Politico’s Nahal Toosi has a new piece about that January 2019 Middle East trip the Pompeos took during the government shutdown (35-day shutdown started on December 22, 2018, until January 25, 2019, a total of 35 days). She has the receipts — the 6-page action memo sent by M-William Todd, S/ES-Lisa Kenna, NEA-David Satterfield, and L-Jennifer Newstead to the Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.
Note that two signatories of this memo have moved on from Foggy Bottom, while the other two are awaiting confirmation to be U.S. ambassador. M-William Todd is a pending nominee to be Ambassador to Pakistan, S/ES-Lisa Kenna is a pending nominee to be Ambassador to Peru, NEA-David Satterfield is the current Ambassador to Turkey, and L-Jennifer Newstead had since left State to join Facebook. The memo was sent to then Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan who is now the U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation.
In this action memo, S/ES “believes that accepting the invitations extended in both Cairo and Abu Dhabi advances foreign policy objectives because the invitations were extended from the highest levels of those governments reflecting the importance the concerned ministers places on the events.”
S/ES also “advises that the Pompeos’ dual representation at representational events in Cairo and the Abu Dhabi also meet the requirements of the current shutdown guidance. S/ES believes that dual representation at the events at issue is necessary because the invitations were extended directly by the ministers, reflecting the importance they place on the event to strengthen bilateral ties.”
NEA “can only note that the invitation to Mrs. Pompeo having been extended and accepted, to decline now could be taken as a lack of courtesy, and that in NEA’s view there is no significant foreign policy interest here save the issue of courtesy.” NEA further states, “Again, NEA notes that to decline the invitation now could be seen as lack of courtesy, but there is no significant foreign policy interest here save the issue of courtesy. We also note that such determinations may be scrutinized, and that there is a risk that Mrs. Pompeo’s travel during a shutdown could attract media attention and potential criticism in the Congress and elsewhere.”
Well, what do you know? Experienced NEA guy’s take turned out to be true.
The memo’s justification cited 14 FAM 532 and says “a family member may participate in a representational event where a clear need for dual representation exists, and should such a determination be made the Department may cover travel and other costs associated with the family member’s participation.”
So we went and looked up 14 FAM 532, and you can read it below or read it in full here.
14 FAM 532.1-1 says that “The authorizing officer is expected to make sparing and judicious use of this authorization. In all cases, the justification must demonstrate a clear advantage to the United States.”
The authorizing officer is this case is the Deputy Secretary of State (D), who at that time was John Sullivan. While the Action Memo was cleared by D’s office, the name of the clearing officer was redacted. As all the names were spelled out on the memo, except the signoff for D’s office, we are guessing that this was cleared by a staffer in the deputy secretary’s office, thus the redaction. This is not, of course, uncommon in the State bureaucracy. But we’re wondering just how much judiciousness by an aide went into this exercise?
14 FAM 532.1-1(B) Outside Country of Assignment
Representational travel outside the country of assignment is restricted to family members of high-level officers and will be authorized only when a clear need for dual representation exists. Normally, travel will be restricted to eligible family members of chiefs of mission, deputy chiefs of mission, country public affairs officers, and USAID mission directors or USAID representatives. However, in exceptional circumstances, the eligible family members of a subordinate officer may be authorized such travel. Typical of the circumstances warranting representational travel outside the country are the following:
(1) When an ambassador or USAID mission director accompanies a foreign dignitary to the United States on a state visit or as a presidential guest and the dignitary is accompanied by a spouse or other members of the household;
(2) When a State, or USAID officer attends an international conference or meeting sponsored by a group or organization of nations, such as the United Nations, and the spouses of participants have also been invited to attend; and
(3) When the President sends U.S. delegations abroad or congressional or other high-level delegations proceed abroad, accompanied by their spouses.
Right. They’re going to say the FAM is not exhaustive, and this is just guidance. Not (1), and not (3) but they got it done with typical circumstance (2) because this was a meeting, and a spouse was invited, though the invitation was not by a group or by an international organization. But why quibble with something minor, hey? They made it worked and she got on a trip, as well as other trips, and they could all say, this was blessed by legal and ethics folks. Because why not? She’s a … what’s that … “a force multiplier.” No more talk of her writing a report, is there?
And check out the memo on the Susan Pompeo visit to the Middle East for yourself (after you read my story!): https://t.co/Ct1L3BMT65
— Nahal Toosi (@nahaltoosi) July 30, 2020
Susan Pompeo's travels during the shutdown anger some diplomats, sources say https://t.co/sWmTNKDHmP pic.twitter.com/o2GerGseQf
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) January 18, 2019
Wonderful to be in Cairo. The U.S.-#Egypt relationship is one of our deepest and broadest partnerships in the region, and I look forward to a good visit. Thanks to @USAmbEgypt for the warm welcome. pic.twitter.com/wCekNhfppu
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 10, 2019