The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.
1:29 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I just wanted to make one announcement, although I think it's public already, at the top. So yesterday you all – or somebody had asked about his conversation with Foreign Minister Hague. And at the time, I wasn’t aware that we were in the process of rescheduling, of course, the meeting that was scheduled for Monday. Many of you have probably seen that scheduled now for tomorrow. So he will be here. They’ll be having a bilateral meeting as we previously had planned on Monday. And our apologies for any confusion; sometimes news is happening as we’re – as – even as we’re up here.
QUESTION: Is there also going to be a chance for us to ask them questions?
MS. PSAKI: There will be.
QUESTION: There will? Okay.
QUESTION: What time is that going to be?
MS. PSAKI: It’s tomorrow afternoon. I don’t have the exact time, but I’m sure we’ll re-advise the timing on the schedule.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new updates on the process. Basically, what we discussed yesterday still stands. Of course, if you have any specific questions, I’m happy to address them.
QUESTION: No. I’m just curious to know if the Administration is moving closer to making any kind of a decision on anything having to do with Syria, or if you’re sticking with the same strategy that you’ve had for the last several months.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as I said yesterday –
QUESTION: Because it seems to be working so well.
MS. PSAKI: As I said yesterday, at the President’s direction, his national security team continues to consider all possible options that would accomplish our objectives of helping the Syrian opposition, serve the essential needs of the Syrian people, and hasten a political transition to a tolerant and diverse post-Assad Syria, but I have no announcements to make at this time.
QUESTION: Did that meeting actually take place yesterday where the President sat down and discussed Syria?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to read out or – any schedule pieces for the White House or any other internal meetings.
QUESTION: So when you say that his national security team is looking at all options, are we to assume that there are ongoing meetings that are actually like emergency kind of meetings to deal with the Syria situation?
MS. PSAKI: Again, these are routine meetings. We talked about this a little bit yesterday. And they discuss regularly – the Secretary discusses, of course, with his counterparts, as Matt referenced, also with other members of the national security team. The President has asked and long ago asked for his team to continue to consider and look at all options. That’s exactly what they’re doing.
QUESTION: And now is there a feeling –
QUESTION: Sorry. But you haven’t put the boots-on-the-ground option back on the table, have you?
MS. PSAKI: We have not.
QUESTION: No? All right.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that the situation is so urgent and so critical that the Secretary of State postponed his trip to the Middle East or resumed a trip to the Middle East?
MS. PSAKI: We talked about this a little bit yesterday --
QUESTION: More than a little bit.
QUESTION: More than a little bit. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: So let me just reiterate more than a little bit as to – let me briefly to save everyone else a little bit. Let me just briefly reiterate what I said, which is that as the Secretary of State, he needs to balance his obligations, whether that’s traveling overseas and meeting with his counterparts, or being here and working with the national security team, advising the President as needed, and he made a decision to be here in Washington for a variety of meetings. But beyond that, I don’t have anything specific on the meetings.
QUESTION: And lastly – I promise this is the last question. Now, does that mean that there’s been a back-tracking by the Secretary of State from let’s say a week ago when he said that we have come to this – to Syria too late?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I think it’s pretty clear that the events on the ground – what we’ve seen happen over the past couple of weeks, the influx of foreign fighters and Hezbollah, has raised our focus on this issue. We’ve been focused all throughout I should say, but the team is continuing to take a close look at all options aside from boots on the ground, which the President and the Secretary have both said is not on the table. So that is what they’re focused on.
QUESTION: But – sorry – I mean, there were things that were promised back in April, like trucks and communication gear and so on, that have not been delivered there, apparently because of some bureaucratic hang-ups.
MS. PSAKI: Well, 127 million of the 250 in nonlethal aid is in train, which means it’s in process or being distributed to the various places with the opposition. The majority of it is coordinated through the ACU, and it goes to a variety of programs. There’s an additional 123, which I think is what you’re referring to, which the Secretary announced in Istanbul a couple of weeks ago. The next step is to notify Congress, and that’s where we are. And a portion of that, of course, will go through the SMC and to General Idris, and that is something we’ll be moving forward on soon we hope.
QUESTION: Jen, just to be precise, I mean, obviously those options have been on the table for a long time, months. But there’s a – now a time for political decision, a policy decision by the President. I know you don’t speak for the President, but you do speak for Secretary Kerry. Has he come to the conclusion that there’s another course that has to be taken that this strategy, a political decision now has to be made, as opposed to just discussing, let’s say, all options?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to read out internal deliberations and discussions. If there was an easy answer here, I’m sure we would be moving forward on it. But as you know, these are challenging decisions to make. It’s a challenging situation. Of course, over in Syria, we did say – and I did say yesterday, but let me just reiterate in response to your question, that clearly the events on the ground, the influx of foreign fighters, the prevalence of Hezbollah, and of course the conversations that Assistant Secretary Beth Jones and perhaps others in the Administration have had with General Idris, do refocus our efforts on what’s happening on the ground. We’re still focused on a parallel track of moving toward a political transition, still focused on working with our counterparts and planning for Geneva and working with the opposition. But that is something that we have remained focused on, but I’m not going to read out internal deliberations or discussions.
QUESTION: Still on Syria, the French Foreign Ministry has just said that it would be very difficult to organize Geneva 2 given the fact that the opposition is very weak. You said basically the same yesterday when you said that the political process cannot happen in a political vacuum. Do you still believe that Geneva 2 will take place?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain focused on planning it. When the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov announced last month plans for the Geneva conference, they said it would be convened as soon as practical, which means as soon as it is determined that it’s – in partnership with the UN and with other international partners, we have done the necessary preparations to bring the parties together and move forward towards a political solution. This isn’t a box-checking process or exercise, and this is something that, as you highlighted, clearly the opposition and
representatives from the opposition are a key component of the participation here. As you know, they are also working towards their elections and electing leadership, and that certainly will impact the timing of the conference.
QUESTION: Sorry, what did you – you just said that this is not a box-checking process or exercise?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Well, how can it not be?
MS. PSAKI: Meaning we’re not just going to have the conference to have the conference.
QUESTION: You said as soon as practicable.
MS. PSAKI: As is --
QUESTION: So you have a bunch of boxes that need to be checked off to make it practicable, right? Otherwise, I mean, then there’s no criteria for having this conference, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a figure of speech, Matt. But what I was --
QUESTION: Well, I understand that.
MS. PSAKI: What I was --
QUESTION: But I mean, you --
MS. PSAKI: Let me explain to you what I was conveying.
QUESTION: If the opposition isn’t organized or won’t come, that is a box that has not been checked and you have to check that box to have the conference, right?
MS. PSAKI: Maybe we’re talking about different lists of box checking. What I was referring to was we’re not going to have the conference just to have the conference. We’re going to have the conference to move forward towards a political transition, and we want to make sure the environment is ripe to do just that.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: So would you say that --
QUESTION: To what extent does the fact that the Assad regime is gaining ground now in the fighting in Syria make it less probable that they will actually agree to come to a conference? There’s no incentive for them at the moment to do so if they’re gaining on the ground and they think that they will eventually win. Does it – to what extent is that going to complicate your efforts to get this conference together?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously both sides’ participation is a key component of the conference, which is why we want to do it when the opportunity is ripe to bring both sides and bring key partners together. This – the political process, while we are focused on it, while we still believe it’s absolutely the best process to a transition, can’t be done in a vacuum, which is also why we are continuing to discuss internally here and discuss with our allies and partners around the world additional ways to help the opposition.
QUESTION: So would you say at the moment the opportunity is not ripe for such a conference to take place?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I said last week that we were now targeting July for this. We’re going to continue to work toward that. Counterparts from here and from the UN and from Russia will meet next week, or the week following I should say, to continue to discuss, and we’ll go from there.
QUESTION: Do you believe it could slip beyond July into August or the back end of the summer?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to speculate on that now. Obviously, we want to do it when it’s the right time to do it.
QUESTION: Wouldn’t it be more prudent for the opposition to go now as quickly as possible before they lose total ground and the regime would lose total interest in really talking to the opposition once they sort of have hegemony over the whole country? Don’t you think so?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to speak for the opposition, but it is important for them to elect leadership so we know who the representatives will be and who we’ll be talking with. And that is, as I understand it, the next step on their agenda.
QUESTION: Would you counsel them to think along those lines, though, that the sooner the better?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve continued to counsel them privately but also publicly on the importance of strengthening, uniting the opposition, electing leadership. They did just expand their membership just in the past couple of weeks, which was a step forward. There’s more they need to do, and we continue to work with them in the appropriate way to do just that.
QUESTION: Jen, can I encourage us to think outside the box for a moment?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.
QUESTION: And maybe take a sort of 30,000-foot view of this? For more than two years now, it has been the publicly declared objective of the United States Government to see President Assad removed from power. That objective remains unmet. So I ask you which of the only two possibilities obtains here: either that the policy crafted to achieve that objective has been inept; or that the objective itself lies outside American capabilities and no matter what policy we would have employed, it wouldn’t have happened?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to accept, to no surprise, your options. What I will say is that: one, this has never been just an American objective; this is a global issue. This is one of the worst crises happening in the world right now. That’s why there are so many countries who have stakes involved here who feel committed, just as the United States does, to helping move towards a political transition to help them Syrian people help end the suffering at the hands of the Assad regime.
This is not easy. It’s been challenging. There’s no question of that. The Secretary feels that. Many people in the Administration feel that, and there have been ups and downs certainly in this process. But the alternative --
QUESTION: When were the ups?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this is not an easy thing, James, moving an opposition, moving to not only unite but elect leadership and confront a regime that has been strong and has been united from the beginning. So they have made gains on the ground over the course of the last two years and they are continuing to work towards uniting as a political organization. And we continue to encourage that.
QUESTION: So you would argue that the Obama Administration’s policies on the Syrian conflict over the past two and a half years have been a success?
MS. PSAKI: Well, James, we’ve continued to support and work with the opposition. Our focus has been not on giving ourselves a grade on this, but on doing what is necessary and what is possible to help the opposition on the ground to help end the suffering of the Syrian people. As you’ve seen over the past couple of months, we’ve not only increased our aid, we’ve continue to provide – go from humanitarian to nonlethal assistance. We’re going to now be working with General Idris to provide aid to the SMC and to the opposition. We’re working with them on the political front. The stakes are too high here not to continue to work hard every day on doing what’s possible to help. That’s what our focus is on.
QUESTION: So onto Brigadier General Idris, he’s saying, which you addressed yesterday, he’s saying that if we don’t receive arms and training and equipment and so on, we will not go to Geneva. Is that – doesn’t that strike you like a little bit of blackmail?
MS. PSAKI: I would not qualify it that way. I mentioned yesterday that we have spoken with General Idris. I know other countries have spoken with him as well about his concerns, about what’s happening on the ground. We continue to listen to him and hear what he’s saying and continue to consider all options.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MS. PSAKI: Are we done with Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. We’ll go back to you first.
QUESTION: The UN is talking to Germany, and then I saw a report – it might have been the L.A. Times – on resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S. Is that report accurate in any way? Are those discussions going on?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we talked about this a little bit yesterday. We do – the United States, first of all, resettles more refugees than any other country. We encourage other countries to do the same. The preferred option for refugees is typically going back to their home country when it is safe. The UN has recently determined that resettlement should play a larger role in its response to the situation in Syria and the United States is prepared to respond and will encourage others, of course, as I said, to do the same. This is the process – and we talked about this a little bit, but the context, I think, is helpful, or it was helpful to me – that it’s not – there is a certain cap that is set by Congress on the number of refugees and there are countries that are part of that, accepted as part of that cap, and we will – but there hasn’t been any change in our resettlement policy. But we will consider – continue to consider it.
QUESTION: Well, since yesterday, since you answered the question – this same question yesterday, has the UN actually recommended any refugees for resettlement in the United States, or is --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any change in that.
QUESTION: All right. So – okay, so there’s nothing --
MS. PSAKI: There’s nothing new from yesterday.
QUESTION: Yeah, I know. And I just – you just reread the same thing that you read yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: I did. Some weren’t here yesterday, so I was trying to be helpful to those who were not.
QUESTION: The U.S. has said it is open to discuss this --
MS. PSAKI: But we haven’t received --
QUESTION: You haven’t received it. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I get it.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: There were some reports that members of the Syrian opposition would be coming to Washington next week. Do you have anything on that, and will they have meetings here?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those reports. I’m happy to look into them for you and see what the status is and if there’s anything planned.
QUESTION: That’d be great.
QUESTION: On --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, and do we have one more on Syria?
QUESTION: On Syria, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sorry, Jill.
QUESTION: Can you specify if an idea of supplying the rebels with heavy weaponry such as artillery pieces, anti-tank weaponry, anti-aircraft weaponry is among those considered by the Administration now?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to get into options under consideration, and I don’t have any announcements to make.
QUESTION: On the OIG – I know we went over this a lot – but today we have some new developments, and they specifically deal with the ambassador who’s been named in one of those documents in the memo. A certain ambassador has denied any allegations that he took part in the behavior that’s described. So it really begs the question of where – the status of any type of investigation dealing with him. You said yesterday any investigations are either still in process or are over. Can you tell us at least whether or not that investigation of just this ambassador is over?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to comment on individual cases today or yesterday. I will say, as you mentioned, the ambassador himself did put out a statement. I would point all of you to that. And let me reiterate what I said yesterday in response to a question broadly about this, which is the notion that we would not vigorously pursue criminal misconduct is not only preposterous, it’s inaccurate.
Let me just give you an overview, because I think there’s been some confusion of the different memos and what the process is. In October 2012, an internal memo was written by the OIG office which was undertaking a routine inspection. This memo, written without the benefit of reviewing any case files, included a number of unsubstantiated accusations. Prior to the drafting of this memo, the Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security had already started looking into or completed the process of looking into these individual incidents. All of these cases have been and will be brought – or will be brought to their logical conclusions.
In February of 2013, OIG wrote a report on the inspection, which is publicly available on their website. As is normal, the Department of Diplomatic Security was afforded an opportunity to provide comments before the report went final. As I mentioned yesterday, they expressed some concerns as part of a standard process. They are still reviewing the recommendations that were made in this February report.
Since that time, OIG has brought on some additional experienced former law enforcement officers to review the DS cases and process for handling the cases. This is a decision, of course, that they made, and the OIG is, again, independent, but the Department fully supports this step and we look forward to their final report.
QUESTION: Okay. But there is this one moment which really we need to pin down, which is the OIG says – I should say the memo says that that investigation was stopped by a senior official here.
MS. PSAKI: Which investigation?
QUESTION: Well, the – looking into the allegations about the Ambassador.
MS. PSAKI: Again --
QUESTION: That that was stopped by Mr. Kennedy.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe you’re referring to the October 2013 – and we have –
MS. PSAKI: -- there’s a statement out there from Mr. Kennedy --
QUESTION: Twenty twelve.
MS. PSAKI: Sorry, 2012.
QUESTION: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
MS. PSAKI: We are not at October 2013 yet, that’s correct. (Laughter.) One, let me first say that there is a statement that Mr. Kennedy himself has released, which many of you may have. Two, this is a memo that you’re referring to that had unsubstantiated accusations in it. This is a case where we are – of course take every allegation of misconduct seriously, and we investigate them thoroughly. That’s exactly what we’re doing and are in the process of doing or have completed doing in all of these cases. But these accusations are not – these are accusations and not conclusions, and that’s why this process will be seeing it through.
Also, just to go more specifically to your question, Jill, the February 2013 memo, which, again, is publicly available on their website --
MS. PSAKI: A report, I apologize – a report publicly available on their website, the Department of Diplomatic Security expressed some concerns about what was included in there, including a reference – and I talked about this a little bit yesterday – to the lack of a firewall, and they are conducting the next stage in their process here of their review to look at the processes here that took place. And we will see that through.
QUESTION: Okay. But again, getting back to the Ambassador, if he is still in place – he’s still working – doesn’t that imply that that investigation is over if he can remain in his position?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to speak to the status of any of these investigations or any individual cases. Of course, we look into every allegation that is made seriously. We would take every allegation seriously. But I’m not going to outline the status of those or any individual cases from here.
QUESTION: Jen, my understanding is that the case – that the allegations, which were reasonably serious against the Ambassador, have actually been proved to be false and he’s been completely exonerated. Wouldn’t it be better for you to say publicly that that is the case?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as a matter of policy, I’m just not going to talk about personnel processes or reviews that have gone on or are ongoing.
QUESTION: But surely you not talking about it undermines his position. I mean, I’m aware of the statement. I’ve seen the statement that the Ambassador has put out himself. But it would be a show of confidence on the State Department’s part to – if that is the case, if he’s been completely exonerated of these accusations, just to say it; just to say they were false and we’ve looked into it and the matter is now closed and he has our full confidence.
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more to add on any individual cases.
QUESTION: Well, then why don’t you just say the – why don’t you try and answer this: You said that the October 2012 memo, which has been the basis for this, contained unsubstantiated allegations. To the best of your knowledge, are those allegations still unsubstantiated?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to go through case by case or make a sweeping --
QUESTION: I’m not asking you case by case. Well, you said they’re unsubstantiated. Are they – after they were investigated, are they – do they remain unsubstantiated?
MS. PSAKI: There are some investigations that are still ongoing, some that have been concluded.
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t want to break down – I’m not going to break down individual cases from here.
QUESTION: Okay, but there’s – so some remain unsubstantiated, but others, there was something to them; are you saying that?
MS. PSAKI: I – there are processes that are still ongoing, and I don’t want to get ahead of any processes that are still ongoing.
QUESTION: Well, just to clarify what you’re saying to Matt, when you tell us that the memo contains unsubstantiated allegations, A, you agree that unsubstantiated does not mean untrue, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s disproving a negative, so of course we take – let me just reiterate, we take every allegation seriously. Of course we would look into it. I am seeing through the process; we are seeing through the process. I’m not going to break down individual cases. To go back to Jo’s point here, I can assure all of you that if the Secretary or previous Secretary were presented with documented evidence of misconduct, they would take appropriate action. But I’m just not going to break down individual cases.
QUESTION: Okay. And by way of not breaking down individual cases and also not making blanket statements, because, as you know, this memo listed eight different cases, when you tell us that the memo contains unsubstantiated allegations, you’re not asserting that the allegations in all eight cases were unsubstantiated, just in one or more, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the processes are still ongoing for a number of them, so I’m not going to make a sweeping term on that front.
QUESTION: Well, that’s the point. You weren’t making a sweeping statement about all eight cases, were you?
MS. PSAKI: Again, there are processes that are still ongoing where there isn’t a conclusion on them. So I can’t go more specific than I’ve already gone.
QUESTION: Couple of other parts if you would, please.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: First, has Secretary Kerry spoken to the Ambassador?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary have full faith and confidence in this Ambassador?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary is proud to lead, of course, a Department of 70,000 dedicated men and women serving. He takes every accusation seriously, as we all do. And I can assure you, as I just said, that in any case, if there were documented evidence and action was needed to be taken, he would be taking that action.
QUESTION: So you’re declining this opportunity to say, on behalf of the Secretary, that he has full confidence in this Ambassador?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just seeing through the process, James.
QUESTION: Okay. Continuing forward, regarding Under Secretary Kennedy, I have the statement that he issued earlier today through the State Department, but there was a lot in the October 2012 memo to which the Under Secretary, in his statement, did not at all respond. For example, the idea, the notion that he received from the special investigating agent a full memo on the Ambassador and the investigation that was underway in May of 2011. Can you confirm that Secretary Kennedy received that memo?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of the memo.
QUESTION: Do you have any plans to provide – to make Under Secretary Kennedy available for questioning by the press on this subject?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think he released a statement, and if there’s more to say, we’ll see if there’s more to say.
QUESTION: Well, I’m telling you that I have questions based on that statement, and I think others might as well. Are you willing to --
MS. PSAKI: Consider your request for an interview lodged.
QUESTION: On Cheryl Mills, who was also named in that October 2012 memo, can we expect a similar statement from Ms. Mills as was provided by Under Secretary Kennedy?
MS. PSAKI: I believe there was one, but I’d have to check on that. And if there was, we’re happy to get that to all of you.
QUESTION: Last question. You’ve been very indulgent and so have my colleagues here. You stated yesterday and again today that any notion that any investigation involving allegations of internal misconduct would somehow be overlooked or halted prematurely or otherwise blocked by senior officials in this Department – preposterous and inaccurate. But the allegation that just that kind of thing occurred and occurred repeatedly was contained not only in the October 2012 memo, but in the December 2012 draft of the OIG final report, which stated that the OIG team heard of instances once or twice a year where senior officials in this Department intervened to block investigations. And that sentence was scrubbed from the March 2013 final report to which you referred us. So this allegation that you call preposterous was in fact included in a draft OIG report. Your comments?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it was also, I believe, included in some capacity in an internal memo in October that was, as I referenced, based – included a number of unsubstantiated accusations. We – I went through a little bit of the process here just to give people a better understanding of that. And one of the pieces I mentioned was that as is normal, as a part of an OIG process, when there is a report or a memo – not a memo, but a report about you, the Department of Diplomatic Security expressed some concerns about some of the issues and allegations that were raised in there. That was one of them. We talked about this yesterday.
But again, they’re now going to go back and take a look at the process, the OIG is. I would point you to them on the status of that process that they’re – their review process, which is what it’s called, and see what’s happening there. And they’ve included some former law enforcement officers in that. We welcome that, and we look forward to the conclusion of that.
QUESTION: Is that at the cost of the taxpayer, the retention of those former law enforcement officers?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the OIG for that question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just a couple things very briefly. When you said about the unsubstantiated allegations and the 2012 October memo, that was not just the allegations against individuals, but also the allegation that there was interference; is that --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: That’s what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So that is also unsubstantiated as far as --
MS. PSAKI: Yes, and we took issue with that specific piece in the February memo.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. And then the other thing is that on the line that you say it’s preposterous and inaccurate that you wouldn’t pursue criminal proceedings, are you aware if the allegations against the ambassador in question were criminal?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to individual cases, but again, when needed, we do refer as part of our process, of course, to the Department of Justice if there is criminal activity.
QUESTION: Okay. Because I’m not sure, I don't know what the laws on prostitution are in the country in question, but I don't know for sure that – if the allegation was true, if it was actually illegal. However, I do know that this kind of conduct, if it’s true --
MS. PSAKI: Is unacceptable at the State Department, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Right, exactly. So is it also preposterous and inaccurate to say – aside from a criminal prosecution, but an administrative disciplinary proceeding, is that – that you would – that that would not happen or that that would be stopped. Is it also preposterous to say that that would be – that that would – do you understand what I’m getting at here? I’m not sure if I can explain it.
MS. PSAKI: I’m trying to follow it. I think I do, but – (laughter) --
QUESTION: If it is preposterous and inaccurate that the State Department would not pursue a criminal – or a criminal prosecution of someone who has broken the law or someone who there is evidence broke the law, is it also preposterous and inaccurate to say that the State Department would not pursue the appropriate administrative disciplinary action if warranted?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, and let me – just to your question, if you’ll indulge me here for a moment, if we have proof an individual has engaged in acts that rise to criminal behavior, we’ll seek to prosecute, working with the Department of Justice. That’s how that would work. If an individual engages in acts that contravene our rules and procedures, which that would be applicable there, that individual could be subject to administrative disciplinary action. There are several levels, just as there would be anywhere, of actions that would be taken broadly in any case.
QUESTION: But it sounds like, from what you’ve said so far today, with regard to the eight cases listed in the October 2012 memo, none of them have been referred to the Department of Justice as far as you know; correct?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, but again, I don’t want to get to any individual cases.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just – could we get one – thanks for covering a lot of ground on this issue?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, Guy.
QUESTION: One clarification?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So regarding all of these ongoing investigations that you’re – is anyone in this building now specifically investigating whether senior officials did, in fact, tell Bureau of Diplomatic Security officials not to investigate the allegations in question?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s the OIG investigation. They’re independent. It’s not even an investigation, I should say. Let me be very clear. It’s a review. So that is what the OIG is reviewing.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Jen, just to clarify your exchange with Matt again just now – this is just a bit of housekeeping here, but my understanding is you weren’t saying that it would be preposterous to assert that the State Department would fail to follow up on criminal misconduct. As I understood you, you were saying --
MS. PSAKI: To investigate.
QUESTION: -- to investigate criminal misconduct, that’s correct.
MS. PSAKI: There’s a process that involves many agencies often if there is, in any case, criminal misconduct, of course.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
QUESTION: Wait, wait.
MS. PSAKI: No, sorry. Let Matt and Jill --
QUESTION: Just one more. I’m just wondering if you – is the building concerned at all or are people concerned at all that unsubstantiated allegations like this are being floated around by someone who claims to be or claims to have whistleblower status? I mean, at what point – is there a concern that something that – if you’re describing them as unsubstantiated allegations, that’s – and they remain unsubstantiated now, which I realize you’re not saying, but if they are or some of them are unsubstantiated, doesn’t that just – I mean, it’s kind of just like gossip, no?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one thing, just to be clear, is that the individual, as I understand it, who claims whistleblower status, is not the same individual who wrote the memo, so that’s one – just to be clear on that.
Of course, whenever there are what we view as unsubstantiated allegations, we are concerned because these are people’s lives and these are – there are tens of thousands of men and women who serve proudly around the world on behalf of the State Department, as is evidenced by past actions. If there is criminal activity, if there is an allegation that warrants administrative activity, we do take action, and we would, in any case, if needed of these as well.
QUESTION: Jen, just --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- a minor clarification. You said if we have proof that rises to the level of criminal behavior, you would refer to DOJ, right?
MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh. That’s the process.
QUESTION: Okay. So in other words, the people who are looking at this – let’s say Diplomatic Security initially – it does not go to DOJ unless, I guess, there is some sort of level of investigation or collection of evidence, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, if it --
QUESTION: Or just the allegation doesn’t trigger pushing it over to DOJ?
MS. PSAKI: No, that’s my understanding: It does not, if it rises to the level that an individual has engaged in acts that rise to criminal behavior.
QUESTION: Okay. So – and none of them have been referred to DOJ?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of.
MS. PSAKI: But again, I don’t want to speak to individual cases.
QUESTION: Yes. Could we change topics?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Jo?
QUESTION: Mine is good.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. On the Israeli settlement activities, in the last six months, Israel has built more settlements or announced more settlements – more than the whole year 2012. And they did the same thing in 2012 for 2011. Are you alarmed by the accelerated activities? And is the Secretary of State, as he prepares to go on another trip presumably, is he alarmed by this activity, and what is he doing about it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we’ve talked about this a bit in here, and the Secretary has raised --
QUESTION: Of course. Yes, we always talk about it.
MS. PSAKI: -- with his counterparts in the Middle East as well that unhelpful – he’s asking all sides to refrain from unhelpful actions and unhelpful rhetoric when that applies. And certainly, his focus remains on encouraging both sides to move back to the table to resume negotiations. That’s what his focus has been for the past couple of months and why he’s spent so much time in the region and on the phone with various counterparts.
QUESTION: So the focus is on returning to the table. I understand that. But independent of that, is there any effort independent of returning to the table that could – would encourage or persuade the Israelis to decelerate the settlement activity process?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’d have to speak to the Israelis on that question.
QUESTION: No, but – I mean, you are their benefactor. You are the most influential party with the Israelis. You – I would expect, or the world would expect that you would do something with Israel.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’re just focused on encouraging both sides to resume – to move back to the negotiating table, to refrain from unhelpful behavior that would hurt the peace process, or moving toward a peace process, I should say.
QUESTION: So to understand clearly, you’re saying that the only way to bring the issue of the settlement to activity is through going back to the negotiating table, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve always said our view is discussions without preconditions.
QUESTION: Is there any news yet on when the Secretary’s trip might be rescheduled?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that yet, Jo, unfortunately.
QUESTION: I need to go back to the IG thing --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- for just one second, but it has to do with the Hill.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Congressman Royce put out a statement yesterday; he said he wanted to talk to Secretary Kerry about this. Do you know if that conversation has happened?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of a conversation that’s happened.
QUESTION: All right. Do you know if – excuse me, if his office has been in touch with the Secretary’s people to arrange something?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of as of this morning, so unless something happened late this morning.
QUESTION: And has his office or the committee gotten in touch with the building to arrange for a hearing or witnesses to – you don’t --
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Okay. And then one last really brief one: I understand the speaker of the Burmese Parliament was here today for meetings. Do you have anything on --
MS. PSAKI: Yes. I believe that was with – I may have to double check on this, but I believe it was with Deputy Secretary Burns. I don’t have any readout of that, though.
QUESTION: All right. Is it possible to get something?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I mean – thank you.
QUESTION: Related to Burma/Myanmar, the – we’ve got a report out that Myanmar’s immigration minister has expressed support for a controversial two-child limit on a Muslim minority group that Aung San Kyi and the UN calls discriminatory. I was wondering if the U.S. had any – has discussed this at all, or has any reaction.
MS. PSAKI: We do. We are deeply concerned about reports that some officials in Burma plan to enforce or have said they plan to enforce a two-child limit for Rohingya Muslims. The United States, of course, opposes coercive and discriminatory birth limitation policies, and we have pressed senior Burmese Government officials to abolish this local order. We urge the Government of Burma to eliminate all such policies without delay and we will continue to express our concerns.
QUESTION: Sorry, Jen, on that, the last time you were asked about this, it was simply the local authorities out in --
MS. PSAKI: This was a new official who made a statement.
QUESTION: I know, but I want to make sure that you are talking about this new – the national level official now.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So – and do you know if there has been contact since this minister made these comments?
MS. PSAKI: We are in regular contact. I know these were very recent, I believe at the embassy level. But I can check on that, if there’s anything specific for you.
QUESTION: Could I ask about passports and the issuance and revocation of passports? I mean, obviously I’m asking because of the situation of Edward Snowden, who’s now in Hong Kong. But I wanted to ask when the United States issues a passport, under what circumstances can those passports then be revoked?
MS. PSAKI: Let me just find the exact guidance here for you, Jo, so that I can read it out to you. We can revoke passports. Thanks for your patience. I do have something on this, so let me get that following the briefing, and I can get you the exact guidelines on when we do revoke and what would require it.
QUESTION: Well, my follow-up question would obviously then be would Mr. Snowden’s case meet the guidelines for such a revocation of a passport?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – we don’t speak to individual cases as a matter of policy.
QUESTION: Okay. But I would like the general guidance.
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. I’m happy to – we’ll get that around to everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Maybe we do two more here. Right there.
QUESTION: On East Asia. Yesterday you welcomed the expected talks between North and South Koreans, but abruptly, unfortunately, it collapsed today. So do you have any comment on that? And the other question is: Do you see any signal from North Koreans to talk vis-a-vis the United States?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’d refer you to, of course, to the Republic of Korea for information on the timing of the talks. The reports I saw – maybe you saw something more recent – were that they were postponed. We’ll see. But we, of course, support improved inter-Korean relations and we will continue close coordination with our allies and partners in the region and are certainly supportive of these efforts.
In terms of North Korea, we’re not going to – our position has been the same for quite some time. We’ve been very clear that we’re open to improved relations with North Korea, if it is willing to take clear actions to meet its international obligations and commitments, including abiding by the 2005 joint statement of the Six-Party Talks.
QUESTION: Jen, could you comment on some news reports that are alleging that the Emir of Qatar, one of your biggest allies, is ready to step down at the end of this month?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen those reports. I know I was asked yesterday. I would simply refer you to the government on those specifics.
QUESTION: But you have no --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more.
Let’s do one more. Let’s see. Scott.
QUESTION: You took a question from Camille yesterday about Sudan. Since then, South Sudan says that the Sudanese Government has sent several thousand troops across the border into the South. Do you have any reaction to that? Do you believe that to be the case?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any independent confirmation of that. I do have something else that may be helpful. I know one of the questions was about our contact with them since the Secretary met with both counterparts. On June 10th, Deputy Secretary Burns spoke by phone with Deng Alor Kuol, the Government of South Sudan’s Minister of Cabinet Affairs. Also on June 10th, Ambassador Joseph Stafford, the charge of the Embassy of Khartoum, met with Ali Karti, the Government of Sudan’s Foreign Minister. Additionally Ambassador Susan Page, U.S. Embassy Juba, has spoken with a number of South Sudanese officials.
In all of those meetings, we expressed our deep concern at President Bashir’s statement that Sudan will instruct oil companies to stop the flow of South Sudanese oil transported via Sudan’s pipeline and we urge Sudan to reverse their decision and for both Sudan and South Sudan to engage through agreed mechanisms, such as the Joint Political Security Mechanism and Petroleum Monitoring Committee in order to address and to resolve issues related to security and support to rebels.
QUESTION: Can you take the troops question?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Sorry. Do you have two ambassadors in Juba? Or just one person has the title?
MS. PSAKI: I believe Ambassador Susan Page, U.S. Embassy Juba – let’s see. I believe Ambassador Joseph Stafford is the charge, who also has an ambassador title, as sometimes happens in the Foreign Service.
QUESTION: Yes. Thank you.
QUESTION: Can you do another Africa question?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I don’t know if you have – if it’s crossed your radar, but on Mali, the government delegation and the separatist rebels have had an agreement in principle – this is quite a big development – that would allow planned elections in July over the disputed Kidal region. I was wondering if you have a reaction to this, whether you see this as a way to seal the democratic transition?
MS. PSAKI: We do. It is on our radar. After a short pause in discussions to conduct consultation with their leadership, we expect talks to resume today between the Government of Mali and the Tuareg rebels. These discussions are focused on reaching a framework agreement that would pave the way for elections in the city of Kidal on July 8th – July 28, I should say. We hope that the current negotiations will set the stage for long-term national reconciliation. We call on the parties to conclude a framework agreement for elections in Kidal without delay.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:14 p.m.)
DPB # 96