Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Rosemary Barton of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

QUESTION:  Secretary Blinken, nice of you to make the time.  Appreciate it.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  It’s good to be with you.

QUESTION:  Obviously we’re doing this in strange circumstances.  It must be hard to be a diplomat in these times right now.  I’m going to start on that very issue – on the pandemic – because I know it’s top of mind for the administration and certainly the Canadian Government.  Has Canada asked your administration to scrap the executive order aimed at keeping U.S.-produced vaccines inside the United States?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, what I think we’re all working on is making sure that we can get – produce as many vaccines as possible and ultimately get them out to everyone who needs them wherever they are, because at the end of the day, none of us are going to be fully safe until everyone in every part of the world is vaccinated.  You know that as long as the virus is alive somewhere, it’s probably going to be mutating, and if it’s mutating, it can come back to bite us.  The United States, as you know, has just rejoined – or joined COVAX, the international vaccine alliance, and Govi that – Gavi, excuse me – that goes with it.  We have a commitment of $4 billion into that effort, and I think what you’re going to see in the weeks ahead is greater and greater production, and thus greater and greater access of vaccines around the world, including in Canada.

QUESTION:  You are vaccinating your citizens at a much faster rate than Canada, in part because you have the pharmaceutical giants producing the vaccine within the country.  Is there – in what scenario would your closest neighbor and ally start to be able to tap into that production?  Is it once everyone has been vaccinated in the U.S.?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, we’re working on a framework right now for how we can maximize the availability of vaccines.  Of course, we’re focused on getting every American vaccinated, and that’s job one, but we’re also looking at the same time in how we can help get vaccines around the world, because again, this goes to both the right thing to do but the necessary thing to do for our own well-being.  And I think the commitment of $4 billion to COVAX is a very clear sign of our commitment to that effort.

QUESTION:  We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of the border between Canada and the U.S. being shut down, such an extraordinary move.  I know in the conversations with the prime minister and the President this week, that was part of the roadmap, looking at the science that would allow us to open the border.  What has to be in place, in your mind, before we can consider doing that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, look, let’s start with the fact that I think we’ve managed this remarkably well.  We’ve kept the border going in the sense that we’ve had essential travel that has gone forward.  We’ve made sure that the supply chains and trade could keep going despite the restrictions.  And, of course, we’ve both been focused on public health and public safety.  So we’re going to follow the science, we’re going to follow the facts, and make sure that together as we all bounce back from COVID, we can get this going as quickly and as effectively and as deeply as possible.

We have a 5,000-mile border, and it’s one of the most remarkable things in the world because it’s a – not just a peaceful border, it is a living border that brings our two countries together, our people together every single day.  I’m glad that we found ways to keep things going even during COVID, and now as we both emerge from it, I’m confident we’ll get to that place that we both want.

QUESTION:  But do you have the points that you want to see in order to get to that place?  I mean, does Canada have to be fully vaccinated?  Are you looking at more rapid testing?  What kinds of things are you considering in order to reach that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We have our experts looking at that.  Of course, the CDC, the Centers for Disease Control, are in the lead and we’re going to follow their guidance.

QUESTION:  So do you anticipate we are still looking at months yet of the border being closed?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I don’t want to put a time stamp on it.  I think we have to follow the progress that we’re all making in combating the disease and getting people vaccinated, and again, following the science.  And you know it is changing mostly for the good every single day.  I think we’ve made very rapid progress in the last few weeks.  At the same time, we have variants that are popping up.  We have to be on guard against those and we all have to remain disciplined, because the closer we get to actually getting over the hump and dealing effectively with COVID-19, it’s easy to let down your guard.  People are tired, they’re frustrated, and I understand that profoundly.  But if we can just keep our guard up and keep our vigilance a little while longer, we’re going to get to the other side.

QUESTION:  A couple questions about trade, if I can.  I know that you have a buy America provision in the executive order.  I know that you’ve reassured Canada that it will be consulted as you move forward with the – developing the policy around that.  Is your administration willing to consider an exemption for Canada writ large or some of the industries within Canada?  What is the approach on that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, first, the buy America provisions have been on the books for a long time, and this goes to government procurement.  This goes to how governments spend taxpayers’ money and the focus there.

QUESTION:  Right.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  But we have – we are each other’s largest trading partners.  We have a remarkably vibrant commercial and trade relationship.  I think the potential going forward, particularly as we’re trying to build more resilient supply chains, something that’s really been I think impressed upon both countries with regard to – after COVID-19 and also some of the challenges posed by China, there is huge opportunity there.

And the other, I think, really big opportunity is, precisely as we rebound from COVID-19, we both have a strong incentive to work together on a whole series of projects as well as to make sure that that trading relationship, already arguably the strongest in the world, grows even stronger.

QUESTION:  So you could understand our apprehension and wariness, though, given the past four years that Canada has experienced.  So should we – so Canada should just take your word that this will all be okay, and we don’t need anything in writing or a clear exemption?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, look, we have the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that was reached building upon original agreements from a couple of decades ago.  But more to the point –

QUESTION:  Yes.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  — we already have this incredibly vibrant relationship that I am convinced, particularly given some of the new imperatives on supply chains and bouncing back and building back better from COVID-19 where we are such natural partners, I am very confident we’re going to see real growth and expansion in that relationship.

QUESTION:  Okay.  I’m going to move on to China, which, as you know, is of a real concern to this country right now.  You have said China is the most significant threat against American national interests.  Do you think that Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the two Canadians being detained in China right now, are being held hostage essentially?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I was pleased – it’s unfortunate it was necessary, but I was very pleased to join the Canadian initiative on the arbitrary detentions that some states, starting with China, are engaged in.  Using people, human beings, as pawns for political purposes, it is totally unacceptable conduct by any country.  And so we stand strongly with Canada when it comes to the need to see the two Michaels released immediately and unconditionally.  We will continue to stand with Canada on that.  I have made that clear in my own conversations with Chinese counterparts.  And we look forward to the day when they are able to return home.

QUESTION:  In December, I’m sure you know that there were some reports that the United States had approached Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei vice president, about the possibility of a deferred prosecution agreement, a sort of plea deal.  Is that still being considered?  Because clearly, China believes that these two cases, these three people, are connected.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  All of these matters are matters for our Department of Justice to look at and consider.  We follow the law.  We follow the facts.  And one of the things that we don’t do is have politics or foreign policy interfere in the workings of the Justice Department.  So these are matters that are properly in their jurisdiction.

QUESTION:  So you have no knowledge about whether that continues or whether that’s a possibility?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yeah, I’d refer you to the Justice Department.

QUESTION:  You’ve told your – you’ve told Chinese officials that the U.S. will continue to press China over its human rights record in Xinjiang and elsewhere, for that matter.  What does that mean practically?  What could the United States further do to reprimand China?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think there are a few things.  First of all, it is really important to speak up, to speak out, and to do so with other countries who share our abhorrence at what is – what’s happening to Uyghurs in Xinjiang or, for that matter, what’s happening to democracy in Hong Kong.

But in terms of practical measures, I think there are a number of things that can be done.  For example, countries should not be supplying any products or technology that can be used for the repression of people in China; for example, the Uyghurs.  Similarly, countries should look at making sure they’re not importing products that are made with forced labor.  Those are very practical things that countries can do and focus on to make sure that not only is our voice loud but our actions are too.

QUESTION:  I’m sure you know that our parliament this week voted to condemn what was happening, yes, but also to suggest that it is indeed a genocide.  However, cabinet and the prime minister abstained from that decision saying they needed more information.  Have you given the Canadian Government information to support confirmation that it is, in fact, a genocide we are seeing there?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I think each country, each government needs to make its own assessment, its own determination following its laws and practices.  We’ve made clear what we believe, and we look to other countries to make their own determinations.

QUESTION:  So you – do you – you believe it is a genocide; is that accurate?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Yes, I have said so, and I’ve made that clear on behalf of the United States.  President Biden, more importantly, has said so as well.

QUESTION:  And what would be the benefit of a multilateral declaration by countries led by the United States and Canada too of declaring it a genocide?  What would be the impact of that, Secretary?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Look, I think as a general matter we are much more effective when – in dealing with some of the challenges that China poses when we are doing it together.  When countries, democracies, are working together, speaking together, acting together, it’s a lot harder for China to ignore our collective voice and our collective weight than it is for China to ignore each of us individually.  So I think there is – there’s power in numbers.  And ultimately, the world coming together when it sees basic principles and basic standards violated is important in and of itself.

QUESTION:  Are you confident that because the Biden administration and yourself are now bringing this position on China to the world that the two Canadians will be released sooner rather than later?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Look, I certainly very, very much hope so.  And again, the initiative that Canada took to have countries speak as one and join as one against the arbitrary detention by states of their citizens is a significant and important initiative, because what we have to do among – obviously, we have to focus on bringing the two Michaels home.  But more broadly, we have to work together to establish a basic norm in international conduct that this is simply unacceptable.  That takes time.  It takes effort.  It takes sustained effort.

If you go back – it’s a very different thing, but it’s the same basic principle.  After World War I there was an abhorrence of the use of chemical weapons, and countries worked together over decades to establish a norm against their use, and it took hold.  And obviously, we’ve seen violations of that norm, but there is an under – an international understanding on that.  We need an international understanding on the prohibition against arbitrary detentions of countries’ citizens for political purposes.

QUESTION:  Your president has said that America is back.  It’s a refrain that our prime minister used when he first won as well.  I wonder:  How difficult is it to rebuild America’s position of leadership at multilateral organizations and around the world?  How difficult is it, do you think, going to be?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I’ve been – because I couldn’t – can’t yet travel, I’ve been burning up the phone lines since I’ve been in office.  And as I’ve said, I’m glad we’re on the family telephone plan here, otherwise our budget would be gone.  But I’m finding almost across the board a thirst and a thanks for American engagement, because here’s the – here’s the reality I think we’re all facing, including the United States:  Not a single one of the really big problems that we have to deal with on behalf of our people, things that are going to affect them or are affecting their daily lives, whether it’s changing climate, whether it’s this pandemic, whether it’s potentially the spread of a really dangerous weapon, not a single one can be dealt – can we deal with effectively with any one nation acting alone, even the United States.  There is a premium on cooperation, and the United States has an important role to play in trying to bring countries together to mobilize them in collective action to deal with the challenges that our citizens are facing every single day.

I think partners around the world recognize that, just as we recognize the absolute importance to the United States of having them engaged and having them in the game.  So I’m finding tremendous openness, and more than openness, even just a tremendous desire for this American re-engagement.

Now, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have differences, we’re not going to have difficulties.  But there is, I think, a sense in country after country that there is more of a premium than there has ever been on countries working together to face these challenges that are literally making a difference in the lives of our fellow Americans, fellow Canadians every single day.

QUESTION:  One last question, and I am – I’m getting a wrap, so I will wrap it up.  But I do know that we are expecting a report on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and that it will link the crown prince to that killing, that he directed the killing.  Can you confirm that that’s what the report, the declassified report, says and how the United States then will respond to that?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, I’ll let the report speak for itself.  I believe it’s going to be issued tomorrow.  We have a law on the books requiring the publication of that report.  We’re determined to follow the law.  We’re determined to have transparency across the board and let the report speak for itself tomorrow.

QUESTION:  Okay.  But how does it influence American policy, I guess, in relation to Saudi Arabia?

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  We’ll address all of that tomorrow when the report comes out.  I would say that as President Biden has said, Saudi Arabia remains an important partner for the United States on a whole host of issues, but we want to make sure that that partnership is clearly advancing our interests and reflects our values.

QUESTION:  Secretary, thank you so much for making the time for Canada.  Appreciate it, sir.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks.  Good to be with you.

(Break.)

QUESTION: (Via translation) (inaudible)….the two detained Canadians are hostages, and what is the United States ready to do to try to free them?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: (Via translation) On our side, we insist that the two Michaels be able to return home to Canada without any conditions.  And more broadly, the initiative Canada is taking against countries that arbitrarily detain individuals for political reasons, we must all fight this practice and we must come to an understanding in the international community that these practices are unacceptable.  We support the Canadian initiative on this matter, and clearly we support Canada with regards to the return of the two Michaels.

QUESTION:  Your French is excellent.  That’s very impressive, Secretary.  Thank you for being so generous with that and with your time.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thanks.  Good to be with you.

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    The Department of Energy (DOE) has made progress in cleaning up radioactive waste at the site of the West Valley Demonstration Project in New York State. In the 1960s and 1970s, a commercial facility at the site reprocessed spent (used) nuclear fuel into reusable nuclear material—creating various wastes that remained on-site after the facility closed in 1976. Since 2011, DOE has demolished 51 of 55 structures there and disposed of about 1.3 million cubic feet of low-level waste to off-site locations. It has also placed solidified high-level waste into interim on-site storage (see fig.). In addition, DOE has processed for interim on-site storage about 30,000 cubic feet of transuranic waste (which is contaminated with elements that have an atomic number greater than uranium). As of February 2020, DOE reported spending about $3.1 billion on contracted cleanup activities, but it cannot estimate the cleanup's final cost until it decides how it will address the remaining waste. High-Level Waste from the West Valley Demonstration Project in Interim On-Site Storage, March 2017 DOE has been unable to dispose of the high-level and transuranic wastes stored at West Valley because there are no facilities authorized to accept these wastes. DOE has identified two potential options for disposal of the transuranic waste: the federal Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico and a commercial facility in Texas. However, the New Mexico facility is authorized to accept only waste from atomic energy defense activities, and DOE does not consider West Valley waste to be from atomic energy defense activities. Regarding the Texas facility, state regulations preclude disposal of the waste there. In 2017, DOE submitted to Congress a report on all disposal options, as required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Pursuant to this act, DOE must await action by Congress before making a final decision, and Congress has not yet acted. The West Valley Demonstration Project Act, enacted in 1980, requires DOE to assist with cleanup activities at the site of the nation's only commercial facility for reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. The site contained 600,000 gallons of liquid high-level waste, radioactively contaminated structures and soils, and buried radioactive waste. In 2011, DOE began the first phase of its decommissioning plan, which included demolishing above-ground structures and removing contaminated soils. The West Valley Reauthorization Act and the Senate Committee Report No. 116-48 included provisions for GAO to review progress on the cleanup at West Valley. GAO's report examines (1) the status of the cleanup and (2) DOE's options for disposing of the remaining radioactive waste. GAO reviewed DOE's data on cleanup costs and waste volumes and its decommissioning plans, as well as laws, regulations, and policies governing radioactive waste disposal. GAO also interviewed officials from DOE and the state of New York, as well as other stakeholders. Congress should consider taking action to provide a legal option for the disposal of West Valley's transuranic waste. For more information, contact Allison Bawden at (202) 512-3841 or BawdenA@gao.gov.
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    A Florida attorney and former outside counsel for 1 Global Capital LLC (1 Global), has been charged today with conspiring to commit wire fraud and securities fraud in connection with an investment fraud scheme that as alleged impacted more than 3,600 investors in 42 different states, and involved him personally and fraudulently raising more than $100 million from investors.
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    In Crime News
    A California-based man pleaded guilty today to conspiring with others to defraud shareholders of publicly traded companies, transmitting millions of dollars through the operation of an unlicensed money-services business in California, and falsifying multiple years of federal tax returns.
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    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced that it reached a settlement agreement with Service Minds Inc., dba Mister Sparky (Service Minds), a company that provides contract electrical services to residential customers in Florida and Alabama. The settlement resolves a claim that the company retaliated against a work-authorized job applicant, in violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), when he and his wife challenged a U.S. citizens-only hiring rule that a recruiter had wrongly claimed was the company’s policy.
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  • Former Energy Broker Pleads Guilty to Insider Trading and Kickback Scheme
    In Crime News
    A former Texas energy broker pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit commodities fraud and wire fraud and to violate various provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act for his role in an insider trading and kickback scheme. 
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  • Justice Department Settles with New Jersey-Based IT Consulting Company to Resolve Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it reached a settlement with Quantum Integrators Group (Quantum), an IT consulting and staffing company based in New Jersey. The settlement resolves claims that Quantum (1) discriminated against a lawful permanent resident by requiring her, based on her citizenship status, to provide unnecessary documentation before it would refer her for an employment opportunity, and (2) routinely required other work-authorized non-U.S. citizens to present unnecessary documents to prove their eligibility to work.
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    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that Visa Inc. and Plaid Inc. have abandoned their planned $5.3 billion merger.
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  • Mathematics Professor and University Researcher Indicted for Grant Fraud
    In Crime News
    Today, a federal grand jury in Carbondale, Ill. returned an indictment charging a mathematics professor and researcher at Southern Illinois University – Carbondale (SIUC) with two counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement.
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  • Anti-Money Laundering: FinCEN Should Enhance Procedures for Implementing and Evaluating Geographic Targeting Orders
    In U.S GAO News
    To combat money laundering, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a geographic targeting order (GTO) in 2016 that required title insurers to report information on certain all-cash purchases of residential real estate by legal entities in specified areas. According to FinCEN analysis, the use of legal entities to purchase high-value real estate, particularly in certain U.S. cities, was prone to abuse. FinCEN determined that imposing the real estate GTO reporting requirements on title insurers would cover a large number of transactions without unnecessary complexity. FinCEN renewed the real estate GTO multiple times—finding it has yielded information useful to law enforcement investigations—and periodically expanded the types of monetary instruments and geographic areas included and decreased the price reporting threshold (see fig.). Issuance and Renewals of the Real Estate Geographic Targeting Order (GTO) Unlike prior GTOs, which FinCEN officials said they issued at the request of and with the involvement of law enforcement agencies, FinCEN issued the real estate GTO on its own initiative. Thus, FinCEN had to take the lead in implementing and evaluating the GTO but lacked detailed documented procedures to help direct the GTO's implementation and evaluation—contributing to oversight, outreach, and evaluation weaknesses. For example, FinCEN did not begin examining its first title insurer for compliance until more than 3 years after issuing the GTO and did not assess whether insurers were filing all required reports. Similarly, while FinCEN initially coordinated with some law enforcement agencies, it did not implement a systematic approach for outreach to all potentially relevant law enforcement agencies until more than 2 years after issuing the GTO. FinCEN also has not yet completed an evaluation of the GTO to determine whether it should address money laundering risks in residential real estate through a regulatory tool more permanent than the GTO, such as a rulemaking. Strengthening its procedures for self-initiated GTOs should help FinCEN more effectively and efficiently implement and manage them as an anti-money laundering tool. Bad actors seeking to launder money can use legal entities, such as shell companies, to buy real estate without a loan. Doing so potentially can conceal the identities of bad actors and avoid banks' anti-money laundering programs. To better understand this risk and help law enforcement investigate money laundering, FinCEN issued its real estate GTO. Although GTOs are limited to 180 days, they may be renewed if FinCEN finds reasonable grounds for doing so. Because of concerns about the potential for bad actors to exploit regulatory gaps to launder money through the U.S. real estate market, GAO was asked to review FinCEN's real estate GTO. This report examines, among other things, the GTO's issuance and renewal, oversight, outreach, and evaluation. GAO reviewed FinCEN's records, orders, and policies and procedures; laws and regulations; and studies and other related materials. GAO also interviewed FinCEN, federal law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders. GAO recommends that FinCEN provide additional direction for self-initiated GTOs, including how to plan for oversight, outreach, and evaluation. FinCEN concurred with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Michael E. Clements, (202) 512-8678, ClementsM@gao.gov.
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  • Justice Department Again to Monitor Compliance with the Federal Voting Rights Laws on Election Day
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department today announced its plans for voting rights monitoring in jurisdictions around the country for the Nov. 3, 2020 general election. The Justice Department historically has monitored in jurisdictions in the field on election day, and is again doing so this year. The department will also take complaints from the public nationwide regarding possible violations of the federal voting rights laws through its call center.  
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  • Foreign Assistance: State Department Should Better Assess Results of Efforts to Improve Financial and Some Program Data
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of State has implemented most of the Foreign Assistance Data Review (FADR) plan to improve the tracking and reporting of its foreign assistance data. According to State officials, they began developing the FADR plan in 2014 and focused on modifying State's existing agency-wide data systems to improve financial and related programmatic data for foreign assistance. As of December 2020, State had completed most of the activities detailed in the FADR plan, except for some FADR-related training initiatives that will continue in 2021. For example, State created the FADR Data Dictionary, which standardizes foreign assistance budget terminology and definitions across the agency, and added two data fields—benefitting country and program area—to its data systems. Other activities included updating system design; conducting integration testing between source systems and financial systems; and developing training materials. State's FADR plan generally or partially addressed key elements of sound planning. GAO evaluated the FADR plan against nine key elements of sound planning it identified as relevant to implementation plans. GAO found that the plan generally addressed four elements and partially addressed five (see figure). Evaluation of the Department of State's Foreign Assistance Data Review (FADR) Plan by Key Elements of Sound Planning Identified by GAO Element Did the FADR plan address the element? Purpose and scope ● Desired results ● Hierarchy of goals and subordinate objectives ● Activities to achieve results ● Roles and responsibilities ◓ Intra-agency coordination mechanisms ◓ Resources to implement the plan ◓ Milestones and performance indicators ◓ Monitoring and evaluation ◓ Legend: ● Generally addressed ◓Partially addressed ○ Did not address Source: GAO analysis of Department of State documentation. | GAO-21-373 Since State has nearly completed implementation of its FADR plan, the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) component is the most critical remaining element of the partially addressed elements. GAO found that the M&E component of the plan was not well developed. The plan identifies some performance indicators and monitoring activities, but it does not clearly link those indicators to the desired results. The M&E component also does not identify how State plans to evaluate and use the monitoring data, such as better identification of benefiting country. Nor does it provide information on timeframes associated with the performance targets for the identified indicators. Identifying how the performance indicators link to desired results and the timeframes associated with performance targets, and periodically evaluating its monitoring data would help State assess the plan's effectiveness. Why GAO Did This Study Members of Congress, the State Inspector General, and GAO have raised concerns about State's ability to adequately track and report its foreign assistance data. These concerns include State's ability to retrieve timely and accurate data necessary to provide central oversight, meet statutory and regulatory reporting requirements, manage resources strategically, and assess program performance. In response, State began an initiative in 2014 to improve the quality and availability of foreign assistance data. GAO was asked to review State's plan to improve the tracking and reporting of its foreign assistance data. This report assesses (1) the status of State's plan to improve the tracking and reporting of its foreign assistance data and (2) the extent to which State's plan adheres to sound planning practices. GAO reviewed State documents on the plan to improve the tracking and reporting of its foreign assistance data. GAO reviewed implementation of the State plan against specific milestones in the plan. GAO also evaluated if the plan included key elements for sound management and strategic planning. In addition, GAO interviewed State officials in Washington, D.C.
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  • Thirteen Charged in Federal Court Following Riot at the United States Capitol
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    Thirteen individuals have been charged so far in federal court in the District of Columbia related to crimes committed at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C, on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. In addition to those who have been charged, additional complaints have been submitted and investigations are ongoing.
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  • Joint Statement by Attorney General of the United States William P. Barr and Fiscalía General of Mexico Alejandro Gertz Manero
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  • Remarks by Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband on the Announcement of Olmstead Settlement with the State of North Dakota
    In Crime News
    Good afternoon and thank you for joining us.  Today, we are pleased to announce that the Department of Justice and the State of North Dakota have reached a comprehensive settlement agreement to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The agreement commits North Dakota to expand services for individuals with disabilities so, when appropriate, they will be able to choose to remain in their own homes, near family and friends, while receiving the services they need, instead of entering or remaining in nursing facilities to receive care.   
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  • COVID-19 Loans: SBA Has Begun to Take Steps to Improve Oversight and Fraud Risk Management
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, the Small Business Administration (SBA) quickly implemented the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and expedited the processing of Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and a new EIDL advance program. These important programs have helped businesses survive during the COVID-19 pandemic. In an effort to move quickly on these programs, SBA initially put limited internal controls in place, leaving both susceptible to program integrity issues, improper payments, and fraud. Because of concerns about program integrity, GAO added PPP and the EIDL program onto its High-Risk List in March 2021. SBA has begun to take steps to address these initial deficiencies: PPP oversight. Because ongoing oversight is crucial, GAO recommended in June 2020 that SBA develop plans to respond to PPP risks to ensure program integrity, achieve program effectiveness, and address potential fraud. Since then, SBA has developed a loan review process and added up-front verifications before it approves new loans. Improper payments for PPP. GAO recommended in November 2020 that SBA expeditiously estimate improper payments for PPP and report estimates and error rates. SBA has now developed a plan for the testing needed to estimate improper payments. Analyzing EIDL data. Based on evidence of widespread potential fraud for EIDL, GAO recommended in January 2021 that SBA conduct portfolio-level analysis to detect potentially ineligible applications. SBA has not announced plans to implement this recommendation. EIDL oversight. GAO recommended in March 2021 that SBA implement a comprehensive oversight plan for EIDL to ensure program integrity. SBA agreed to implement such a plan. Assessment of fraud risks. SBA has not conducted a formal fraud risk assessment for PPP or the EIDL program. GAO made four recommendations in March 2021, including that SBA conduct a formal assessment and develop a strategy to manage fraud risks for each program. SBA said it would work to complete fraud risk assessments for PPP and EIDL and continually monitor fraud risks. Financial statement audit. In December 2020, SBA's independent financial statement auditor issued a disclaimer of opinion on SBA's fiscal year 2020 consolidated financial statements because SBA could not provide adequate documentation to support a significant number of transactions and account balances related to PPP and EIDL. GAO continues to review information SBA recently provided, including data on PPP loan forgiveness and details on the PPP and EIDL loan review processes. In addition, GAO has obtained additional information from a survey of PPP participating lenders, interviews with SBA's PPP contractors, and written responses to questions provided by SBA's EIDL contractor and subcontractors. Why GAO Did This Study SBA has made or guaranteed about 18.7 million loans and grants through PPP and the EIDL program, providing about $968 billion to help small businesses adversely affected by COVID-19. PPP provides potentially forgivable loans to small businesses, and EIDL provides low-interest loans of up to $2 million for operating and other expenses, as well as advances (grants). This testimony discusses the lack of controls in PPP and the EIDL program and SBA's efforts to improve its oversight of these programs. It is based largely on GAO's June 2020–March 2021 reports on the federal response, including by SBA, to the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 (GAO-20-625, GAO-20-701, GAO-21-191, GAO-21-265, GAO -21-387). For those reports, GAO reviewed SBA documentation and SBA Office of Inspector General (OIG) reports; analyzed SBA data; and interviewed officials from SBA, the SBA OIG, and the Department of the Treasury.
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  • Colorado Springs Agrees to Improve Stormwater Management in Settlement with the United States
    In Crime News
    The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced a settlement with the City of Colorado Springs, Colorado, to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act with respect to the City’s storm sewer system.
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  • Owner of Queens Acupuncture Business Pleads Guilty to Aiding and Assisting the Preparation of a False Tax Return
    In Crime News
    The co-owner of a New York acupuncture business pleaded guilty yesterday to aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division.
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  • Biogen Agrees To Pay $22 Million To Resolve Alleged False Claims Act Liability For Paying Kickbacks
    In Crime News
    Pharmaceutical company Biogen, Inc. (Biogen), based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has agreed to pay $22 million to resolve claims that it violated the False Claims Act by illegally using  foundations as a conduit to pay the copays of Medicare patients taking Biogen’s multiple sclerosis drugs, Avonex and Tysabri, the Justice Department announced today. 
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    In Crime News
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  • Singaporean National Sentenced to 14 Months in Prison for Acting in the United States As an Illegal Agent of Chinese Intelligence
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    Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, was sentenced today in federal court to 14 months in prison. Yeo pled guilty on July 24, 2020 to acting within the United States as an illegal agent of a foreign power without first notifying the Attorney General, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 951. The announcement was made by John G. Demers, Assistant Attorney General; Michael R. Sherwin, Acting United States Attorney for the District of Columbia; James A. Dawson, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of FBI Washington Field Office; Alan E. Kohler, Jr., Assistant Director of the FBI's Counterintelligence Division; and Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón, Domestic Operations Deputy Assistant Secretary Ricardo Colón, Domestic Operations.
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    A Rocky Mount, North Carolina, tax return preparer was sentenced to 50 months in prison today for conspiring to defraud the United States, announced Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
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