Posted: 12:42 am ET
The State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert did one of her twice a week Daily Press Briefing at the State Department and was asked about the Treasury Department’s Exxon fine for violating the Russian sanctions when Secretary Tillerson was the CEO. A quick note here. We realized that they’ve changed the name of this briefing into “Department Press Briefing” but as a daily reminder that the Bureau of Public Affairs is now unable to handle the daily demands of briefing the press, we will continue calling this the State Department’s Daily Press Briefing.
Below are excerpts from the DPB:
MS NAUERT: The Secretary – we’re not going to have any comments today for you on some of the alleged facts or the facts underlying the enforcement action. Treasury is going to have to answer a lot of these questions for you. I’m not going to have a lot for you on this today. The Treasury Department was involved in this. They were the ones who spearheaded this. And so for a lot of your questions, I’m going to have to refer you to Treasury.
MS NAUERT: Yes. I’m not going to comment on that at this time. The Secretary recused himself from his dealings with ExxonMobil at the time that he became Secretary of State. This all predates his time here at the Department of State, and so —
MS NAUERT: I think I will say this: The Secretary continues to abide by his ethical commitments, including that recusal from Exxon-related activities. The action was taken by the Department of State – excuse me, the Department of the Treasury, and State was not involved in this.
QUESTION: And does – can you tell us if the Secretary believes in the objectives of the Ukraine-related sanctions programs?
MS NAUERT: I know that we have remained very concerned about maintaining sanctions. That will continue. We’ve been clear that sanctions will continue until Russia does what Russia needs to do.
QUESTION: For the record, will he come down and talk with us —
MS NAUERT: Well, I’m sorry, who —
QUESTION: — talk about this? Just for the record, will he come down and talk about this to us himself?
MS NAUERT: Well, I’m here to speak on his behalf and on behalf of the building. There’s not a whole lot that we can say about this right now. Again, you can talk to Treasury or to Exxon about this. Okay.
MS NAUERT: The Secretary has been – not to my knowledge. I can tell you this, that he has been extremely clear in his recusal of anything having to do with Exxon. When this information come to us here at the State Department, it did not come to the Secretary himself. It came to the Deputy Secretary John Sullivan. The Secretary has taken this very seriously, that Exxon-related activities are not something that he is involved with here as Secretary of State.
In assessing the maximum monetary penalty, Treasury/OFAC outlined the following as aggravating factors (via):
(1) ExxonMobil demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements when it failed to consider warning signs associated with dealing in the blocked services of an SDN; (note: Specially Designated Nationals)
(2) ExxonMobil’s senior-most executives knew of Sechin’s status as an SDN when they dealt in the blocked services of Sechin;
(3) ExxonMobil caused significant harm to the Ukraine-related sanctions program objectives by engaging the services of an SDN designated on the basis that he is an official of the Government ofthe Russian Federation contributing to the crisis in Ukraine; and
(4) ExxonMobil is a sophisticated and experienced oil and gas company that has global operations and routinely deals in goods, services, and technology subject to U.S economic sanctions and U.S. export controls.
AND NOW THIS — the State Department’s “employee-led redesign initiative” with no “predetermined outcomes” is a runner up for “Best in Show.”