WH Withdraws Doug Manchester’s Nomination to be U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas

 

On November 13, the White House formally withdrew its nomination of San Diego Developer “Papa” Doug Manchester to be Ambassador to The Bahamaas.  The Nassau Guardian reported in late October that Mr. Manchester  “has stepped back from his bid to become the United States ambassador for The Bahamas.” The report said that when reached for comment, Manchester Financial Group wrote in a statement, “He has withdrawn due to the threats on his and his family’s lives including three infant children under four years old.”  The report also said: “It also noted that Manchester had received “severe” threats on his life.”
The report does not include details on who made these threats against the nominee and if there is an ongoing investigation concerning these threats.
In related news, the US Embassy in Nassau recently broke ground on a new U.S. Embassy in downtown Nassau.  The new  facility will reportedly “provide a secure, modern, and resilient platform for U.S. diplomacy in The Bahamas. Its central location will facilitate our partnership with the Bahamian government as well as support to U.S. citizens living and traveling here.”  The project is expected to be completed in 2023.

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Dear @StateDept, How Many More Mina Changs Do You Have?

 

As far as we know, no one starts a job at the State Department without a security clearance. Diplomatic spouses working security escort or mailroom jobs are not even allowed to start work without a security clearance or an interim clearance.
So when NBC News Investigation reported that a senior political appointee at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations — a deputy assistant secretary (she’s one of the top three senior bureau officials)  made false claims and exaggerations, we were wondering what this means to the thoroughness of the background investigations conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security? Were the adjudicators aware of these issues prior to the issuance of the clearance? If not, why not? If yes, well, what in guacamole’s name happened here?

A senior Trump administration official has embellished her résumé with misleading claims about her professional background — even creating a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it — raising questions about her qualifications to hold a top position at the State Department.

An NBC News investigation found that Mina Chang, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, has inflated her educational achievements and exaggerated the scope of her nonprofit’s work.

Whatever her qualifications, Chang had a key connection in the Trump administration. Brian Bulatao, a top figure in the State Department and longtime friend of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, attended a fundraiser for her nonprofit in Dallas and once donated $5,500 to her charity, according to a former colleague of Chang’s.

As of this writing, her biography is still up on state.gov. Her Twitter account appears to have disappeared but her Instagram account is still online. Back in July 2019, she was also rumored to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, a report that was officially denied by US Embassy Manila.
The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS headed by Director Todd J. Brown), an office which resides under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (headed by Michael T. Evanoff), under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Management (headed by Brian Bulatao), conducts personnel security background investigations for the Department of State and other federal agencies. After determining the candidate’s national security eligibility, DSS contacts the appropriate hiring authority.
According to Diplomatic Security, the national security eligibility determinations take into account a person’s:
  • Stability
  • Trustworthiness
  • Reliability
  • Discretion
  • Character
  • Honesty
  • Judgment
  • Unquestionable loyalty to the U.S.
The organization she once served as CEO, Linking The World, has now posted a lengthy message on its website primarily defending its former CEO. It claims that “Mina has undergone 4 independent agency reviews, including the FBI, and ultimately garnered both Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information clearances.”
Item #8 says:

Mina obtained her position at the State Department on her own merit, at no time was Brian Bulatao part of her nomination / recruitment / review process.  An auction bid from 2015, is a despicable example of correlation with no foundation.  Anyone who reads her online articles would know that she has both supported and been critical of the current administration.  

Career diplomat George Kent who serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) in the European and Eurasian Bureau and testified on Wednesday at the Impeachment Hearings — now, he obtained his position as a DAS at the State Department on his own merit.
A political appointee gets  a job through a political connection. Ms. Chang is a political appointee; are we to understand that she got her job on her own merit by knocking on Foggy Bottom’s door?  Or did she apply through USAjobs.gov? Should be interesting to know how she got to Foggy Bottom.
According to Linking the World, Ms. Chang’s nomination was also “not withdrawn by the Administration of anyone other than herself.”

“Mina’s nomination was not withdrawn by the Administration, or anyone other than herself.  Simply, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been rather busy with other activities and all nominees were subject to extensive delays.  Mina loves her position at State and decided to withdraw herself from the process to focus on stabilization operations.  Again, anyone who reviewed her recent past, with work in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Somalia, would know that this decision makes absolute sense.

This is, of course, contrary to reporting and public records that indicate the nomination was withdrawn by the President.  Ms. Chang was nominated in 2018 to be Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Jonathan Nicholas Stivers (see PN2528).  On January 03, 2019 the nomination was  “Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate.” The renomination was received by the Senate on January 16, 2019 (see PN115). On September 9, 2019, the U.S. Senate “Received message of withdrawal of nomination from the President.”
Deputy assistant secretaries do not require Senate confirmations. Appointments are typically not publicly announced.
So, now we’re left wondering if this case is an exception, or if there are any more cases like this in Foggy Bottom?

Pompeo Talks About the Only Two Active FSOs in Foggy Bottom’s Top Ranks, Yay!

 

The 70th Secretary of State talks about the only two active FSOs in Foggy Bottom’s senior ranks: the Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale and the Director General of the Foreign Service Carol Perez  Mr. Pompeo has so much respect for the career service that there are no active FSOs in the geographic and functional bureaus of the State Department.

Via state.gov:

QUESTION:  Last question on these hearings, Mr. Secretary:  A couple of news outlets have attempted to create a narrative that you are at cross purposes with career staff and morale is low at the State Department.  I know morale at the State Department because my son works there.  I always disclose that when I talk to you.  But your support for the career staff has never been in doubt in my mind.  What do you make of these stories?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  More Washington insider-y stuff, a long history of the press reporting about unhappiness at the State Department, especially, frankly, in Republican administrations.  The truth of the matter is my team, my senior team, which includes folks like David Hale and Carol Perez, very capable senior Foreign Service officers, are doing good work investing in the future of the institution, investing in our diplomacy, working hard to deliver good outcomes for the American people.  I’ll leave it to others to characterize morale.  It’s a big organization.  I’m sure there’s lots of different thoughts, but suffice it to say the American people should be comfortable knowing that we are continuing to do the hard work to deliver good policy outcomes for President Trump and the United States.

 

US Embassy Bolivia Now on ‘Ordered Departure’ For Family Members

 

On November 12, 2019, the State Department issued a “Level 4 Do Not Travel” advisory for Bolivia due to civil unrest. It also announced the mandatory departure of USG family members and the authorized departure of non-emergency personnel assigned to the US Embassy in La Paz.

Do not travel to Bolivia due to civil unrest.

Country Summary: On November 12, 2019, the Department ordered the departure of family members and authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees due to ongoing political instability in Bolivia.  The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Bolivia.

There are recurring demonstrations, strikes, roadblocks, and marches in major cities in Bolivia.  Roadblocks and strikes cut off traffic on main avenues, highways between cities, and airport access.  Protestors in major cities are intermittently occupying or blocking access to public institutions and infrastructure, denying access to transportation hubs, banks, and other services.  Some protests have resulted in violent confrontations, and local authorities have used crowd control measures to discourage protests.

Domestic and international flights may be delayed or cancelled, and road travel around and between cities is regularly impeded.

Read the Safety and Security section on the country information page.

If you decide to travel to Bolivia:

    • Visit our website for Travel to High-Risk Areas.
    • Have evacuation plans that do not require U.S. government assistance.
    • Avoid demonstrations and crowds.
    • Monitor local media for breaking events and be prepared to adjust your plans.
    • Contact your airline or travel agency prior to travel, and make contingency plans to leave the country.
    • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
    • Follow the Department of State on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.
    • Review the Crime and Safety Report for Bolivia.
    • U.S. citizens who travel abroad should always have a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist.

 

Impeachment Open Hearings Week #1: William Taylor, George Kent, Marie Yovanovitch

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

The House Intelligence Committee  Chairman Adam Schiff announced the first open hearings this week:

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 10:00 am ET

WHERE: Longworth House Office Building, Room 110
WATCH: Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrL2q91fnnQ&feature=youtu.be
Witnesses:
  • Ambassador William Taylor
    Chargé D’affaires, US Embassy Kyiv, Ukraine
  • Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent
    Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau at the U.S. Department of State.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Ambassador Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch
US Ambassador to Ukraine (2016-May 2019)

AFSA Seeks Donation For Legal Defense Fund For Employees Snared in #ImpeachmentInquiry

Posted: November 4, 2019
Updated: November 11, 2019

Via AFSA:

AFSA’s Legal Defense Fund was created in 2007 to provide financial assistance to members in cases involving issues of significant institutional importance to the Foreign Service. It was named after the late Richard Scissors, a longtime AFSA staff member whose expertise in labor-management issues was crucial to many an AFSA member during his tenure. Sometimes cases come along where AFSA is unable to provide the time or legal expertise that is required. It is in such instances that the LDF can provide financial support which assists the member in retaining an outside attorney with expertise in a particular area of law. Unfortunately, this is one of those times. We have members in need as a result of the ongoing Congressional impeachment investigation. Your contribution can help. Donations to the LDF are not tax deductible.

If you are not a member of AFSA and do not wish to register on the AFSA website to make a donation, we welcome a donation by check made out to “AFSA Legal Defense Fund.” Please send that check to AFSA, c/o LDF, 2101 E Street NW, Washington DC 20037. Please include a certification that you are a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident, and the name of your current employer.

Congressional appearances reportedly lasted between three hours to 10 hours durations. This could easily cost career employees thousands of dollars in legal fees; and that’s just for a single appearance.
The fees matrix created by the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia (USAO) for  2015-2020 notes that attorney’s fees can range from $319/hour for those with less than 2 years experience to $637/hour for lawyers with over 31 years of experience. Attorneys with 11-15 years experience have an hourly rate of $510/hour. We’ve also seen higher estimates than this for legal fees in WashDC, of course.
Ambassador Eric Rubin, the president of the American Foreign Service Association told us that “AFSA is optimistic that it will be able to cover legal fees of our members that are not covered by the U.S. Government. We continue to reach out to members and the public to ask for more support so we can build a Legal Defense Fund that can meet all known needs of our members.”
If you are able, please consider donating to AFSA’s Legal Defense Fund to help Foreign Service employees who are doing their duty in cooperating with the ongoing Congressional investigations. Thank you!

 

Private Wealth Manager William Ellison Grayson to be U.S. Ambassador to Estonia

 

On Sept 30, 2019, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate William Ellison Grayson of California to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Estonia. The WH released a brief bio:

William E. Grayson is the National Director of the Family Offices of Bernstein Private Wealth Management in San Francisco, California.  In a long career of public service, Mr. Grayson has served four Presidents.  He was appointed by President Donald J. Trump to the Presidio Trust Board of Directors in San Francisco, California, where he was elected Board Chair by his fellow directors.  During the Obama Administration he served as a Regional Panelist for the White House Fellows Commission.  President George W. Bush appointed Mr. Grayson as a Commissioner on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships and nominated him to the Internal Revenue Service Oversight Board.  As Principal Deputy General Counsel of the Army under President George H.W. Bush, Mr. Grayson oversaw the Army’s 2,700 lawyers.  Mr. Grayson received his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his J.D. degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law.  He is the recipient of the Outstanding Civilian Service Award from the Secretary of the Army.

The Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California Berkeley has a more extensive bio here. If confirmed, Mr. Grayson would succeed career diplomat James Desmond Melville Jr. (1957–) who served as Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Tallinn from December 8, 2015–July 29, 2018 (also see Ex-Amb. to Estonia James D. Melville Writes Why He Quit). Career FSO Elizabeth K. Horst (?–) served as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at the US Embassy Tallinn from July 29, 2018–August 2, 2019. Post is currently headed by career FSO Brian Roraff as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
Trump previously nominated Retired Navy Rear Admiral Edward Masso to be Ambassador to Estonia in September 2017.  The nomination for Edward Masso was withdrawn on May 24, 2018.
Grayson’s nomination is currently pending in Committee: 2019-10-15 PN1160 Department of State

New U.S. Ambassador Ken Howery Presents His Credentials to King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden

 

Impeachment Inquiry: Transcripts of Depositions Released

Posted: Nov 12, 2019

On September 24, 2019, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the beginning of the impeachment inquiry. (see Tuesday, September 24, 2019: Speaker Nancy Pelosi Announces Formal Impeachment Inquiry).  Below are links to the full transcripts of the depositions that the Committee has released on a rolling basis. We will update this post as new transcripts are released to the public.

 

DOD/Laura Cooper, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Department of Defense
  • The testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Cooper can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Cooper testimony can be found here.
STATE/Catherine Croft, Ambassador Volker’s Advisor
  • The testimony of Catherine Croft can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Catherine Croft’s testimony can be found here.
STATE/Christopher Anderson, Ambassador Volker’s Advisor
  • The testimony of Christopher Anderson can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Christopher Anderson’s testimony can be found here.
WH/Dr. Fiona Hill, NSC Russia Expert
  • The testimony of Dr. Fiona Hill can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Dr. Fiona Hill’s testimony can be found here.

WH/Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, NSC Russia Expert

  • The testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman can be found here.
  • Key excerpts of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman’s testimony can be found here.
STATE/George Kent: Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR)
  • The testimony of Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from Deputy Assistant Secretary Kent can be found here.
STATE/Ambassador Bill Taylor: Current Chargé d’Affaires, US Embassy Ukraine
  • The testimony of Ambassador Taylor can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from Ambassador Taylor’s testimony can be found here.
STATE/Kurt Volker:  Former U.S. Special Envoy to Ukraine
  • The testimony of Ambassador Volker can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from Ambassador Volker’s testimony can be found here.
  • the Committees released all additional Volker text messages received by the Committees, which can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from these additional text messages can be found here.
  • The Committees first released excerpts of text messages produced by Ambassador Volker on October 2, 2019, which can be found here.
STATE/Ambassador Gordon Sondland:  Current U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
  • The testimony of Ambassador Sondland can be found here, including an addendum he filed on November 4, 2019
  • Key excerpts from Ambassador Sondland’s testimony can be found here.
STATE/Ambassador Michael McKinley:  Former Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
  • The testimony of former Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State Ambassador P. Michael McKinley from October 16, 2019 can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from McKinley’s testimony can be found here.
STATE/Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch: Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
  • The testimony of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch from October 11, 2019 can be found here.
  • Key excerpts from Yovanovitch’s testimony can be found here.

 

 

 

Pompeo Says “Not Once, George” on TeeVee, McKinley Says Three Times! #BelieveMcKinley