Daily Press Briefing - November 10, 2016

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 10, 2016


2:06 p.m. EST

MR TONER: Hey, everybody. Greetings on a Thursday.

QUESTION: Last day of the week.

MR TONER: True that.

QUESTION: Tomorrow’s a holiday.

MR TONER: Tomorrow’s a federal holiday. And as the Europeans should also know, it’s Armistice Day. The 11th – 11th day of the 11th month --

QUESTION: (Inaudible), yes.

MR TONER: -- 11th hour, I believe, was when it hit. A little bit of European history there.

Anyway, welcome to the State Department. A few things at the top: First of all, at the State Department today, we have 250 young business and social entrepreneurs from across the Western Hemisphere joining us for the closing summit of the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative, or, as we like to put it – as we like to put most things into acronyms – YLAI, which is a professional fellows program. And they’ve just spent the past five weeks in cities across the United States.

As part of the summit here in D.C., they’re engaging senior department officials, including Under Secretary Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary also for Western Hemisphere Affairs Mari Carmen Aponte. And the fellows will close the day with a Q&A with Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group, which will be moderated by Under Secretary Rick Stengel, on the value of being an active global citizen. YLAI emphasizes entrepreneurship and is one of the young leaders initiatives that aims to empower young people around the world to tackle our shared global challenges.

And just a very quick update: The Secretary left for this morning – or left this morning for Antarctica, where he’ll arrive at the Pegasus Ice Field midmorning. He’ll meet with McMurdo staff there, and they’ll discuss their important work and the impact of climate change. These scientists and researchers study a wide range of subjects in the extreme south of the planet. And as you know, the Secretary will be hosted by the U.S. National Science Foundation, which manages the U.S. Antarctic Program. And tomorrow he’ll travel, weather permitting, to the South Pole, and then return to New Zealand.

And I know Kirby got the chance last week, but I just wanted to take note of Arshad Mohammed’s departure – imminent departure from the building. I just want to say – speak personally and professionally, but personally, Arshad’s been a great friend and has always kept me honest and made me a better spokesperson. He’s a great journalist, a tough journalist. The two go hand in hand sometimes. I respect him enormously and I very much appreciate, as I said, his friendship and guidance in the time that I’ve been in the Public Affairs Bureau and in the deputy spokesperson, and even before that as director of the Press Office – those roles. So we’re going to miss him, and I know you’re not going far, so please – and I know you’ll continue to keep us honest here from the podium, but all the best.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mark.

MR TONER: Great.

QUESTION: I’ll echo that sentiment and since it – I think it is your last briefing, right?


QUESTION: Take it away. (Laughter.)


MR TONER: Well put.

QUESTION: Thank you. Well, I’ll start with the Philippines. (Laughter.)

MR TONER: Just down to business. Okay.

QUESTION: Did you want me to --

MR TONER: No, it’s okay. It’s okay.

QUESTION: Okay. I’ll say something.

MR TONER: No, I’m joking.

QUESTION: If you will allow me to apostrophize for a moment, these briefings have sometimes seemed otiose or almost pyrrhic – (laughter) – but I have greatly enjoyed our exegetical and Talmudic efforts to understand American foreign policy. I’ve used all five of those words in briefings over the last dozen or more years. (Laughter.) I’ve had enormous --

MR TONER: Well put.

QUESTION: I’ve had enormous fun and I wish everybody in the room, those on this side of the podium and those on that side of the podium, well as you keep doing this.

MR TONER: Thanks.

QUESTION: But I do have a question about the Philippines.

MR TONER: Of course. (Laughter.) Yeah.

QUESTION: So as I’m sure you have seen, a Philippine law enforcement agency has filed bribery, graft, and drug-related complaints against one of President Duterte’s fiercest critics. Her name is Senator Leila De Lima. Does this move toward prosecution strike you as politically motivated?

MR TONER: We’re aware of reports, Arshad. I don’t have a lot to add at this point. Of course, we’re looking at it very closely but we don’t have any kind of pronouncements to make as to what it might mean. But of course we’re watching it very closely and we would urge the Filipino Government to conduct any legal actions against a politician in accord with its international legal obligation and its own legal process – due process.

Go ahead.


MR TONER: Of course.

QUESTION: I wanted to see if you could give us an update on a transition – transition planning, if there’s been any contact yet with the incoming – or the people who will decide who the incoming team is.

MR TONER: I don’t. I deliberately left that off of the topper just because I don’t have a lot really to add. I don’t have any substantive update – I guess I’ll put it that way – on the transition process here at the State Department beyond what I said yesterday. Of course, we stand ready, as I said yesterday, to work with the incoming team once that team is designated and arrives here. But we don’t have any firm word as to when that might be. As we have updates, I’ll certainly – we’ll certainly provide them to you.

QUESTION: So there’s been not a single envoy from the Trump transition team that’s come into the building as far as you know?

MR TONER: No, not that I’m aware of, no.


MR TONER: I checked before coming out here.

QUESTION: So is that – is that --

MR TONER: All quiet on that front --

QUESTION: In past --

MR TONER: -- but again, we’re poised. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: In past transitions --

MR TONER: Please.

QUESTION: -- was it normal that they would send someone right away?

MR TONER: I think it varies, Said.

QUESTION: To the best of your knowledge (inaudible) remember --

MR TONER: No, I think it – right, no, no, it’s a fair question. I think it varies as to – I mean, look, we’re two days past what was a very tumultuous, I’ll put it that way, campaign and even Election Day. So you saw that the president-elect and his team are moving forward. There was a meeting earlier today that we all watched at the White House. He’s up on Capitol Hill now. He’s moving forward, taking steps, but as to – there’s no – I guess what I’m saying is there’s no timeline for how this works. For our part we’re ready to receive them and to work with them as soon as they are able to get in place.

QUESTION: I guess my question is, I know that the president-elect gets the intelligence and so on and all these things.


QUESTION: Is there something similar that the State Department provides his team? Is there something --

MR TONER: Well, again, I think once that – once the transition team moves over here, we would provide them with briefings. I think that would, obviously, depend on the clearance level or whether they would come with – what clearance level they would come into the building with. And then certainly as there’s a secretary of state-designate named, we would work with that individual very closely, as well as their top aides.

QUESTION: If you make any major policy decisions in the next nine weeks, do you brief them in advance?

MR TONER: That’s a good question. I don’t have a ready answer for that. I would guess that, if not in advance, we’d obviously notify them and work with them to – so that they can understand the decision making behind any policy shifts. That said, I don’t have anything to announce. I don’t anticipate – I mean, I – we’ve been pretty clear about what our stated priorities are going forward for the next two months. There’s very little time left on the clock, but we’re going to keep at the business that we’ve set before us.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

MR TONER: We can go to Syria.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you update us on --

MR TONER: Speaking of one of those issues where we continue to try to make progress.

QUESTION: Right. Okay, could you update us on anything that is new or ongoing as far as Syria is concerned? Has there been any contact with the Russians?

MR TONER: I don’t. I mean, you saw – we’ve seen reports, obviously, Russia said they’re going to extend this pause in Aleppo. We are concerned, frankly, by the UN’s announcement earlier today about the – that the last available food rations had been distributed in Aleppo earlier today. We would support any UN effort or plan that can provide access or greater humanitarian assistance to Aleppo, and we would call on the Russians and the regime to allow that access. Obviously, that’s something they agreed to in the February 22nd cessation of hostilities.

Beyond that, as I said, we continue to meet in Geneva. Those meetings are ongoing. I’m not aware that they’re an everyday occurrence, but that process continues.


QUESTION: Thanks. The CENTCOM said U.S. strikes in Syria and Iraq over the past two years have killed 119 civilians. Do you see that number as too many or do you find it acceptable for two years of operations?

MR TONER: In answer to your second question, we don’t – we certainly don’t find any civilian death acceptable. And I think we’ve made that very clear many times from the podium. And certainly, I know the Department of Defense has also made that very clear. We, obviously, regret any unintentional loss of life or injury resulting from coalition airstrikes in Iraq.

I do want to take note – you mentioned – I think that it only confirmed 64 civilian deaths in this most recent announcement, but – I don’t want to quibble over numbers, but again, we take any civilian casualty very seriously. We assess all incidents as thoroughly as possible, and that includes considering information from a variety of sources, U.S. Government departments and agencies as well as human rights documentation. We’ve talked a little bit about that before and – as well as different human rights groups. And more for the Department of Defense, although the Department of State does work within this process, but the Department of Defense does consider any information – any new information – when and if it is provided in order to carry out the most extensive review of any incident that it’s – that it can.

And just to make the point again that we’ve made before, that we make every effort to protect civilians during our operations. That includes the use of precision munitions or weapons. And as we’ve said before, it also includes making a decision at times to not strike valid targets if we feel it puts undue risk on civilians.

QUESTION: U.S. investigations into civilian casualties usually lead to the conclusion that it was unintentional and therefore not a crime. Through these two years of U.S. operations in Syria and Iraq, are you aware of any instances in relation to the killing of civilians that was ruled a crime? I’m not aware of one. Are you?

MR TONER: No, I’m not. No. I would, frankly, be shocked if that were the case. Again – but that doesn’t remove the onus on our own government, specifically the Department of Defense, to take any report of an incident like this very seriously and to look into it and to compile a report about it and then, as you saw today, to actually publish a report on these allegations and to basically own up to when we have caused civilian casualties.

QUESTION: Do you think intent is what should decide whether killing of a civilian is a crime or not?

MR TONER: Again, I’m not a lawyer, and I’m certainly not an expert in how you would establish criminal intent. All I can say is that we stand by our commitment to investigate any allegation of civilian casualties and civilian killings. We report them. We’re as transparent as possible about our findings, and that also includes the input of NGOs and other human rights organizations. We work with them to – when they have credible allegations, credible reports. We also work with them and consult with them about how we can do better due diligence on our own procedures. So I’ll – that’s all I feel capable of speaking to.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, Amnesty International estimated at least 300 civilians killed in coalition strikes in Syria alone, while the number that the Pentagon acknowledged is much lower. Why do you think the discrepancy?

MR TONER: I don’t know. I would refer you to the Department of Defense. What I can say is we have actually brought – I think our DOD colleagues have brought in some of these – I’m not sure if it’s Amnesty International specifically, but some of these other NGOs who have higher – have reported some of these higher numbers to try to square the circle, if you will, to try to talk about where these discrepancies might have come into play. So there is an honest effort, an honest exchange there between some of these NGOs. Again, I don’t if specifically – if that includes Amnesty International, but I do know it does include some of the NGOs.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the --

MR TONER: Sure thing.

QUESTION: -- the IAEA Iran report from yesterday?


QUESTION: So have you been able to determine whether or not Iran not being in compliance with the agreement is a violation of the agreement?

MR TONER: So I don’t have a straight-up answer for you, except to say that this is what – what is reported on in the IAEA report that has not gone public yet is a technical issue that was caught by the IAEA, and Iran is taking steps to address it. And in fact, what I did find out in – that they’re doing it over and above what they need to do. If I have it in front of me here, they’re making preparations for a large transfer of almost five metric tons of nuclear-grade heavy water out of Iran, which the IAEA will be able to verify. And once they do that, that will drop them well below this limit. But that does not in any way mitigate the fact that they did overstep or go beyond the limit. We take that very seriously. I’m not going to use the V-word necessarily in this case. But we and our partners are going to continue to hold Iran accountable, and because of the JCPOA – P – JCPOA, we do have a system in place that we can hold Iran accountable.

QUESTION: Can I just – why is it that you’re reluctant to call what would seem to the average person to be --


QUESTION: -- a violation of the agreement --


QUESTION: -- a violation or the V-word, as you --

MR TONER: For the – for – I was trying to be cute there --


MR TONER: -- and that was unfair.

QUESTION: No, no, I – (inaudible.)

MR TONER: But – no, but – so first of all, if you look at the wording within the JCPOA, it actually says that Iran’s needs, consistent with the parameters, spelling out – I won’t read all the technical – are estimated to be 130 metric tons. That’s not a hard, certain figure. That said, it is a ceiling that we look at and certainly the IAEA looks at. But to say because it’s, I think, one-tenth of a metric ton over that limit – to say that’s an outright violation of the JCPOA and would somehow put that agreement in doubt, I think – I don’t want to necessarily say that.

QUESTION: Well, okay, but doesn’t that open the door to other --

QUESTION: Violations?

QUESTION: -- to them violating other elements of the agreement and then you guys saying, well, they’re going to take steps to address it, so it’s not an issue? I mean – the agreement is a whole thing and you might say that this is a technical aspect of it, but the entire agreement is technical. I mean, how many other technicalities do they – do you let the – or do you let them get away with?

MR TONER: Well, we’re not letting them getting away with it, but I get it.

QUESTION: I mean, that’s the wrong word, but --

MR TONER: I guess that’s – no, but I guess that’s the ultimate point of – bone of contention here. Well, not “we” but the IAEA has identified where they have gone over the limit. Iran has owned up to that. They’ve not made any effort to hide that. And they are taking immediate steps to address it, and as I said, going beyond in actually what they need to do to address it.

That, to us, shows that the agreement’s working. That’s what the agreement is set up to do, that we have – we collectively have eyes on what Iran is doing with regard to its nuclear program that we can address these problems as they arise. Now, if Iran refused to abide by that limit or obfuscated or tried to hide the ball or however you want to put it, then that would be a major concern, and that could be considered a violation, but they’re not.

QUESTION: So this is not, then, a violation, because they have said, okay, you caught us?

MR TONER: We feel like they’re addressing this, yes.

QUESTION: We’re – and so now we’re going to ship it out, even though they haven’t done so yet?

MR TONER: And again, we’re watching this very closely and I don’t want to give any impression that we’re not. And if they don’t, then that’s a problem.

QUESTION: Okay, but – so are you prepared to offer the same kind of terms for violation to other parts of the – other parts of the deal, say if they – if they’re found to be operating many, many more centrifuges than they were allowed to or higher --

MR TONER: Well --

QUESTION: -- capacity ones?

MR TONER: -- a couple points there. One is --

QUESTION: I mean, if they’re one or two over, is that not a violation?

MR TONER: Again, it’s a matter of what we’re talking about. It’s a matter of how far they’re over and whether they’re taking steps to address it. And let me just remind people who are listening in on this, but it’s important to note that heavy water is not – is non-nuclear and is not a breakout concern. That said, they’ve overstepped their limits.

QUESTION: Right, exactly.

MR TONER: They’re addressing it.

QUESTION: I mean, that’s not – the point is not that it’s an imminent or a potential imminent threat. The point is that they agreed to do something and then they didn’t do it. And, I mean, it sounds to me like you’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this was potentially an accident or they didn’t realize they were producing more than they should have, but I’m not sure that that matters. I mean, it’s like a penalty in sports. You can – you clip someone on a football field, the flag goes down and you get a penalty for it, even if you’re sorry that you did it, right?

MR TONER: So again, we’ve now had two instances where Iran has slightly exceeded its limits. The IAEA has promptly reported and identified the issue and the U.S. has immediately raised our concerns with Iran directly and our JCPOA partners. And Iran has taken quick action to address the situation. So it’s not like we’re giving them a free pass here. And I’m not saying that that’s going to be the case with every aspect of the JCPOA, I just am not equipped or not --

QUESTION: All right, so there is no --

MR TONER: -- ready or willing to say that.

QUESTION: There’s no concern or no sense from inside the Administration that not penalizing them for non-compliance might encourage other non-compliance?

MR TONER: I think it’s something that has to be calibrated and looked at very closely. I think if we see a trend line here or if we see bigger infractions or infractions elsewhere that are more serious, that’s always an assessment that the IAEA, as well as the other JCPOA partners, are going to have to make. But as long as we see Iran recognizing where it’s come up short – or exceeded, in this case – and taking steps to address it, then --

QUESTION: All right, well what would be a trend for you?

MR TONER: We’re not going --

QUESTION: As you say, this is the second time. Does it have to be three times? There’s a school of thought out there that two is a trend. Maybe that’s not the Administration’s position. How many --

MR TONER: It’s not a hat trick.

QUESTION: How many more times does it have to happen before you call it a trend that is worthy or that is deserving of some kind of a determination of a violation and some kind of penalty?

MR TONER: Sure. Fortunately for the American public and for everyone, I’m not the one making those calls. It’s – this is nuclear experts within the IAEA who have a long experience in tracking these kinds of programs who can look at the data, have access to the data, have access to Iran’s programs, who can make a far better assessment than I can.

QUESTION: Last one on this.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: It’s my understanding that if there are instances of non-compliance, to use your non-V word language --

MR TONER: (Laughter.) I like that.

QUESTION: -- that Congress has to be –Congress is supposed to be notified. And in fact, in the earlier instance of non-compliance on the heavy water, they were notified --

MR TONER: They were notified, yeah.

QUESTION: -- of this. Have they been notified of this instance?

MR TONER: I’m not – well, I’ll get that answer for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: You mentioned the United States directly raised concerns with Iran about this. Can you tell us more about that? What level was that done at?

MR TONER: I don’t. I don’t have more detail to provide. I don’t know at what level, but we have – I said actually we immediately raised our concerns with Iran. I mean, there’s various channels. I don’t think it was Secretary to Foreign Minister Zarif. I think it was at a lower level.

QUESTION: Can I – I don’t know if you’ve seen the comments by Foreign Minister Zarif --

MR TONER: I did.

QUESTION: -- today, yeah. So among other things, he says that their hope, desire, and preference is for the full implementation of the nuclear agreement, quote, “which is not bilateral for one side to be able to scrap,” close quote. Do you share that view that the JCPOA, which after all, is an understanding and not technically an agreement --


QUESTION: -- cannot be abrogated by one side?

MR TONER: Well, I mean, and I think I talked a little bit about this yesterday with respect to Oren’s question, any party – and I’m speaking very hypothetically here, because I don’t want in any way kind of attempt to hypothesize about what the incoming administration is going to do, I’m just talking purely about an agreement – the fact that any party can walk away from it and that will have profound consequences on the integrity of the agreement. And certainly that would be true in Iran’s case.

Honestly, I looked at his comments. I didn’t see anything there that surprised me or looked out of place. I mean, I think the important thing about the JCPOA is that this was an agreement reached through negotiations with, as I said, the P5+1 and Iran. And it’s incumbent on all the parties to uphold their commitments and certainly that’s something that Secretary Kerry has been a very strong advocate for, including when initial sanctions were lifting – lifted even – working with the financial community to help ensure that they understood the environment, the business environment and sanctions environment, with regard to Iran. We’ve upheld our commitments thus far and that’s what I can speak to.

QUESTION: So your view, though, is that any party – any of the parties to the understanding can essentially – I mean, you said walk away from, but can unilaterally decide to cease to meet their obligations under it?

MR TONER: Well, I said – what I said was that would have profound consequences on the integrity of the agreement. I mean, I think that --

QUESTION: Right. Obviously.

MR TONER: Yeah. Okay.

QUESTION: Right. But my point is: I’m trying to get at whether he --

MR TONER: It’s not a treaty.

QUESTION: I know it’s not a treaty and I know it’s not even an agreement --

MR TONER: Right, right.

QUESTION: -- in some legal technical sense, which I don’t understand, but is it your view that you can simply – that any party to it can essentially end it just by saying we’re not playing ball with this anymore; we’re not going to meet our commitments under this anymore?

MR TONER: Well, again, I mean, if that party were to be Iran, there would be consequences to that.


MR TONER: And I mean, we can’t --

QUESTION: But if that party were to be the United States, there might also be consequences. You might end up with an Iran that actually then actively pursues a nuclear program again, right?

MR TONER: Exactly. I mean, those are – yeah. I mean, I’m not – yes. That’s the reality of the situation. So this is in what we believe to be in everyone’s interests, including the world’s interests, that if Iran abides by this agreement, and all the parties abide by the agreement, then we have collectively shut off Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon, which is a win for the security of the region, security of the United States, and the globe.

QUESTION: Yeah. But the bottom line is then that just by fiat anybody can basically end it, correct?

MR TONER: Again, I – it is not a legally binding treaty, so that is my understanding. If that’s incorrect, I’ll certainly correct that. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: Can I move on --

MR TONER: Yeah, please. Yeah, I think we’re --

QUESTION: -- to the – what? The --

MR TONER: Oh, Steve. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: -- Palestinian --

QUESTION: But he --

MR TONER: Which one? I don’t know. Okay.

QUESTION: -- needs to run, so I’ll wait for him.

QUESTION: No, it’s okay.

MR TONER: Oh, I’m sorry. Of course, Said. Go.

QUESTION: No, I just wanted to follow up on the question that was posed to you yesterday about the embassy --


QUESTION: -- the United States Embassy in Israel, regarding the – I think there is the --

MR TONER: Correct.

QUESTION: -- Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, and I think you said that you will take the question and --

MR TONER: Yeah. No, I mean, it’s –

QUESTION: Do you have --

MR TONER: I wanted to make sure, and I think we – if we didn’t, I apologize – get the language to Matt Lee.


MR TONER: But since Israel’s founding – you’re talking about the – what the U.S. embassy – where the location of the U.S. embassy.


MR TONER: So I mean, since Israel’s founding, the administrations of both parties have maintained a consistent policy here and that is recognizing no state as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. And we remain committed to this long-standing policy – we, the Obama Administration.

QUESTION: But in fact, there was a congressional act in 1995 that was supposed – that called for the moving the embassy by 1999 if they allocated the money. And ever since then, presidents have used a waiver.

MR TONER: That’s correct.

QUESTION: They used the executive waiver. So there is nothing in the law that will prevent moving the embassy. But it is up to the discretion of the president, correct?

MR TONER: It is correct that administrations since, as you note, 1995 have consistently exercised a waiver, because it’s been determined – they’ve determined, we’ve determined, that it is in our national security interests to do so.

QUESTION: And will that be the advice that you give the coming administration?

MR TONER: I would think, as we consult with the incoming administration, we’ll certainly make sure they understand, which is all we can do, our rationale behind exercising that waiver.

QUESTION: And my last one. Sorry.

MR TONER: It’s okay. No worries.

QUESTION: On the language that was adopted in the – during the convention, the GOP convention, back in July, which expunged any reference to the two-state solution, and in fact, there were statements yesterday by the minister of education and the minister of justice saying that basically the election of a new president shelves and nullifies any reference to the two-state solution. Do you have any comment on that or any take on that?

MR TONER: I don’t, beyond the fact that no administration – previous administrations worked harder than this one to try to get to that two-state solution. The President, but certainly Secretary Kerry and before him, Secretary Clinton, have worked long and hard to bring the two sides together, the two parties together into direct negotiations. We have not gotten there. It’s been a somewhat frustrating effort, but it was – it remains, I think, what we view as the only means to a long-term solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So it’s going to remain this Administration’s pursuit until the very final moments.

QUESTION: Is it an active pursuit until the final moments or are there any diplomatic initiatives or policy initiatives planned on that? Or is it simply your view will remain until the end?

MR TONER: Sure. I don’t have anything specific to announce, but I can tell you that Secretary Kerry remains very engaged on it. He speaks frequently with leaders in the region, but also with Prime Minister Netanyahu about new approaches or new ideas and ways to revitalize those efforts. Again, I don’t have any groundbreaking announcements to make, but I can’t rule out that there may be a new initiative before the end of this administration.


QUESTION: Mark, three and a half hours ago, the State Department’s travel Twitter account sent out a quite specific and somewhat alarming tweet. I quote: “Possible pending attack targeting foreigners at Serena Hotel and at guest house located in PD 10 Kabul City.” Just wondering if there’s been any more information on that and if you got anything on what prompted it. It seems a bit unusual to have this specific alert like this.

MR TONER: Sure. I honestly don’t have an update on that for you. My guess is that this was information, even intelligence that was received by our embassy that was immediately pushed out via Twitter, but also I would imagine the other platforms as well in an effort to immediately share that, what is actionable intelligence, with the American community on the ground to prevent a possible threat to their safety. But as we get updates to that, we’ll certainly provide them.

QUESTION: Please, thank you.

MR TONER: Yeah, sure. Of course.

QUESTION: Just a quick note --


QUESTION: -- for the record. I looked into the number 119 civilians killed over the last two years – that number includes the latest announcement as well as the --

MR TONER: I see.

QUESTION: -- Pentagon’s previous disclosures.

MR TONER: Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: Just maybe one more question.


QUESTION: How would you characterize that number? Do you see it as too high?

MR TONER: I think, again, I would say any – and I’m not trying to be glib or any – I’m trying to be serious about this. I think the bar has to be set very high, which is that any death, civilian death, unintentional or intentional, is too many. And so while we look into these reports, while we seek to learn from them what happened after action, if there were civilian deaths caused, it helps us carry out these kinds of airstrikes in a more effective way that doesn’t put civilian lives at risk.

Is that it, guys?

QUESTION: No, if you’ll take one more.

MR TONER: Oh, go ahead. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Did you see the Washington Post story about the Trump campaign having had contacts with Russia? Is there – if I’m not mistaken, a number of countries, including some of your close allies like Britain, delegate diplomats to follow the American elections. They will sometimes travel to campaign rallies and observe the candidates and so on. Is there, to the State Department’s point of view, anything intrinsically inappropriate about a presidential campaign having contacts with a foreign government?

MR TONER: I can’t speak to the depth of these contacts, the extent of these contacts. I just have to refer you to President-elect Trump’s transition team to answer any questions about those contacts. As you note, there are instances where other foreign governments, as you said, have contacts with the different political parties during a campaign. I just don’t have anything to add to what’s been already reported.

QUESTION: Well, but do you regard such contacts as some kind of interference?

MR TONER: Again, without knowing the extent, without knowing the nature of those contacts, I just --

QUESTION: Well, just on the faith – on the face of it.

MR TONER: On the face, no.

QUESTION: The fact that there were – or someone says there were --

MR TONER: Yeah, I mean, on the face of it --

QUESTION: -- is that an issue?

MR TONER: -- without knowing any more about the depth of them, the – what they were about, no. It’s not particularly concerning.

QUESTION: So this has not been typical in previous presidential races?

MR TONER: I can’t speak to that. I just don’t know the precedent there.

QUESTION: Thank you. See you.

MR TONER: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:41 p.m.)

DPB # 193