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Department Press Briefing – February 28, 2024 – United States Department of State

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1:04 p.m. EST

MR MILLER: Good afternoon. I don’t have anything, but I’ll say apologies from the top. The President has a speech scheduled at 1:30, so if I have to wrap a bit early today, that’s why. So let’s get to it.

Leon.

QUESTION: Sure. Yeah, I’d like to ask you about Transnistria.

MR MILLER: Here comes Matt complaining I’m on time again. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That was not two minutes. That was like 45 seconds.

MR MILLER: Go – go ahead. You’re good.

QUESTION: Yeah, no, no. So the separatist authorities there are asking for – Russia for protection, extra protection. What is your take on what’s happening there in that region?

MR MILLER: So given Russia’s increasingly aggressive and destabilizing role in Europe, we are watching Russia’s actions in Transnistria and the broader situation there very closely. The United States firmly supports Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, and we continue to encourage Chisinau and Tiraspol to work together and identify solutions to pressing concerns of communities on both sides of the Dniester.

Matt, do you want me to come to you now?

QUESTION: No, continue. I’m still trying to digest the text of —

MR MILLER: Okay. I think it was two minutes. I think it was two minutes. It was supposed to be two minutes.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, whatever.

MR MILLER: Humeyra, go ahead.

QUESTION: Time is relative.

MR MILLER: Time is a flat circle.

QUESTION: I just want to ask a little bit about the settlements, Matt. So after Secretary’s announcement last week, Israeli Finance Minister Smotrich doubled down on those plans, and he said Israel will continue expanding the settlements in the occupied West Bank. I mean, first of all, do you have a response to that most recent announcement?

MR MILLER: So my only response is that we are going to continue to be very direct with the Government of Israel, both privately and publicly, that we think that their settlement program is both a – an obstacle to peace and inconsistent with international law.

QUESTION: Right. This seems to be another topic between Israel and U.S. that you guys are increasingly at odds. And diplomacy, whatever you are saying to your Israeli counterparts, does not seem to be working. You’re unable to convince them, and you’re also pushing for a two-state solution. And so how are you – what are you going to do differently to get Israeli counterparts on board? How are you going to reconcile the expansion of the settlements with the two-state solution that you’re pushing for?

MR MILLER: So first of all, I’d say that disagreements between the United States and Israel over settlements in the West Bank are something that date back far beyond the outset of this administration. These disagreements go back decades, in fact, over multiple administrations of both parties in the United States and multiple governments of Israel. So that’s not a thing that is new in terms of a disagreement between the United States and Israel.

QUESTION: Yes, but wouldn’t you —

MR MILLER: With – but with – no, no —

QUESTION: Wouldn’t you really like to be the administration who solved that?

MR MILLER: Of course, and with respect to the broader question, we are going to continue to make clear to them, as I said, that we think settlements are an obstacle to peace, inconsistent with international law. And we’re going to have this conversation with them in the context of the larger challenges that Israel faces and the larger opportunity that we are ready to present to them with Arab partners in the region. So we’ve talked a lot about the work that the Secretary has done with countries in the region who want to further integrate with Israel, want to provide security assurances to Israel, want to move past the disputes that have existed between Israel and those countries for decades, but they’re going to need Israel to make some hard choices.

So we’re going to continue to do that work and have those conversations with Israel. But, as I’ve said a number of times and as you’ve heard the Secretary say, ultimately it’s Israel that has to make those decisions and nobody else can do it for them – not the United States, not anybody.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Matt. Hamas is calling on Palestinians to march on al-Aqsa Mosque on the first day of Ramadan. I was wondering if the State Department has any comment on these – this call for —

MR MILLER: So I don’t have any comment on the call for marches. I would just say, as it pertains to al-Aqsa, we continue to urge Israel to facilitate access to the Temple Mount for peaceful worshipers during Ramadan consistent with past practice, and that’ll continue to be our position.

QUESTION: Have you received any commitments from the Israeli Government that they will allow access to the mosque?

MR MILLER: We have seen reports about – what’s the right word – plans that are under consideration. I don’t know if they’ve made a final decision over that matter. We have urged them that worshipers should have access to al-Aqsa during Ramadan, and the thing – the point that we have made clear to them is, as is true for a number of areas that we discuss with them, that’s not just the right thing to do. It’s not just a matter of granting people religious freedom that they deserve and that – to which they have a right. But it’s also a matter that directly is important to Israel’s security. It is not in Israel’s security interest to inflame tensions in the West Bank or in the broader region, and so we’ll continue to make that clear.

QUESTION: Would there be any repercussions if any of these foreign ministers who have threatened to go actually worship at al-Aqsa actually go through with this?

MR MILLER: I just don’t want to deal with a hypothetical.

QUESTION: And could I follow up? My colleagues just completed an investigation that found that indiscriminate Israeli fire killed scores of members of a family that was sheltering in what they were told was a safe area of Gaza. Has the State Department – like, can you update us at all on the investigations into civilian harm?

MR MILLER: So I don’t – I have not seen this particular report that CNN has done, so I’ll need to look into that for – to be able to respond to the specifics. But broadly, we have engaged with the Government of Israel over a host of civilian deaths and called for investigations, asked for more information. At times they have been able to give us information about things that happened, either mistakes that the IDF made in its targeting. At times they’ve been – told us that matters are under investigation. That’s the general way that we approach this. But I don’t – I can’t comment specifically on this report, which I haven’t seen.

QUESTION: And you won’t to speak to specific incidents, but can you give us an understanding of the universe of how many of these incidents you’re looking into?

MR MILLER: No. There are a number of incidents that we’ve looked into, as I’ve said. We are always collecting information and gathering information, but I can’t speak to —

QUESTION: What about – what about the investigations into the destruction of civilian infrastructure or apparently civilian infrastructure in Gaza?

MR MILLER: So the – sure.

QUESTION: So – but specifically, did you ever get an answer to them about the university?

MR MILLER: So the most recent update I have, we pressed the Government of Israel for information about that. We – they came back to us and said that that particular facility was one that was used by Hamas to launch terrorist attacks. We asked for more information, said that we wanted to know more information about their decision-making on that process, and do not yet have a further answer.

QUESTION: So you have not —

MR MILLER: They gave us an initial answer. We wanted to know more and have not gotten to – as far – as far as I know, have not yet gotten a further answer.

QUESTION: So in other words, from the administration’s perspective, you’re – this is still like a kind of – I don’t want to say open case, but it’s —

MR MILLER: Open question where we are waiting for more information, correct.

QUESTION: Matt, can I follow up on —

MR MILLER: Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: Although at that university, they had been there for a couple of months, so the university, even if it was used, it was neutral for at least two months, under Israeli control and occupation when they blew it up.

Let me just ask you on – follow up on Humeyra, on the settlements. Now, there’s going to be some staggering number, like 13,600 housing units east of Bethlehem, creeping into my village, more than likely. So – and you say we will continue to express our views and so on. But the Israelis are not listening. So what are you willing – what leverage are you willing to use to say, look – we asked this a number of times in this room, this issue. Will there ever be a – will there ever – will we ever reach a point where you say, okay, you continue to do this, we’re going to do this in return?

MR MILLER: So, Said, I think again sometimes – and we’ve discussed this before —

QUESTION: Right.

MR MILLER: — there is a mistaken belief that the United States is able to dictate to other countries sovereign decisions. Israel makes its sovereign decisions; we make clear where we disagree with them. And there have been times when we express our disagreements privately; there are times we express them publicly. And of course you have seen individuals in Israel take actions that – where we have felt the need to hold them accountable.

So with respect to extremist violence in the West Bank, we have made very clear that when we didn’t see the Government of Israel taking action that we thought was sufficient, we were ready to hold people accountable. And we are ready to hold further individuals accountable, if appropriate. And that’ll continue to be the case.

QUESTION: We – yeah. I mean, other countries, they’re all sovereign, of course. But not – we don’t give every country $4 billion a year, at least, in aid and so on. So we should have some leverage, and especially when it comes to settlements that you are committing, at least verbally, to have a Palestinian state on, on that land. I mean, once that land is made into settlements, there will be no land to erect a Palestinian state.

MR MILLER: So again, we provide security assistance to Israel because we support Israel’s legitimate right to ensure that the attacks of October 7th never happen again; to ensure Israel’s legitimate right to protect itself from a terrorist organization, Hizballah, that exists to the north of Israel and continues to attack Israel and has said that it wants – that it is committed to the destruction of Israel. So that is true. It is also true that there are things that the Government of Israel does with which we disagree and we express our disagreements.

But that doesn’t change our fundamental commitment to Israel’s security. And so I know that’s sometimes hard for people to understand, but we are committed to Israel’s security, and that’s why we take the actions to support their right to defend themself consistent with humanitarian law. But that does not mean that we agree with everything that they do.

QUESTION: My last one, although we must admit that American aid to Israel predates October 7 by decades. So let me ask you about also the issue that Humeyra raised on the – you’re not seeing eye to eye or the administration is not seeing eye to eye with Mr. Netanyahu. I mean, we see it in the – on timetables, on many other issues, and so on. Now, the President has not retracted what he said last Monday about we are looking hopefully at a ceasefire possibly next Monday and so on. So – but Mr. Netanyahu seems to be in total disagreement with you guys.

MR MILLER: So I will not speak to the comments by the prime minister. But on the behalf of the United States, we continue to believe that an agreement is possible. We have made significant progress towards one, as you heard the President say, as you’ve heard me say, and we’re going to continue to work towards it.

QUESTION: Sorry, just on the sovereignty issue.

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: I know we had a tiny exchange about this yesterday. But when you say that, the idea of your respect, or U.S. respect, for sovereignty does not extend to the Palestinians. Right?

MR MILLER: We are committed to the establishment —

QUESTION: They are not a —

MR MILLER: We are committed to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

QUESTION: They do not —

MR MILLER: They are not currently a state.

QUESTION: So they have – they have no sovereignty.

MR MILLER: We are trying to establish sovereignty for the Palestinians.

QUESTION: No, I know. But currently, they don’t. Right?

MR MILLER: We are trying to establish it for them.

QUESTION: Okay. So can you think of any other – like how does this compare to Taiwan, for example?

MR MILLER: I think this is the – you’d need to —

QUESTION: No. In terms of your – your belief in sovereignty.

MR MILLER: It is —

QUESTION: So you have a “one China” policy as it relates to China and Taiwan which indicates that Taiwan is not sovereign, and yet you treat them as a sovereign entity – maybe not a state, but a sovereign entity. With the Palestinians, do you treat them with the same kind of regard, that maybe they’re not a sovereign state or you do not recognize them as a sovereign state, but at least they have a right of self-determination?

MR MILLER: So we do not treat them as a sovereign state, but we are trying to establish an independent Palestinian state —

QUESTION: Because – okay, all right.

MR MILLER: No, I don’t – just let me —

QUESTION: Okay. So on this —

MR MILLER: Let me get to the answer. And we do support self-determination for the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: Okay. But they do not currently enjoy your – the administration’s – thinking and previous administrations’ thinking as well. They do not enjoy the rights of sovereignty that, say, Israel or Jordan or Australia or Madagascar have.

MR MILLER: So I don’t know what you mean by the question, but we do not recognize them as an independent state. That’s a factual matter.

QUESTION: And so —

MR MILLER: But we are trying to establish —

QUESTION: And thus they have no right or claim to sovereignty?

MR MILLER: They are not a sovereign state at this point, but we are trying to – we are trying to establish them as one.

QUESTION: All right.

MR MILLER: Okay.

QUESTION: Very quickly to Matt’s point, is the Biden administration ever going to reopen the consulate for Palestinians in Jerusalem? And if not, why not?

MR MILLER: I don’t have any update on that matter. It’s something that we continue to look at.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Secretary raised the point though that —

MR MILLER: I’m sorry, sorry.

QUESTION: — that the Secretary said back in 2021 that this would be done. It’s three years later. What’s the holdup?

MR MILLER: And it’s something that we continue to review, but I just don’t have an update.

Alex, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. A couple questions going back to Moldova. Can you please expand on what you just said to my colleague? Obviously, there are a lot of pieces moving there, but what kind of reaction will that yield back from the U.S.? And do you view this as an isolated event or part of a broader strategy that Russia is feeling emboldened given the investment delay in Ukraine?

MR MILLER: So I don’t want to speak to what we might do. As I said, we’re watching the matter very carefully. I don’t want to speak to a hypothetical what may happen down the road, but obviously we have seen Russia take a number of incredibly reckless and destabilizing acts in the region. That’s not – nothing new, so that is the very reason, as I said, why we are watching this matter so closely.

QUESTION: In Georgia, Russian occupiers – they kidnapped another Georgian citizen in Kareli, and the Georgian Government said that they have informed international allies including Geneva process co-chairs, which is the U.S. Do you have any reaction to it?

MR MILLER: Let me take that back and get you a comment.

QUESTION: And – thank so much. On Berlin talks, do you have anything for me? I know the U.S. is not in the room as the German ministers —

MR MILLER: I don’t have a readout from those talks, so no.

QUESTION: And I have two more on Russia, if I may.

MR MILLER: One. One more.

QUESTION: Okay, I’ll try to put them together. About hostages, I know that there were some meetings today in Moscow, the consular visit to Paul – Paul Whelan. Any update on his situation and also the situation about – involving other Americans hostages?

MR MILLER: We did have a consular visit with Paul Whelan today – I believe you saw that the embassy made a statement about that – part of our ongoing, longstanding process to provide consular assistance to American citizens who are detained overseas. We continue to work to try to secure the release of Paul Whelan and Evan Gershkovich, but I don’t have any update on it.

Janne, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, Matt. Two questions very quick. Secretary Blinken meets with the South Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul today. What is the purpose of the meeting and what will be discussed at the meeting?

MR MILLER: So I will not preview what will be discussed before he has a chance to have that meeting and – as is my longstanding practice – but they will certainly discuss cooperation on a number of issues in the region, destabilizing acts by North Korea, and of course the trilateral partnership between the United States, Korea, and Japan. And you can look, of course, for a full readout after the meeting.

QUESTION: Secondly, do United States want South Korea to provide more weapons including the artillery shells to Ukraine? What items do you specifically want?

MR MILLER: So I’m not going to speak with respect to specific conversations with South Korea, but I will – or specific military items – but we, of course, encouraged a number of allies and partners around the world to step up and provide security assistance to Ukraine, and in fact we’ve assembled a coalition of more than 50 countries who have provided assistance to Ukraine.

And the way we see it is that every country has different capabilities, different ways that they can step up and help, and so we have engaged in a process to try to match up the needs that Ukrainian – that Ukraine has with different capabilities that other countries can meet.

QUESTION: This issue will be raised at the foreign minister meeting today?

MR MILLER: Again, I don’t want to preview a meeting before it happens.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Two questions, two questions on Pakistan, thank you. Four foreign nationals were charged last week in the U.S. for transporting suspected Iranian-made weapons on a vessel intercepted by U.S. Naval forces in Arabian Sea. Now Pakistani authorities have told us that they have approached the U.S. for consular access to four of them. Do you have any update on that?

MR MILLER: I would defer that question to the Department of Justice. When people are taken into federal custody, they are held by the Department of Justice, and it is that department that decides matters of consular access.

QUESTION: So second question. So Imran Khan, former prime minister, he has asked IMF to factor in countries’ political stability in any further bailout talks. And as U.S. knows, Pakistan needs 2 billion alone in March to be able to avoid economic breakdown. How do you see this effort on PTI’s part to be contacting IMF and also talking about election rigging?

MR MILLER: So I’ll just say with respect to the IMF that we support Pakistan’s efforts to break free from the vicious cycle of debt and international financing. The long-term health of Pakistan’s government – or economy is crucial to its stability. Pakistan’s new government must immediately prioritize the economic situation because the policies over the next several months will be crucial to maintaining economic stability for Pakistanis. And we urge Pakistan to continue working with the IMF and other international financial institutions towards macroeconomic reforms.

Nick, go ahead.

QUESTION: There’s some reporting today about a CODEL from last week to Cuba, about ten Democratic members of the House. Did State facilitate any of that or do you have any visibility on that CODEL?

MR MILLER: We did not facilitate any meetings that they held. This is what I think you call a NODEL – the technical term.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Really? So they had – they had absolutely no contact with the embassy?

MR MILLER: That’s not what I said. They may have had contact. That I’m not aware of. We did not facilitate any meetings they had with the Cuban Government.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. AFP reported yesterday that the United States supports the idea of European allies sending troops to Ukraine. Can you confirm that? Does Washington support it or not?

MR MILLER: I think I spoke to this yesterday from this podium, where I made clear that other countries will decide what they want to do. But on behalf of the United States, the President has been very clear that he is not going to put U.S. boots on the ground. And if you heard me yesterday, I referred to the comments by the NATO secretary general that he has made very clear – been very clear that there will be NATO – no NATO troops in Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay, and one more question.

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: According to IMF data, the Russian economy grew faster than any of the G7 economies in 2023. And in —

MR MILLER: Sir, I just misheard. Can you just —

QUESTION: According to IMF —

MR MILLER: According to IMF. Yeah.

QUESTION: — IMF data, the Russian economy grew faster than any of the G7 economies in 2023 and is expected to do so in 2024. Can you explain this phenomenon? Thus, does it mean that sanctions doesn’t work?

MR MILLER: So I didn’t see that specific report, but we have seen the Russian GDP decline dramatically since its invasion due to the sanctions and export controls that the United States and other countries imposed on Russia, and due in part to, in our belief, the hundreds of thousands of Russians – some of the best and brightest – who fled Russia after the outbreak of that conflict.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. The United States is helping Pakistan in the energy sector and recent projects help Pakistan – additional 4,000 megawatt of energy capacity in Pakistan. Would you like to share some details about that?

MR MILLER: Share what?

QUESTION: Some details about that. Do you have any details about the energy —

MR MILLER: I will have to take that back and get you an answer.

QUESTION: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom disclosed that Indian embassy in Washington, D.C., is not giving them visa for the last three years to monitor the ground situation in India about the religious freedom. And they also asked Biden administration to include India in the CPC countries. Do you have any comments on that?

MR MILLER: What was the second part of the question?

QUESTION: Is there —

MR MILLER: I heard the part about visas.

QUESTION: So they are asking Biden administration to include India in the CPC countries. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

MR MILLER: Oh, so yeah. So USCIRF is an independent commission established by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 to provide recommendations to the President, so I would refer you to them for any further comment.

Humeyra, go ahead. I’ll come to you next.

QUESTION: Yeah, just to go back to your answer on settlements, Matt – and this is not something that I’ve heard for the first time, but I just want to put it on record. So you’ve talked about wider integration of Israel into the region, and you’ve talked about the Secretary’s efforts, which I’ve seen firsthand traveling with him. But so the – what U.S. is hoping is that you would have a broader normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia and perhaps like other Arab countries; and in return, Netanyahu would agree to a two-state solution or some form of it that would effectively put a halt to the settlements? What’s the settlement sort of element of that?

MR MILLER: So the settlement element of that is that if, at the end of this, you would have the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

QUESTION: Right.

MR MILLER: And if you have an establishment of an independent Palestinian state, that would necessarily include the inability for Israel to build settlements in what is another country at that point. Now, the issue of existing settlements, as we have always been clear, is something that would have to be discussed in negotiations between all the parties.

QUESTION: Right. And when you have been holding talks with the Israeli Government, with Netanyahu and your counterparts there, have they actually privately told you anything that would make you think that they’re open to any of these ideas, especially like putting – putting a lid on the settlement expansion?

MR MILLER: I am not going to —

QUESTION: Independent of this.

MR MILLER: Yeah, I’m not going to – I’m not going to speak to – I’m not going to speak on behalf of the Israeli Government. I will say what we have made clear, and you’ve seen the Secretary speak to this when he’s in the region about the case that he has made to them and why we think it’s important that there be a coherent plan for the day after this conflict in Gaza that includes reconstruction, that includes governance. And in our view, you have to have the participation of other countries in the region to achieve such a coherent plan, and you also have to have the participation of other countries in the region to achieve real and lasting security for Israel. And so that’s why we’re going to continue to make that case.

QUESTION: Yeah, one last thing on aid, and I’ve asked you this earlier this week since the situation is even more and more dire. We’re seeing a lot of reports of now like children, sort of starvation, malnutrition. So there seems to be like almost a complete collapse in the distribution of aid inside Gaza. We’ve seen Israel blame UN. I mean, does the United States share that view? Is it up to UN and is it their inability to provide this? And what are you guys doing to address this urgently?

MR MILLER: So I think with respect to the distribution issue, the UN is unable to distribute food and other assistance inside Gaza the way that they would like to due to the security situation. So it is a matter that needs to be addressed by all of the concerned parties, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

I will say we are also working on opening additional crossings to get humanitarian assistance in, in addition to Rafah and Kerem Shalom, and hopefully in a way that would alleviate some of the distribution issues that we have faced. There are other ways that we are exploring to get humanitarian assistance in, but we are also – and it’s why you hear us talk about this so much and why we’re devoting so much effort – trying to secure a hostage deal that would lead to a temporary ceasefire because, ultimately, that would resolve a lot of the issues regarding the distribution of humanitarian assistance.

And if there aren’t active – there isn’t active conflict going on, it’s easy – it’s much safer for people to move around; it’s much safer for aid to be delivered. And then because there’s more aid coming in and more aid being delivered, the people on the ground aren’t in such a desperate situation that you see looting of convoys and that sort of a security problem, as we’ve seen in the last few weeks.

QUESTION: Yeah. I understand the hostage – the emphasis on the hostage talks, but we’re talking about dates like March the 4th, and some people even call that, like, optimistic. We’re talking about March the 10th, the start of Ramadan. But what we’re seeing inside Gaza right now is, like, much more urgent than that.

MR MILLER: Yeah. No, that’s – that was what I was speaking to with the first part of my answer, is why we’re trying to resolve the security situation that has led to trucks being unable to move freely. We’re trying to get an additional crossing open. This is —

QUESTION: Right.

MR MILLER: This is independent of a potential hostage deal. And we’re exploring other ways to get humanitarian assistance in. To – like, we’re not just waiting for a hostage deal. We are trying to address that issue now while also recognizing that the best solution to the problem would be a temporary ceasefire.

QUESTION: Right. By the way, how is the third opening of the crossing will help the distribution problem inside?

MR MILLER: I don’t want to speak to that now. It’s something that we’re pressing on, and if and when I have more details, I’ll speak to them from here.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MR MILLER: Yeah. Go ahead. I told her I’d come to her next.

QUESTION: Sure.

MR MILLER: I’ll come to you after.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Recently an Austrian hostages was released by Taliban regime with Qatar mediation. As we know, there are some American hostages in the Taliban prison, including the Ryan Corbett. Is there any negotiation between United States and Taliban for releasing American hostages from the Taliban prison?

MR MILLER: U.S. officials have continuously, consistently pressed – including in meetings with Taliban representatives – for the immediate and unconditional release of Americans detained in Afghanistan, noting that these tensions are a significant obstacle to positive engagement.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Afghanistan for one second?

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday, I think it was Nick asked you about Representative McCaul’s —

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — quote/unquote threat to subpoena the Secretary over these AAR notes. Well, HFAC majority staff is none too happy with your response yesterday. They say it was disingenuous and untrue, basically. Did you – and I don’t have a position on this because I don’t really know. I don’t think anyone other than you – but did the State Department tell HFAC majority staff on this call on January 12th that you no longer had custody of the after-action review interview notes and couldn’t and wouldn’t release them unless the White House and the NSC signed off?

MR MILLER: So I wasn’t on that call, and I saw that they had put out a statement right before I walked out to the podium. I didn’t get a chance to —

QUESTION: Yeah, that was what I was reading.

MR MILLER: I didn’t get a chance to read it or look into it, so I’ll have to get back to you on that. But —

QUESTION: Well, there are several specific questions in – that they have about your response yesterday, and so I just —

MR MILLER: I’m happy to review the statement and either get back to you —

QUESTION: Can —

MR MILLER: — afterwards or speak to it from the podium tomorrow. Either way.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, can you address them? But is it your understanding right now, the current situation is that the State Department no longer has custody or the ability under the Presidential Records Act or whatever – executive privilege – to provide those notes to the committee without either the White House or the NSC —

MR MILLER: I’m just —

QUESTION: — signing off on it?

MR MILLER: I’m just going to have to look into it and get back – get back to you. I’m just not aware of the underlying details of the situation.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, is there – are you —

MR MILLER: I can say the offer that we have made to them, which is to have the deputy secretary come and discuss this with them, still stands, obviously, to try to work through these issues.

QUESTION: This is the deputy – Rich?

MR MILLER: Rich Verma, yeah, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. But – and they say, though, that he said on this call that you guys wouldn’t turn them over, and then when they said – this is what they say.

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: And they say, well, then Chairman McCaul might have to elevate this to the Secretary’s level, and the response was, well, that’s his prerogative – go ahead. Basically, go ahead.

MR MILLER: (Laughter.) Again —

QUESTION: And – and if that’s correct – I don’t know if that characterization is correct or not —

MR MILLER: Yeah.

QUESTION: — but if it is, it just seems – I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem to be, like, saying – it doesn’t seem to be indicative of an agency that wants to or thinks that it’s important —

MR MILLER: So —

QUESTION: — to cooperate on this.

MR MILLER: So —

QUESTION: And I understand this has gone on for a long time.

MR MILLER: So I was about to say, like —

QUESTION: And I get all that. But they have a legitimate interest.

MR MILLER: They – so again, I can’t speak to those specific details because I wasn’t on the call, as I said, and I have not been able to —

QUESTION: All right.

MR MILLER: — look into the matters. But as I think you anticipated I was going to say, we have turned over in this inquiry thousands of pages of documents. We’ve made available witnesses for transcribed interviews; we have cooperated in a good-faith fashion. But as is always true, the Executive Branch has legitimate confidentiality rights and legitimate privileges that we also expect Congress to respect, and we try to reach an accommodation. And that’s what our offer to have —

QUESTION: Right.

MR MILLER: — the deputy secretary come discuss with the committee was ultimately trying to pursue.

QUESTION: Fair enough, but – but these – the notes that they want to see are – were not among the documents that were turned over, that you that you turned over.

MR MILLER: Well, again, in general we do have legitimate confidentiality interests and legitimate privileges that we —

QUESTION: Not suggesting that you don’t.

MR MILLER: Yeah, I know, that’s always the nature of this dispute.

QUESTION: But anyway, all right, so could you take a – could you take a look at this?

MR MILLER: I will take – I will – yeah, I will.

QUESTION: And then try to get an answer to the best of your ability to the questions that they raised?

MR MILLER: Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Two – two quick questions. There were some reports yesterday claiming that U.S. demands Israeli Government to submit a written letter on using U.S. weapons in Gaza – I mean, giving some assurances it will abide by international law. Can you have anything on that?

MR MILLER: So I did see that report, and I think it is just describing the National Security Memorandum that the President issued in early February that outlines a procedure that is not specific to the State of Israel but is specific to all countries that receive military assistance from the United States, that those countries provide us written assurances that recipients, number one, will use the weapons in accordance with the use – with the law of war; and number two, will facilitate and not arbitrarily deny or restrict humanitarian assistance.

So there is a process that we are engaged in with every country that receives military assistance from the United States to make sure they are aware of the requirements of the National Security Memorandum, make sure that they are aware of the timeline that is outlined in the National Security Memorandum. Again, this is all public; it requires a 45-day timeline for these countries to provide written assurances. So we’re going about that process now.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR MILLER: And Alex, and then we’ll have to end because I think it’s time for the President.

QUESTION: Just very quick on Sandvine. The U.S. blacklisted Sandvine today. Give us – fill us in on what are the main practices in terms of holding repressive regimes accountable. According to Freedom House, Azerbaijan, Russia, the UAE – they have used that company to go after human rights defenders. To hold them accountable, will you take a further step rather than just denouncing them unwanted?

MR MILLER: I do not have any further actions to preview from here.

With that, thanks, everyone. Sorry for the short briefing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:37 p.m.)

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