Senate Judiciary Sets Sight on Allegations Over Huma Abedin’s State Dept Employment, Senate Hold On

Posted: 4:33  pm EDT

On July 30, Senator Charles E. Grassley , the Judiciary Committee chairman  wrote a letter to Secretary Kerry saying it has learned that State/OIG has opened an investigation to examine the circumstances of Ms. Abedin’s work arrangements, leave status, and conversion from a full-time Department of State employee to a Special Government Employee (SGE) and Senior Advisor to former Secretary Clinton. He writes that the “OIG found at least a reasonable suspicion of a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, theft of public money through time and attendance fraud, and Title 18, United States Code, Section 208, acts affecting a personal financial interest related to conflicts of interest connected to her overlapping employment as an SGE and her employment at Teneo and at the Clinton Foundation. The Judiciary Committee first inquired about related issues in June 2013.”

The letter outlines questions and allegations related to Conflicts of Interest and Special Treatment, and Improper Designation as an SGE (special government employee). The letter is quite particular, using specific terms like “baby moon,” “out of the office,” “going out of town,” “maternity leave,” and inquiring about Ms. Abedin’s stay at the US Ambassador’s residence in Rome. Here’s a list of what the Committee is interested in:

To aid the Committee in its investigation of these allegations, please provide the following:

  1. All documents and communications referring or relating to time and attendance for Ms. Abedin, all approved timesheets, leave requests, and any requests for paid or unpaid excused absences or administrative leave.
  2. All documents and communications referring or relating to Ms. Abedin having applied for or having received approximately $33,000 for unused leave.
  3. All documents and communications referring or relating to Ms. Abedin having applied for or having received compensation for unused leave.
  4. All documents and communications between or among Ms. Abedin and any employees, clients, or other affiliates of Teneo.
  5. All documents and communications referring or relating to time and attendance for Ms. Mills, all approved timesheets, leave requests, and any requests for paid or unpaid excused absences or administrative leave.
  6. All documents and communications between or among Ms. Abedin and any employees or other affiliates of the Clinton Global Initiative.
  7. All documents and communications between or among Ms. Abedin and any employees or other affiliates of the Clinton Foundation.
  1. All documents and communications forwarded by Ms. Abedin to a non-State Department e-mail address.
  2. All documents and communications between or among Ms. Mills, Ms. Abedin or Secretary Clinton referring or relating to Ms. Abedin’s leave requests or time and attendance, including the mentioning of Ms. Abedin being “out of the office,” “going out of town,” “maternity leave,” “annual leave,” “sick leave,” “baby moon,” or other similar statements.
  3. All documents and communications referring or relating to the Office of Inspector General investigation into Ms. Abedin.
  4. A description of Ms. Abedin’s duties at the Department of State before her designation as an SGE.
  5. A description of Ms. Abedin’s duties at the Department of State after her designation as an SGE.
  6. All documents and communications previously requested by this Committee relating to communications between or among the Department of State, Teneo, and Mr. Band. Additionally, please provide a written explanation as to why these records have been withheld to date.
  7. All documents and communications referring or relating to Ms. Motley’s meeting with Secretary Clinton that allegedly resulted in the granting of Ms. Abedin’s SGE designation.
  8. All documents and communications referring or relating to Ms. Abedin’s stay at the U.S. Ambassador to Italy’s residence in Italy and her trip to France in 2011.
  9. Did the Department search for or consider any other candidates besides Ms. Abedin for the SGE-expert position requiring expert knowledge on policy, administrative, and other matters? If so, please provide the supporting documentation. If not, why not?
  10. A list of all other instances in which a Department of State employee converted from a regular, full-time position to an SGE, and subsequently became simultaneously employed by a private company.
  11. All work papers, background documents, and communications relating to whether Ms. Abedin’s employment as an SGE presented any ethical concerns or conflicts of interest with her multiple private sector jobs.

The full letter is available to read here: CEG to State (Abedin Annual Leave SGE), 7-30-15-3

And because this is not going to end anytime soon, the HuAb investigation has now turned into a Senate hold for the nomination of the Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operation (State/CSO); a bureau which appears to be in fundamental crisis. Having the top nominee snared in a Senate hold is not going to help the already problematic bureau, is it?

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According to time.com, the State Department has provided five letters since 2013 in response to Grassley’s inquiries about everything from its use of SGE designations to Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server. But Grassley says those letters have been incomplete and that the department has willfully withheld responsive materials, demonstrating “a lack of cooperation and bad faith in its interaction with Congress.”

Grassley filed a “Notice of Intent to Object” in the Congressional record on August 4 signifying his intent to block the  nomination of career foreign service officer David Malcolm Robinson , of Connecticut, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Conflict and Stabilization Operations).

Senator Grassley is quoted in the Time’s report as saying that Robinson was “an innocent victim” of the State Department’s “contemptuous failures to respond to Congressional inquiries.” Grassley also said the department “has engaged in unreasonable delay in responding to Judiciary Committee investigations and inquiries” including the Abedin issue.

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Obama Officially Nominates WHA’s Roberta Jacobson as Next Ambassador to Mexico

Posted: 1:41 am EDT

 

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The WH has now officially announced President Obama’s intent to nominate Roberta S. Jacobson as the next Ambassador to the United Mexican States. The WH released the following brief bio:

Roberta S. Jacobson, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, is the Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the Department of State, a position she has held since 2012.  From 2010 to 2012, she was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs.  Previously, Ms. Jacobson served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Canada, Mexico, and NAFTA issues from 2007 to 2010 and as Director of the Office of Mexican Affairs from 2003 to 2007.  She was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru from 2000 to 2002.  From 1989 to 2000, Ms. Jacobson held several roles in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, including Director of the Office of Policy Planning and Coordination from 1996 to 2000.  She began her career at the Department of State as a Presidential Management Intern.

Ms. Jacobson received a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

If confirmed, Ms. Jacobson would succeed career diplomat Tony Wayne who was appointed Ambassador to Mexico by President Obama in 2011. President Obama had previously nominated Maria Echaveste for the Mexican post in the fall of 2014. She withdrew her nomination after waiting four months for her confirmation. Her supporters blamed it on a “failed, politicized nomination process” according to NBCNews.

The Mexico Mission is one of our largest posts. We hope Ms. Jacobson gets a speedy confirmation but the SFRC is a perplexing place these days. We want to add that we’ve watched Ms. Jacobson stay cool and collected under congressional grilling over the Administration’s Cuba policy. She is probably one of the State Department’s better congressional witnesses — straight-forward, not antagonistic or evasive, and was engaging. She did not get flustered even when senators were in their scolding best for the cameras. She obviously knows her stuff, and she looks them in the eye when she talks. We’d like to suggest that the State Department clone her for its congressional witnesses prep.

Hey, did you know that Andrew Jackson was the first nominee for ambassador to Mexico? According to history.state.gov, he was appointed on January 27, 1823 but he declined the appointment. It looks like the second appointee in 1824 did not proceed to post either.  Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851) was then appointed in 1825 and he did present his credentials three months after his appointment.   If confirmed, Ms. Jacobson would be the first female American ambassador appointed to Mexico. Ever.  Can we get a yay! for that?

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David Malcolm Robinson – From Office of the High Representative to Conflict and Stabilization (State/CSO)

Posted: 2:41 am EDT

 

President Obama recently announced his intent to nominate Ambassador David Malcolm Robinson as the next Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations and Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the Department of State. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador David Malcolm Robinson, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Principal Deputy High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a position he has held since 2014. Previously, Ambassador Robinson was Assistant Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration from 2009 to 2013, and Special Coordinator for Venezuela in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2008 to 2009. Ambassador Robinson served as U.S. Ambassador to Guyana from 2006 to 2008 and as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana from 2003 to 2006. He also served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay from 2000 to 2003. His earlier assignments included posts in El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Iceland.

Ambassador Robinson received a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, an M.S. from the National War College, and a Master of Divinity from Christ the King Seminary.

If confirmed, Ambassador Robinson would succeed Frederick Barton who stepped down in August last year.  In March 2014, the Office of Inspector General released its blistering inspection report (pdf) of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. The report gave us a sad and we blogged about it here. (See QDDR II Walks Into a Bar and Asks, What Happened to the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations?).  The 2014 OIG report famously noted CSO’s top management philosophy of “churn” to prevent people from staying in CSO for more than 3 years.

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Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rodriguez vs Secretary Kerry Blinken Higginbottom Sherman WHA’s Jacobson

Posted: 00:12 EDT

 

Delcry Rodriguez (@DrodriguezVen) is the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. Her equivalent in rank in the U.S. Government is Secretary of State John Kerry.

A few weeks back, Western Hemisphere Assistant Secretary Roberta Jacobson (@WHAAsstSecty) tweeted four items on Venezuela. Note that she is the top diplomat at the State Department’s Western Hemisphere Affairs  bureau. She reports to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (“P”) Wendy Sherman, who in turn is outranked by the Deputy Secretary of State Higginbottom  (D/MR) and Deputy Secretary Blinken (D)  who  both report directly to Secretary of State Kerry.

So when Foreign Minister Rodriguez took on Assistant Secretary Jacobson on Twitter, one has to wonder, what was she thinking? Asst Secretary Jacobson is a top official at the WHA bureau but nowhere near the rank of a foreign minister.  Can you imagine Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arguing publicly with the State Department’s Toria Nuland from the EUR bureau? No. Can you imagine Secretary Kerry sparring publicly with a lower-ranked official from the Venezuelan foreign ministry? Nope.

So every time the foreign minister opens her mouth to argue, berate or call the WHA diplomat names, we’ll award the diplomatic  heavyweight  championship belt to the assistant secretary.  Assistant Secretary Jacobson wins simply by being in the same ring with Foreign Minister Rodriguez.

 

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Oh dear, that’s an ALL CAPS alert!

Now, once more, with feelings:

 

Meanwhile in Cuba:

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Acting A/S Beth Jones Yanks Out “Disaster” DCM from NEA Post — Brava!

Back in January, we posted a brief item about Ambassador Beth Jones, the Acting Assistant Secretary of State of Near Eastern Affairs. (see QotW:  Will Beth Jones Be Formally Nominated as Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs?)

Recently, Laura Rozen of the Back Channel posted more on the rumored potential successor to Jeffrey Feltman at the NEA Bureau. Excerpt:

Acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Beth Jones will not stay in the job in Obama’s second term, the Back Channel has previously reported. Among the rumored candidates in the mix to possibly succeed her, US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, Syria envoy Ford, and US Ambassador to Jordan Stuart Jones, who previously served as deputy US Ambassador in Iraq and DAS for Europe, diplomatic sources said. Other possibilities mentioned include US envoy to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft, US envoy to Turkey Francis Ricciardone, and NSS Senior Director for the Persian Gulf Puneet Talwar. The administration is, however, unlikely to pick an outsider/non career diplomat for the sensitive NEA post, especially in the wake of Benghazi, diplomatic sources said Friday, and suggested Patterson or Ford, both with past ambassadorships in the Arab world, would have an edge.

Read in full here.

While Ambassador Jones is not in the running for the top job at the NEA Bureau, we think she deserves credit for yanking out a deputy chief of mission described as “a disaster” from one of her NEA posts. Instead of letting things fester, as is often the case in the bureaucracy, this one was sent out packing to land back in WashDC.

The traditional arrangement for running an embassy assigns internal management of the mission to the deputy chief of mission. And while we recognize the many challenges in doing that, we are also convinced that not everyone who is a DCM is cut out to be one.  When the bureau let it stew too long particularly in a  sort of pressure cooker place, the mission gets, well, overly chewy and unpleasant.

So let’s hope that whoever takes over Ambassador Jones’ job at the NEA Bureau will show a similar propensity for tackling difficult managers in our overseas missions.  And while Secretary Kerry is reportedly relying on senior managers to take care of the big house while he is starting to beef up his miles, he ought to do something about the State Department’s  Recycling Division for bad managers.  We’re getting awfully tired seeing recyclees pop up here, there and the most unexpected places.

Dear Secretary Kerry, can you please send these recyclees to a leadership bootcamp, and no we don’t mean to the NFATC/ Foreign Service Institute where they cure them with Myers-Briggs.

A side note —

We recently posted about the “abysmal morale” at the US Embassy in Cairo, another NEA post (see US Embassy Bangui: 15% Danger Post With Terrifically Bad Trimmings, It’s Not Alone –Wassup Cairo?).  While writing this post, we received a note that a high-level visitor from DC will soon be in Cairo to discuss post morale.  We hope that trip is fruitful. We’d volunteer to be baggage handler so we can live-tweet the trip and the expected town hall with mission staff but folks might get shy ….

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Video of the Week: Secretary Clinton Dons Wild-Cat Eye Glasses for Mike Hammer’s Swearing In

On June 21, Secretary Clinton sworn in Mike Hammer, the new Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs in the Ben Franklin Room at the State Department.

The State Department only released one photo, and no video of the swearing-in. Full text of her remarks is here.  Read it just to see the Who’s Who in Mike Hammer’s career.  Secretary Clinton certainly looks like she’s having fun, and quite ready for her next endeavors outside The Building.

State Department photo by Michael Gross

Domani Spero