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8 June 2012

State Department on Brett McGurk-Gina Chon Emails

Victoria Nuland
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 8, 2012


Today's briefing was held off-camera, so no video is available.

12:03 p.m. EDT


QUESTION: On another subject, this nomination of Brett McGurk, is it in trouble? And can you confirm that the State Department is investigating allegations of these emails between him and Ms. Chon of The Wall Street Journal?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, on the subject of the emails, they're out there for everybody to see. I'm not going to get into emails between Mr. McGurk and the woman who subsequently became his wife. With regard to Mr. McGurk's nomination, I think you know that he spent the better part of the last decade serving our country in and out of Iraq, working for a Republican administration, a Democratic administration. He is, in our view, uniquely qualified to serve as our ambassador, and we urge the Senate to act quickly on his nomination.

QUESTION: So obviously you're sticking with him. But can you confirm that -- because there are reports -- that the State Department actually has looked into these alleged emails, or the allegations that these might have compromised security or sensitive information?

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything to say on the emails.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?


QUESTION: Because, I mean, there are rules for Foreign Service officers to not get into situations where you're blackmailed. There's sort of a sense that you have to act morally. There are these regulations in your guidebooks. And some people have lost security clearances over having extramarital affairs. So I wonder why it is that this doesn't seem to be -- factor at all into your decision in keeping this -- keeping his nomination out there.

MS. NULAND: Again, we consider him uniquely qualified. All of the necessary things were done before his nomination, and we urge the Senate to confirm him.


QUESTION: Can you confirm that those emails actually came from the State Department system, in -- within the State Department system?

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to speak about the emails. They're out there for you to look at. They're obviously very much available for anybody to read.

QUESTION: Aren't you investigating how they were leaked? They're from your own system.

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to get into our internal issues here.

QUESTION: Well, why not? You talk about WikiLeaks all the time. Those were essentially emails.

MS. NULAND: Goes to your usual point, Matt, that we speak about --

QUESTION: What, the lack of consistency?

MS. NULAND: Yes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah. Oh, okay, great. When -- you said you did -- all the necessary things were done before his nomination. What are those necessary things? Was that like a security clearance and vetting and --

MS. NULAND: All that stuff.

QUESTION: Well, I mean -- no, I -- what are they? I don't know. What has to be done, not just in his case but in any nominee's case?

MS. NULAND: His nomination was managed in the exact -- with the exact same processes that we use for everyone.

QUESTION: Well, okay. What does that mean? I mean, does that mean that there's an FBI check or --

MS. NULAND: I'm going to refer you to the White House for how they do this.

QUESTION: All right. And then --

QUESTION: Just one more on that.


QUESTION: If you do -- if you did do that, are you sharing this with members of Congress who have severe problems with his nomination?

MS. NULAND: We always work with Congress on our nominees, and we're continuing to do that in this case.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that there has been at least one meeting with -- on the specific issues, not on the specific issues that were about the emails, with people on the Hill?

MS. NULAND: I'm not going to comment on the specifics of our conversation with Congress, but in all these nomination procedures, we work with the Hill on any --


MS. NULAND: -- issues that they have as our --

QUESTION: But are you --

MS. NULAND: -- nominees are being reviewed.

QUESTION: But are you aware that this -- that people from the State Department have gone to the Hill and/or have spoken to members of the committee who have raised concerns about these specific issues. And by these specific issues, I don't mean the more specific substantive issues that senator -- people like Senator McCain have raised. I'm talking specifically about the emails. Do you know if they have been -- if this issue has been discussed with people on the Hill?

MS. NULAND: Beyond saying that we continue to work with appropriate members and staff on his nomination in support of it, as we do with all nominees, I'm not going to get into details.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:45 p.m.)

DPB # 105