Monday, November 4, 2019


Office of the Press Secretary


Via Telephone

11:41 A.M. EST

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Good morning, everyone.  Thank you for joining this background briefing on the 40th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis and new national security actions.

This call is embargoed until its conclusion and is attributable on background to senior administration officials.

Today we have [senior administration officials].  Each of our senior officials will give brief remarks and then we will go into question and answer.

With that, I will turn it over to our first senior administration official.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  And thank you, everyone, for joining the call today.  Forty years ago, the regime in Tehran revealed its true colors when militants stormed the U.S. Embassy and held more than 50 American personnel hostage for 444 days.

Today, as we reflect on the hardship and suffering they endured, we also remember the innocent Americans held captive in Iran today, who are a grim reminder that the regime is fundamentally exactly the same as it was 40 years ago.  And the important actions by -- my colleagues at the Treasury Department and State Department are taking today clearly demonstrate this administration's focus on this issue.

But there are also some hopeful signs in the region, from Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, populations that even proxies are starting to see Iranian patronage as the dead end that it is.  Given their (inaudible) financial circumstances, the mullahs can no longer offer the economic benefits that originally bought them influence.  And, instead, they now expect funds to flow the other way, making Tehran's interference much less attractive and reigniting nationalistic, patriotic desires for sovereignty.

In closing, this anniversary is an excellent opportunity for the Iranian regime to renounce the abhorrent practice of hostage taking, and immediately and unconditionally release all unjustly detained Americans on Iranian soil in a sign that they are truly ready to rejoin the international community.

Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  All right.  Do we have [senior administration official]?  We'll go ahead and go to [senior administration official] next.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hi there.  Today, the Department of State's Rewards for Justice Program -- we are announcing now a reward of up to $20 million for credible information leading to the safe location, recovery, and return of retired FBI Special Agent Robert Levinson, who has been missing in Iran since 2007.  Bob Levinson has been away from his family and loved one for nearly 13 years, and we are determined to reunite them.

This reward is being offered as part of an ongoing effort to target the Iranian regime, which we believe was involved with Mr. Levinson's disappearance.  Iran has unjustly detained and tortured U.S. citizens at the heart of its ruthless efforts to exert political pressure on the United States.

We decided to time the announcement of this reward with the 40th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis.  And I think as you may know, Levinson was last seen alive in photographs received by his family in April of 2011.  And that's all I have for that announcement.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thank you.  [Senior administration official], are you on the call?  My apologies.  We're having some difficulties connecting, so my colleague is actually going to give just a quick briefing on Treasury's actions today.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes.  And, [senior administration official], if you could join, just jump on in whenever you need to.

But I think the designations today of the Supreme Leader's inner circle is an extremely important demonstration of our recognition that the Iranian regime is completely unchanged from 40 years ago; that this is the same crowd of corrupt revolutionaries that came into power in 1979.

And as Secretary Mnuchin said, this is a targeting of the unelected officials who surround Iran's Supreme Leader and implement his destabilizing policies.  It's also important to note that these individuals are linked to a wide range of malign behaviors by the regime, including the bombings of the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983 -- we just marked the anniversary of that last month; the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association in 1994; as well as torture, extrajudicial killings, and the repression of civilians.

     And the other thing I would note is that these actions are taken under the executive order the President signed earlier this summer, giving him the authority to designate the Supreme Leader’s office and his associates.

     So, with that, I think we can turn it over to questions.

     Q    Hi, this is Jeff Schogol with Task & Purpose.  Thank you for doing this.  Speaking of unjustly detained Americans, can you update us on the progress of getting Austin Tice back home?  Thank you.

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes.  Obviously, getting all Americans unjustly detained in the region and beyond is a clear focus of the President’s.  And, you know, we continue to call upon the regime in Damascus to release Austin unconditionally.  And we’re working diligently to get him home as quickly as possible.

     Q    Thanks for doing this.  There are some reports that there might be conversations with Iran given the Iran’s Foreign Minister also dropped this line about a letter -- a list of names of Iranians in jail in the U.S.  Is there any conversation going on for a possible prisoner swamp?

     And also, there was a Human Rights Watch report that came out a few days ago that said that the U.S. sanctions are in fact -- despite the claims by [senior administration official], previously -- is affecting, negatively, the actions of Iranian people to drugs and essential goods.  Can you comment on that, whether these sanctions -- how deeply are they hurting Iranian people?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Going to your first point -- and I didn’t your name or affiliation.

Q    (Inaudible) Talbasi (ph) BBC (inaudible) Service.


Going to your first point: You know, we don’t think it’s very effective to have any kind of conversations through the media.  I think that really demonstrates that Zarif uses their hostages as propaganda tools.  And so we would go back to my original point and say that, you know, they should immediately, on humanitarian grounds, release all of the American citizens unjustly detained on Iranian soil.

And as to the humanitarian point, just last week the Treasury Department announced the establishment of a humanitarian channel to facilitate the types of non-sanctioned humanitarian goods that, as I said, we don’t sanction -- we aren’t doing anything to prevent them from coming into Iran -- but recognizing the enormous suffering the Iranian regime is causing the Iranian people.  The Treasury Department is working to establish that channel because of our respect for humanitarian issues.

[Senior administration official], did you have anything you wanted to add?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No, I think that covers it.  I think it is also useful to point out that the regime has an obligation to its own people to provide them with food, medicine, agriculture products, et cetera.  They do not -- the regime purposefully does not run a transparent financial sector because it would rather have a dark banking system to do money laundering and terror finance, instead of having a transparent financial sector that would allow banks outside of Iran to know their client and to be able to process humanitarian transactions, which our sanctions permit.

And I think too much of the press coverage has failed to focus on the role that the regime plays in not living up to their end of the bargain to facilitate the transactions, which are completely permitted under our sanctions regime.  This is also a regime that is well known for -- recently, I think it was Rouhani’s chief of staff who had to send out a memo to all cabinet heads, asking, "Where did one billion euros of medical equipment disappear to?"  And you’ve also had other examples of medical supplies, in the hundreds of millions of dollars, just vanishing.

I’m assuming -- I think our best guess is that somebody decided to make some money off of this, and it's probably one of the regime elite.  And until the regime starts prioritizing its own people over a violent ideology, the people are still going to suffer.

     Q    This is Laurie Mylroie, Kurdistan 24.  I wanted to be clear: Could you expand on what you suggested that your sanctions against Iran are contributing to the unrest and dissatisfaction in Iraq and Lebanon?  Is that what you meant?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The point was really -- and I think, you know, this has been pretty clearly reflected in open source reporting -- that the Iranians' lack of ability to supply the proxies and supply the kinds of services that they've traditionally supported is causing a lot of unhappiness.

And I don’t have the quotes directly in front of me, but we had a Hezbollah member complaining that the golden days are gone and will never return, for example, and another proxy saying directly -- and I believe this one was in the Washington Post -- that the Iranians don’t have any money to pay us anymore.

     So I think that is definitely contributing to the general anti-Iranian sentiment that you see in those protests.




     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Did you have any remarks you wanted to make?

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah, I can go through the remarks if that would be helpful.  Although, if you're in the middle of Q&A, apologies -- we're here in the Gulf as we speak.  But let me just give a couple of high-level points.

     As you probably have iterated already, the Treasury today took action against nine appointees and representative of Ali Khamenei, the Iran regime Supreme Leader and Iran's Armed Forces General Staff, as well -- the most senior military body in Iran.

     People on the call, likely, will have already seen the press release, which is embargoed for just a few more minutes.  But our action is specifically focused on further targeting the financial assets of the Supreme Leader's inner circle of military and foreign affairs advisors.

     I think we all know that the power in Iran is not held by elected officials or accountable to the Iranian people.  Iran's so-called democracy is a sham.  The power lies in the hands of the Supreme Leader, Khamenei, and his shadow network of corrupt appointees, who are forcibly suppressing all opposition inside the country and maintaining a grip on power, particularly exploiting, in this case, financial resources that should rightly belong to the Iranian people.

     For more than 40 years, these privileged, unelected, self-enriching so-called revolutionaries have repressed the rights of the Iranian people and exported their radical terrorist agenda across the region, which is why we are now today targeting them.

     I will cut it short there, just given that you have already treaded much of the ground, but I'm happy to talk about the atrocities of individuals such as Ebrahim Raisi, the head of Iran's Judiciary, who has overseen extrajudicial killings of thousands of political prisoners, the executions of children -- up to seven in previous years; two more, so far, in 2019.  There are at least 90 children currently on death row in Iran.

And in addition, between September of 2018 and July of this year, at least eight prominent lawyers who are trying to defend political prisoners and human rights defenders, many of whom have been sentenced to death, have themselves received lengthy sentences by Iran's Judiciary under Raisi.

And you probably also have made note of the fact that we are sanctioning, today, Mojtaba Khamenei, the second son of the Supreme Leader.  He works closely with Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Quds Forces, as well with the Basij, to advance his father’s destabilizing agenda around the region.  And the list goes on and on.

I do want to highlight two individuals for the audience: Ali Akbar Velayati, who is a senior advisor to the Supreme Leader, who has helped the Iranian regime extend financial lifelines to the Assad regime.  But most importantly, particularly on this day, on the anniversary of the horrific attack on our embassy and the seizing of our diplomats, Velayati, who has been charged in Argentina for homicide in connection with the 1994 AMIA bombing that killed 85 people there, and he is one of the ideological masterminds behind that attack.

Likewise, today we are designating Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, who was commander of the IRGC Forces in Lebanon and Syria in 1983, when they attacked -- when they masterminded and caused the bombing of the Marine Barracks bombing, which killed 241 of our service members.

So today’s anniversary is a stark reminder that we are dealing with, today, the same regime that sprung up 40 years ago; the same regime that remains committed to violence and hostage taking that our diplomats encountered so long ago.

And again, as the Treasury joins in this fight, we will constrict the Supreme Leader’s ability to visit his violence and to visit his malign agenda on the world.

Thanks for the chance to intercede.  And I’ll pause there.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Moderator, we have time for one more question.

Q    Hello?


Q    Okay, I think this is me.  Yes, this is Maddie (ph) (inaudible).  I’m working for the independent press.  I wanted to call -- I wanted to ask about the militants that bombed the embassy 40 years ago.  They were actually -- one of (inaudible) they were actually college students.  Are these -- is this the corrupt regime that we’re talking about, college students?

And also, with the U.S. economic sanctions that are placed on Iran, it’s showing just how difficult it is for them to keep -- like, survive.  Do you not consider this putting political pressure on top of them, especially when trying to place a new leadership, or giving -- like the U.S. giving itself the authority to place a new leadership in Iran, like the same way they're doing in Venezuela, which is causing unrest?

And I also wanted to ask about the U.S. role in the Iraqi invasion of Iran, and does that contribute to, today, the unrest and the pressure in the relationship between Iran and the U.S.?  Thank you.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, going to your first point, I would just say that whether they’re college students or not college students, when you have militants who storm an embassy and take diplomatic and military personnel hostage for more than a year -- abusing them physically and mentally throughout -- I don’t know that being a college student is really a mitigating factor there.

In terms of any issue of regime change: I mean, the President has been crystal clear, and I can refer you to any number of his statements that that’s not our policy.  Our policy is to change the regime’s malign behavior and to make them a responsible member of the international community.  I mean, everything we’ve asked them to do is absolutely in their own best interest.

I believe I referred to the humanitarian channel established by the Treasury Department last week as our voluntary effort to try to provide the assistance to the Iranian people that is being denied to them by their own regime.  So I think we have addressed that.

And I think it’s interesting to raise the issue of an -- a purported Iraqi invasion of Iran, when right now you have the Iranians trying to exert a decisive influence over the government of Iraq and you have the Iraqi people in the streets, clamoring for their own independence and sovereignty.

So, hopefully, that answers those questions.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  All right, thank you everyone for joining today’s call.  As a reminder, this call is attributable on background to senior administration officials. The call is now concluded and the embargo is lifted.

                                                 END                     12:01 P.M. EST

First Lady Melania Trump to Travel to Boston, MA to Highlight a Treatment Program for Babies Born with NAS

Office of the First Lady
First Lady Melania Trump to Travel to Boston, MA to Highlight a Treatment Program for Babies Born with NAS

WASHINGTON, DC – Wednesday, November 6th the First Lady will visit Boston, Massachusetts to highlight a treatment program for babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), as part of her Be Best initiative.

Mrs. Trump will visit Boston Medical Center to learn about their Cuddling Assists in Lowering Maternal and Infant Stress (CALM) Program developed to treat babies born with NAS.

In addition to CALM, Boston Medical Center developed several other programs aimed to assist pregnant women with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) and newborn babies suffering from the impact of SUD. Mrs. Trump will receive a briefing from the Boston Medical Center Staff on the status of these programs.  Following the briefing, Mrs. Trump will tour Boston Medical Center’s Pediatric Unit to see first-hand how these programs are implemented and meet with the children and families who have been successfully treated. 

West Wing Reads Are Democrat Leaders Even Paying Attention?

West Wing Reads

Are Democrat Leaders Even Paying Attention?

“Politicians deal in exaggeration and deception, but sometimes you have to wonder if they even read the words that someone puts out in their name,” The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes.

“Witness House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement Friday on the surprisingly good monthly employment jobs report: ‘The October jobs report offers further evidence that the Republicans’ disastrous special interest agenda is hollowing out the middle class while enriching the wealthy and well-connected.’”

Seriously? “What hipster doofus wrote that?” the editors ask. “Hundreds of thousands of workers are returning to the workforce, wage gains are healthy, and those gains continue to spread to non-rich corners of the labor force.”

Click here to read more.
MUST READ: Twenty years ago, Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) & Steve Chabot (R-OH) were on the House prosecution team for the impeachment case against former President Bill Clinton. Unlike today’s sham “investigation,” they gave the former President every due-process right to defend himself, they write in The Wall Street Journal.
“You’ll remember back in 2016 when the last president asked what ‘magic wand’ we had to bring manufacturing jobs back to our shores. We didn’t need a magic wand; we just needed Trump in the White House,” Vice President Mike Pence writes in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The Obama Administration saw America lose 200,000 manufacturing jobs. Since President Trump’s election, we’ve seen more than half a million created.
Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner has received “special recognition from a national police group for his efforts on criminal justice reform, immigration, and ‘national service,’ especially to law enforcement,” Paul Bedard reports for the Washington Examiner. The Federal Law Enforcement Foundation awarded Kushner the “National Service Award” for his efforts in the passage of the bipartisan First Step Act.

Presidential Message on National Veterans Small Business Week, 2019

Office of the Press Secretary

Presidential Message on National Veterans Small Business Week, 2019
In the United States, veterans own nearly 2.5 million small businesses.  After fighting for our country, these ambitious men and women have returned to civilian life to pursue the American Dream they have dutifully defended.  Throughout National Veterans Small Business Week, we celebrate the success of these hardworking service members and acknowledge their contributions to our Nation’s robust and roaring economy.

Veteran-owned small businesses employ more than 5 million people and generate over $1 trillion in sales and receipts annually.  Entrepreneurial patriots boost our economy and strengthen their communities.  My Administration is tirelessly working to remove barriers that impede veterans from pursuing their professional goals after they return from their service to our country.  In August, I signed a Presidential Memorandum that ensures veterans who are totally and permanently disabled receive the Federal student loan forgiveness to which they are entitled.  These brave men and women have made remarkable sacrifices to protect our freedoms, and we must ensure they have every opportunity to live productive, fulfilling lives.

Since my election, the veteran’s unemployment rate has reached its lowest rate ever recorded.  My Administration will continue working to create an economic environment that fosters growth and prosperity for veterans and all Americans.  No group better understands the values of hard work, determination, and courage than our Nation’s veterans.  Initiatives offered through the Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development, such as Boots to Business, help our military personnel apply the skills and values they learned in the Armed Forces to their entrepreneurial endeavors.  This innovative program provides participants with access to resources and training that can help them successfully launch businesses, including information on how to secure capital and gain access to networks of professional business advisors.

This National Veterans Small Business Week, we recognize our country’s veterans for their significant contributions to America’s unparalleled prosperity and success.  These patriots help strengthen our economy, improve our communities, and enrich the character of our Nation.  As Americans, we are grateful for and inspired by their service and sacrifice.

Statement from the Press Secretary

Office of the Press Secretary
Statement from the Press Secretary
Forty years ago today, Iranian militants stormed the United States Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 50 Americans hostage for 444 days.  Today, we honor the victims of this brazen act.  The Iranian regime continues to target innocent civilians for use as pawns in its failed foreign relations.  Until Iran changes this and its other hostile behavior, we will continue to impose crippling sanctions.  The Iranian regime has a choice.  Instead of being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, it can put the Iranian people first.  It can choose peace over hostage taking, assassinations, sabotage, maritime hijacking, and attacks on global oil markets.  The United States seeks peace, and we support the Iranian people.  It is time for the Iranian regime to do the same.