Department of State Daily Press Briefing 2/20/24 Transcript

Matthew Miller (00:04):

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you. Sorry to be late.

Matt (00:09):

Are you really?

Matthew Miller (00:12):

I am sorry to be late. You think I don’t want to get on with my day as much as you do?

Matt (00:15):

All right. I’ll accept your apologies.

Matthew Miller (00:21):

Thank you. Let me start with some opening comments. As we mark two years this week since Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine, the brutality of Putin’s regime is increasingly evident, both at home and abroad. The weakness and rot at the heart of the system that Putin has built was confirmed not only by Alexei Navalny death last week, but also by the fact that Russia detained close to 400 people over the weekend just for mourning his passing. The Kremlin has poisoned Navalny, imprisoned him unjustly, kept him in harsh conditions, and denied him medical care. It is the Russian government that is responsible for Navalny’s death while in detention. And now in any other society, in a free democratic society, we would see openness and transparency as his family seeks more information about their beloved son, husband, and father. But of course in Russia, openness and transparency remain in short supply.

We saw further evidence of the Putin regime’s brutality and disregard for human life in Avdiivka this weekend, where Ukrainian citizens bravely tried to hold off Putin’s illegal invasion while facing rationed ammunition due to dwindling supplies. Unfortunately, Russia made its first notable gains in months. It is now more clear than ever what the stakes are in Ukraine. Without more support from Congress, Ukraine will not be able to replenish its air defenses and ammunition supplies to help protect itself from Russia’s aggression.

As the White House announced this morning at President Biden’s direction, we will be announcing a major sanctions package on Friday to hold Russia accountable for Navalny’s death in prison and for its actions over the course of the vicious and brutal war they have waged in Ukraine for the past two years. We also renew our call for Congress to pass the national security supplemental funding bill, both to enable Ukraine and its people to defend against the ongoing invasion, and also to advance US national security interests. It is critical that Congress act without further delay. With that, Matt.

Matt (02:19):

Thanks. Before we get into what you just talked about, I just want to get what you have to say about the detention of a US-Russian dual national.

Matthew Miller (02:35):

With respect to this most recent detention, we are aware of the case. We are seeking consular assistance that has not yet been granted. We’re limited what more we can say with respect because of privacy laws, as I’ve discussed many times from this podium. And I will just say generally, as I think you are aware, Russia, when it comes to dual citizens of the United States and Russia or dual citizens of any other country and Russia, Russia does not recognize dual citizenship; considers them to be Russian citizens first and foremost. And so oftentimes we have a difficult time getting consular assistance, but we will pursue it in all matters where a US citizen is detained.

Matt (03:17):

Okay. And then on the sanctions, why wait until Friday?

Matthew Miller (03:20):

It takes time to put these sanctions packages together.

Matt (03:27):

Well, it’s been two years. It wasn’t a secret since the anniversary was coming up.

Matthew Miller (03:29):

And if you have watched, you have seen us roll out a significant number of sanctions packages over that two years. So it’s not like we have delayed anything.

Matt (03:36):

No, no, no.

Matthew Miller (03:36):

But we are always looking to impose new sanctions as facts justify, when we see sanctions evasion or activity moving to new areas, and to tighten our existing sanctions. We’ll have more to say on Friday.

Matt (03:54):

Got it. Okay.

Matthew Miller (03:54):

Go ahead, Shaun.

Shaun (03:58):

Could I also ask you any reaction on Evan Gershkovich, as the latest pretrial detention that he’s been kept in for another 30 days?

Matthew Miller (04:06):

With respect to Evan Gershkovich, Ambassador Tracy attended Evan’s hearing and spoke to the press soon after. You may have seen her comments. We’re disappointed but not surprised by the outcome of the hearing. As you’ve heard me say many times from this podium, the charges against him are baseless. Russia should immediately release Evan Gershkovich and Paul Whelan, and the United States will continue to work towards securing both of their freedom.

Shaun (04:29):

And just one other on Russia, Radio Free Europe. I don’t know if you saw the Russian announcement in that saying it’s undesirable as an organization. Do you have any reaction on the Russian statement?

Matthew Miller (04:40):

I don’t have any specific reaction other than to say that you have seen Vladimir Putin oppose the free dissemination of information, the free press inside Russia, and unfortunately seems to not surprisingly but unfortunately not moved off that position.

Shaun (05:02):

And may I follow up on that, Matt?

Matthew Miller (05:03):

Let me go to Humeyra first.

Humera (05:06):

Matt, can you say at all if the administration is going to use this EO that you guys issued in December that threatened basically penalties for financial institutions that helped circumvent Russian sanctions?

Matthew Miller (05:19):

You mean with respect to our announcements that are coming on Friday? I certainly don’t want to preview those. And I just say in general-

Humera (05:24):

The announcements that are coming on Friday that you had made public on Monday.

Matthew Miller (05:28):

It’s Tuesday, actually.

Humera (05:30):

It’s Tuesday. Long weekend.

Matthew Miller (05:31):

But made public that we’ll be taking that action. I don’t want to preview what they will be, but as we have said, there will be a major sanctions package.

Humera (05:39):

Right. Can I just ask a little bit on Ukraine? Coming off the heels of Munich Security Conference where a lot of European leaders and various official have tweeted their rather negative outlook about the supplemental in Congress and all that, and Congress is on holiday until mid-March. What exactly is the administration planning how to convince the speaker whether you have a plan B if the supplementals prospects look pretty bleak?

Matthew Miller (06:13):

We will continue to engage with Congress to make clear that it is in the national security interests of the United States to pass this supplemental funding request. You heard the secretary speak about this last week. One of the points he made is that when it comes to our security assistance to Ukraine, 90% of that money is actually spent here in the United States. It benefits American manufacturing, it benefits American technological development. So we’ll continue to make that case.

But I think it’s also the American people that make that case. If you look at the recent polls that came out, the American people overwhelmingly continue to support standing with Ukraine. There were a number of members of Congress who were in Munich over the weekend and at the end of the last week attending the Munich Security Conference. They heard directly from Ukrainian officials and from European officials how it is in the national security interests of Europe and also in our transatlantic national security interest.

So we’ll continue to make the case, but I would say it’s not just the United States that will continue to make the case. And I will say, as you have heard the secretary say, there is no other magic plan that we can unveil to support Ukraine. Ukraine will continue to defend itself, even in the absence of a supplemental funding request passing Congress. That is without a doubt. You have seen them fight with bravery, you’ve seen them fight with skill, and we fully expect that they will continue to do so. They’ll continue to make gains against Russia as they have done in the Black Sea. But the situation will be very difficult. When you don’t have the ammunition you need on the front lines, you’re going to be vulnerable. And that’s what we saw over the weekend with the loss of Avdiivka. And so I think it’s the facts on the ground that will continue to make the case to members of Congress why they need to act, and we hope they will.

Humera (07:52):

Would you say that you still have some sort of confidence that it will pass?

Matthew Miller (07:56):

I don’t want to make an assessment on what Congress will do. What we will say and continue to represent is why it is in the national interest of the United States for it to pass this bill. Members of Congress will have to make their own assessments. It continues to be our belief that if you brought this funding up for an up or down vote, it will pass the House and that’s what needs to happen.

Humera (08:19):

Okay. I have some Gaza questions, but I’ll let people ask questions.

Matthew Miller (08:19):

Go ahead.

Alex (08:19):

Matt, a single on Russia. Russian Supreme Court of Tatarstan today rejected Alsu Kurmasheva, RFE reporter’s request for house arrest. Can we do a quick reaction? And I’ll follow up on that.

Matthew Miller (08:33):

We will continue to engage with the Russian government. This is another matter of a dual citizen where they rejected that request. We’ll continue to engage with the Russian government on this question, but I don’t want to speak to a specific court matter.

Alex (08:52):

Yesterday marked four months, well, day before yesterday. Are you telling us that you’re out of option here in terms of defending the US citizen?

Matthew Miller (09:02):

The safety and security of United States citizens overseas is always our first priority. We always look to protect the safety and security of every United States citizen, whether they be in Russia or whether they be in any other country.

Alex (09:12):

Is her designation decision from her arrest as wrongful, is it still on the table? Are you still considering?

Matthew Miller (09:17):

I just don’t want to make any kind of judgment about a wrongful detention determination. That is something that we always look at when it comes to American citizens who are detained overseas. It is a process. Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes new facts develop that we take under consideration. But I don’t want to speak to that any further from here.

Alex (09:36):

Going back Sean’s question-

Michel (09:41):

So sorry, on this, Alex. RFE/RL has labeled the Radio Free Europe today as an undesirable organization after designating it as a foreign agent. Do you have any-

Matthew Miller (09:50):

I commented on that a minute ago, just to say we have seen Russia continue to crack down on a free press, continue to crack down on transparency. It is quite clear that they do not want their people to have information about what the Russian regime does abroad, what the Russian regime does to its own people.

Michel (10:07):

And one more. Russia placed US Senator-

Matthew Miller (10:09):

I don’t think Alex completely used the floor-

Michel (10:10):

… since you’re talking about this.

Matthew Miller (10:12):

… but go ahead, Michel.

Michel (10:17):

Russia placed US Senator Lindsey Graham on Russia’s terrorist and extremist list. Any reaction to that?

Matthew Miller (10:22):

We’ve seen obviously the Russian government designate a broad range of United States officials with various sanctions. I doubt there are any significant ramifications from that, partly because I doubt very much that Senator Graham, who I shouldn’t speak to, he can speak for himself, planned to travel to Russia anytime in the near future.

Michel (10:40):

RFE/RL again.

Alex (10:42):

Is it fair for us to report back that you just said you will not take any action just for RFE/RL designation?

Matthew Miller (10:49):

Alex, you can report back what I just said, not your implication of what I didn’t say. And what I said was that the safety and security of American citizens abroad is always our first priority. That is true with respect to this case. It is true with respect to every American overseas. And when it comes to the wrongful detention determination, that is a process that takes time here at the department where we assess the facts, some of which change over time, circumstances change over time, and make a determination that is consistent with the law.

Alex (11:15):

Please come back to me on the region.

Speaker 1 (11:16):

Thank you. Thank you, Matt. Two questions on South Korea, Cuba, and North Korea. South Korea and Cuba established diplomatic relations last week. Cuba has been a brother country with North Korea for a long time. What is the US’s view?

Matthew Miller (11:37):

I don’t have any comment on relationship between South Korea and Cuba. Obviously we’ve always said that countries are free to decide their own diplomatic engagements and their own diplomatic alignments.

Speaker 1 (11:55):

Okay, on North Korea. North Korea’s Kim Jong Un announced that North Korea is open to talks with Japan if Japan does not interfere with North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests and abduction issues. My question is, if Japan tolerates this and talks with North Korea, what impact do you think it’ll have on the US and South Korea-North Korea alliance?

Matthew Miller (12:18):

I think that’s a pretty big if. I think I will wait to see how the government of Japan responds to that question before I weigh in any further.

Speaker 1 (12:27):

You don’t have any-

Matthew Miller (12:28):

I am aware of the North Korean offer.

Speaker 1 (12:32):

… any opinions, or?

Matthew Miller (12:32):

I have not seen the government of Japan respond. But it will continue to be our policy to achieve that for full denuclearization of the the Korean peninsula. That of course has not changed and will not change.

Speaker 1 (12:45):

Any intention of North Korea, why they suggested talks with?

Matthew Miller (12:51):

That is a question for North Korea, not for me.

Speaker 1 (12:52):

Thank you.

Matthew Miller (12:55):

Go ahead.

Speaker 2 (12:56):

Thank you. I have a question about a statement by

Speaker 3 (13:00):

The UN experts from the UN Human Rights Office yesterday expressing alarm over allegations of human rights violations to which Palestinian women and girls in the West Bank and Gaza is subjected to. The UN experts said that Palestinian women and girls in detention have been subjected to multiple forms of sexual assault by male Israeli army officers. At least two of them were reportedly threatened with rape and sexual violence. Have you seen those allegations? Do you have any reaction?

Matthew Miller (13:36):

I have seen the allegations. I cannot independently confirm the reports. I will say that we have been clear that civilians and detained individuals must be treated humanely and in accordance with international humanitarian law. We strongly urge Israel to thoroughly and transparently investigate credible allegations, ensure any accountability for abuses and violations, and that will continue to be our position.

Speaker 3 (14:00):

Have you heard back from your previous call for investigation into the killing of Hind Rajab?

Matthew Miller (14:12):

We have heard that those investigations are underway. It’s our understanding the investigations have not yet been concluded.

Speaker 4 (14:18):

Sorry, can I just ask you. When you said you had no independent confirmation of what the UN experts found-

Matthew Miller (14:23):

I mean the underlying allegations.

Speaker 4 (14:25):

But did you ever have confirmation of what Hamas allegedly did to Israelis who were women? Girls who were…

Matthew Miller (14:36):

There are Israeli medical experts who have testified to that and that is something that we consider credible. Yes.

Speaker 4 (14:43):

So you consider those instances to be confirmed but not what the UN-

Matthew Miller (14:51):

We have seen this report and we have called for an investigation to confirm whether the allegations are true or not.

Speaker 4 (14:56):

I get it. And if you’re willing to take the word of Israeli, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but if you’re willing to take the word of Israeli medical experts on what happened to the people who were abducted on October 7th, whose word are you willing to take? If not the UN, who?

Matthew Miller (15:14):

A full, independent, credible investigation-

Speaker 4 (15:19):

Would it have to be Israeli medical experts?

Matthew Miller (15:21):

We are calling for that. No, of course it would not have to be an Israeli medical expert, a credible medical expert. I don’t want to prescribe who it would be. A credible medical expert that can testify to it. It would be something we would look at, of course. It would not have to be Israeli.

Speaker 4 (15:34):

You would look at, but you’ve taken-

Matthew Miller (15:38):

Because that’s one where we have seen the outcome of the investigation, we’re able to opine on. I’m not going to opine on a matter before it’s been conducted.

Speaker 4 (15:43):

Well, yeah, but you didn’t do your own independent investigation. It’s pretty much well accepted by everybody that there were instances of rape and sexual assault on October 7th.

Matthew Miller (15:54):

And the circumstances very much matter and it is a well-accepted fact. With respect to this-

Speaker 4 (16:04):

Yeah. No, no-

Matthew Miller (16:06):

Hold on. Just let me finish.

Speaker 4 (16:08):

But you’re saying that you have what you consider to be independent confirmation that those attacks, those assaults happened.

Matthew Miller (16:19):

Independent confirmation. It is a well-accepted fact because the investigations produced credible evidence that not just the United States accepted, but countries… No, no. Let me finish. Countries around the world accepted. With respect to these new allegations, we want to see an investigation and we will of course look at the investigation, make our judgments when that investigation’s concluded.

Speaker 4 (16:37):

Okay, so it’s just too early?

Matthew Miller (16:39):


Speaker 4 (16:40):

Thank you.

Shaun (16:41):

Can I say on the Middle East?

Matthew Miller (16:43):


Shaun (16:43):

Just a couple of things, but of course the secretary’s on his way to Brasilia. I’m sure he saw the comments by President Lula in Ethiopia this past weekend. Israel’s quite upset with him likening what’s happening there to the Holocaust. Both, do you have any comment on what Lula said, and do you think the secretary will raise this with him as well?

Matthew Miller (17:04):

So obviously, we just disagree with those comments. We have been quite clear that we do not believe that genocide has occurred in Gaza. We want to see the conflict ended as soon as practical. We want to see humanitarian assistance increased in a sustained manner to innocent civilians in Gaza, but we do not agree with those comments.

Shaun (17:26):

And do you expect the secretary to raise this? Will this affect relations?

Matthew Miller (17:29):

I’m going to follow my general rule and never preview what the secretary plans to raise before he has a chance to do so directly with officials. But we engage with Brazil on a number of issues and I don’t expect that to change.

Shaun (17:40):

And just could we stay on the Middle East? Obviously, there’s the veto this morning at the security council. I know Ambassador Thomas Greenfield spoke about this at length. But in terms of US engagement with the region, how do you think this affects it? Do you think that a number of Arab states in particular have been calling for ceasefire? How does this take US diplomacy-

Matthew Miller (17:59):

So look, when it comes to an immediate ceasefire, this has been a place where we’ve had a disagreement with a number of countries in the region for some time now. I don’t think that’s anything that’s new. But that has not stopped us from being able to engage constructively about how to bring this conflict to an end and not just an end, but a durable end in a way that ensures that the violence that we saw on October 7th and the death and destruction that has plagued this region for so long is not continued, and that we can finally find a durable peace agreement. And so, despite our differences of opinion about this UN resolution, we continue to engage with Arab countries about finding a way forward and working on some of the issues that we know we will have to deal with when it comes to establishing long-term peace and security in the region. Let me make sure Sean’s done before I go. Yeah, go ahead.

Humera (18:50):

Just on Gaza, the mention of temporary ceasefire, the word ceasefire in the UN resolution, is this change in wording comes after President Biden used this last week?

Matthew Miller (19:02):

It temporally obviously does. The president made that point last week and now you’ve seen the draft resolution that we’re working on. But this has been a matter that we have been pursuing for some time, trying to get a temporary ceasefire in exchange for a release of hostages and something we think is critical to try to achieve and will continue to focus on.

Humera (19:19):

Right. The administration has obviously been under pressure domestically on this and internationally as well. Do you think that the change in the president’s wording, but the fact that now it’s in draft resolution has anything to do with those pressures that it’s facing domestically?

Matthew Miller (19:34):

No, I think it has to do with how we are responding to the situation on the ground and the situation in the region. We are trying to achieve a temporary ceasefire, or you can call it a pause, you can call it whichever name you prefer, to secure the release of hostages. We worked on achieving a humanitarian pause back last year. We were successful in doing it. It didn’t go as long as we wanted it to. We got some hostages out. We didn’t get all of them out. We are back now trying to get a longer pause, a longer temporary ceasefire, and secure the release not just of some of the hostages, but all of the hostages. And I would say we have made quite clear that we want to see not just a temporary ceasefire, but ultimately an enduring end to the hostilities and one that ensures that Palestinian civilians are protected, that we get humanitarian assistance to them, and that ultimately the attacks of October 7th cannot be repeated.

And that’s one of the reasons why you’ve seen us oppose the resolutions at the US, not just today, but in the past, because we think just an unconditional ceasefire only benefits Hamas, that Hamas is not going to abide by a full temporary ceasefire. They’re going to continue to hold hostages. They’re going to continue to launch attacks against Israel. They may not do it for a week or so, but they have not forsworn their aims to destroy the state of Israel. And so we’ve opposed that policy and we think it’s not one that’s effective. We think a negotiated agreement that would get a temporary pause, a temporary ceasefire, is ultimately not just the way to release the hostages and alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people, but to give us a pathway to a more enduring end to hostilities.

Humera (21:08):

Right. And you’d like to achieve that pause before Ramadan starts?

Matthew Miller (21:11):

We would like to achieve that pause yesterday. We like to achieve it today or tomorrow. We want to achieve it as soon as possible.

Humera (21:16):

Sure. But how concerned are you that the fighting will continue into Ramadan? Are you doing anything specific about that?

Matthew Miller (21:23):

I don’t want to get ahead of the situation because we are right now in conversations and in negotiations to try to achieve a humanitarian pause. We are still over two weeks away from Ramadan. We would like to get that humanitarian pause before Ramadan begins. We’d like to get it before the end of the week. As I said, we’d like to get it as soon as possible, so that’s what we’re going to continue to try to do. At the same time, we have made clear that Israel should not launch a full military campaign in Rafah unless it has a humanitarian plan that is both credible and realistic and one that they can execute.

Humera (21:57):

Have you seen any of that mentoring plan? And what is the United States prepared to do if they go ahead anyway?

Matthew Miller (22:00):

One has not been presented to us yet. I’ve seen reports that one is being developed and will be presented to the government of Israel this week. I will let them speak of course to that. But one has not been presented to the United States, so I of course can’t speak to it and I wouldn’t want to deal with any kind of hypothetical situation down the road. Shannon, go ahead.

Shannon (22:17):

While in Munich, the secretary raised Russia’s pursuit of an anti-satellite capability in meetings with his Chinese and Indian counterparts. Can you say if this is the first time the secretary has raised such meetings with other countries and whether he hopes to achieve anything by raising the topic with China and India specifically?

Matthew Miller (22:33):

So I will say that on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, he did raise Russia’s pursuit of an anti-satellite technology with our allies and partners, but not just our allies and partners, with other countries as well. Because, as the secretary made clear, he thinks it’s an issue that should be of concern not just to the United States, but to other countries in the world. And I won’t speak to the details of those diplomatic engagements, but I would just say generally that when you have an issue like this that we think should be of broad concern, not just to the United States, but other countries, we of course would fully expect that they would use their diplomatic engagements to, as we have done, urge that the pursuit of such a technology be abandoned.

Shannon (23:15):

Can you say if those other countries, did they express concern about the capability as well?

Matthew Miller (23:19):

I just don’t want to speak to private diplomatic engagements.

Speaker 5 (23:23):

Sir, a senior Pakistani official admits to helping rig the vote. He claimed that he changed the election reserves with a margin of 70,000 votes in favor of [inaudible 00:23:34] and that those seats were actually won by Imran Khan’s party’s candidates. What are you views? You already talked about the delegation of rigging and fraud. What are your views on this?

Matthew Miller (23:44):

So, I saw that report. Any claims of interference or fraud should be fully and transparently investigated in accordance with Pakistan’s own laws and procedures, and that of course includes this claim as well.

Speaker 5 (23:57):

So a number of Pakistani politicians and media analysts in Pakistan have termed these elections most controversial, and asking political leadership to respect Imran Khan’s party’s mandate as the largest group. Would you also like to see the political leadership in Pakistan to respect the PTI candidate?

Matthew Miller (24:12):

Again, I don’t want to get… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cut you off. What was the last-

Speaker 5 (24:16):

Are you also asking the political leadership in Pakistan to respect the PTI’s mandate?

Matthew Miller (24:22):

Again, I don’t want to get into an internal Pakistani matter, which I very much believe that the formation of a new government is, so that’s a matter that I will leave to Pakistan. But as I said, when it comes to any claims of interference or allegations of irregulation, we want to see those fully investigated.

Nick (24:40):

Different topic.

Shaun (24:42):

Do you mind if I just follow up very briefly on that?

Nick (24:43):

Yeah, go ahead.

Matthew Miller (24:45):

You guys are so nice to each other, tolerating all these interruptions today.

Shaun (24:48):

Always cordial. Can I just follow up on Pakistan in relation to this?

Matthew Miller (24:53):

He’d be mad if I don’t come back to him now.

Nick (24:54):

I’ll get two.

Matthew Miller (24:57):

There you go.

Nick (24:58):

X, formerly known as Twitter. It’s been disrupted in Pakistan in recent days. There have been a number of calls from The Hill in particular for the State Department to raise this. Has it been raised? Do you have a stance on it?

Matthew Miller (25:09):

I don’t have any updates on whether it’s something that’s been raised, but we always want to see full internet freedom around the world, and that includes the availability of platforms that people use to communicate with each other.

Shaun (25:20):

And specifically if Pakistan is of concern in light of these allegations about the election.

Matthew Miller (25:24):

So I would just say as a general matter that we want want internet platforms to… I don’t know why I keep saying internet today. I don’t know where that came from. Internet platforms to be available to people in Pakistan and around the world. I don’t have anything further than that. Nick, go ahead.

Nick (25:39):

Thank you. There have been some reports over the weekend that the State Inspector General opened an investigation to Rob Malley and is being put on leave. Do you have anything you can add to that?

Matthew Miller (25:49):

So I won’t speak on behalf of the Inspector General. As you know, they operate independently and they should be the ones to decide whether to confirm any investigation or not confirm an investigation. I will say that when it comes

Matthew Miller (26:00):

To Inspector General Investigations. We always comply with those fully and we’ll continue to do so.

Speaker 6 (26:07):

And then separately, there’s been some criticism of a cable that the secretary sent a few weeks ago on gender identity to staff, urging staff to use gender-neutral language whenever possible and avoid terms like “manpower” and “ladies and gentlemen.” Why do you think a memo like that was needed?

Matthew Miller (26:27):

So I will say, first of all, when it comes to these types of cables, they all come out with the secretary’s signature on it. That tends to be standard department practice, has been for years. It doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily a memo from the secretary himself. I would say if you look at that memo as I have done, it’s a standard government practice to try to encourage people just to be respectful of others and use the terms with which others are comfortable, and talk to people the way that they would like to be addressed. And nothing more than that. Actually, let me go back. Alex, it is too late to come back to you.

Speaker 7 (27:01):

Please come back to me.

Matthew Miller (27:02):

You’re right in front. So sometimes I come back, but there are people in the back.

Speaker 8 (27:04):

So you’re saying that it is not an order?

Matthew Miller (27:09):

I would like to look at the memo again before, but I understanding it was a best practices piece.

Speaker 8 (27:17):

Okay. Well, remember there was a little bit of a kerfuffle some time ago, maybe before you were here when an email-

Matthew Miller (27:22):

When people’s pronouns were changed for them by mistake.

Speaker 8 (27:24):


Matthew Miller (27:24):

I do remember that.

Speaker 8 (27:25):


Matthew Miller (27:25):

Yeah. No, this was just encouraging people to be respectful and treat people with respect and address them with the terms that they feel comfortable with.

Speaker 8 (27:36):

Okay. Well, I mean, does the secretary or anyone else in the building have an issue with the phrase, ladies and gentlemen?

Matthew Miller (27:44):

I do not have-

Speaker 8 (27:45):

Not you.

Matthew Miller (27:46):

Hold on. I do not have any problem with the term ladies and gentlemen, and I feel fully confident saying the secretary does not either. Go ahead.

Speaker 9 (27:54):

Thank you, Matt. Bangladesh regime people involvement in corruption is an open secret, according to a Bloomberg detailed report yesterday. Saifuzzaman Chowdhury, one of the cabinet ministers, is alleged to have built an empire in the UK and U.S. valued at 200 million pounds sterling, equivalent to one percent of the country’s foreign reserve. This is just one case among many. How is the U.S. addressing this matter to hold the government accountable and combat corruption globally?

Matthew Miller (28:28):

We are aware these reports and encourage the Government of Bangladesh to ensure that all elected officials comply with the country’s laws and financial regulations.

Speaker 10 (28:36):

Matt, can I follow up [inaudible 00:28:37]

Matthew Miller (28:36):

Go ahead. Go, go. No. No. The best way to not get called on is to shout out a question while I’m calling on other people. Go ahead. I will come across to this side of the room in a minute.

Speaker 11 (28:47):

Thank you, Matt. In light of world pressure on Israel to accept a Palestinian state dividing their land with Hamas and Palestinian Authority terrorist organizations and for Israel not to enter Rafah in Gaza to destroy Hamas there, what is the State Department’s response to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli cabinet, as well as the entire Jewish population, who are defending their right to live free from terrorism? And I have a follow-up.

Matthew Miller (29:11):

We, of course, agree with Israel’s right to live free from terrorism. If you’ve looked at the repeated comments that Secretary Blinken has made, not just here in the United States, but in Israel itself, on his five trips to the region, he has made clear that he supports Israel’s right to ensure that October 7th can never happen again. And more importantly, he is trying to achieve a resolution of this conflict that will ensure Israel has long-term peace and long-term security, including security, of course, from terrorism.

Speaker 11 (29:41):

Are you going to be wanting to prevent Israel from entering Rafah to take out Hamas there?

Matthew Miller (29:47):

What we have said is we do not support a full-scale military campaign in Rafah that does not account for the more than one million Palestinians who are currently there. People who have nothing to do with Hamas, innocent civilians, men, women, children, the elderly, who in many cases have fled to Rafah from their homes in some cases have fled more than once, have fled two or three times to escape the war, the conflict that is raging in Gaza. So we fully support Israel’s right to take a military campaign to Hamas and ensure that the tax of October 7th cannot be repeated, as I said, but we also want to see civilians properly accounted for. And right now, we don’t believe that there is a way to conduct a military campaign in Rafah without moving some of those civilians and properly accounting for their humanitarian needs.

Speaker 11 (30:37):

What are the reasons of the State Department for not demanding Hamas immediately release all remaining hostages unconditionally?

Matthew Miller (30:44):

I think you’ve missed dozens and dozens of statements from the State Department going back to October 7th. Well, it’s actually October 8th by the time that we were aware that hostages should be released, and was the first time the secretary called for the immediate release of hostages. And he has continued to make that clear, as have I, as has the president. We have demanded time and time again that hostages be released immediately and unconditionally. Go ahead.

Speaker 12 (31:10):

Thanks, Matt. I just wanted to circle back to the verbiage used in the UN draft today. I mean, how important is it that you use the word ceasefire as opposed to an extended pause, which is what you’ve been using prior?

Matthew Miller (31:23):

I will let other people make those sorts of assessments. From a policy perspective, we want to achieve a temporary stop in fighting. You can call that a ceasefire, you can call that a pause. Ultimately, we want to see the fighting stop so hostages can get out, hostages can be released, and humanitarian assistance can get in. But I should make clear, the only kind of temporary ceasefire that is going to achieve a release of hostages is one that’s negotiated. Just calling for a temporary ceasefire that Hamas has not agreed to is not going to do anything to get the hostages out, which is why we can continue to pursue diplomacy with Israel and with the governments of Egypt and Qatar to try to achieve a temporary ceasefire that would secure the release of hostages. We think that is by far the most productive way forward. It is what achieved a release of more than 100 hostages last year and what we think should be the productive path for moving forward now.

Speaker 13 (32:22):

Two question about Afghanistan. As you know, the Taliban refused to attend a UN-sponsored conference in Doha that’s concluded yesterday. They didn’t send any delegation, and also they rejected the appointment of a special envoy by UN in Afghanistan. Does the United States still hope to engage with Taliban by considering all of that?

Matthew Miller (32:44):

Let me just speak to what we were trying to engage or what we were trying to achieve by attending this conference. And it’s not surprising that the Taliban, of course, has different objectives. We were trying to achieve a number of things. One, to make clear that Afghanistan should not be a hotbed for terrorist activities that impact other countries. Two, a vision for Afghanistan with inclusive institutions in which its diverse groups all feel represented in a state that is truly inclusive. And number three, a concern about the respect of human rights and, in particular, the rights of women and girls. So that’s what we’re going to continue to pursue. I can’t say I’m incredibly surprised that the Taliban declined the invitation to participate in a meeting with a broad representation from the international community. But I will say, as you’ve heard us say before, that the Taliban are not the only Afghans who have a stake in the future of Afghanistan. We will continue to support giving all Afghanistans, including, of course, women and girls, a voice in shaping their country’s future.

Speaker 13 (33:47):

And the Chinese, Russian, and Iranian envoy into the peace meeting, they refused to meet with the Afghan civil society because they were not greeted by the Taliban regime. Do you support this idea, and what’s your take on that?

Matthew Miller (34:01):

So I won’t speak to the actions of another country, but I will make clear, we always find engagement with civil society to be productive. We try to take actions through our diplomacy to empower civil society, and we would certainly encourage every country in the world to pursue that path. Let me go back to, I promised you I’d come to you a minute ago. Go ahead.

Speaker 10 (34:19):


Matthew Miller (34:20):

Yeah. Now I call on you-

Speaker 10 (34:21):

Oh, thank you.

Matthew Miller (34:21):

You don’t want a question after jumping in for other people, during other people’s questions.

Speaker 10 (34:25):

Thank you, Matt. I’ll be very respectful. Before I ask you a question, I have to let you know that Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu was speaking at the Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., last week. He said that the situation in Burma was not getting better, and what worried him was that the refugee crisis and security problem it was creating for Bangladesh and potentially for India could get deeper in coming days. Quote, “It is something we have to watch out for and enable our partners in the region, in this case Bangladesh and India, to cope with those stresses without it boiling over the instability in their countries as well,” over, I mean, cross-border instability. What is your opinion on that? Thank you.

Matthew Miller (35:12):

I think it was a well-crafted, well-delivered speech, and I don’t have anything to add to it.

Go ahead.

Speaker 10 (35:18):

Thank you.

Speaker 14 (35:19):

Wow, going out on a limb there.

Matthew Miller (35:21):

Thank you, Matt. Go ahead.

Michel (35:23):


Matthew Miller (35:24):


Michel (35:25):

Thanks. I have two questions. The Houthis have escalated their attacks on ships in the Red Sea during the weekend. One of the attacks targeted or damaged a ship and forced its crew to abandon it. How do you view this escalation, and what or how the U.S. will react?

Matthew Miller (35:43):

So, obviously, we continue to condemn the reported reckless and indiscriminate attacks on civilian cargo ships by the Houthis, not just those that were reported to have occurred over the weekend but all those that have been occurring for the past number of weeks. But I just want to mention something specific about one of these attacks this weekend. The attack on the Sea Champion. That ship was bringing corn and other food supplies to the Yemeni people in Aden. These were supplies for the Yemeni people, have nothing to do with Israel, have nothing to do with the conflict in Gaza. That, of course, is what the Houthis have claimed their attacks on civilian ships are trying to impact. This was a reckless attack on a ship delivering humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people.

And I think it was another sign that the Houthis continue to demonstrate disregard, not just for international shipping, not just for supplies that are going to benefit civilians all around the world, in many cases far from the region, but ultimately, for their own people. It was a dangerous attack. And the fact that they’re launching these just wanton, indiscriminate attacks even when they hurt their own people and hurt the provision of supplies to their own people, shows just how reckless their actions have been.

Michel (37:00):

And on Lebanon, how do you view the escalation of military operations between Israel and Hezbollah? Will the U.S. participate in two conferences that will be held in France and Rome to help increase the Lebanese army capabilities to implement the UN Security Council Resolution 1701?

Matthew Miller (37:19):

So we continue to be concerned about the risk of escalation and continue to be concerned about the risk of the conflict widening, and we continue to work to achieve a diplomatic path forward that resolves the legitimate concerns of the government of Israel and the legitimate concerns of Israeli people who don’t want to move back to the North because they feel that their houses continue to be threatened, their communities continue to be threatened by attacks from Hezbollah. So we’re continuing to pursue that diplomatic resolution as it pertains to these two conferences, or I think maybe in one of the cases, potential conferences. I don’t have anything to add about possible U.S. participation. Let me go back here.

Speaker 15 (37:54):

Thank you so much. I have two questions, one about the irregularities in Pakistan election. From the last Monday briefing you have mentioned that United States raised privately and publicly the irregularities matter with Pakistani officials, but ministry of foreign affairs in Islamabad just in last briefing said they are not aware of any bilateral messaging that has taken place post-elections. Meanwhile, what we observed are U.S. ambassadors in Pakistan, just after two days after election, held a meeting with former foreign minister of Pakistan. So do United States directed speaking in Pakistan to have engagements with the officials or the politicians? Secondly, I want to ask regarding the efforts for United States, for the Israel-Saudi normalization.

Matthew Miller (38:41):

Before we get in, let me answer the question you asked, which is, I’m not going to talk to private diplomatic engagements, but we have made clear that we want to see any irregularities or claimed irregularities fully investigated.

Go ahead with the second one.

Speaker 15 (38:56):

So the October 7th is considered as big damage for diplomatic

Speaker 15 (39:00):

… efforts by US in Saudi/Israeli normalization process. So MBS, the Crown Prince demanded two-state solution and he also looking for a timeline from US. So Netanyahu is not bothering this two-state solution, this condition. So what is the timeframe after the post reservoir? What will be the damage repaired by the US to repair this, as number of Arab nations have reservations on this [inaudible 00:39:28]?

Matthew Miller (39:29):

I don’t want to speak to any timetable, but I will say, as, again, you have heard the secretary say, we continue to work on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, which we believe doesn’t just benefit the Palestinian people, but would benefit the Israeli people and would benefit the entire region. That is something we have heard from a number of Arab partners in the region, including, of course, the government of Saudi Arabia. And one of the things that the secretary discussed directly with the Crown Prince and heard directly from the Crown Prince was that Saudi Arabia was not prepared to pursue normalization or was not prepared to agree to normalization, I should say, without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Go ahead.

Speaker 16 (40:08):

Can I just raise the extradition hearing of Julian Assange, which has taken place at the High Court in London today? And his lawyers have repeated an allegation saying that there is evidence that a plan was discussed to either kill or kidnap Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Mark Summers KC, Assange’s lawyer, saying senior CIA officials requested plans. The president himself, that’s President Trump, requested on being provided with options on how to do it and sketches were drawn up. Is there any comment?

Matthew Miller (40:41):

No, I’m not going to comment on an ongoing extradition matter.

Speaker 19 (40:47):

Can I just ask a followup to that, please?

Matthew Miller (40:49):

Go ahead. Matt. Go ahead.

Speaker 4 (40:50):

Well, I want to go back to what we were talking about earlier, and that is just … The question is whether the administration regards Julian Assange as a journalist.

Matthew Miller (41:03):

With respect to that question, I think I should decline to comment in detail because, as I said, it is an ongoing extradition matter and it’s an ongoing legal matter. This is a case which is under indictment, but I will just say generally that I have never heard a journalist say that is a legitimate journalistic practice to help a source hack into a government computer to steal information. It’s not a legitimate journalistic activity to hack into anything to steal government information. So I think I’ll leave it at that.

Speaker 4 (41:36):

Okay. Well, that suggests then that you don’t. And I want to specifically avoid getting into what the Justice Department has to say about this case. I want to talk about what the State Department believes about his status, Assange’s status, because you guys are self-proclaimed champions of independent free press, you are all the time saying journalism is not a crime and this kind of thing. So if you believe that what Julian Assange has been doing, or did, is journalism, I don’t see how that squares with … And if you don’t, are you saying from your comment just now that you don’t regard him as a journalist because he accepted or allowed or helped someone hack into computers? Is that-

Matthew Miller (42:41):

Again, I’m at a limit to what I can say about an ongoing legal matter that is under indictment. I remember from my days as the Department of Justice spokesperson that it was-

Speaker 4 (42:51):

Yeah, exactly.

Matthew Miller (42:51):

Let me just-

Speaker 4 (42:52):

I think it’s probably colored your personal-

Matthew Miller (42:55):

Let me just finish this answer, that it’s not appropriate for-

Speaker 4 (42:57):

… [inaudible 00:42:58].

Matthew Miller (42:57):

… government officials to speak at length about matters that remain under indictment. We support an independent free press in the United States, we support an independent free press around the world. We feel that independent free press not just benefits the people in the United States, it benefits those of us in government by making us work harder, by making us be ready to explain what we’re doing, by making us think through the decisions that we are making and make sure that they fully represent the best interests of the American people, and we think that same process holds true everywhere in the world, and that’s why you see dictators and autocrats and others crack down on an independent free press.

At the same time, helping someone hack into, which is a crime, hacking is a crime, helping someone hack into a government network, or a private network for that regard, is not something I think any journalist considers to be a legitimate journalism activity.

Speaker 4 (43:59):

Okay. Well, do you not think, then, that what was published as a result of the hacks into the government database, especially as it relates to the State Department cables, which are many, many thousands of them, and that were then published by an independent free press, you don’t see a problem here with the prosecution or attempted prosecution, the indictment, and your stated view that you think that this kind of activity should be protected?

Matthew Miller (44:37):

Again, if you look at the conduct that is alleged in the indictment, when it comes to helping someone hack into a government network, that is a very different type of activity.

Speaker 4 (44:49):

But publishing it is not.

Matthew Miller (44:51):

I am not going to get into the ongoing details of what is a, probably gone too far already in discussing this case, the details of what is very much a live, ongoing litigation matter.

Speaker 4 (45:03):

Well, do you not think the publication of these documents, when they came out, the original ones, the ones that Chelsea Manning provided to WikiLeaks, and when they were published by the New York Times and El Pais and all the [inaudible 00:45:19], do you not think that that helped inform public discussion? Do you not think that that was useful?

Matthew Miller (45:25):

Let me say this, because I’m not going to speak to that specific case for the reasons I just articulated, but I will say that two things can often be true when it comes to the publication of classified government documents. It is true that, at times, the publication of a classified government document will inform the public and sometimes it will uncover wrongdoing. It’s also true that sometimes the publication of classified government documents serves no underlying purpose and can jeopardize sources and methods that the government uses to keep the American public safe. So it is a very difficult situation. It is, I think, one of the trickiest questions the government faces in navigating this area, but I can tell you that we try to do it as responsibly as we can. Over here.

Speaker 17 (46:11):

Good to see you, Matt, and thank you so much for taking … I have two questions, if you will allow. First, I’d like to talk about the anniversary of the war in Ukraine that is coming up. And as you rightly know, at the very start of the war, African countries, there was an outright split, some ambivalence of support to Ukraine. So I’m seeking your assessment on US efforts. I’m not saying that … We’ve had this conversation, the narrative about is or is the US not trying to ask African countries to pick a side. That’s not what my question is. My question is to ask, while we recognize that garnering international support for Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity is important, what over the two years has been your efforts in the US in garnering international support in terms of African countries? And my second question is on Guinea.

Matthew Miller (47:14):

Let me take that one first. So I will say that we have engaged in countries all over the world, not just in Africa, but of course, across the world, to urge them to support Ukraine and support its efforts to defend itself from Russian aggression. We think, when you see any country’s sovereign borders violated, see its control of its territory violated, that it threatens all countries around the world because it is ultimately the UN charter that upholds the territorial integrity and sovereignty of every country in the world.

And I will just say, not just because of our efforts, although they have helped, but because I think we’ve seen countries in the world outraged by Russia’s activities, we have seen a number of UN resolutions, including ones that were joined by dozens of African countries, in support of upholding those principles of the UN charter, of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and ultimately finding a comprehensive, just, and durable peace that recognizes those principles.

Speaker 17 (48:14):

Sure. And then on Guinea, if I may, and this will be my last question to you, Matt, since yesterday, as you may already know, there is no leadership in Guinea. I think there is currently maybe some low-level leadership. They dissolved the government. And so while I appreciate that you will not comment on the internal affairs of another country, I am asking you to see if you can comment on your own efforts and how you might be engaging any stakeholders in Guinea, or in that part of the world for that matter, or any regional organization besides ECOWAS, which [inaudible 00:48:51] weakened, are there any other countries that you may be engaging, Angola, South Africa, Kenya, in your efforts-

Matthew Miller (48:59):


Speaker 17 (48:59):

… in this regard?

Matthew Miller (49:01):

We are closely monitoring developments in Guinea. We encourage the transition authorities to work with ECOWAS. It’s something we’ve discussed with a number of ECOWAS states, to continue positive momentum by holding a constitutional referendum and elections in order to complete democratic governance. We remain concerned about media restrictions placed on the Guinean people and call on the transition authorities to ensure that freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression are fully respected, including for members of the press, and we are engaging with a number of countries in the region around those goals.

Shaun (49:37):

Matt, do you [inaudible 00:49:38] one more question?

Matthew Miller (49:37):

Yeah, one more and then, Humira, did you have one?

Shaun (49:39):

Sorry, but just one more Africa. Rwanda, DRC issued a statement on Saturday, I believe it was, on the … The DRC [inaudible 00:49:49] Rwanda’s involvement in the drone attack on the airport. Since the statement, has there been any response from Rwanda? Are you confident that there’s some progress in there? How do you see things going on?

Matthew Miller (50:00):

I don’t have any update on the situation since we released that statement over the weekend.

Shaun (50:04):

But do you find the DRC allegations credible of Rwanda’s involvement?

Matthew Miller (50:09):

I don’t have anything to add beyond what we said over the weekend. Humira, and then we’ll finish up.

Speaker 18 (50:14):

Matt, there were some incidents of the [inaudible 00:50:16] of Taiwan in the past couple of days. China’s Coast Guard boarded a Taiwanese tourist boat, and on Tuesday, Taiwan throw away a Chinese Coast Guard boat that entered its waters. Are you guys worried about any [inaudible 00:50:28] intentions? Have you seen that?

Matthew Miller (50:30):

Yeah, we are closely monitoring Beijing’s actions. We continue to urge restraint and no unilateral change to the status quo, which has preserved peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and throughout the region for decades. We urge the PRC to engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan to reduce the risk of miscalculation, and we share with other countries, not just in the region, but around the world, an abiding interest in peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait and in the broader Indo-Pacific region, which impact global security and prosperity. And with that, we’ll wrap for today.

Speaker 20 (50:59):

Thank you.

Matthew Miller (50:59):

Thanks, everyone.

Recent Posts