Sen. Menendez Asks the Consular Affairs Nominee the Questions Y’All Wanna Ask

Posted: 1:26 pm PT
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The Trump nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday (see July 18 SFRC Hearing: Carl Risch to be Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs). There were four nominees during the hour and a half hearing chaired by Senator Ron Johnson, so basically 22.5 minutes for each nominee although the CT and CA nominees got most of the more substantial questions.

(click image to see the video)

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) reminded Mr. Risch of his old congressional testimony advocating for the transfer of visa function to DHS in 2002 (see Ex-FSO Who Once Advocated Moving Visas to DHS May be the Next Asst Secretary For Consular Affairs). The exchange between Menendez and Risch starts at 00:45:50 via C-SPAN video here.

Senator Menendez started by congratulating all the nominees then quoted from Mr. Risch’s old testimony: “Congratulations to all of you. Mr. Risch in 2007 you appeared before the House Subcommittee on Government Reform. In a hearing, you said during my tenure as unit chief I adjudicated approximately 25,000 visa applications. I resigned in May of 2002 even though I received top evaluation and a challenging assignment. While I longed to return to my private practice, I was discouraged by the State Department’s lack of dedication to the enforcement of laws. I took my job very seriously. The State Department did not.”

Senator Menendez then asked: “Do you believe the State Department isn’t  committed to rule of law and national security of the United States?”

Mr. Risch’s response:

“Thank you senator, for the question and for the opportunity to address that testimony. The testimony was in 2002, not in 2007. It was 15 years ago that that testimony took place. It was during the time that the Department of Homeland Security was just being stood up. I believe a lot has changed at the State Department in 15 years. I’m enthusiastic about the future the way the bureau will be fulfilling its function with interagency cooperation, continuous vetting.”

Senator Menendez did not let him off the hook and asked again, “Do you believe the State Department is committed to the rule of law and the national security of the United States?”

Mr. Risch responded, Currently senator, I absolutely do.”

The NJ senator started talking about refugee and migration issues then asked Mr. Risch, “So do you believe that the Department of Homeland Security, which is notoriously bloated with a whole host of dysfunctional components, should be responsible still to have the visa, the very essence of the department you’re being nominated to, to be transferred to the Department of Homeland Security?”

Mr. Risch’s response:

“Well, 15 years ago, senator, I stand behind my testimony. It was a completely different time. And there were a lot of talk about consolidating different things into the Department of Homeland Security. Currently, I watched the Deputy Secretary testify yesterday that it’s currently not the intent of the Department of State —”

This is in reference to Deputy Secretary Sullivan’s testimony from Monday, at the same panel, about State not having an intention to transfer the consular function to DHS.  Senator Menendez cut him off saying “I’m not asking what their intent, I’m asking your view. You’re nominated for this position.”

This is Mr. Risch’s response:

“My view is I would … I follow the leadership of Department of State if confirmed. But as of today, I intend to lead the Bureau of Consular Affairs as it is currently formed. I believe that I will be, if confirmed a strong leader of all functions of the consular bureau including the visa function.” 

 

 

 

There’s something about Mr. Risch’s response that’s not very comforting to our ears. You, too? Maybe it’s the use of the word “currently” as “at the present time,” as in “now.” Maybe, that’s just his favorite word. Maybe it indicates that he does not have a solid view about a U.S. Government agency’s commitment to the rule of law and national security of this country.

To the question about his belief whether the State Department is committed to the rule of law and national security of the United States, Mr. Risch responded with “I absolutely do,” but he prefaced that response with “currently.” He used the same word when talking about the intent of the State Department, and in describing the bureau he is nominated to lead.

The use of the word “currently” implies that things might change. Does he know something we don’t? What he believes now, may not be what he believes next month, or next year. If the White House decides to move the visa function to DHS, and the State Department’s intent changes, Mr. Risch will “follow the leadership” at State. Then he will be back in the Senate to explain, “Currently, the State Department believe it is best to …”

For what it’s worth, we asked somebody who previously worked with Mr. Risch at an overseas post and the one feedback we got though brief was complimentary.

Mr. Risch’s prepared testimony is available here (pdf).

If confirmed, Mr. Risch would succeed career diplomat Michele Thoren Bond who served as Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs from 2015-2017.

Below is a brief summary of the position and the previous appointees to this office via history.state.gov:

Assistant Secretaries of State for Consular Affairs

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (Jun 27, 1952; P.L. 82-414; 66 Stat. 174) established within the Department of State a Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs, headed by an Administrator with rank equal to that of an Assistant Secretary. From Mar 1 to Dec 30, 1954, the Bureau was renamed “Inspection, Security, and Consular Affairs.” From 1953 to 1962, the Secretary of State designated incumbents to this position. The Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (Jun 28, 1962; P.L. 87-510; 76 Stat. 123) made the Administrator a Presidential appointee subject to the advice and consent of the Senate. In 1962, the Department transferred the security function to the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration, but the title remained unchanged until 1977, when the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1978 (Aug 17, 1977; P.L. 95-105; 91 Stat. 847) changed the Administrator’s title to “Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs.” This title has been given in full in all subsequent commissions to this office.

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Trump to Nominate Amb. Jon Huntsman, Jr. to be U.S. Ambassador to Russia

Posted: 1:57 am ET
Updated: July 20, 9:48 am PT
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July 19 SFRC Hearing: Luis Arreaga to be U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala

Posted: 1:48 am ET
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Today, the SFRC is holding a confirmation hearing on the nomination of career diplomat Luis Arreaga to be the U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala. Ambassador Arreaga previously served as chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Iceland.

Date: Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Time: 02:00 PM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Rubio

The live video and the prepared testimony will be posted here when available.

Below is the report submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

SUBJECT:  Ambassadorial Nomination:  Certificate of Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service Act, Section 304(a)(4)

POST: Republic of Guatemala

CANDIDATE:  Luis E. Arreaga

Luis E. Arreaga, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, is currently Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Department of State, a position he has held since 2016.  A former Ambassador, Deputy Chief of Mission, Consul General and Office Director, Mr. Arreaga possesses cultural and linguistic fluency in the region as well as extensive leadership and interagency management expertise.   He has led the development of civilian security assistance programs in Mexico, Central America, and Colombia as well as the largest increase in recruitment, assessment, and hiring in the State Department’s history.  He advocated for a $1 billion sale of Boeing aircraft to Icelandair and led a team of 18 agencies that helped conclude a Free Trade Agreement and oversaw a large expansion of U.S. military support to Panama.

Previously, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Department of State (2013-2016), Ambassador, U.S. Embassy Reykjavik, Iceland (2010-2013), Director, Office of Recruitment, Examination, and Employment, Bureau of Human Resources, Department of State (2008-2010), Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Panama City, Panama (2005-2008), U.S. Consul General in Vancouver, Canada (2002-2005), and Director, Executive Secretariat Staff, Department of State (2001-2002).  He has also served as Deputy Director of the State Department’s Operations Center and as Special Assistant to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs.  Other overseas postings include the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Geneva, the U.S. Embassy in Spain, and Agency for International Development Missions in Peru, El Salvador and Honduras.

Mr. Arreaga is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee where he received a Ph.D., M.S. and B.A.  He is the recipient of eleven notable senior State Department awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Alumni Association.  A heritage speaker of Spanish, he is also fluent in French and speaks basic Icelandic.

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July 19 SFRC Hearing: Sharon L. Day to be U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica

Posted: 1:44 am ET
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Today, the SFRC is holding a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Sharon L. Day to be the U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica.

Date: Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Time: 02:00 PM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Rubio

The live video and the prepared testimony will be posted here when available.

Below is the report submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

SUBJECT: Ambassadorial Nomination: Certificate of Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service Act, Section 304(a)(4)

POST: Republic of Costa Rica

CANDIDATE: Sharon L. Day

Sharon L. Day, served most recently as Co-Chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), having been first elected in January 2011 and reelected in 2013 and 2015. She has been actively engaged in serving the Republican Party at the local, state and national level for more than twenty years. She is also active as a political columnist and commentator. Earlier in her career she was the Chief Executive Officer and Vice President of Marketing of Stop Loss International, Indianapolis, Indiana. Ms. Day also has been active in community service, include as Housing Authority Chair for the Broward County Housing Authority and as Commissioner on the Florida Commission on the Status of Women. Her extensive travel as Co-Chair of the RNC found her engaging and speaking on a wide range of political, economic, and social policy issues. That experience, coupled with her experience in business and institutional management, her leadership in service to her community, and her role as a public figure dealing with media and citizens of all walks of life, make her well-qualified to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Costa Rica.

Previously, Ms. Day was the Republican National Committee Secretary (2009-2011). She has served as a member of the Broward County, Florida, Republican Executive Committee since 1994 and as State Committeewoman from Broward County since 1996. She was appointed by Governor Jeb Bush to serve on the Committee for Election Reform for the State of Florida following the election recount in 2000. Ms. Day has promoted diversity with the Republican Party empowering and encouraging more women candidates and working with state parties across the country.

Ms. Day attended the San Antonio Community College Business School and was awarded a Business Administration Certificate in 1970.

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PSA: If You’re Using Gmail, Consider Getting a U2F Security Key to Secure Your Account

Posted: 1:38 am ET
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The private email of a State Department official working in the Office of Analysis for Russia and Eurasia (INR/REA) was reportedly hacked. FP reported a few days ago that the throve of emails include at least two years’ worth of personal emails from the private Gmail account, as well as personal information.

Whether you’ve been using Gmail for years, or have recently moved from Hotmail to Gmail, you need to consider getting a Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) security key to secure your private email account. You can start with FIDO U2F from Yubico if you want to check it out. It is  pretty straightforward to set-up. Note that you can only use the key with Gmail when using the Chrome browser (or Opera) at this time. We’re not on FB or Dropbox but you can reportedly use this key to secure those accounts, too.

For folks who must regularly update wills and prepare “go-bags” (pdf), here is one more thing to consider:

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