U.S. State Department Press Briefing (Excerpts)

April 13, 2018

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear
  • Missile

MS NAUERT: Hi everybody.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS NAUERT: How are you today?

[...]

QUESTION: Can I go to the confirmation hearing yesterday.

MS NAUERT: Sure.

QUESTION: There was sort of a suggestion in that hearing that Secretary Tillerson was responsible for the proposed budget cuts to the State Department. Obviously, that’s an OMB decision. Does the secretary-designate have any stance on the proposed budget which would cut State Department funding?

MS NAUERT: I have – that is not – that is not a question that I have asked him. That is not.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS NAUERT: I think hopefully he will become – he will be confirmed quickly. Senator Corker said that he hoped to handle everything in an expeditious fashion. So hopefully we will get a positive vote out of the committee and then out at the full floor and have him as a new secretary of state, and then we’ll let him decide what he wants to do with regard to talking to the White House, OMB, and others about the budget.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just another one from the hearing.

MS NAUERT: Sure.

QUESTION: On Iran he mentioned that he had no evidence that Iran had been racing toward a nuclear weapon prior to the deal and he didn't think that, if the nuclear deal were abrogated, Iran would start racing for a nuclear weapon now. Is that the State Department’s policy?

MS NAUERT: Yeah. I – look, I’m not going to be able to comment on everything he said at the hearing. He is the secretary-designate at this point, not the secretary of state. I don’t want to be presumptuous and go around what the Senate is doing in terms of their confirmation process.

QUESTION: Oh, come on.

QUESTION: You just cited his testimony as part of administration policy on --

MS NAUERT: Well, that – that was part of it, yes. That’s fair, and I certainly did, but I’m not going to be able to parse out every single thing that he said. In terms of the JCPOA, I think the President has talked about his views on the overall JCPOA. As you know, and Nick, you and I had talked about this, the meeting of the E3 that too place here in Washington just a few days in which our Director for Policy Planning Brian Hook was meeting with his counterparts to talk about what will happen next with the JCPOA. They met for a full day here and broke down those meetings in talking about different ICBMs and different parts of that meeting and also Iran’s malign influence.

So the President obviously has a big decision that he has to make coming up, and I’m not going to get ahead of that decision.

QUESTION: So just to clarify, I mean, speaking more broadly about the State Department’s assessments of Iran’s capabilities and its intentions, I mean, there was a great deal of urgency around the time that the nuclear deal was signed about breakout times and wanting to keep the breakout time as large as possible, things like that. Does the State Department, regardless of what the secretary-designate said, share that assessment that it was not racing toward a bomb and would not, if the deal were broken?

MS NAUERT: That is not a – that is not a question I’ve asked. If it’s – if I can get an answer to you, I will certainly look into that and get it – back to you.

[...]

QUESTION: Yes, just about the JCPOA. I just want to clarify that what you are saying is that we are just waiting for President’s decision next month, and before that there won’t be any updated or fixed version for the deal to be provided or --

MS NAUERT: Well, we had – no, I did not – I did not say that. I said I’m not going to get ahead of the President’s final decision that he does make. However, we just had a meeting here in Washington earlier this week where our policy planning director, Brian Hook, was talking with his counterparts from the E3 about strengthening some provisions within the JCPOA. We’re having conversations about that; we’re making some progress on some fronts. We also had conversations about our agreements about Iranian malign activity around the world. And so there may be some decisions that could come out ahead of the JCPOA. Okay?

QUESTION: So do you expect that you just contact Iran before the next deadline, or --

MS NAUERT: I have – I have nothing for you on that. Okay, we gotta go. Everybody have a terrific weekend, we’ll see you next week.