Department Press Briefing – February 10, 2021

Ned Price, Department Spokesperson

2:41 p.m. EST

MR PRICE: Good afternoon.

Just one element at the top today. We condemn the Houthi attack today that damaged a civilian airliner at the Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia. The attack coincides with U.S. Special Envoy Lenderking’s first trip to the region and his effort to bring a lasting peace to Yemen that will ease the suffering of the Yemeni people. The Houthis, meanwhile, continually demonstrate a desire to prolong the war by attacking Saudi Arabia, including endangering civilians. We remain committed to improving support for our partner Saudi Arabia to defend itself against threats to its territory.

At the same time, the United States will continue its diplomatic outreach and engage with various stakeholders, including our regional partners, humanitarian aid organizations, and the UN special envoy, among others, to bring a negotiated settlement that will end the war. We believe this is the only way forward. There is no military solution to the war in Yemen. We again urge the Houthis to immediately stop these aggressive acts, halt their offensive in Marib, and demonstrate a true commitment to constructively engage in peace negotiations.

With that, happy to start in the normal place or I can —

QUESTION: Yeah, I can see.

MR PRICE: Okay. Sure. Humeyra.

QUESTION: Hi, Ned.

QUESTION: Can I ask about Yemen?

QUESTION: Hi, Ned. So on Myanmar, which has just been announced —

QUESTION: But since we are on Yemen —

MR PRICE: We’ll go to Yemen right after Burma.

QUESTION: Yeah – which has just been announced by the President. He talked about preventing the generals from improperly having access to the $1 billion in Burmese Government funds. Can you give some details about that? What does it cover? What do we exactly mean, like who do we mean when we say Burmese Government funds? And then on that, again, Secretary Blinken has had calls with his Japanese and Singaporean counterparts today. We know that you want to do this with partners and allies. Did you ask them – like, what was discussed with regards to Myanmar? And since those countries are key sources of investments in the country, did you ask them to sort of roll out their own sanctions and join this economic action that you guys are taking?

MR PRICE: Well, when it comes to what the President announced today, let me just walk through several of those elements. As he said, this week he will sign a new executive order, enabling us to immediately sanction those who directed the coup, their business interests, and their close family members. We are imposing strong export controls and we are freezing U.S. assistance that benefits the Burmese Government while, as I have said, maintaining our support for health care, civil society groups, and other areas that benefit the Burmese people directly. Importantly, as protests grow, Burma’s military leaders need to know that violence against those who peacefully assert their democratic rights will not be tolerated. The United States will take note of those who stand with the people of Burma at this moment of crisis.

You asked about what the President alluded to regarding the blocking of funds. The President said the U.S. Government is taking steps to prevent the generals from improperly accessing more than $1 billion in Burmese Government funds held in the United States. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me from the Department of State to go further into that, but what I can say, it is all part and parcel of a strategy to ensure that those responsible for this coup, those responsible for the overthrow of civilian rule and democracy in Burma face substantial costs, that they face substantial pressure. As the President has said, we will be detailing those steps further this week.

QUESTION: Can you give any details about, like, what he means by “improperly” accessing, or how that amount of money came to accumulate in the U.S.?

MR PRICE: I would need to refer you to Department of Treasury for any further details on that. As the President alluded to, however, we will have additional details about our broad policy response to the coup in Burma this week. Anything —

QUESTION: And about Singapore and Japan?

MR PRICE: On Singapore and Japan, this is very much an element of our strategy to engage early, following the coup, and often with our likeminded partners, including those partners in the Indo-Pacific region. There’s also an element when it comes to our policy response. We have in the course of that engagement made sure that our close partners know what we are working on, some of the steps the President alluded to today. We want to make sure that our efforts are both known to them, and to the extent possible, calibrated with them. So again, working with our closest partners, our likeminded partners around the world, we can have the most impact, we can impose the most substantial costs on those who are responsible for this coup, this overthrow of civilian leadership in Burma.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR PRICE: Follow-up on Burma.

QUESTION: Yeah, yes. Just since many military leaders were already under U.S. sanctions, what kind of effect do you think these new sanctions can have? How confident you are that they can reverse the coup, if you think they can?

MR PRICE: Well, we think that we can certainly impose substantial costs on those who are responsible for this. We can impose substantial costs ourselves. We can impose costs that are even more – that are even steeper, as I said before, by working with our likeminded partners and allies. So we haven’t yet detailed the specifics behind that, but as we do so over the course of this week, it will be very clear to those around the world, but especially to the military – the military elements in Burma who are responsible for this, that the cost for their antidemocratic action will be steep.

Yes.

QUESTION: I just wanted – specifically on Humeyra’s question, though, why isn’t this being rolled out with your likeminded allies and partners at the same time?

MR PRICE: Well, again, she mentioned the Secretary’s call – calls with two of his counterparts. In the course of those calls, we have detailed some of our policy options, what we might be able to present. We have heard from some of our partners what they are working on, what they will be able to present. I think as you hear from us in this week and as you hear more from our partners, it will be very clear that what we are collectively rolling out will impose steep and profound costs on those responsible for this coup.

Yep, Will.

QUESTION: Yes, thanks. Just wondering, does this mean efforts to have a dialogue with people in Burma are over? Because this risks complicating any efforts to get a dialogue to bring power back to the democratic elements of government. And also, does it risk pushing Burma into – further into China’s arms or further into China’s sphere of influence?

MR PRICE: Well, I think first and foremost, we are most concerned with the people of Burma. We stand with the people of Burma and support their right to assemble peacefully, including their right to protest peacefully in support of the democratically elected government, the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information both online and offline. I think to your question, the fact that we continue to see these demonstrations throughout the streets in Burma indicate where the Burmese people are, what their aspirations for democracy are. We will stand with them.

Look, I don’t – I think what we are most concerned with is the restoration of civilian leadership and putting an end to these antidemocratic actions, this coup. So, again, I think we have heard the international community speak out broadly. Of course, there was a UN Security Council statement issued last Friday that included a number of our partners and others with whom we don’t typically have a close relationship speaking out against these actions. So in the first instance, that is our priority – standing with the people of Burma together with our likeminded allies, our likeminded partners, leaving no doubt for the people of Burma as they continue to voice their aspirations for a return to democracy and take to the streets, that we are standing with them, that we are supporting them, but also leaving no doubt with those responsible for this coup where the United States stands as well.

Anything else on Burma? Kylie?

QUESTION: Nothing on Burma. Sorry.

MR PRICE: Okay. Well, then let’s go to Yemen here.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you. Are you planning to reconsider your decision to remove the Houthis from the list of terrorist organizations after their attack today? And I have two more on Yemen too.

MR PRICE: So I think I would reiterate what I said just a few days ago. The Secretary’s intent to revoke this designation has absolutely nothing to do with the reprehensible conduct of the Houthis. This is a group about which we have no illusions. They are responsible for attacks against civilians, for the kidnapping of American citizens. As I said in the topper as well, we are committed to working with our partner Saudi Arabia to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory against such further attacks.

What our action – what the Secretary’s intent to delist was about, on the other hand, it was about the humanitarian consequences of the last-minute designation from the prior administration. We have heard from the UN, we have heard from humanitarian organizations the world over that this move would accelerate what is already by most accounts the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. I think, as I have said, we can do two things at once. We can ensure that we are not adding to the already substantial suffering of the Yemeni people, about 80 percent of whom live under Houthi control, while we continue to hold the Houthis to account, while we continue to put pressure on the Houthi leadership.

On that score, I would just note that Ansarallah leaders Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, they remain designated under the UN sanctions regime and are sanctioned under a U.S. authority, Executive Order 13611, related to acts that threaten the peace, security, or stability of Yemen. I think Houthi leaders can expect to continue to find themselves under significant pressure from the United States. We do not intend to let up the pressure on those who are responsible for these attacks, who are responsible for seeking to do harm to American citizens, who are responsible for seeking to do harm to our Saudi partners.

QUESTION: And do you consider the attack a message to the U.S. since Special Envoy Lenderking is visiting Saudi Arabia? And any readout for his meetings with Saudi officials and Mr. Griffith?

MR PRICE: Well, I think what this speaks to is precisely the first element that I believe we laid out when the White House detailed our new approach to the war in Yemen. It is an emphasis on diplomacy. It is a recognition that there is no military solution when it comes to the conflict in Yemen; that only through diplomacy, only through support to the UN-led efforts through Mr. Griffiths could we conceivably bring peace and stability to Yemen.

So as you referenced, special envoy Lenderking is in Saudi Arabia. He is in Riyadh today. He traveled there this week. He has planned meetings with the UN special envoy, Martin Griffiths, as well as with officials of the Republican of Yemen Government and the Saudi government. He was of course just appointed to this post. The President announced it last week. It was one week ago. And within days of that appointment, you see Mr. Lenderking already in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, already engaging in that diplomacy which should leave no doubt about the priority we attach to this going forward.

And I will tell you, I think you will have an opportunity to hear directly from Mr. Lenderking when he returns from his trips. We’re going to try and bring him in here and so he can explain a little bit about our strategy and a little bit about the path going forward.

QUESTION: And last one on Saudi Arabia, the release of Loujain al-Hathloul – do you have any comment on her release?

MR PRICE: Well, we have – we have seen those reports. And certainly her release would be a very welcome development. What I can say is that promoting and advocating for women’s rights and other human rights should never be criminalized. We have watched this case very closely. And certainly as we continue to monitor developments there, her release would be a very welcome development.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that.

MR PRICE: Yemen still? Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, no, Saudi Arabia.

MR PRICE: Or Saudi.

QUESTION: Over the weekend when Secretary Blinken spoke with the Saudi Foreign Minister, is that something that he pressed for the Saudis to do, release her?

MR PRICE: Well, I think what is – I wouldn’t want to go beyond what is in the readout. What I would say, however, is I think something you’ve probably heard me say before is that in every relationship, whether it is one with our closest allies, our closest partners, and with our closest security partners, we will never check our values, we will never check our principles at the door. Human rights, democracy, civil rights, civil liberties, these are – these are elements that we bring to the conversation across the board. And it is something we bring certainly to every relationship. I will also say that as I was walking in here, the Secretary was again speaking to his Saudi counterpart in the aftermath of this attack today, so I suspect we’ll have another readout of that call later today.

QUESTION: And do you think that Saudi Arabia is trying to get on positive footing with the Biden administration by doing this early on in the administration?

MR PRICE: I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t want to attach motives to the conduct of any other government. What I can say is what I said previously: The release in this case would be a very positive development, something we would welcome. It is something we have pressed for, but you would have to ask the other – any other government regarding motives that they may have.

QUESTION: On Yemen.

MR PRICE: Others on Yemen. Okay. Yemen.

QUESTION: Yeah. Just a follow-up on what Michel said. It’s really remarkable that the Houthi attacks have increased since the U.S. decision to revoke their designation as a terrorist group. How do you respond to the concerns of so many that the Houthis may feel emboldened by that decision in order to increase their attacks on Saudi Arabia?

MR PRICE: Well, again I would say that the Houthis – Houthi leadership will find themselves sorely mistaken if they think that this administration is going to let off the pressure – is going to let them off the hook for the reprehensible conduct that they continue to undertake. They will find themselves under significant pressure, and I suspect we may have more to say about that in the coming days.

QUESTION: So on India – Pranshu from the Times here, by the way. Sorry. On India, Twitter has permanently blocked over 500 accounts and moved an unspecified number out of view after the government has accused them of inflammatory remarks against the prime minister. And India’s IT minister reportedly just said freedom of expression is not absolute. So could you comment on this view being taken by the Indian government which has been billed as a partner in democracy by State and the U.S.?

MR PRICE: Well, I think what I would say generally is that around the world – and this goes back to what I was saying before – we are committed to supporting democratic values, including freedom of expression. I think when it comes to Twitter’s policies, we’d have to refer you to Twitter itself.

QUESTION: And then also, could you comment also on a tweet earlier today that State tweeted out saying that – it refers to India’s Jammu and Kashmir? Now, is this a change in policy? Does State does not recognize this as a disputed territory? Is there some sort of change in position that we need to know? There’s been certain criticism of the phrasing today.

MR PRICE: I want to be very clear there has been no change in U.S. policy in the region.

QUESTION: On Saudi Arabia.

MR PRICE: Anything else on – let’s move it around a little bit. Since we’ve talked about Saudi, we can come back to it if we have time.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MR PRICE: Turkey.

QUESTION: A bipartisan group of more than 50 senators wrote a letter to the President asking him to press the Turkish Government to improve, I quote, “its troubling record on human rights and increasingly authoritarian path taken by President Erdogan.” I noted last week when you condemned the anti-LGBTQI rhetoric that you didn’t mention directly Erdogan. Are you concerned about his path? And will you press Turkey directly on this?

MR PRICE: Well, I think what I would say is that Turkey is a longstanding and valued NATO ally. We of course have shared interests with the Turks, and that includes ending the conflict in Syria, countering terrorism, deterring malign influence in the region as well. We seek cooperation on common priorities and, as with any ally, we engage in dialogue to address disagreements. We can uphold our values, as I was saying before, including our commitment to human rights and the rule of law, while also protecting our interests, and at the same time with Turkey, while ensuring that Ankara remains aligned with the transatlantic alliance on critical issues.

QUESTION: On Turkey, actually. So they floated yesterday this idea that they may not make the S-400s operational the entire time. Now, U.S. obviously opposes the purchase of the S-400s, but that was interpreted as a potentially new proposal to this impasse. Does the United States see that as a potential starting point? Or is it a non-starter?

MR PRICE: Our policy vis-a-vis the S-400s has not changed. Russian S-400s are incompatible with NATO equipment. They threaten the security of NATO technology and they’re inconsistent with Turkey’s commitments as a NATO ally. This significant transaction from Russia, as you know, triggered the CAATSA sanctions under U.S. legislation, and we have and we continue to urge Turkey not to retain this system.

QUESTION: But, I mean, are you viewing this as a new proposal? Are you actually taking it into consideration as a new proposal? Are you looking at it?

MR PRICE: What I have said is that our policy when it comes to the S-400 has not changed. We’ve been very clear on that.

QUESTION: And then why hasn’t Secretary Blinken still spoken with his Turkish counterpart? It’s been almost three weeks since the inauguration, two weeks since Secretary has sworn in. A lot of people think that it’s a snub.

MR PRICE: I certainly wouldn’t characterize it that way. What I would say, as I just did, is that Turkey of course is a longstanding ally. We share common interests with our Turkish partners. And I would expect the Secretary and his Turkish counterpart will have an opportunity to chat, to connect in the coming days.

QUESTION: (Off-mic.)

QUESTION: Two questions on Russia.

MR PRICE: Russia. Turkey, anyone?

QUESTION: Turkey.

MR PRICE: Turkey.

QUESTION: Yeah. Don’t you consider the disactivation of S-400 as a solution to open up the dialogue with Turkey? A follow-up on her question.

MR PRICE: I think my answer to Humeyra in this case stands. Our policy has not changed. We have very profound concerns about the S-400 system and the S-400 system in the context of a NATO ally.

QUESTION: Two questions on Russia.

MR PRICE: Anything else on Turkey? Yes.

QUESTION: I have a question about Canada.

MR PRICE: Canada, okay. Well, let’s stick with Canada. I’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: As you know, we’re linked with the Meng Wanzhou case, the woman who was arrested and detained in Vancouver, and two Canadians who were – have been held in China now for two years – two Michaels we call them in Canada. When the Secretary spoke to his counterpart in Beijing on Saturday, did he bring up the two Michaels? What was said? If nothing was said, why not,? And where – is there any movement on the case of these two Canadian Michaels or the Meng Wanzhou case?

MR PRICE: So when it comes to the detention of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, we continue to publicly call on the People’s Republic of China to end arbitrary and unacceptable detentions of Canadian – these Canadian citizens. We reject the PRC’s use of coercion as a political tool. We obviously issued a readout of the Secretary’s discussion with his counterpart, Director Yang. I wouldn’t want to go beyond that readout, but we’ve been very clear, and the last administration was very clear in the context of these cases, and that’s where we stand.

QUESTION: Is there any information on the bilat that’s supposed to happen or the meeting that’s supposed to happen between the President and the prime minister of Canada? Is it going to be a telephone conversation? Is there going to be a lot more people involved?

MR PRICE: I wouldn’t want to speak to any bilateral engagements that the White House would be planning. Of course, the President, the Secretary of State, they have spoken early, of course, to their Canadian counterparts, but I wouldn’t want to preview anything that the White House may be planning.

QUESTION: Two on Russia?

MR PRICE: Russia, sure.

QUESTION: First, do you have any response to the – to another delay in Trevor Reed’s case and the concerns that he may have been exposed to coronavirus? Are you lobbying the Russians to provide him a PCR test or something like that?

MR PRICE: Well, I think this goes back to what we have said about these cases broadly, and we’ve spoken in this room to the case of Trevor Reed, to the case of Paul Whelan. The welfare and safety of our citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of this administration. It was just – I believe it was last week Ambassador Sullivan in Moscow spoke publicly about this case. He condemned Mr. Reed’s conviction, called for his release. Consular officials in Moscow regularly speak with Mr. Reed and his family. In Washington, the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the so called SPEHA, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens, they conduct regular calls with Mr. Reed’s family.

When it comes to Mr. Reed’s health, his health and welfare are of grave concern. That’s why, in part, we continue to press Russian authorities for his fair and humane treatment, regular contact with consular officials, and of course for his release.

QUESTION: Just a second one. Your account tweeted last night about the case of two young Russian gay men who were taken by Chechen forces back to Chechnya. What is the U.S. considering doing about this, not just this particular incident but the broader issue of LGBT rights in Chechnya?

MR PRICE: Well, I think this goes back one of the earliest – one of the early actions that this president, President Biden, put forward. And very early on, I think it was the 1st of this month, the President put forward a presidential memorandum making clear that the policy of the United States Government is to protect and to promote and defend the rights of LGBTQI people around the world. It is the policy with that presidential memorandum now in force to firmly oppose abuses against the LGBTQI persons, and we urge governments to repeal laws that criminalize individuals on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

We tweeted on that case last night. We spoke out on that case because, of course, we are profoundly concerned. We know of the persecution that the LGBTQI community has faced in Chechnya, and this administration will speak out, speak out forcefully on their behalf both in Chechnya and around the world.

Will.

QUESTION: Yes, on Iran. If I could just ask: We’re reporting that the IAEA has told its members that Iran started producing metallic uranium on February 8th, I believe. That’s the kind of – obviously using nuclear warheads. They’re saying it’s a research usage. Is Iran – what does the U.S. think about that, and does the U.S. still, as we were talking about yesterday, think that Iran is sort of hemmed in by its – the nuclear agreements that it signed, or is this – is this a new breakthrough that you’re concerned about?

MR PRICE: Well, I wouldn’t want to speak to an IAEA report or at least an alleged report that I don’t believe we’ve seen. I would need to refer you to the IAEA for the details of any of their findings.

I think more broadly this is – and everything we have said about Iran’s behavior in recent weeks in months – it’s the steps that it’s taken to further distance itself from the JCPOA. That undergirds our concern, and it undergirds the urgency with we are – with which we are approaching this challenge, and the urgency with which we are approaching our allies and our partners and undergoing – and undertaking these consultations with members of Congress to ensure that we have an approach to Iran that is harmonized and that’s synchronized and that has the best chance of success.

And again, the proposition that has been put on the table for some months now is quite clear. We continue to urge Tehran to resume full compliance with the JCPOA. We continue to do that because that, for us, would open up the pathway for diplomacy. And we certainly hope to be able to pursue that pathway of diplomacy in order to resolve what we do consider to be an urgent challenge.

Yep.

QUESTION: Japan?

MR PRICE: Japan?

QUESTION: Yeah. Ben Marks with NKH. Two questions if I may. Regarding the Tokyo Olympics, last Sunday in an interview President Biden was asked if he was in favor of sending an American team to compete. He said that whether or not it is safe to occur needs to be based on science. The current State Department travel advisory for Japan is “Level 3: Reconsider Travel.” Does the State Department feel it is currently not safe for American athletes to travel to Japan? And second question: NHK and other Japanese media have reported that the Japanese Government is expecting to reach a tentative one-year extension of the Special Measures Agreement possibly next week and then continue negotiating the remaining four years. Can you confirm this, and does the Biden administration believe Japan needs to pay more for U.S. forces?

MR PRICE: Well, when it comes to the Olympics, of course, the Olympics are still some time away, not until this summer. I think broadly, we understand what a difficult decision it must be for – or it was, in this case, for former Prime Minister Abe and the Japanese Government to delay the Tokyo pandemic due – the Tokyo Olympics due to the pandemic.

We are in touch with the U.S. Olympic and the Paralympic Committee and they’re obviously monitoring the situation in Japan closely. They’re briefed regularly on the Tokyo Organization Committee’s preparations. In this case, we’re fortunate that our interests are very much aligned with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. We want Team USA to succeed on the international stage, and of course, the health and safety of this – of our athletes is the priority. Ultimately, though, this will be the decision of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

When it comes to the basing negotiations that you referenced, we don’t have an update for you there.

QUESTION: Does the Biden administration think that Japan needs to pay more for U.S. troops stationed there?

MR PRICE: I understand that these discussions are ongoing. I wouldn’t want to wade into it.

QUESTION: Could I just ask about travel for the Secretary? So obviously, we’ve been discussing that Special Envoy Lenderking is on the road, so there’s clearly not a ban on travel for State Department officials. What will it take for the Secretary to actually go visit counterparts for the first time?

MR PRICE: Well, there is a general disposition not only within the State Department, but of – across the Executive Branch against travel for all but purposes that are deemed essential or exigent. I think the fact that Mr. Lenderking is in Riyadh really underscores the priority and the urgency we are attaching to the diplomacy to bring about peace and stability and an easing of the humanitarian suffering for the people of Yemen. We are continuing to very closely monitor COVID conditions not only in this country but around the world, and including places that – where the Secretary or other department seniors may travel.

When it comes to the Secretary, I wouldn’t expect any imminent travel, but we’re continuing to monitor that, and as we have updates, we’ll be sure to share those.

QUESTION: And has he —

QUESTION: Has the Secretary been vaccinated?

MR PRICE: The Secretary has been vaccinated.

QUESTION: Both doses?

MR PRICE: The Secretary has received both doses.

QUESTION: And will he be the first member of the Biden administration to travel internationally —

MR PRICE: Well —

QUESTION: — when that does happen?

MR PRICE: The first Cabinet —

QUESTION: Yeah, sorry.

MR PRICE: I wouldn’t want to speculate. Clearly, the Secretary of State has a need to travel the world that other Cabinet secretaries perhaps don’t, but I wouldn’t want to jump the gun here. We are very closely monitoring conditions both here in the United States and around the world and making those decisions based on the science.

QUESTION: (Off mike.)

MR PRICE: I’ll go to – sorry, behind you. Go ahead. No, sorry, you. You.

QUESTION: Me?

MR PRICE: Yes, if you have a question. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Oh, thank you. Sorry about that. I actually wanted to go back to Iran if we could.

MR PRICE: Sure.

QUESTION: Regarding that February 21 law, the Iranians certainly have spoken of that as a deadline for the U.S., and the IAEA takes that law seriously as well. I wonder, does the State Department think it’s in U.S. interest to provide some carrot of some sort to dissuade the Iranians from reducing, restricting IAEA access to different nuclear sites and some of the other enrichment things (inaudible) there?

MR PRICE: Well, we certainly heard the statements that have emanated from Tehran. I think what I will say from here is that our disposition will be to avoid the temptation to negotiate in public. We’re not going to, at least at this point, broadcast any measures that may be on the table. Part of the reason why we are undertaking these consultations with our allies, with our partners, with members of Congress is to make sure, again, that we have our ducks in a row, and only once we feel that we have a coordinated approach to what is undeniably an urgent challenge will we – would we engage with the Iranians.

QUESTION: Do you have a plan for what happens on February 22nd if – the last time – we saw last summer there was a controversy over IAEA access to nuclear sites and that was – there was a pretty unusual vote at the IAEA. It was 25-2. Is there any kind of coordination with the E3 about how to deter or punish that kind of restriction if it does go through?

MR PRICE: Well, it was just last Friday where – when Secretary Blinken had his first discussion with the E3 as a group. We issued a readout of that. Of course, Iran was a topic of conversation. I wouldn’t want to go beyond what was in that readout.

I will say that on February 21st or February 22nd, we – the proposition, I suspect, will still be on the table that if Iran resumes full compliance with the JCPOA, that the United States will be prepared to walk that diplomatic path and to re-engage with the JCPOA ourselves. That, again, is the prospects, the proposition that has been on the table for some time now. We have been very clear about that. Right now, we are in the process of taking part in those consultations with partners, allies, members of Congress on the specific path ahead.

We’ll take one question. Anyone who hasn’t asked a question? Kylie.

QUESTION: Last question: Do you recognize, though, that getting to that final proposition may require some interim steps to be taken?

MR PRICE: I recognize that we have put a proposition on the table. We have been very clear about what that proposition is. There – I think the tendency on the part of some actors to take part in public posturing is just not something we want to do. We have been very clear about where we stand. We have been very clear about what we believe is possible with the formulation of compliance for compliance: Iran resumes its full compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United States will do the same.

I think when it comes to specifics beyond that, that’s why we’re undertaking these consultations with partners, allies, members of Congress, but our proposition has been very clear and it’s been on the table for some time.

Thank you all very much. We’ll do this again tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:15 p.m.)

# # #

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    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and each of its major components face the same key drivers of employee engagement—as measured by the Office of Personnel Management's Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (OPM FEVS)—as the rest of the federal government (see table). Higher scores on the OPM FEVS indicate that an agency has the conditions that lead to higher employee engagement, a component of morale. Key Drivers of Employee Engagement across the Federal Government, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and within Each DHS Component Agency DHS has implemented department-wide employee engagement initiatives, including efforts to support DHS employees and their families. Additionally, DHS's major operational components, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration, among others, have developed annual action plans to improve employee engagement. However, DHS has not issued written guidance on action planning and components do not consistently include key elements in their plans, such as outcome-based performance measures. Establishing required action plan elements through written guidance and monitoring the components to ensure they use measures to assess the results of their actions to adjust, reprioritize, and identify new actions to improve employee engagement would better position DHS to make additional gains in this area. In addition, approval from the DHS Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (OCHCO) and component leadership for these plans would help ensure department-wide commitment to improving employee engagement. DHS has faced challenges with low employee morale and engagement—an employee's sense of purpose and commitment—since it began operations in 2003. DHS has made some progress in this area, but data from the 2019 OPM FEVS show that DHS continues to rank lowest among similarly-sized federal agencies. GAO has reported that increasing employee engagement can lead to improved agency performance, and it is critical that DHS do so given the importance of its missions. GAO was asked to review DHS employee morale. This report addresses (1) drivers of employee engagement at DHS and (2) the extent that DHS has initiatives to improve employee engagement and ensures effective engagement action planning. To answer these objectives, GAO used regression analyses of 2019 OPM FEVS data to identify the key drivers of engagement at DHS. GAO also reviewed component employee engagement action plans and met with officials from DHS and component human capital offices as well as unions and employee groups. GAO is making three recommendations. DHS OCHCO should, in its anticipated written guidance, establish the elements required in employee engagement action plans and the approval process for these plans. OCHCO should also monitor components' action planning to ensure they review and assess the results of their actions to improve employee engagement. DHS concurred with GAO's recommendations. For more information, contact Chris Currie at (404) 679-1875 or CurrieC@gao.gov.
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    In U.S GAO News
    GAO found (1) the financial statements of the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) and of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) Resolution Fund (FRF) as of and for the years ended December 31, 2020, and 2019, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) although internal controls could be improved, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting relevant to the DIF and to the FRF as of December 31, 2020; and (3) with respect to the DIF and to the FRF, no reportable instances of noncompliance for 2020 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. In commenting on a draft of this report, FDIC stated that it was pleased to receive unmodified opinions on the DIF's and the FRF's financial statements. In regard to the significant deficiency in internal control over contract payment review processes, FDIC stated that it began taking steps to address this issue and will work to enhance control activities and expand monitoring capabilities in this area. Further, FDIC stated that it recognizes the essential role a strong internal control program plays in an agency achieving its mission. FDIC added that its commitment to sound financial management has been and will remain a top priority. Section 17 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, as amended, requires GAO to audit the financial statements of the DIF and of the FRF annually. In addition, the Government Corporation Control Act requires that FDIC annually prepare and submit audited financial statements to Congress and authorizes GAO to audit the statements. This report responds to these requirements. For more information, contact James R. Dalkin at (202) 512-3133 or dalkinj@gao.gov.
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    Under the Jones Act, vessels carrying merchandise between two points in the U.S. must be built and registered in the United States. Developers are planning a number of offshore wind projects along the U.S. east coast, where many states have set targets for offshore wind energy production. Stakeholders described two approaches to using vessels to install offshore wind energy projects in the U.S. Either approach may lead to the construction of new vessels that comply with the Jones Act. Under one approach, a Jones Act-compliant wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV) would carry components from a U.S. port to the site and also install the turbines. WTIVs have a large deck, legs that allow the vessel to lift out of the water, and a tall crane to lift and place turbines. Stakeholders told GAO there are currently no Jones Act-compliant vessels capable of serving as a WTIV. One company, however, has announced a plan to build one. Under the second approach, a foreign-flag WTIV would install the turbines with components carried to the site from U.S. ports by Jones Act-compliant feeder vessels (see figure). While some potential feeder vessels exist, stakeholders said larger ones would probably need to be built to handle the large turbines developers would likely use. Example of an Offshore Wind Installation in U.S. Waters Using a Foreign-Flag Installation Vessel and Jones Act-Compliant Feeder Vessels Stakeholders identified multiple challenges—which some federal programs address—associated with constructing and using Jones Act-compliant vessels for offshore wind installations. For example, stakeholders said that obtaining investments in Jones Act-compliant WTIVs—which may cost up to $500 million—has been challenging, in part due to uncertainty about the timing of federal approval for projects. According to officials at the Department of the Interior, which is responsible for approving offshore wind projects, the Department plans to issue a decision on the nation's first large-scale offshore wind project in December 2020. Some stakeholders said that if this project is approved, investors may be more willing to move forward with vessel investments. While stakeholders also said port infrastructure limitations could pose challenges to using Jones Act-compliant vessels for offshore wind, offshore wind developers and state agencies have committed to make port investments. Offshore wind, a significant potential source of energy in the United States, requires a number of oceangoing vessels for installation and other tasks. Depending on the use, these vessels may need to comply with the Jones Act. Because Jones Act-compliant vessels are generally more expensive to build and operate than foreign-flag vessels, using such vessels may increase the costs of offshore wind projects. Building such vessels may also lead to some economic benefits for the maritime industry. A provision was included in statute for GAO to review offshore wind vessels. This report examines (1) approaches to use of vessels that developers are considering for offshore wind, consistent with Jones Act requirements, and the extent to which such vessels exist, and (2) the challenges industry stakeholders have identified associated with constructing and using such vessels to support U.S. offshore wind, and the actions federal agencies have taken to address these challenges. GAO analyzed information on vessels that could support offshore wind, reviewed relevant laws and studies, and interviewed officials from federal agencies and industry stakeholders selected based on their involvement in ongoing projects and recommendations from others. For more information, contact Andrew Von Ah at (202) 512-2834 or vonaha@gao.gov.
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    What GAO Found Many single-family mortgage borrowers who missed payments during the pandemic used the expanded mortgage forbearance provision in the CARES Act. This provision allowed borrowers with loans insured, guaranteed, made directly, purchased, or securitized by federal entities (about 75 percent of all mortgages) to temporarily suspend their monthly mortgage payments. Use of the forbearance provision peaked in May 2020 at about 7 percent of all single-family mortgages (about 3.4 million) and gradually declined to about 5 percent by February 2021, according to GAO's analysis of the National Mortgage Database. As of February 2021, about half of all borrowers who used forbearance during the pandemic remained in forbearance. In addition, Black and Hispanic borrowers, who were more likely to have been economically affected by the pandemic, used forbearance at about twice the rate of White borrowers. Forbearance was also more common among borrowers at a greater risk of mortgage default—specifically, first-time, minority, and low- and moderate-income homebuyers with mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration and rural homebuyers with loans guaranteed by the Rural Housing Service (see fig. 1). Figure 1: Estimated Percentage of Single-Family Mortgage Loans in Forbearance, by Loan Type (January 2020–February 2021) A small percentage of borrowers who missed payments during the pandemic have not used forbearance—less than 1 percent of those covered by the CARES Act. Yet, borrowers who have not used forbearance may be at a greater risk of default and foreclosure, according to GAO's analysis of the National Mortgage Database. For example, these borrowers tended to have lower subprime credit scores, indicating an elevated risk of default, compared to borrowers who were current or in forbearance, who tended to have higher prime or near prime credit scores. Federal agencies and the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the enterprises) have taken steps to make these borrowers aware of forbearance options, such as through direct phone calls and letters. In addition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) amended mortgage servicing rules in June 2021 to require servicers to discuss forbearance options with borrowers shortly after any delinquency. Foreclosures declined significantly during the pandemic because of federal moratoriums that prohibited foreclosures. The number of mortgages entering foreclosure decreased by about 85 percent on a year-over-year basis from June 2019 to June 2020 and remained as low through February 2021, according to mortgage data provider Black Knight (see fig. 2). Figure 2: Number of Single-Family Mortgage Loans Entering Foreclosure, by Month (June 2019–February 2021) Note: Foreclosure data were only available through February 2021 at the time of our review. The number of new foreclosures includes vacant and abandoned properties and non-federally backed loans, which the CARES Act did not cover. Federal entities have taken additional steps to limit pandemic-related mortgage defaults and foreclosures. Federal housing agencies and the enterprises have expanded forbearance options to provide borrowers with additional time to enter and remain in forbearance. In addition, they streamlined and introduced new loss mitigation options to help borrowers reinstate their loans after forbearance, including options to defer missed payments until the end of a mortgage. Borrowers in extended forbearances generally have large expected repayments—an average of $8,300 as of February 2021, according to the National Mortgage Database. As a result, delinquent borrowers exiting forbearance have most commonly deferred repayment, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Further, CFPB's amended mortgage servicing rules allow servicers to streamline processing of loss mitigation actions and establish procedural safeguards to help limit avoidable foreclosures until January 1, 2022. The risk of a spike in defaults and foreclosures is further mitigated by the relatively strong equity position of borrowers due to rapid home price appreciation. Home equity—or the difference between a home's current value and any outstanding loan balances—can help borrowers with ongoing hardships avoid foreclosure by allowing them to refinance their mortgage or sell their home to pay off the remaining balance. According to GAO's analysis of the National Mortgage Database, few borrowers (about 2 percent) who were in forbearance or delinquent in February 2021 did not have home equity after accounting for home price appreciation. By comparison, during the peak of foreclosures in 2011 after the 2007–2009 financial crisis, about 17 percent of all borrowers and 44 percent of delinquent borrowers had no home equity (see fig. 3). Figure 3: Estimated Percentage of Single-Family Mortgage Borrowers without Home Equity as of 2020 and 2011, by Loan Type and Status Why GAO Did This Study Millions of mortgage borrowers continue to experience financial challenges and potential housing instability during the COVID-19 pandemic. To address these concerns, Congress, federal agencies, and the enterprises provided borrowers with options to temporarily suspend their mortgage payments and placed a moratorium on foreclosures. Both provisions begin to expire in the coming months. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to monitor federal efforts related to COVID-19. This report examines (1) the extent to which mortgage forbearance may have contributed to housing stability during the pandemic, (2) federal efforts to promote awareness of forbearance among delinquent borrowers, and (3) federal efforts to limit mortgage default and foreclosure risks after federal mortgage forbearance and foreclosure protections expire. GAO analyzed data on mortgage performance and the characteristics of borrowers who used forbearance from January 2020 to February 2021 using the National Mortgage Database (a federally managed, generalizable sample of single-family mortgages). GAO also reviewed data from Black Knight and the Mortgage Bankers Association on foreclosures and forbearance repayment. In addition, GAO interviewed representatives of federal entities about efforts to communicate with borrowers and limit default and foreclosure risks. To highlight potential risks, GAO also analyzed current trends in home equity among delinquent borrowers relative to the 2007–2009 financial crisis. For more information, contact John Pendleton at (202) 512-8678 or PendletonJ@gao.gov.
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    Pour la version française de cette page, voir GAO-21-484. What GAO Found As of March 31, 2020, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had obligated a combined total of more than $1.2 billion and disbursed about $1 billion for global health security (GHS) activities, using funds appropriated in fiscal years 2015 through 2019. USAID and CDC supported activities to help build countries' capacities in 11 technical areas related to addressing infectious disease threats. The obligated funding supported GHS activities in at least 34 countries, including 25 identified as Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) partner countries. U.S.-Supported Activities in Ethiopia to Strengthen Global Health Security U.S. officials' assessments of 17 GHSA partner countries' capacities to address infectious disease threats showed that at the end of fiscal year 2019, most countries had some capacity in each of the 11 technical areas but faced various challenges. U.S. interagency country teams produce biannual capacity assessments that USAID and CDC headquarters officials use to track the countries' progress. According to fiscal year 2019 assessment reports, 14 countries had developed or demonstrated capacity in most technical areas. In addition, the reports showed the majority of capacities in each country had remained stable or increased since 2016 and 2017. The technical area antimicrobial resistance showed the largest numbers of capacity increases—for example, in the development of surveillance systems. GAO's analysis of the progress reports found the most common challenges to developing GHS capacity were weaknesses in government institutions, constrained resources, and insufficient human capital. According to agency officials, some challenges can be overcome with additional U.S. government funding, technical support, or diplomatic efforts, but many other challenges remain outside the U.S. government's control. This is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in February 2021. Information that USAID and CDC deemed sensitive has been omitted. Why GAO Did This Study The outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in December 2019 demonstrated that infectious diseases can lead to catastrophic loss of life and sustained damage to the global economy. USAID and CDC have led U.S. efforts to strengthen GHS—that is, global capacity to prepare for, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats and to reduce or prevent their spread across borders. These efforts include work related to the multilateral GHSA initiative, which aims to accelerate progress toward compliance with international health regulations and other agreements. House Report 114-693 contained a provision for GAO to review the use of GHS funds. In this report, GAO examines, for the 5 fiscal years before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, (1) the status of USAID's and CDC's GHS funding and activities and (2) U.S. agencies' assessments, at the end of fiscal year 2019, of GHSA partner countries' capacities to address infectious disease threats and of challenges these countries faced in building capacity. GAO analyzed agency, interagency, and international organization documents. GAO also interviewed agency officials in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, Georgia, and in Ethiopia, Indonesia, Senegal, and Vietnam. GAO selected these four countries on the basis of factors such as the presence of staff from multiple U.S. agencies. In addition, GAO analyzed interagency assessments of countries' capacities to address infectious disease threats in fiscal year 2019 and compared them with baseline assessments from 2016 and 2017. For more information, contact David Gootnick at (202) 512-3149 or gootnickd@gao.gov.
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    What GAO Found The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of State (State) have similar processes for formal challenges to the classification of information. For example, if there is reason to believe that information is improperly classified, authorized holders—including executive branch agency or contractor personnel with relevant clearances—can submit a formal classification challenge in writing (see figure). Officials will then review the classification challenge and make a determination. If a formal challenge is denied, the authorized holder can then appeal to senior officials within the agency, and if the agency denies the appeal, the authorized holder can appeal directly to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP). ISCAP, established by Executive Order, then issues a decision that is final unless the head of the agency appeals ISCAP's decision to the President. Processes for Formal Challenges to the Classification of Information aIndividual refers to an authorized holder with access to classified information. Both DOD and State encourage authorized holders to resolve classification challenges informally before pursuing a formal classification challenge. According to DOD and State officials, informal challenges can be done in person, by phone, or by email. For example, officials told GAO that authorized holders can contact the relevant information security office about whether classified documents are marked properly. According to DOD and State officials, Members of Congress (Members) may use their existing processes to formally and informally challenge the classification of information. However, according to officials from the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), which provides support to ISCAP, Members cannot appeal a decision to ISCAP. Instead, Members can appeal to the Public Interest Declassification Board (PIDB), a statutory body that makes recommendations to the President in response to certain congressional requests to evaluate the proper classification of records. DOD officials stated that they do not have any knowledge of ever receiving a formal classification challenge from Members. State officials stated that they did not receive any formal classification challenges from Members in 2017 through 2020. ISOO officials also stated that the panel received its first formal classification challenge from a Member in 2020. ISCAP subsequently denied the challenge and directed the Member to the PIDB. Why GAO Did This Study Classified national security information is vital to U.S. national interests. The appropriate protection and handling of this information is a top priority for the executive branch and Congress. Based on guidance, such as Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information, authorized holders with access to classified information may submit a classification challenge if there are reasons to believe information is improperly classified. According to DOD and State officials, Members may also submit a classification challenge. GAO was asked to review the processes for challenging the classification of national security information. This report describes (1) the processes to challenge the classification of information at DOD and State; and (2) the processes that Members of Congress can use to challenge the classification of information at DOD and State. GAO reviewed applicable laws and regulations, and DOD, State, and other guidance related to the classification of information and classification challenge processes. GAO also interviewed DOD, State and ISOO officials. For more information, contact Joe Kirschbaum at (202) 512-9971 or Kirschbaumj@gao.gov.
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    The United States has seized 92 domain names that were unlawfully used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to engage in a global disinformation campaign, announced the Department of Justice. 
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  • Former South Carolina Sheriff and Former Deputies Convicted of Conspiracy, Misuse of Funds, and Other Offenses
    In Crime News
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  • Chinese National Sentenced for Laundering Millions for Mexican Drug Cartels
    In Crime News
    A Chinese national was sentenced today to five years in prison and ordered to forfeit more than $4.2 million for laundering drug proceeds generated by large-scale cocaine trafficking in the United States.
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  • Release of the U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Even During COVID, Courts Find Ways to Welcome New Americans
    In U.S Courts
    When the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic first forced courthouses to limit access to the general public, one of the first events to be canceled was an especially joyous rite: the naturalization of new U.S. citizens.
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  • Priority Open Recommendations: Department of the Treasury
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 31 priority recommendations for the Department of the Treasury. Since then, Treasury has implemented 14 of those recommendations by, among other things, developing a cybersecurity risk management strategy that includes key elements identified in federal guidance and by establishing a process for conducting an organization-wide cybersecurity risk assessment. In June 2021, GAO identified 4 additional priority recommendations for Treasury, bringing the total number to 21. These recommendations involve the following areas: Improving payment integrity Improving cybersecurity Improving information technology workforce planning Modernizing the U.S. financial regulatory system Improving federal financial management ( Evaluating the performance and effectiveness of tax expenditures Full implementation of these open recommendations could significantly improve Treasury's operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Michelle Sager at (202) 512-6806 or sagerm@gao.gov.
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  • AAR Corp. Agrees to Pay $11 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations on Aircraft Maintenance Contract and to Pay Penalties Assessed by the FAA
    In Crime News
    AAR Corp., located in Wood Dale, Illinois, and its subsidiary, AAR Airlift Group Inc. (Airlift), located in Melbourne, Florida, have agreed to pay the United States $11,088,000 to resolve False Claims Act allegations in connection with aircraft maintenance services performed by Airlift on two U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) contracts. 
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  • North Carolina Return Preparer Sentenced to Prison for Tax Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A Kinston, North Carolina, woman was sentenced today to 30 months in prison for conspiring to file false tax returns for her clients.
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  • Federal Court Terminates Paramount Consent Decrees
    In Crime News
    WASHINGTON – A federal court in the Southern District of New York today terminated the Paramount Consent Decrees, which for over seventy years have regulated how certain movie studios distribute films to movie theatres. The review and termination of these Decrees were part of the Department of Justice’s review of legacy antitrust judgments that dated back to the 1890’s and has resulted in the termination of nearly 800 perpetual decrees.
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  • Priority Open Recommendations: Department of Education
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified six priority recommendations for the Department of Education. Since then, Education has implemented three of those recommendations by taking action to: (1) raise awareness of the threat of lead in school drinking water and collaborate with EPA to encourage testing; (2) help borrowers in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program better understand eligibility requirements; and (3) improve its cyber risk management framework to better protect the agency's systems and data. In May 2021, GAO identified four additional priority recommendations for Education, bringing the total number to seven. These recommendations involve the following areas: protecting the investment in higher education and ensuring the well-being and education of the nation's school-age children. Education's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Jackie Nowicki at (617) 788-0580 or nowickij@gao.gov.
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  • June 23, 2021, letter commenting on AICPA’s Professional Ethics Executive Committee’s Proposed Interpretations and Definition of the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, Responding to Non-Compliance with Laws and Regulations
    In U.S GAO News
    This letter provides GAO's comments on the proposed interpretation and definition entitled Responding to Non-Compliance with Laws and Regulations, which the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) prepared. GAO provides standards for performing high-quality audits of government organizations, programs, activities, and functions and of government assistance received by contractors, nonprofit organizations, and other nongovernment organizations with competence, integrity, objectivity, and independence.1 These standards, often referred to as generally accepted government auditing standards (GAGAS), are to be followed by auditors and audit organizations when required by law, regulation, agreement, contract, or policy. For financial audits, GAGAS incorporates by reference the AICPA's Statements on Auditing Standards. For attestation engagements, GAGAS incorporates by reference the AICPA's Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements.
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    In Travel
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  • Switzerland’s Largest Insurance Company and Three Subsidiaries Admit to Conspiring with U.S. Taxpayers to Hide Assets and Income in Offshore Accounts
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice today filed a criminal information charging Swiss Life Holding AG (Swiss Life Holding), Swiss Life (Liechtenstein) AG (Swiss Life Liechtenstein), Swiss Life (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. (Swiss Life Singapore), and Swiss Life (Luxembourg) S.A. (Swiss Life Luxembourg), collectively, the “Swiss Life Entities,” with conspiring with U.S. taxpayers and others to conceal from the IRS more than $1.452 billion in offshore insurance policies, including more than 1,600 insurance wrapper policies, and related policy investment accounts in banks around the world and the income generated in these accounts.
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  • U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Lenderking’s Travel to Saudi Arabia and Oman
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • International Commission of the International Tracing Service Annual Meeting
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Owner of Montana Construction Company Sentenced to 15 Months in Prison for Employment Tax Fraud
    In Crime News
    A Montana man was sentenced today to 15 months in prison for employment tax fraud.
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  • Medicare Severe Wound Care: Spending Declines May Reflect Site of Care Changes; Limited Information Is Available on Quality
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO's analysis of Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data show that in fiscal year 2018, 287,547 Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries had inpatient stays that included care for severe wounds. These wounds include those where the base of the wound is covered by dead tissue or non-healing surgical wounds. About 73 percent of the inpatient stays occurred in acute care hospitals (ACH), and a smaller percentage of stays occurred in post-acute care facilities. Specifically, about 16 percent of stays were at skilled nursing facilities (SNF), and about 7 percent were at long-term care hospitals (LTCH). CMS data show that Medicare spending on stays for severe wound care was $2.01 billion in fiscal year 2018, representing a decline of about 2 percent from fiscal year 2016, when spending was about $2.06 billion. Spending declined as a result of decreases in both the total number of these stays, as well as spending per stay, which both decreased by about 1 percent. The decrease in per stay spending was likely driven, in part, by a change in where beneficiaries received care. CMS data show fewer severe wound care stays in LTCHs, which tend to be paid higher payment rates. At the same time, more severe wound care stays were at two other types of facilities that tend to be paid lower payment rates: ACHs and inpatient rehabilitation facilities. GAO's analysis of CMS data also show that, while the number of LTCHs that billed Medicare for severe wound care decreased by about 7 percent from fiscal years 2016 to 2018, Medicare beneficiaries continued to have access to other severe wound care providers. For example, CMS data show that most beneficiaries resided within 10 miles of an ACH or SNF that provided severe wound care in fiscal year 2018. Figure: Percentage of Medicare Fee-for-Service Beneficiaries Residing within 10 Miles of a Health Care Facility That Provided Any Severe Wound Care, by Facility Type, Fiscal Year 2018 Note: The “other” category includes facilities such as psychiatric hospitals or units. There is limited information on how or whether the decrease in LTCH care for severe wounds may have affected the quality of severe wound care Medicare beneficiaries receive. For example, CMS collects information on the percentage of patients with new or worsened pressure ulcers at post-acute care facilities, but it does not measure the quality of care they receive. Medicare beneficiaries with serious health conditions, such as strokes, are prone to developing severe wounds due to complications that often lead to immobility and prolonged pressure on the skin. These beneficiaries may require a long-term inpatient stay at an ACH or a post-acute care facility, such as an LTCH. LTCHs treat patients who require care for longer than 25 days, on average. In 2018, LTCHs represented about $4.2 billion in Medicare expenditures. Prior to fiscal year 2016, LTCHs received a higher payment rate for treating Medicare beneficiaries than ACHs. Beginning in fiscal year 2016, a dual payment system was phased in that paid LTCHs a rate similar to ACHs for some beneficiaries and a higher rate for beneficiaries that met certain criteria. As this payment system has moved from partial to full implementation, lawmakers had questions about how it may affect beneficiaries' severe wound care. The 21st Century Cures Act included a provision for GAO to review severe wound care provided to Medicare beneficiaries. This report describes facilities where Medicare beneficiaries received severe wound care, Medicare severe wound care spending, and what is known about the dual payment system's effect on access and quality. GAO analyzed Medicare severe wound care access and spending data for fiscal years 2016 and 2018 (the most recent data available); reviewed reports; and interviewed CMS officials, researchers, and national wound care stakeholders. HHS provided technical comments on a draft of this report, which were incorporated as appropriate. For more information, contact James Cosgrove at (202) 512-7114 or cosgrovej@gao.gov.
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  • Smoke Tests Protect Courtroom Air From COVID-19
    In U.S Courts
    Even as vaccines begin to protect the public from the coronavirus (COVID-19), one of the Judiciary’s biggest priorities is ensuring that the air inside courtrooms and hallways remains safe as courts schedule more in-person legal proceedings.   A new U.S. Courts video highlights a simple technique used to protect court users: a smoke test, which makes air currents inside buildings visible.
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  • Man Sentenced for Engaging in Illicit Sexual Conduct with Minors in the Republic of Kenya
    In Crime News
    A Pennsylvania man was sentenced today to over 15 years in prison plus a lifetime of supervised release, and ordered to pay $16,000 in restitution for engaging in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place.
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    In Travel
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  • Remarks by Katharine T. Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs, at the Pennsylvania Roundtable on Mental Health and Addiction
    In Crime News
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