Secretary Antony J. Blinken Before Virtual Meeting with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Greetings.  Good to see you.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA:  Likewise, Mr. Secretary.  How are you doing?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Very well, thank you.  Thank you.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA:  Wonderful to see you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much for this virtual visit and virtual reception.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA:  Thank you very much as well, and thank you for initiating this call, and for me, really, it’s just to say it’s a wonderful opportunity for us just to renew the wonderful relationship that exists between our two countries, our bilateral partnership, our partnership on a wide variety of multilateral issues, to really say how pleased I was to join you with President Biden and the – seeing America back on the scene again with regard to climate change.  This is a wonderful thing, taking your leadership position back.  I think it’s absolutely fantastic.  It’s something that’s great for us, who are sufferers, let me say, of the devastating challenges that have been posed by climate change.

And it’s really wonderful to see yourselves back, truly grateful of our continued partnership on defense, looking forward to continue the ongoing discussions with regard our FTA, looking forward to also in this very difficult moment working together with you with regard to our COVID response and to seeing how America can once again take her leadership and really help our developing nations that, if we don’t take great care, are likely also to bear the biggest brunt of this COVID challenge.  As is said, we’re not going to deal with COVID until we all deal with COVID, and we need to really just get to it and say how we are all going to be able to pull together and make sure that we overcome this crisis and get our world back to order.

I also, as an opening line, just to say that I’m really looking forward to working closely with yourselves on our regional issues, which I don’t need to delve into detail at this particular moment, but you’re fully aware that our region right now is quite unstable.  And again, we look forward to your friendship, to your partnership, to working together towards stabilizing the Horn and our East African and Central African region altogether.

So once again, it’s our first opportunity to really engage with one another.  I’m looking forward to working very closely with you and your team, and I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to do some great things together.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, Mr. President, thank you.  Thank you for taking the time to meet today, to host us virtually.  I have very strong memories of spending time in Kenya actually many years ago with my family, but then more recently with both then-Vice President Biden and also President Obama.  And it’s particularly good to be reconnected to you today.

I think given the breadth and depth of the partnership, it was especially important for me to be able to visit virtually on this first trip to Africa as Secretary of State, and indeed, I’m looking forward to discussing with you and your team the issues that you put on the table and a number of others, and I really thank all of the members of the Kenyan delegation for joining us as well today.  It would be better if we could do this in person.  I look forward to the day that we can, but for now, this is at least an important opportunity early in our administration for us to compare notes and to try to move forward on the important work we’re doing together.

And to your point, Mr. President, it was terrific to have your participation in the climate summit that President Biden convened, one of the number of global challenges that we know we have to tackle together.  COVID-19 being the other, I could not agree with you more that none of us will be fully safe until everyone is, and I look forward to discussing that and to looking at ways we can make our cooperation even more effective.

I think we both see challenges but also opportunities to, as President Biden puts it, build back better from the pandemic: creating quality, good-paying green jobs for our citizens; improving the global health infrastructure so that not only do we get through COVID-19 but we make sure we’re doing everything possible to prevent or mitigate the next outbreak.  And as strategic partners, to your point, we – I think we have a shared vision for our cooperation that we now need to move out on and make good on in the coming years.  And that’s building on what is already a very strong foundation in confronting common threats, including terrorism; but also seizing some of the opportunities that are out there, expanding trade and investment, grounded in the shared values of democracy and human rights that bring us together.

We’ve got the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, and through that, our governments are regularly reviewing progress on joint goals, on economic prosperity, on defense cooperation, on democracy and human rights and governance, on regional and multilateral cooperation, on public health.

So we’ve got a very strong agenda for the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue, very much looking forward to pursuing that, but meanwhile, for today, thank you for hosting us, and I look forward to a good conversation.  I think we’re going to take a brief pause and then we’ll be back momentarily to start the conversation.  Thank you.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA:  Fantastic.  Thank you very much.

More from: Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

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    As of June 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) required consumers nationwide to use the Lifeline National Verifier (Verifier), a centralized process and data system, to check their eligibility for Lifeline. Because consumers who participate in certain federal benefits programs qualify for discounted phone and internet service through Lifeline, the Verifier checks state and federal benefits databases to verify consumers' eligibility. The Verifier also includes a manual review process for consumers to submit documents proving their eligibility if they cannot be found in a database. As of November 2020, the Verifier had connections with databases in 20 states and 2 federal agencies. GAO found that although consumers in states without state database connections had the same likelihood of actually meeting eligibility requirements as consumers in states with such connections, they were less likely to be found eligible for Lifeline through the Verifier (see figure). Average Eligibility Determination for New Lifeline Applicants in States with and without State Database Connections to the Lifeline National Verifier, June 2018 through June 2020 FCC coordinated with state and federal stakeholders to implement the Verifier. However, stakeholders told GAO that many eligible consumers are not aware of the Verifier or Lifeline. Consumers may lack this awareness because FCC's consumer education planning did not always align with key practices, such as developing consistent, clear messages and researching target audiences. As a result, eligible consumers may not apply for Lifeline. Moreover, while FCC originally envisioned tribal governments and organizations assisting residents of tribal lands with the Verifier, it has not provided them with quality information to effectively do so. Although FCC reported that the Verifier is meeting its goal of improving the consumer experience, GAO found that the manual review process, which FCC used to determine the eligibility of more than half of applicants in many states, is challenging for consumers. However, FCC does not collect complete information on consumers' experience with this process, and thus is limited in its ability to identify and address the challenges consumers face. Such challenges likely contributed to eligible consumers giving up on their applications. For example, we found that more than two-thirds of applicants who underwent manual review between June 2018 and June 2020 did not complete their applications. FCC's Lifeline program discounts phone and internet service for eligible low-income consumers. In 2019, FCC authorized $982 million in support for 6.9 million eligible consumers. FCC created the Verifier with the stated goals of reducing fraud and costs and improving the consumer experience. The Verifier includes an online application, connections to state and federal benefits databases, and a standardized manual review process. GAO was asked to review FCC's implementation of the Verifier. This report examines: (1) the status of the Verifier; (2) FCC's coordination with stakeholders and efforts to educate consumers and facilitate tribal stakeholders' involvement; and (3) the extent to which the Verifier is meeting its goals. GAO reviewed FCC orders and documentation; analyzed Verifier performance and Lifeline subscriber data; interviewed FCC and other agency officials, and selected industry, state, tribal, and consumer stakeholders; and surveyed state officials. Stakeholders were selected to obtain a variety of non-generalizable viewpoints. GAO is making six recommendations, including that FCC develop a consumer education plan, provide quality information to tribal organizations, and collect information on consumers' experience with the manual review process. FCC agreed to take steps to address all of GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202)-512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
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  • Federal Grand Jury Returns a Superseding Indictment Adding New Charges in the Conspiracy to Kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Michigan returned a superseding indictment that adds new charges of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction against three defendants and adds federal firearms violations against two defendants in the case alleging a conspiracy to kidnap the governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer.
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    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that Target Recovery Towing Inc. (Target) has agreed to enter into a court-enforceable consent order to resolve allegations that it failed to obtain a legally required court order before auctioning off a car belonging to a U.S. Marine Corps Sergeant who was deployed overseas. 
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  • Arkansas Project Manager Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud and False Statements in Connection with COVID-Relief Fraud
    In Crime News
    A project manager employed by a major retailer has pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges for filing fraudulent bank loan applications seeking more than $8 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
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