Posted: 11:22 am PT
Since Secretary Tillerson arrived at the State Department, he has been surrounded by a small group of people who appears to manage his interactions inside and outside the building including his extremely limited availability to the media. We understand that as secretary of state, his time is limited and that his staff has to prioritize who/what he sees but the reports coming out of Foggy Bottom appears to have less to do with a new staff learning to prioritize and more to do with control and trust. More of the former, and less of the latter. Even folks who were hopeful, even excited when the former Exxon CEO was appointed to Foggy Bottom, have since expressed dismay at how the newbie secretary of state is running the oldest executive agency in the country. If Secretary Tillerson is walled off from his workforce, and only gets his information through the filtered lens installed by his inner circle staffers, what kind of information do you think he’s going to get? Just the rosy ones (like everthing is A-OK) or they have pitchforks out for ya? Must be the reason why Secretary Tillerson delivered his remarks at State without even taking questions or why the 69th secretary of state has yet to do a townhall meeting with demoralized employees who are facing not only a reduction in workforce but also a 30% reduction in funding.
If folks don’t want Secretary Tillerson talking to anyone, why not just park him in a vault and issue admission tickets?
Below is a round-up of Secretary Tillerson’s inner circle. Let us know if we forgot anyone.
Tillerson’s Chief of Staff, previously served as a former deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The Chicago Maroon notes her appointment in February: “While at the University of Chicago, Peterlin was the first editor-in-chief of The Chicago Journal of International Law. Following her graduation, she clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and later worked for House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX). Following the September 11 attacks, Peterlin drafted pieces of national security legislation, such as the authorization for the use of force in Afghanistan, the U.S.A. Patriot Act, and legislation behind the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security.”
If you’ve noticed that Ms. Peterlin is seated next to Secretary Tillerson at almost every event, that’s by design. Instructions were sent from the Executive Secretariat to the field that “Margaret [chief of staff] MUST come after S in protocol order and all seating must reflect this.” That one is not an April Fool’s joke. There is a reason why the Ambassador/Charge come after S in protocol order, but hey it’s a new world, who needs reasons? There apparently was not even an attempt to explain why they needed to change protocol in order to allow her to sit next to the Secretary of State. Of course, this is more than just about a seating arrangement. After Tillerson’s party is gone, the Ambassador/Charge is still in country. This change does not reflect well on the ambassadors and the perception (right or wrong) on how they are valued by the Secretary of State. Besides, you gotta ask — why would host country officials bother with the embassy if they think an ambassador is not important enough to the secretary of state? Why not just pick up the phone and call Margaret?
Politico is now reporting that when Secretary Rice tried to reach Tillerson last month, “it was an aide to his chief of staff Margaret Peterlin who called back, asking what Rice wanted to discuss.” That means the gatekeeper has other layers of gatekeepers. And how many exactly?
Bloomberg called Peterlin “enigmatic” in its recent extensive profile. We should note that Peterlin’s official biography remains blank, and with few exceptions, she is often unidentified in photos released by the State Department.
See Bloomberg’s Tillerson’s enigmatic chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, wields power, not the spotlight; WaPo’s Tillerson must bridge the gap between his workforce and the White House; Politico’s The former ExxonMobil chief is leaning heavily on two senior aides who, officials say, have cut him off from the rest of his 75,000-person staff; The Atlantic’s The State of Trump’s State Department.
Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State and Director of Policy Planning, and apparently the guy whose “hair is always on fire,” according to an unnamed State Department official quoted by Politico. He held a number of senior positions in the Bush Administration, including Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations; Senior Advisor to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; Special Assistant to the President for Policy in the White House Chief of Staff’s office; and Counsel, Office of Legal Policy, at the Justice Department. See his official bio here. And now everyone inside the beltway is reading that he tasked an official with an economics portfolio to draft a memo summarizing the U.S. fight against the Islamic State. Well, now….
Deputy Chief of Staff. She was formerly the chief operating officer of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign. She resigned late in 2015 when the Bush campaign underwent downsizing according to the Daily Wire. Ciccone also worked in George W. Bush’s presidential administration as special assistant to the president and before then was a longtime Senate staffer. See Bush chief operating officer departs campaign.
Describes his job as “chief cat-herder.” On Twitter, he is @ “Omitting needless words since 2003. @newtgingrich + @SMPAGWU alum.” He was press secretary for Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign.
In April, Mr. Hammond famously compared the department’s organizational structure to the Titanic in an interview with NYT (See Tillerson in No Rush to Fill Nearly 200 State Department Posts). Recently, after demanding the names of her sources, this State Department’s Senior Adviser for Communications apparently told a CNN reporter that no one from the agency would speak to her again, and reportedly this: “WE don’t think you’re SMART ENOUGH to HANDLE our information!!!!!” Charming. Are these the folks with no sense of humor?
Also see Politico’s Yet another R.C. Hammond-press episode; Daily Beast’s Rex Tillerson vs. The Enemy of The People: Inside The Media War At The State Department;
Matt Mowers (@mowers)
“Current @StateDept. Alum of @realdonaldtrump & @govchristie campaigns. Working everyday to #MAGA.” Not sure what his official title is (his name is not listed on the org directory) but Bloomberg reported in March that this former aide to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is Tillerson’s main conduit to the White House (see American Diplomats’ Comfort With Tillerson Gives Way to Unease; also see Former Christie aide, witness at Bridgegate trial, rises at State Department and At Bridgegate trial, Trump aide describes how Christie’s office tracked endorsements.
William “Bill” Inglee
Behind the Scenes Guy at the State Department; he is so behind the scenes that we have not been able to locate a public photo of him on the state.gov account, nor is he listed on the agency’s org directory. A non-state.gov site lists him as the Special Assistant on Budget, Office of the Secretary [S], United States Department of State. He is currently on leave from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) where he is a visiting fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies. He previously worked as Clerk and Staff Director, House Committee on Appropriations, 2011–13; and was Policy Adviser (national security and trade) to former Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, 1999–2000. Read the full biography here.