transcript levels of hemeoxygenase 1 (HO-1), endothelin 1 (ET1), endothelin receptors A,B (ETA, ETB), tissue factor (TF), plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) were measured in the lung and heart to assess oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction and coagulation cascade. Result: UfCP exposed aged SHRs exhibited increased BP (4.4%) and HR (6.3%) on 1st recovery day paralleled by a 58% increase of neutrophils and 25% increase of IL-6 in the BAL fluid. Simultaneously higher CRP, HPT and fibrinogen levels in exposed SHRs indicate systemic inflammation. HO-1, ET1, ET-A, ET-B, TF and PAI-1 were induced by 1.5-2.0 fold in lungs of aged SHRs on 1st recovery day. However, in UfCP exposed adult SHRs these markers were up-regulated (2.5-6 fold) on 3rd recovery day in lung without detectable pulmonary/systemic inflammation.Conclusions: The UfCP induced pulmonary and systemic inflammation in aged SHRs is associated with oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction and disturbed coagulatory hemostasis. UfCP exposure increased BP and HR in both, adult and aged SHRs rats but the inflammatory response associated with the disturbed coagulatory hemostasis was detected only in aged SHRs. Our study provides further evidence for potential molecular mechanisms explaining the increased risk of particle mediated cardiac health effects in the elderly.
Peatlands in south central Alaska form the predominant wetland class in the lowlands that encompass Cook Inlet. These peatlands are also in areas of increasing human development in Alaska. Currently Alaska peatlands are extensive and largely pristine. This study focused onobtaining measures of functional aspects of these peatlands to help environmental managers and wetland scientists better understand processes and ecoservices that peatlands in this landscape provide. Measures of peatland processes will help determine expectations for wetlands of this area. Six tasks and their results included Task 1 which found the regional Cook Inlet Wetland Classification (CIC) to accurately classify peatlands into several subtypes by primarily ecohydrologic functional characteristics and the CIC did so relatively better than two other classification systems. Task 2 used piezometer wells to collect porewater for chemical characterization to help determine discharge/recharge function and interestingly revealed that peatlands on the Kenai Peninsula function hydrologically as bogs but are structurallycharacterized by plants and water chemistry as fens. Task 3 measured potential enzyme activities to describe constraints on nutrient acquisition and organic C decomposition for the first time in Alaska peatlands and revealed that enzymatic stoichiometry was useful for determiningmicrobial P and N limitation and phenol oxidase was especially helpful in prediction of P and N acquisition in relationship to organic C decomposition. Task 4 used an end-member mixing model and water budget on a small watershed with anadromous fish support and found thecontribution of peatland waters to summer baseflow was significant. Task 5 was an examination of historical and current aerial photographs over 45 years and found bogs in the area were neither expanding nor contracting. Task 6 measured dissolved arsenic levels in 260 porewater samples and found 30% or 8 of 27 different peatlands exceed the current drinking water standard of 10ìgAs/L. These tasks bring a better conceptual understanding using quantitative and objective measures of ecosystem processes within peatlands and among peatlands in the watersheds where they occur. For the area of south central Alaska, management of wetlands shall be helped knowing there is a meaningful classification of the peatlands for this area and a variety of ecological functions that can be examined and measured to support decision making about stressor effects on the peatlands, their ecoservices and how to continue to ensure the peatlands are sustainable.
Featured Story: The Last Days in Saigon
This study examines the characteristics of new particle formation at a forest site in the Southeast U.S. Particle size distributions above a Loblolly pine plantation were measured between November, 2005 and September, 2007 and analyzed by event type and frequency as well as relation to meteorological and atmospheric chemical conditions. Nucleation events occurred on 79% of classifiable observation days. Nucleation frequency was highest in spring and lowest in fall. The highest daily nucleation (class A and B events) frequency (81%) was observed in April. The average total particle number concentration on nucleation days was 8684 cm-3 (10 <Dp< 250 nm) and 3991 cm-3 (10 <Dp< 25 nm) with a mode diameter of 28 nm with corresponding values on non-nucleation days of 2143 cm-3, 655 cm-3, and 44.5 nm, respectively. The annual average growth rate during nucleation events was 2.74±0.31 nm hr-1. Higher growth rates were observed during summer months with highest rates observed in May (5.01 ± 3.6 nm hr-1). Winter months were associated with lower growth rates, the lowest occurring in February (1.18 ± 2.2 nm hr-1). Consistent with other studies, nucleation events were more likely to occur on days with higher radiative flux and lower relative humidity compared to non-nucleation days. The daily minimum in the condensation sink, which typically occurred 2 to 3 hours after sunrise, was a good indicator of the timing of nucleation onset. The intensity of the event, indicated by the total particle number concentration, was well correlated with photosynthetically active radiation, used here as a surrogate for total global radiation, and relative humidity. Relationships with chemical precursors and secondary aerosol products associated with nucleation, coupled with diurnal boundary layer dynamics and seasonal meteorological patterns, suggest that H2SO4 and biogenic VOC play a role in nucleation at this site.
The Sunset Laboratory Dual-Optical Carbonaceous Analyzer that simultaneously measures transmission and reflectance signals is widely used in thermal-optical analysis of particulate matter samples. Most often this instrument is used to measure total carbon (TC), organic carbon (OC), and elemental carbon (EC) fractions, but the analyzer can also measure the thermal sub-fractions of OC and EC for source identification purposes. Although temperature precision in that analysis is highly desirable, a limited number of studies showed that the “real” sample (filter) temperature and the temperature measured by the built-in oven thermocouple (or setpoint temperature) can differ by 10 to 50 ˚C. That temperature disagreement might substantially affect the OC/EC split as well as the OC and EC concentrations. This study systematically examined the new temperature calibration procedure developed by the Sunset Laboratory under NIOSH 5040 and IMPROVE temperature operating conditions. This simple new temperature calibration procedure significantly reduced the temperature differences between the setpoint temperatures and the sample (filter) temperatures, thus providing more confidence in the results. The new temperature calibration procedure significantly changed all NIOSH 5040 carbon fractions (TC, OC, and EC) but did not have a significant influence on the IMPROVE carbon fractions. Almost all NIOSH 5040 and IMPROVE carbon sub-fractions were statistically different after the application of the new temperature calibration procedure. The new calibration procedure increased the already existing disagreement between two the two most widely used thermal-optical protocols.
Open burning tests of municipal waste from two developing nations, Mexico and China, showed composition-related differences in emissions of polychlorinated dibenzodioxin and dibenzofuran (PCDD/PCDF). 26 burn tests were conducted, comparing results from two laboratory combustion facilities. Waste was shredded to isolate composition-specific effects from those due to random waste orientation. Emissions ranged from 5 to 780 ng toxic equivalency/kg carbon burned (ng TEQ (kg Cb)-1) with an average of 140 ng TEQ (kg Cb)-1 (stdev = 170). The waste from Mexico (17 ng TEQ (kg Cb)-1) had a statistically lower average emission factor than that from China (240 ng TEQ (kg Cb)-1. This difference was attributed primarily to waste composition differences, although one time-integrated combustion quality measure, ΔCO/ΔCO2, showed statistical significance between laboratories. However, by far, waste composition differences were more determinant than which laboratory conducted the tests, illustrated using both statistical techniques and comparison of cross-over samples (wastes tested at both facilities). Comparison of emissions from combustion of waste from developed nations, Sweden and the U.S.A, showed emission factors within the range of those determined for Mexico and China waste. This suggests that for laboratory-scale combustion, historical emissions data and methodologies from developed nations are generally applicable to developing nations.
Certain perfluorinated chemicals in consumer products have been associated with developmental toxicity and other adverse health effects. Temporal trends in the concentrations of selected perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and other perfluorocarboxylic acids (PFCAs), in 35 articles of commerce (AOCs) were measured from the year of 2007 through 2011. The article of commerce (AOC) samples that were collected included carpet, commercial carpet-care liquids, household carpet / fabric-care liquids, treated apparel, treated home textiles, treated non-woven medical garments, floor waxes, food-contact paper, membranes for apparel, and thread-sealant tapes. They were purchased from retail outlets in the United States between March 2007 and September 2011. The perfluorocarboxylic acid (PFCA) contents in AOCs have shown an overall downward trend. However, PFOA (C8) could still be detected in many AOCs that we monitored. Reductions of PFCAs were shown in both short-chain PFCAs (sum of C4 to C7) and long-chain PFCAs (sum of C8 to C12) over the monitored period. But there is no significant difference of changes observed between short-chain PFCAs and long-chain PFCAs. Fourteen AOC samples were analyzed to determine the amounts of perfluoroalkyl sulfonates (PFAS) they contained. These limited data show the pronounced increase of perfluoro-butane sulfonate (PFBS), an alternative to perfluorooctanoic sulfonate (PFOS), in the samples. A longer and wider range of monitoring will be required to confirm an observed trend.
“I am pleased that President Obama has announced today his intent to nominate Gayle Smith as USAID Administrator. I know our entire USAID family will welcome Gayle to lead our Agency at this time of unprecedented need around the globe.