1:58 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I’m sorry we’re a little late today. We’re trying not to make that a habit. I have a couple of --
QUESTION: Hold on.
MS. PSAKI: Yes?
QUESTION: A little late? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Are you hungry, Matt?
QUESTION: No, I already ate.
MS. PSAKI: Did you have a snack?
QUESTION: I had to wolf down a burrito because I was expecting this a lot earlier. Anyway.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I apologize.
QUESTION: And now I feel like one of the people on that cruise ship.
MS. PSAKI: Oh.
QUESTION: Oh. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Okay. That’s an over-share to kick us off.
I have a couple of things at the top. Secretary Kerry will travel to Berlin and Munich, Germany from January 31st to – through February 2nd. In Berlin, Secretary Kerry will meet with senior German officials to discuss our ongoing bilateral cooperation as well as pressing international issues. In Munich, Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel will participate in the 50th Munich Security Conference. At the conference, Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel will underscore the United States commitment to our strong transatlantic relationship and our work to promote peace, democracy, and prosperity within the region and beyond. While in Munich, Secretary Kerry will also hold a series of bilateral meetings, which we will provide more details to you as soon as that becomes available.
I also wanted to note that we remain deeply concerned about the ongoing lack of freedom of expression and press freedom in Egypt. The government’s targeting of journalists and others on spurious claims is wrong and demonstrates an egregious disregard for the protection of basic rights and freedoms. We remind Egypt’s interim government of the need to permit an atmosphere that enables rights and freedoms to be exercised by all Egyptians without fear of intimidation, repercussion, and detention. This is essential for any sustainable transition.
Let me be clear that the United States places great freedom on a free – great value on a free press. We are alarmed by reports today of additional journalists facing charges, including the Al Jazeera journalists. Any journalist, regardless of affiliation, must not be targets of violence, intimidation, or politicized legal action. They must be protected and permitted to freely do their jobs in Egypt. We remind the Egyptian Government publicly and privately that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and we urge the interim government to implement its commitment to this freedom. We strongly urge the government to reconsider detaining and trying these journalists, and reiterate that they must be afforded all accordance of the due process under the rule of law.
With that, let me turn it over to you, Matt.
QUESTION: I just have one brief one on the trip.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Who in Berlin is he going – which senior German officials is he going to be seeing?
MS. PSAKI: Let me make sure that those have been confirmed. He’ll, of course, see the foreign minister. I believe he’ll also see the chancellor and the president, but let us venture to confirm that all those are final before we --
MS. PSAKI: -- report that back to you.
QUESTION: And then in Munich, do you have any idea of who the bilats will be with?
MS. PSAKI: They’re still being finalized, but we may have more to tell you today, or if not, by tomorrow, given we’re leaving tomorrow.
QUESTION: Right. So, unless anyone has something else about the trip, I want to start with Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Trip?
QUESTION: No, Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Syria. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- or you know what he said in it.
MS. PSAKI: I do.
QUESTION: In it he said that he didn’t expect there to be any substantive progress at this current round of talks, which leads me to ask: Is this – do you share this view? And if you do, what was the point of it at all? I mean, I understand the importance of an ice-breaking get-together, but seriously, couldn’t this have – if that was all it was supposed to be, couldn’t they have gotten that done over tea or something some place at considerably less expense?
And – which brings me to my next point, is: Who is paying? Is the United States Government paying for the Syrian opposition delegation’s travel expenses?
MS. PSAKI: On that last question, I don’t have any information on that. I’m happy to check on it. Obviously, you know how strongly we support the Syrian opposition.
In terms of what the purpose is, we’ve said from the beginning that the purpose was to begin a process of putting in place a transitional governing body. We never expected that to happen overnight. Obviously, it hasn’t. And in his press conference today, as you mentioned, Brahimi said he did not expect for there to be substantive developments by the time they depart on Friday. What he also said is that he expects they will come back together. So what’s significant about this week is this is the first time that the regime and representatives of the opposition have sat down together. They’ve talked about humanitarian needs, they’ve talked about the Geneva communique, and we expect that conversation will continue when they reconvene.
QUESTION: But didn’t – they did last week in Montreux.
MS. PSAKI: That is true, but these are difficult issues, they’re challenging issues.
MS. PSAKI: We didn’t expect it would be a simple tea ceremony. We expected it would take hours and days of discussions and negotiations.
QUESTION: Right. But – I understand that, but it was presented in Montreux that it was a substantive development that the two sides had even sat down together, and now he says – in the same room. And now he’s saying that he doesn’t expect any substantive developments at all. So I just – I – what is it that you’re – that the United States, for its part, is hoping to see out of this? Is it – if there is, in fact, no progress at all towards a transition government, as appears to be the case, have you scaled your sights down a little bit lower and is it now mainly focused on the humanitarian aspect, opening up Homs and other places?
MS. PSAKI: No, it – we have not. And neither has Joint Special Representative Brahimi. And he has repeated many times that the goal remains putting in place a transitional governing body. It is a good sign that they began that discussion this week as part of the negotiations and as part of the meetings in Geneva, and we expect that will continue. So they discussed that today, and we expect that will continue to be a focus of the agenda.
QUESTION: All right. And then I just want to – I am interested in knowing if the United States is contributing or paying for any of the opposition delegation’s expenses. I mean, I presume they’re not independently wealthy and aren’t footing the bill themselves.
MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if there’s a --
QUESTION: Even if it’s a UN contribution to which the United States is contributing --
MS. PSAKI: I will check and see --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: -- what information we have on that. Go ahead, Lisa.
QUESTION: How do you see this proceeding? Was there another in Switzerland today, including the U.S., to try to put pressure on the sides? Do know of any other meeting going on?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re referring to. Obviously, there are many meetings in Switzerland that happen at any given time, given the UN has a base there.
And I will say that Secretary Kerry spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov today. As he mentioned last week, we expect there will be many paths, many parallel processes, as we all work to pursue an end to this conflict. And that means yes, the regime and the opposition talking, through – with Brahimi facilitating that process. That means engagement through the UN. That means Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov continuing to engage.
Let me just give you a quick readout of that, just before we keep moving forward. On – as a part of the discussion, Secretary Kerry pressed for Russia’s help in providing humanitarian assistance and making progress on that. We talked a little bit of this – about this two days ago. Obviously, there’s still more work that needs to be done. Just on that note, there are 12 trucks waiting outside of Homs with over a hundred tons of food. These trucks are a hundred yards away from people that are in desperate need of assistance, and they must be granted permission by the regime into the old city of Homs.
He also talked about the importance of continuing to press the regime to move forward with the necessary steps on the chemical weapons process, and they briefly – very briefly – touched base on coordination on the Olympics. It was mainly focused on Syria.
At the same time – and this is not a Geneva meeting, but just to further make the point – Under Secretary Sherman is in Moscow right now for meetings with the political directors of the G8. In addition, she’s also meeting with other Russian officials to discuss Geneva II and the situation in Syria.
So obviously, there are many engagements happening at one time with the appropriate counterparts in engaging on how we can best work together to move the process forward.
QUESTION: Do you know how quickly they’re going to come back together again? Is there any sort of indication – before this all breaks up and everyone goes in a different direction and it all gets forgotten, any kind of sort of idea of how soon they can get back together?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that certainly is a decision that Joint Special Representative Brahimi would make. I think from the beginning he expected that at a certain point they would part ways and they would plan a time to come back, so we defer to him on whether that’s next week or three weeks or next month. But that’s something, obviously, that he’ll determine.
QUESTION: And then we have sources in The Hague telling us that Syria has given up less than 5 percent of its chemical weapons arsenal, and will miss next week’s deadline that was set. It’s not enough, and there is no sign of more, the source said. What – is this true? And what is – is there anything being undertaken to step that up?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any independent confirmation of the facts of the 5 percent. I did see your story. I’d, of course, encourage you to check with OPCW and we can then, on our end, follow up and see if there’s more we can convey. Obviously, moving forward with this on an expedited path, as in – because the goals are so aggressive, is a priority. That’s one of the reasons the Secretary mentioned it to Foreign Minister Lavrov today, and we bring that up in various channels.
QUESTION: Can I ask you, on the trucks that are waiting outside Homs with 100 tons of food.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is it food? What was your understanding of what’s actually in there? Is it --
MS. PSAKI: My understanding is it’s over a hundred tons of food. I can check if there’s other provisions that are included in the trucks.
QUESTION: Would it be nonperishables, presumably?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that level of specificity.
QUESTION: And what’s the – what is your understanding about what the – where the holdup is in getting trucks inside the city?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – we talked about this a little bit on Monday, and not much has changed in the sense that the proposal has been the evacuation of women and children. Our view and the view of the opposition and many in the international community is, of course, that’s not acceptable; that doesn’t pass the bar. An evacuation is not an alternative to badly needed humanitarian assistance. And the reason that this hasn’t gone through just logistically is that the regime has not let the convoy through. So that’s a step that we believe needs to be taken.
QUESTION: So on this very point, I mean just going back to Matt’s question on this.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: If these talks have not produced even something like allowing the trucks in, really what use have they served so far?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I said when Matt asked the question, Said, let’s not forget that just two --
QUESTION: Okay. As related to the trucks --
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish my answer. Just two weeks ago, the regime and the opposition had not sat at the same table. They were certainly not discussing humanitarian access. They were certainly not discussing the Geneva communique and the creation of a transitional governing body. Those discussions are on the table. That is an important step in our view, and obviously, there’s a lot more work to be done. But that is where we are, and it’s farther than we were two weeks ago.
QUESTION: Okay. So but going back to the talks, you do expect these talks to, let’s say, resume in about a week or 10 days, two weeks?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of the timing. Joint Special Representative Brahimi would make an announcement and a decision – a decision then an announcement about that. But that is my understanding of the plan, that at some point they would resume.
QUESTION: Do you believe --
QUESTION: Well, your response was that – you did say next week or next month. But bearing in mind that next week is next month, are you saying that it’s possible that --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, trickery. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, I’m just wondering. I mean, are you suggesting that they might not meet again until March?
MS. PSAKI: I was using a broad reference to I’m not sure how long it will be. It could be in a week, it could be later in the month.
QUESTION: Right. It --
MS. PSAKI: But I don’t have an exact date for all of you.
QUESTION: But it is your expectation that they will – after they break on Friday, they will meet again in February, not the month afterwards, right?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any – I don’t have any prediction of that, because that’s not for us to determine.
QUESTION: And then --
QUESTION: Well, isn’t there – just a quick point, Matt.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Isn’t there kind a date yet to determine – not yet determined, but thinking that there would be another kind of major meeting in March, though? And you’re saying this could be a pre-meeting or another type of meeting?
MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t want to get overly complicated here. The only thing I was trying to do was prevent announcing a decision that I’m not sure if it’s been made yet that Joint Special Representative Brahimi will make. They will reconvene. I don’t have a date for when that will be.
QUESTION: And then just on the other thing and I’ll have two other very brief things on Lavrov. When you said that he was looking for Russian help to provide humanitarian assistance, you’re meaning --
MS. PSAKI: Pressing the regime.
QUESTION: -- Russian help in pushing the regime?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: You’re not looking for Russian contribution to --
MS. PSAKI: No, no, no. Pressing the regime.
QUESTION: Okay. And then lastly, you said they touched briefly on Olympic coordination. Can you be more specific? Is that security coordination? Is that like, I don’t know, helping people get through airport customs or something?
MS. PSAKI: It’s security coordination. As you know, Russia has the lead, but we’ve been – offered assistance and we’ve been closely coordinating with them.
QUESTION: And to the best of your knowledge, have they accepted the assistance or asked for any?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that. That was just an issue that was briefly raised on the call.
QUESTION: Going back to Syria and Brahimi.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have the confidence that Mr. Brahimi has the acumen and the capability to continue to conduct these talks between the two sides in a fashion that can produce results?
MS. PSAKI: We do.
More on Syria?
QUESTION: And how do you measure what he has done so far since he took over from his predecessor, Kofi Annan?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a measurement or a grade. I think what’s important to note here is that he has facilitated the talks for the last several days. They’ve talked about some important issues. He’s acknowledge very clearly there’s more work to be done, and we all expected that it would take some time to move this process forward.
QUESTION: Despite the fact that each side accusing him of just parroting out the other side’s point of view.
MS. PSAKI: Well, these are obviously tough discussions and he’s right in the middle of them. So --
QUESTION: Let me ask you about the aid that you resumed last week to certain groups and so on. Could you sort of shed light on that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. So we hope to be able to resume – we have resumed nonlethal assistance. We hope to be able to resume assistance to the SMC shortly, pending security and logistics considerations. I don’t have an update on that for you today, but that is where we stand in terms of what we’ve been able to resume. Let me just see if I have anything further for all of you here on this particular question.
QUESTION: What about these reports that the – that you’re passing small arms and anti-mine tanks to the rebels through Jordan as a part of a defense appropriations bill?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that. I can just tell you what we’ve resumed, what I’m able to discuss.
QUESTION: So are you --
QUESTION: But you are not supplying small arms or training any moderate groups in Jordan?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that, just as I never have in eight months.
QUESTION: Can I just clarify?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Sorry, you said we’ve resumed nonlethal aid, and then you say --
MS. PSAKI: Let me spell it out --
QUESTION: -- we want to resume assistance?
MS. PSAKI: Let me spell it out a little bit more for you, Jo, here. I just wanted to get a detail of what specifically was resuming.
QUESTION: And this is in the north, is it, where the aid was stopped because of the looting of the warehouses?
MS. PSAKI: That’s right. That’s where the assistance was put on hold. So in late December, we resumed deliveries of nonlethal assistance into northern Syria to civilian actors inside Syria. These unarmed actors inside Syria to whom nonlethal assistance has been resumed include local and provincial councils and civil society groups. These deliveries are helping those local groups provide essential services for the Syrian people and counter violent extremists. Deliveries to unarmed actors include ambulances, garbage trucks, big generators, food baskets, school supplies, office equipment, as well as assistance to police. Separately, the assistance which has also been a question to the SMC, we hope to resume soon.
QUESTION: And do you know what – just to maybe close the circle --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you know what happened to all the aid that was looted from the warehouses? You were calling for it to come back at one point. Have you seen sight nor hair of it since?
MS. PSAKI: I believe the vast majority has been returned. I don’t have any other specific update. I will see if there’s anything more we can outline for all of you.
QUESTION: Jen, what role the U.S. delegation has been playing in Geneva?
MS. PSAKI: The – which delegation?
QUESTION: The U.S.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, well, Ambassador Ford has, of course – and his team have been on the ground. They’ve been in very close contact with the opposition. They’ve been meeting with them regularly and they’ve been there as a kind of an outside advisor to the opposition. But the talks between the opposition and the regime are being run by Joint Special Representative Brahimi, and we expect that will continue.
QUESTION: And what can you say about the cooperation between the Russians and Americans in Geneva during this negotiations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would just say that, obviously, I don’t have the details of who the Russians have on the ground, if they have anyone on the ground. I can speak to who we have on the ground. And there are several layers of cooperation and coordination on this with the Russians, including the conversations I mentioned that Under Secretary Sherman is having as a part of the G8 discussions, Secretary Kerry speaking with Foreign Minister Lavrov. So we’ve remained in touch through that channels.
QUESTION: Deputy – Syrian deputy foreign minister has called Ambassador Ford today the guidance or the spiritual leader for al-Qaida in Iraq and Syria. What do you think about this name?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those specific comments, but obviously, we would refute the absurdity of that claim. We have done nothing but support the opposition. You heard the President say even in his State of the Union last night that we would – expressed his opposition to extremist elements in Syria. So that notion we’d certainly refute, but I haven’t seen those specific comments or the context.
QUESTION: Last one. There are talks about the biological weapons in Syria now. Can you elaborate on that?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those reports so I don’t have any confirmation or comment on them.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif called on all foreign elements that are fighting in Syria to pull out of Syria. Do you see this as a good sign, and would you hold them to task on this issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: I mean, that’s assuming that they have – they can have the power to sort of pressure or force or ask or request Hezbollah to leave.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we’ve long called for all foreign fighters and foreign elements to depart from Syria. So certainly, if that were to happen, we’d see that as a positive development. But as always, actions speak louder than words, and if that’s a step that’s taken, I can assure you we’d see that as a positive step.
Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: I wonder if there’s some disappointment about how little mention there was in Syria – of Syria last night in the President’s address. I think there was a little bit about extremist elements and then one line about we’re going to work about – with the international community for the future that Syrians deserve. Considering this has been described as the greatest humanitarian crisis presented before the world at the moment, I thought his thoughts on Syria were a little sparse.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would – you know I worked for the President for a long time, and I think the Secretary’s been in this town a long time, and I can assure you that nobody is counting the words in the State of the Union as an evaluation or as a – I guess evaluation is the right word – of how important an issue is. Obviously, there is competition for how many words are used for each issue, but what the evidence of the commitment is the fact that we were just in Geneva, how committed we are to supporting the opposition. That’s an issue that the Secretary closely coordinates and works, obviously, closely with the White House on, and that’s where our focus is and not how many words may or may not have been dedicated to an issue.
QUESTION: Let me say how --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- surprised I am that you didn’t – you did not express the profound disappointment that this building has with the speech of your boss, that --
MS. PSAKI: You are? That’s good.
QUESTION: I’m glad that you want to keep your job. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can we move to the --
QUESTION: I have a little more on Syria.
QUESTION: -- Palestinian – oh, sorry.
MS. PSAKI: A little more on Syria? Sure.
QUESTION: Sorry. I – the ODNI today released its Worldwide Threat Assessment, and there was a few sentences on Syria in the Russia section, saying that “Moscow has hailed its CW initiative in Syria as a major foreign policy accomplishment,” that “it positions Russia to play a major role in any future settlement of the Syrian conflict and adds legitimacy to the Syrian regime.” Does the State Department agree with that?
MS. PSAKI: I certainly don’t think we view any step as adding legitimacy to the regime. We do think that getting chemical weapons out of Syria, as we’ve said many times, would certainly be a positive step. And as to what it would mean for Russia, I will leave that to global political analysts to consider.
QUESTION: And you would – excuse me. You would stop short of saying that it adds legitimacy to the Syrian regime. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: I would not. I think, obviously, the removal of chemical weapons, the work the OPCW is doing, the work the UN is doing, are positive steps we certainly support. But obviously, the fact that these were used to begin with remains a jarring reminder of the brutality happening in the country.
QUESTION: So if I remember correctly – and please correct me if I’m wrong --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- that it was the Administration’s stance that it didn’t have to be the Assad regime who was responsible for getting all chemical weapons out of Syria --
MS. PSAKI: That’s right.
QUESTION: -- that if a transitional government would take place, that could be done by them --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- as well, whoever that may be.
MS. PSAKI: That’s right.
QUESTION: Is that still the case?
MS. PSAKI: That’s right. Mm-hmm. That remains the case.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Syria?
QUESTION: Can we go to --
MS. PSAKI: Said, on Syria?
QUESTION: Yeah – no. Palestinian --
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well let’s move on to Scott, because you’ve asked a few questions.
QUESTION: Sure, sure.
QUESTION: On Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me just give you a couple of updates on where things stand. And you may have seen this, Scott, but for those of you who aren’t following this every moment: Yesterday, or two days ago, we encouraged – we were – we expressed the fact that we were encouraged that Ukraine’s parliament repealed the most egregious of the most anti-democratic laws. Today we want to urge President Yanukovych to sign the repeal laws. That obviously is the only step that would change the course of that. Vice President Biden has also spoken with President Yanukovych now three times. There was a readout you may have seen that the White House put out yesterday. And during that call, he expressed to President Yanukovych the importance of working with the opposition to take additional concrete steps to reach a peaceful solution to the political crisis, such as passing an amnesty law and creating a government of political unity.
In terms of the specific resignation – and there was another – there was other issues of that a couple of days ago – we have urged the Ukrainian Government and the opposition to ensure that the new government is one that fosters political unity, economic health supported by the IMF, and meets the Ukrainian people’s aspirations for a European future. It’s never been about one person. It’s been about all of these issues that Vice President Biden expressed are important to move forward on as the government looks to what they should do next. So that’s our view of where things stand now.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The former president today described the situation in Ukraine as being “on the brink of civil war.” Is that an assessment that you would agree with in this building?
MS. PSAKI: I have not heard that specific assessment. I believe what our view is is that we’re concerned, of course, and not only about any incidents of violence, as we’ve expressed repeatedly, but about the crackdown that’s occurred and the unwillingness to allow the voices of the people of Ukraine to be heard. So that’s how we would characterize it. We are encouraged by the dialogue between the opposition and the government, and we continue to press for the – for a new government that can strengthen democratic institutions and make the reforms necessary for economic prosperity, which is ultimately where we started this conversation, which was how Ukraine can reach – can move forward on the best path.
QUESTION: How many people have you – have the U.S. slapped with a visa ban?
MS. PSAKI: In the world? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Ukrainians. Ukrainians. We’re on Ukraine. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t – I actually don’t believe that’s a specific number we would provide. I can check back with our consular team and see if that’s information we would, in this case, be --
QUESTION: But there are reports here today that the interior minister and top national security official are among those, and I was wondering if you could at least just give us some kind of insight as to who’s involved and who’s been affected, or just even a number.
MS. PSAKI: Well, my recollection is that visa applications in the process is confidential.
QUESTION: But isn’t part of this shaming them that they can’t come to the United States? I mean, not just the pleasure of coming to this great country, but isn’t it part of slapping them with a visa ban is the international shame of not being able to travel here?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t characterize it in that way. Obviously, there was a range of criteria that goes into whether a visa application is accepted or denied. I don’t have any details on this specifically, so I can’t even speak to whether that’s an action that’s been taken.
QUESTION: Is – so you’ve – the U.S. has already taken this one step. Is the U.S. looking at any other sanctions that could be applied if the government is – if things get out of hand?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve said we’ve been willing to consider. We haven’t said that we are considering. We haven’t said that any decision has been made. So that’s where we stand at this point, and that’s hasn’t changed.
You – anymore on Ukraine? Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Could you update us on what is going on with the Palestinian negotiator meetings here? If they are in progress, where we are in the talks? What is the likelihood of Secretary Kerry going – on his trip, going to Ramallah and Jerusalem?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. There’s no plans to travel next week. I just announced what our trip is. I don’t expect that will change. The Secretary has said that when it is useful for him to return to the region, he is happy to do that. As you know and as you noted, the Israeli negotiators were here last week. The Palestinian negotiators were here this week. We felt it was an appropriate time, given there’s a discussion about a framework for negotiations, to touch base with each side, see if we can continue to bridge the gap between the parties. So that was what the focus of the discussion has been on.
I’m not sure today – and I’m happy to check at what point the conversation concluded, but that’s where we stand and that’s why they were in town.
QUESTION: And is there any likelihood that the Secretary may announce his framework agreement or proposal for agreement, let’s say, early next month?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give you a prediction of what a timing would be. Obviously, what we’re focused on now is bridging the gaps and moving towards – making sure the ideas and the proposals from both sides are incorporated and seeing if we can come up with a framework for negotiations. So I’m certainly not going to make a prediction of when that would be concluded.
QUESTION: Let me rephrase my question.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Should we expect that once the Secretary decides that it is time to announce this framework agreement, that he will announce it, like, in a press conference or in a big forum, or in a way that resonates in the world, so to speak?
MS. PSAKI: I’m going to just knock on wood now for you – for me. I don’t have any prediction of the communications rollout for a framework that doesn’t yet exist, so --
QUESTION: And you are not aware of any other, let’s say, American-Palestinian track other than Saeb Erekat and --
MS. PSAKI: He was here. That’s what the negotiations were. Obviously, Ambassador Indyk and his deputy, Frank Lowenstein, are also in touch with counterparts, and CG Ratney is in touch with counterparts. So as with any issue, there’s multiple conversations happening.
QUESTION: And you feel that the Palestinians are being flexible enough on the issues that you want them to be flexible on, such as, perhaps, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and relenting on the issue of the refugees?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any prediction of the outcome here, Said. But obviously, these are tough issues. They’re politically-charged issues with decades of history, and that’s why we didn’t expect this to be an easy process.
QUESTION: More than decades.
MS. PSAKI: Sorry? More than decades.
QUESTION: This is several thousand years, actually.
MS. PSAKI: You’re becoming a very mathematically focused human today. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Can I go to Afghanistan?
MS. PSAKI: Afghanistan?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I wondered what your comment was on the reports in The Washington Post yesterday citing Afghan officials in which they say that President Karzai believes the United States may have backed some of the attacks against the – some of these insurgent attacks to undermine his government.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think in that same story, Ambassador Cunningham and General Dunford were both quoted. So – and they were very clear. So I would echo what they said, which is that we have spent 12 years trying to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan in the face of threats from terrorist and insurgent networks. To suggest otherwise does a grave disservice to those who have sacrificed for the people of Afghanistan. Further, it flies in the face of logic and morality to think that we would aid the enemy that we’re trying to defeat, and we are trying to get a BSA signed to continue to defeat. So --
QUESTION: But what does this say generally about relations between the United States and Karzai in particular, actually?
MS. PSAKI: I think – look, the United States and President Karzai both have a similar goal, which is to achieve a stable, sovereign, unified Afghanistan responsible for its own security and able to ensure that it can never again be a safe haven for terrorists. It’s not about trust. It’s not about other issues than the fact that moving forward on a BSA, moving forward on getting that signed is in the best interests of the Afghan people and the government, of the United States, of our NATO allies. That’s why we’re focused on it.
QUESTION: It’s not about trust? What do you mean by it’s not about trust?
MS. PSAKI: Well, what I mean is I think you’re asking me about comments and what that says and what it means. And I think I would just reiterate the fact that it doesn’t change our commitment and desire to get the BSA signed.
QUESTION: But if you have an interlocutor who’s saying things like this, which you say do a grave disservice to the troops that you’ve had out in Afghanistan for the last 12 years, how can you have confidence that he will negotiate with you a BSA agreement – or even, when it’s negotiated – to sign it with you, which will then guarantee the safety of your forces going forward?
MS. PSAKI: Well, President Karzai is the elected leader of Afghanistan. It still remains up to him to sign the BSA. That hasn’t changed. We’ve talked about the reasons why we think that is important and the reasons why it’s in the interests of the Afghan people and the United States. So what I mean is that’s what our focus is on, not what comments mean or what they – what we should take from them.
QUESTION: Well, can I just say – I mean, are you convinced or do you know, has President Karzai made these allegations to U.S. officials that you’re aware of?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen, obviously, the public comments. I don’t have anything on --
QUESTION: The public --
MS. PSAKI: -- private comments.
QUESTION: So as far as you know, you can’t confirm – you don’t know firsthand that what the Post says that Karzai told other people is correct; is that right?
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s a fair point. Obviously, there are comments that have been made in the past that you could categorize in the same category, but --
QUESTION: Right, but I mean, in terms of this specific story, the question is: How – what does this say about the state of relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan or the U.S. and Karzai? And I’m trying to figure out what you understand “this” to mean – the story in the Post, or the comments that you may or may not know are accurate that Karzai has made?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I was asked about the reported comments. As I understood Jo’s question, it was more about a larger pattern, so that’s how I was answering it.
QUESTION: Okay. So you, then, would agree that there is a large – that whether or not these latest comment – reported comments from Karzai are actually correct, whether he said them or not, there is an existing history of comments in a similar vein that disturb you and that would – that lead you to repeat the – Ambassador Cunningham and the General’s response?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the comments that Ambassador Cunningham and General Dunford made that I was reiterating were related to this specific set of comments that were reported in the Post.
QUESTION: I understand, but do they or do you have any reason to believe that the reported comments in the story – that they were actually made? Or are you saying you don’t know, but that he has said things like this in the past, and so you have no reason to doubt the report?
MS. PSAKI: I was --
QUESTION: I’m just trying to figure out what it is that --
MS. PSAKI: I was – I’m not trying to overcomplicate this. All I was conveying was the reported comments in the story, that those raised concerns. Those concerns have been expressed from our end by Ambassador Cunningham and General Dunford. I don’t – I’m not trying to make a larger point here other than to respond to those specific comments.
QUESTION: Okay. The point is, is that oftentimes, when you are asked about reported comments, you’ll say – or whoever is standing at the podium – for years, it’s been the case that, “Well, I haven’t seen those comments, so I don’t know how to address them.” The fact that you’re willing to stand up there and repeat what Cunningham and the General said suggests that you have reason to believe that what – that Karzai’s allegations – that he in fact made them.
MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t – I don’t have any further information than what was provided in the story, Matt.
QUESTION: Has the Afghan Government, in – whether it’s Karzai himself or one of his aides, communicated to the U.S. Government that this is how they see the situation, that the U.S. has been --
MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered that question, that I don’t have any information --
QUESTION: But not – but respectfully --
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish.
QUESTION: -- it’s just very --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any information on an independent, private conversation. What I was speaking to was reported comments.
QUESTION: Let me ask you --
QUESTION: Jen, is President Karzai still a partner for the U.S.?
MS. PSAKI: He remains the president of Afghanistan, he remains the partner that needs to sign the BSA, and we share, as I mentioned, some goals about moving forward towards a stable, sovereign Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Let me ask you a rudimentary question on the agreement. Last night, the President --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, the BSA agreement?
QUESTION: The – yeah, on the – yeah. Last night, the President said “If Afghanistan signs,” if. Is it really that iffy? Is it really – is there such a great doubt cast on the possibility that they may or may not sign that agreement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you would know if they had signed it or if they had indicated a timeline of when they would sign it. It remains true that the delay in signing, as we’ve said many times, negatively affects confidence in the region as well as our and our allies’ ability to plan a potential follow-on mission.
As we’ve said many times, this means that we would have to at some point begin the process of planning for a zero option. So that hasn’t changed. I think what the President was stating in his speech last night is the reality which is that it hasn’t been signed yet.
QUESTION: So you are really neutral on signing or not signing? I mean, they could sign it or leave it, right?
MS. PSAKI: No, I think I’ve been absolutely clear that we’re not neutral, that we’d like to have it signed.
QUESTION: What – it fails to --
MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Afghanistan?
QUESTION: -- contextualize the kind of enthusiasm they’re pushing for or something that comes with “If you don’t sign, we will do this” kind of a thing. It was absent. Is that the feeling?
MS. PSAKI: I think that we’ve been very clear that if they don’t sign the BSA, we’ll have to initiate planning for a zero option.
QUESTION: Well, can I – do you have any discussions within NATO about we realize that the end of 2014 is coming --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- but we have this issue with the BSA and we’re up against the clock, and I don’t really know how NATO – how the kind of documents work or treaties work or whatever, but in the UN Security Council, if you need a couple more months to kind of – you know what I mean – push this along, you can just extend it for a couple months while troop levels are worked out or anything like that. And I’m wondering, are there any discussions within NATO to say listen, we know – we have this kind of time crunch right here; can we extend two, three months to give us all the time that we need?
MS. PSAKI: I’m obviously not going to speak on behalf of NATO. I think NATO has spoken publicly themselves about the need to get this done as quickly as possible because they need a BSA signed in order to move forward with the SOFA. In terms of what their planning would require or what space they have, I don’t have any particular intel on that piece.
QUESTION: But, I mean, are you willing to consider, as a NATO member state who has discussions with other NATO member states, an extension of the mission for just a couple of months to see if the new government – you know what I mean – so that this way you don’t have this time crunch between planning for withdrawal --
MS. PSAKI: An extension in what capacity? Sorry, I’m just not sure (inaudible).
QUESTION: Like, okay, we said we’re going to all withdraw at the end of 2014. Can we say we’re all going to keep it to, like, March of 2015 so that we know whether we have these couple months to play with?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of that as being an option under consideration.
Any – Afghanistan or something else?
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. And then we’ll go to you next. Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: On North Korea --
MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- to discuss Mr. Bae’s release. Have the North Koreans come back to you in any way to accept that or not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain prepared to send Ambassador King to North Korea in support of Mr. Bae’s release if North Korea reinstates the invitation, which they withdrew at the last moment in late August, as you well know. We do have a direct means of communicating with the North Koreans, as you probably know as well, and our focus at this point is on whatever step we can take to secure Kenneth Bae’s release, which also means that we’re not going to outline any details of interaction or every detail of what is or isn’t discussed. So that’s where we stand, but we continue to press on it. There isn’t a plan right now for Ambassador King to travel there.
QUESTION: And by direct means, you do not mean Dennis Rodman, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. He is not our ambassador of choice.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Mr. Bae, appeared in front of TV cameras a couple of weeks ago that a U.S. official said that – I understand it was a new invite, but perhaps it was a repeat – that they were ready do send somebody --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and that they were waiting. So no word from the North Koreans?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you, I think is the best way to tell you.
QUESTION: And just to be --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Just – now I’m suddenly confused. They withdrew – he was going to go when –King?
MS. PSAKI: August.
QUESTION: And just before he went, they withdrew the invitation.
MS. PSAKI: Right.
QUESTION: Since August, you guys have continually said – you have continually said you’re prepared to send him. Is that --
MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the Secretary’s visit with the Bae family yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I know we sent out a little bit of a readout, but let me reiterate that and then see what questions you have.
So Secretary Kerry met yesterday with the family of Kenneth Bae. He expressed his full support for the efforts of the family to bring Kenneth Bae home, and said the Department would continue its efforts to help. There’s no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of United States citizens abroad, and he certainly reiterated that to the family.
As you all know, Kenneth Bae has apologized publicly for actions that led to his April 30th, 2013 conviction. Mr. Bae’s family has also apologized publicly on behalf of Kenneth Bae. And he reiterated the fact that we are continuing to urge North Korea to pardon Kenneth Bae for his actions and grant him amnesty – special amnesty, and call for his immediate release.
He – the family requested the meeting. The Secretary, of course, was happy to meet with them. And this is – just kind of shows you what a priority this is. We share the same goals, and that’s of course what was discussed during the meeting. But we agreed that out of respect for the family and our efforts to secure his release, we wouldn’t get into too many details of what was discussed.
MS. PSAKI: Taiwan?
QUESTION: One more Bae question, (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On – so Robert King’s visit, you – it’s been, in the months that have passed and you have continually reiterated --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- I guess North Korea’s response has continuously been one of refusal. Is there any consideration to send someone else, someone higher profile, for instance, or with more of a visible kind of personage to North Korea instead to secure Mr. Bae’s release?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. I think we remain prepared to send Ambassador King. And again, as I stated just – I’m not going to outline every interaction and every conversation that is had about this issue.
QUESTION: On Taiwan.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Taiwan’s leader Ma Ying-jeou reiterated that the people on both sides of Taiwan Strait belong to Chinese nation, Zhonghua minzu, when he transited in Los Angeles yesterday. And in February, we see a historic meeting in Nanjing of China between Taiwan’s minister of mainland affairs and China’s director of Taiwan affairs. And do you have any comments on that? I know you will say that U.S. policy has not changed – one China policy encouraging more dialogues, but --
MS. PSAKI: You’re doing my job for me. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’m wondering if the U.S. is happy to see more dialogues – more cross-strait dialogues, not only touches economic issues, but also political issues.
MS. PSAKI: I think you’ve restated what our position is generally. I’m happy to check with our team and see if we have any particular view on this upcoming meeting that you mentioned.
QUESTION: South Sudan?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: So today the South Sudanese have released seven of the eleven detainees that had been held for a few weeks. I wondered if you had a reaction to that. But alongside that, they’ve decided that four of the remaining leaders – opposition leaders – are going to be put on trial for an attempted coup against President Kiir. Given that, I think it was back at the beginning of the month, I think it was Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield said there was no evidence from the U.S. side that this was an attempted coup. I wondered if you had a reaction for us.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we of course welcome today’s release by the Government of South Sudan of seven of eleven political detainees. This is an important step towards an inclusive political dialogue under the auspices of IGAD. As you mentioned, four of the detainees remain detained, so we urge the Government of South Sudan to release the remaining four.
Last weekend, as you all know, there was a cessation of hostilities agreement signed. That, of course, was a good step, but more needs to be done and we’re encouraging that at this point. So as South Sudan’s leaders continue to work to fully implement the agreement, we’re encouraging them to focus on starting an inclusive political dialogue to resolve the underlying causes of the conflict, and that’s what our focus remains on at this point.
In terms of – oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, I was just going to say, I mean, if you still have four of them in custody facing charges, is that going to threaten the ceasefire, which has been sort of holding, but there’s still fighting going on in parts?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s more the challenge – the question of how would it impact the political dialogue, because some of these individuals are players – and we’ve talked about this from the beginning – but who would be pivotal to that discussion. So we’ve said from the beginning, and this is one of the arguments that we continue to make, that the full participation of all of the political detainees is critical to a political dialogue.
And as per the January 23rd agreement on the status of the detainees signed by the government and the opposition, the expeditious release of the detainees is critical to moving that piece forward. So that’s where our focus is.
South Sudan? Or anymore on that? Okay, go ahead, Catherine.
QUESTION: A new topic? An Ecuador-related question.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: First, generally, I have a couple of specific questions.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details to provide on the validity of their visas. There is – there has been, as has been broadly reported, of course, in a back and forth on an extradition process – as you know, there are several complicated procedures always involved in that. So I don’t have any particular update for all of you on that today.
QUESTION: Does the State Department agree with the position of past ambassadors to Ecuador, like Kristie Kenney, that the Isaias brothers absconded with a $100 million from a bank? Basically that they’re guilty of what Ecuador is saying they have done, and that the State Department wants to find a way to work with Ecuador? Or does the State Department share the view of Senator Menendez that the brothers are innocent and wrongly persecuted by Ecuador?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any evaluation from the podium about what we view of the charges – our view of the charges. Obviously, there’s an extradition request process in place. That’s a complicated process, one that is, by policy, confidential. So I don’t have any other details on the status of it.
QUESTION: Has Senator Menendez contacted the State Department in writing or in phone calls on behalf of the Isaias brothers? And is that something that you typically see from a member of Congress?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check. Obviously, the Secretary speaks with him very regularly, given he’s the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I’m not aware if this issue has come up. I’m happy to check --
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: -- if there’s any more we can share on that point.
QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to go back to the President’s address last night, if I may.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- there were only a few mentions of East Asia, and I wanted to ask you if that reflects something on the rebalance to Asia policy. Is that still a major pillar of the Administration’s foreign policy?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely it remains a pillar. The fact that the Secretary is planning what I believe if his fourth trip, if my math is correct – but Matt will check me on the math here --
QUESTION: I think it’s fifth.
MS. PSAKI: -- the fifth trip, I’m sorry – soon, tells you exactly what you need to know about how committed we are. It’s also a place where Deputy Secretary Burns recently visited, where we remain committed to working closely on all of the security and strategic and economic issues that we’ve long had a dialogue on. And there was one sentence on Ukraine, but that doesn’t change how committed we are to that issue and how much time we focus on that issue, simply reflected by the fact that the Vice President has spoken with the president of Ukraine three times in, I think, the last week.
MS. PSAKI: So I would caution anyone against evaluating word count as being equated with importance.
QUESTION: I understand. But the Administration also doesn’t – hasn’t had a rebalance to Ukraine policy for the last six years. But that’s – but leaving that aside --
MS. PSAKI: That does have a nice ring to it, though.
QUESTION: It does.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ukraine. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Is there any --
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think let me just --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) for everyone.
MS. PSAKI: Let me just reiterate that the United States, the President of the United States, Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel could not be more committed to our relationship with Asia, how important the region is. The fact that it was mentioned in the State of the Union, which is the biggest speech of the year, is also evidence of how committed the Administration is to that.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Is there any more --
QUESTION: As you will note from that question, your response to Jo’s question before that people don’t count words, I think that you’ll find that, in particular, the Japanese, South Koreans, the Chinese, and others do count the words and do – and it does make an impression when they are mentioned or not.
MS. PSAKI: Well, they must like you a lot. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I don’t – they like me about as much as you do, let’s put it that way. Can I go back – if we’re done on Asia and the speech?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I want to go back to your opening on – second opening statement on --
MS. PSAKI: On Egypt?
QUESTION: -- Egypt, yeah, which was really kind of – quite tough after, at least, I think, some relative period of almost silence on the situation there, except for bending over backwards to say that you don’t support this or that candidate to be – to run for president.
MS. PSAKI: I did talk very briefly on Monday – very briefly – about our concern about the detainment of journalists, but this --
QUESTION: Okay. Well, can I just ask why today did you decide to really lower the boom with calling this egregious violations and plain, flat-out wrong? What was it that prompted this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think this is an issue anywhere in the world, but certainly in Egypt, as is applicable now, that we have been concerned about the events building over the past several weeks. We felt it was important to highlight them and express our concern about the treatment of journalists and our belief that freedom of the media and freedom of press is something that should be respected and valued. So it was important for us to get that message out.
QUESTION: Do your concerns about the treatment of journalists extend beyond just the treatment of journalists and freedom of the press? Are there other things in the second transition to democracy that you’re concerned about in Egypt that you would care to speak so bluntly about today?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – I mean, I can outline what our concerns have been, if that’s helpful, and we express those as they come up.
QUESTION: Right, okay. So it’s just – we shouldn’t read into this that today, you’re only concerned about the treatment of journalists? There’s still a lot of other --
MS. PSAKI: That is not what I was stating, and we were --
QUESTION: Oh, no, no, no, I know.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: But there’s still a lot of other concerns that you do have about what’s going on.
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely, and what – the reason that I did that at the top is because we felt strongly that this is an issue that should receive more attention and that we’ve been especially concerned about in recent weeks.
QUESTION: Journalists in particular, or the crackdown of all democratic institutions --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve --
QUESTION: -- including political opposition --
MS. PSAKI: But to be fair, we expressed the concern about crackdown and have on a number of occasions. This has been – there have been recent arrests of journalists and treatment of journalists that we just wanted to highlight. That’s the reason that I raised it.
QUESTION: And so do you regard this as not – as backsliding and more than just in this particular area today, that you’re seeing Egypt right now in the – going in the wrong direction? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, the detainment of journalists and the treatment is something that we were concerned enough about to raise it here publicly.
QUESTION: So does this usher in your – I mean, your blunt language, does this usher in a new era or a new attitude towards the Government of Egypt, that it will be held accountable and not get a pass, I mean, to use my word the other day in my question on this?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think anybody thinks they’re getting a pass. I think we expressed --
QUESTION: Well, they thought so. I think they did.
MS. PSAKI: I think we – let me finish. We express concerns when we have them. We highlight events that are happening when we see there’s a reason to do that, and this was an example of that.
QUESTION: And how would this be translated on the ground, let’s say, in terms of reassuring all oppositions, including the Muslim Brotherhood, that they can be part of a political process in the future, and the United States will stand on its principles towards the right of the opposition to be a part of any political arrangement?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve talked about inclusivity quite a bit. I was just highlighting the treatment of journalists because we felt it was important to shine a light on how concerned we were about that.
QUESTION: On Japan?
MS. PSAKI: Last one.
QUESTION: On Japan, the spokeswoman of Chinese Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying today asked for Japanese Prime Minister Abe not to play trick of calling for East Asia Summit, but taking real actions to improve its relationship with its neighbors. And yesterday, you said that the reporting of the Wall Street Journal about U.S. seeking for private assurance is not accurate. But what is the accurate message that the United States send to the Japanese Government? Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, if I’m answering your question here, yesterday there was a question very specifically about a report saying we had asked for private assurances, so that’s what I was addressing. In general, we communicate and we convey to the Japanese Government, just like we convey to other governments in the region, whether that’s South Korea or China, that we think that there’s an importance – we think there should be an increased focus on dialogue, and we continue to encourage that and we continue to discourage actions that would cause tensions in the region. So that’s the message we would have to any of those countries.
QUESTION: I have one more.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Justin Bieber.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, not what I expected. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No. I like to bring up the unexpected.
MS. PSAKI: A good way to finish the briefing.
QUESTION: Thank you, Jo. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- there is a petition, which has passed 100,000 signatures, to deport Justin Bieber for his actions – for driving, illegal drag racing in Miami, and so on and so forth. My question is: Would this – if he’s found guilty, would this actually violate his visa, and could he be deported?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a couple questions in there. So in the question of what would violate his visa, I would have – anyone’s visa, I will check and see what is publicly available information on that.
I think what you’re referring to is this wonderful program that the White House started that allows people to raise signatures for a variety of issues, whether that’s health care for children or perhaps it can be issues that you just mentioned here today. I think that’s an action that I would point you to the White House on on what steps they may or may not take. It doesn’t always determine a step will be taken; it’s more of another opportunity for the voices of the American people to be heard.
QUESTION: But revoking a visa would come under your purview.
MS. PSAKI: That is true, but that’s a separate question and I’ll see if there’s criteria that’s publicly available in terms of what – how that would apply to anyone.
QUESTION: Or a precedent for such type of --
MS. PSAKI: We will see what is available. Elise is smiling because she’s so excited right now. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Is it actually something that you are involved in the decision-making of? The Justice Department would be involved in deciding whether it should be revoked, and then you would just stamp “canceled” or something on it, right? I mean, is the State Department involved in considering deportation cases, or is that purely a function of law enforcement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re getting down quite a rabbit hole here with Justin Bieber, but – (laughter) --
QUESTION: Well, on anyone. I’m just wondering if this is the right place to be asking a question about that because I’m not sure that you guys do --
MS. PSAKI: That is a fair point. I was trying to give a serious answer on – I will check and see what the visa implications would be for anybody who is found of possibly violating the law.
QUESTION: But as long as we’re on celebrities, do you --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- have you taken any note at all about this controversy involving Scarlett Johansson and this Super Bowl ad for SodaStream, the Israeli company? Have you – is this on your radar at all?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen this. I have to --
QUESTION: I’ll talk to you about it afterwards, and maybe --
MS. PSAKI: -- read my People magazine more frequently.
QUESTION: No, no, no, it’s not. No, it’s actual real news.
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen the report, to answer your question.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:56 p.m.)
DPB # 18