As Ukraine Opens Probe Into Yovanovitch Surveillance, Foggy Bottom Remains Mute as a Mouse

Update 1:37 pm PST: Mid-day on Friday, CNN reports: After more than 48 hours of silence, Pompeo says State will investigate possible surveillance of ex-US ambassador

On January 14, we blogged about the Parnas documents indicating a possible surveillance of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch while she was posted as U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv (see Parnas Materials: Surveillance of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in Kyiv).
According to NBC News reporter Josh Lederman, Robert F. Hyde reportedly dismissed the Parnas texts as “colorful texts” from when they’d “had a few pops way back when I used to drink” (see). When asked about Hyde’s claims of tracking Ambassador Yovanovitch, Lev Parnas in his first TV interview also said, “Well, I don’t believe it’s true.”  He added, “I think he was either drunk or he was trying to make himself bigger than he was, so I didn’t take it seriously.”
Since we have not heard anything from the State Department or Secretary Pompeo, are we to understand that the State Department is just taking their words that they’re joking around or drunk as claimed in their worrisome exchange? Given subsequent reporting on the Hyde character, that’s possible, of course. But if there was something there, anyone really expect that these individuals would admit to some nefarious intent publicly?
On January 16, Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior announced that it opened an investigation on the possible surveillance:

Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America. However, the published references cited contain a possible violation of the law of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects the rights of a diplomat on the territory of the foreign country.

Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state.

Also on January 16, NBC News reported that the FBI paid a visits to Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde’s Connecticut home and business.  FBI spokesperson told The Hill, “There is no further information that can be shared at this time.”  But as former DOJ staffer Matthew Miller points out, DOJ has had these messages for months. They’re investigating this claimed surveillance just now.
As of this writing, neither Pompeo nor the State Department has released any statement of concern on the possibility that one of its ambassadors was under surveillance for unknown reasons by people directly connected to Rudy Giuliani, the shadow secretary of state.
When State officials and Pompeo talk about protecting and supporting our diplomats in their town halls and chitchats, do they still say that loud with straight faces? Really, we’re curious.

 

 

 

 

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HFAC Seeks @StateDept Documents on Possible Surveillance of Amb Yovanovitch

 

 

US Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass Steps Down After a 2-Year Tenure

 

ABC News reported ton January 6, 2020 that the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John R. Bass (1964–) was stepping down from his position “after serving in the war-weary country’s capital since December 2017.”  An official reportedly said that his departure was “long-planned and part of the normal rotation cycle, with American ambassadors typically serving in Kabul for only two years.” Also:
The State Department has named Ross Wilson as chargé d’affaires ad interim at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul until a new ambassador is confirmed. Wilson is expected to arrive in Kabul soon, according to the official.
Karen Decker, deputy chief of mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, will serve as chargé d’affaires until Wilson’s arrival, the official said.
Ambassador Bass’ immediate predecessor in Kabul was Ambassador Peter Michael McKinley (1954–) who served  from January 6, 2015–December 18, 2016. Previous to Ambassador McKinley was Ambassador James B. Cunningham (1952–) who served from August 13, 2012–December 7, 2014. Ambassador Ryan Clark Crocker (1949–) who was briefly chargé d’affaires ad interim in 2002 returned to served for one year from  July 25, 2011–July 23, 2012. President Obama’s first ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Winfrid Eikenberry (1951–), served from May 21, 2009–July 19, 2011. President George W. Bush’s last ambassador to Afghanistan, William Braucher Wood (1950–) also served a two-year tenure from  April 16, 2007–April 3, 2009.

Parnas Materials: Surveillance of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in Kyiv #Ukraine #Impeachment

 

On January 14, 2020, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Committee on Foreign Affairs provided additional evidence to the Committee on the Judiciary to be included as part of the official record that will be transmitted to the Senate along with the Articles of Impeachment. The announcement of the new evidence notes that the new materials were produced to the Intelligence Committee by Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, pursuant to a subpoena served on him on October 10, 2019.

It appears from this newly released materials that Ambassador Yovanovitch was under surveillance in Kyiv. To what end, that’s something the Senate needs to find out if its members do find their spines anytime soon.

The WhatsApp exchange in these documents is dated March 2019. Ambassador Yovanovitch’s last day in Ukraine was May 20, 2019.

Click here to read the congressional transmittal letter and a description of the relevant documents.

Click here and here to read the some of the relevant documents (two separate files).

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@StateDept Recalls Ambassador Daniel Foote From Zambia in Lame Response #TitNoTat

 

This is a follow-up to our post in early December (see US Embassy Zambia: Threats Against Amb. Daniel Foote For Comments on Harsh Sentencing of Gay Couple). The recall of Ambassador Daniel Foote from the U.S. Embassy in Zambia occurred late last month.
The State Department released a brief statement (see below) and the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy issued a tweet saying, “Dismayed by the Zambian government’s decision requiring our Ambassador Daniel Foote’s departure from the country.” Martin “Marty” Dale, a career member of the Foreign Service, is currently listed as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka on its website; no CDA is identified as of this writing.
So they’re all dismayed, huh? If the State Department considered the Zambian Government’s statement on Ambassador Foote as equivalent of a declaration of “persona non grata” why have they not asked the Zambian Ambassador in Washington D.C. to leave in the spirit of reciprocity?
The State Department’s action so loud, we could barely hear what they’re saying. Perhaps the State Department should have a new recruitment flyer:
See the world, join the State Department
And watch your back!

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U.S. Senate Confirms First Political Ambassador to Thailand in 47 Years

 

We missed this one last year. On July 15, 2019, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate Michael George DeSombre to be the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand. The U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination on January 8, 2020.
This position has traditionally been encumbered by a senior career diplomat of the U.S. Foreign Service. We have to go back all the way to 1973 to locate a political appointee to this position. Retired U.S. Army officer William Roscoe Kintner (1915–1997) who served during World War II and during the Korean conflict was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Thailand from November 29, 1973–March 15, 1975 under Presidents Nixon and Ford’s tenures. Since AFSA started tracking the ambassadorial appointments going back to 1960, only two political appointees made it to Thailand as chief of mission out of a total of 18 confirmed appointees (data as of 2016).
Ambassador-designate DeSombre’s predecessors at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok includes Career Ambassador Kristie Ann Kenney (1955–), five times ambassador John Gunther Dean (1926–); Career Ambassador Morton Isaac Abramowitz (1933–), and two times Ambassador Charles Sheldon Whitehouse (1926–2001), the father of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island).

His Certificate of Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service Act, Section 304(a)(4)  below via state.gov:

Michael George DeSombre is globally recognized as a preeminent authority on mergers and acquisitions and high profile negotiations.  A partner in the law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell since 2004, Mr. DeSombre leads their mergers and acquisition practice in Asia where he has been resident for over 20 years.  His extensive representation of American and other international clients has honed his skills as a negotiator opposite Chinese and other Asian counterparties.  Mr. DeSombre is active in the region’s intellectual and philanthropic communities and deeply involved in the American community in Asia.  His keen understanding of Asia, extensive network of contacts and ability to bridge the legal, financial and policy worlds make him an excellent candidate for Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand.

Mr. DeSombre serves on the board of the Hong Kong Forum which seeks to promote the exchange of ideas between scholars and policymakers worldwide and to foster communication between the United States and China.  In addition, as Chairman of the Board of Save the Children Hong Kong since 2015, he has substantially grown and professionalized the organization.  He is a 19-year member of the American Club in Hong Kong and served on the Board of Governors for five years (the term limit).  He is an active supporter of the USA Rugby team and, as the Worldwide President of Republicans Overseas, Inc. since 2013, he refocused the organization to address key concerns for Americans overseas.

In 1990, Mr. DeSombre received a B.A. in Quantitative Economics and an M.A. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University, where he was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar.  He graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude in 1995 and received the Reginald F. Lewis Prize in International Business Law. Mr. DeSombre is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and speaks some Korean and Japanese.

@MichaelDeSombre’s Twitter profile says “Republicans Overseas, Worldwide President.”
Big Law Business reported in August 2019 that “DeSombre, in his ethics agreement filed as part of the confirmation process, said he would resign from his posts in Republican organizations as well as his chairmanship of Save the Children Hong Kong Ltd., if he is confirmed.”
Related posts:

SFRC Clears Sullivan For Moscow, Other Ambassador Nominations, Foreign Service Lists

Former Iran Hostage Amb John Limbert: “Mr. President, if you are listening ….”

 

 

 

Iraqi Protesters Breach U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s Compound

Media reports indicate that Iraqi protesters, identified as Iraqi Shiite militia members and their supporters, stormed the U.S. Embassy Baghdad on December 31, in protest of the deadly air strikes conducted by U.S. forces over the weekend. Reports note that the Sunday strikes killed at least 25 fighters and wounded 55.
On December 30, SecDef Mark Esper announced that “the Department of Defense took offensive actions in defense of our personnel and interests in Iraq by launching F-15 Strike Eagles against five targets associated with Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia group.  The targets we attacked included three targets in Western Iraq and two targets in Eastern Syria that were either command and control facilities or weapons caches for Kata’ib Hezbollah.”
On December 27, a rocket attack at an Iraqi base killed one U.S. contractor and wounded four U.S. troops. See 
According to the AP, the State Department has stated that all U.S. personnel at Embassy Baghdad are safe and that there are no plants to evacuate.
This morning, U.S. Embassy Baghdad issued a security alert advising “U.S. citizens not to approach the Embassy.  U.S. citizens should keep in touch with family members.  In an emergency, U.S. citizens in Iraq or those concerned about family in Iraq should contact the Department of State at +1-202-501-4444 or toll-free in the U.S. at 1-888-407-4747.”

 

Santa Mike Is Coming Late to Town, But Wait … Who’s Avoiding Embassy Kyiv?

 

News media reported earlier that US Embassy Kyiv’s CDA Bill Taylor is stepping down at the end of the year (see US Embassy Ukraine Chargé d’Affaires Bill Taylor to Leave Kyiv at End of Year).  WSJ has the follow-up report:

“Ulrich Brechbuhl, a key aide to Mr. Pompeo who serves as State Department counselor, informed Mr. Taylor on Dec. 11 that Mr. Pompeo had instructed him to hand over his responsibilities in Kyiv on Jan. 1, according to the person familiar with the situation.

Mr. Taylor is planning to leave the country on Jan. 2, and had understood that Mr. Pompeo wanted to avoid being photographed with him while visiting Ukraine, the person familiar with the situation said.”

The Daily Beast reported the following:

“Pompeo is now scheduled to arrive in Kyiv on Jan. 3, according to two U.S. officials and one Ukrainian official. Two other individuals familiar with his visit to Ukraine said the secretary wanted to visit the country after Taylor’s departure.[…] In conversation with department aides about planning a trip to Ukraine, Pompeo said he wanted to avoid the embassy altogether and would hold meetings in his hotel, according to two individuals with knowledge of those conversations.”

Holyswagger macaroni! That’s one leaky ship!
So no photo-op with the diplomats’ children at Embassy Kyiv for Miles With Mike? Or is Mike going to show up on Sikorsky Street and say BOO! to all creatures large and small for the new year? Stay tuned!
All righty. All righty. But hey, serious question. If true that the secretary did not want to be photographed with Ambassador Taylor, what are they going to do with the Embassy’s Counselor for Political Affairs David Holmes? Hide him in the vault? PM, please, or we would not get any sleep at all!

Confirmations: Biegun as Deputy Secretary, 11 Ambassadors, 3 Foreign Service Lists

 

On Thursday, December 19, the U.S. Senate adjourned for the 116th Congress, First Session. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate will reconvene for the 116th Congress, 2nd Session, at 12:00 pm on Friday, January 3rd, 2020.
Prior to leaving town, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Stephen Biegun as the State Department’s Deputy Secretary. It also confirmed the nomination of 11 ambassadors, one USAID Assistant Administrator, and three Foreign Service lists.
STATE DEPARTMENT
PN1266 Confirmed, 90-3: Executive Calendar #550 Stephen E. Biegun to be Deputy Secretary of State

PN834 Executive Calendar #521 Kelley Eckels Currie to be Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues
PN617 Executive Calendar #519 Morse H. Tan to be Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice

 

AMBASSADORS
PN1047 Executive Calendar #529 Peter M. Haymond, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic
PN1046 Executive Calendar #528 Kelly C. Degnan, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to Georgia
PN1038 Executive Calendar #527 Alina L. Romanowski, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the State of Kuwait
PN1036 Executive Calendar #526 Robert S. Gilchrist, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Republic of Lithuania
PN965 Executive Calendar #524 Carmen G. Cantor, of Puerto Rico, a Career Member of the Senior Executive Service, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Federated States of Micronesia
PN902 Executive Calendar #523 Yuri Kim, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Republic of Albania
PN891 Executive Calendar #522 Leslie Meredith Tsou, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Sultanate of Oman
PN703 Executive Calendar #520 Roxanne Cabral a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Republic of the Marshall Islands
PN121 Executive Calendar #518 David T. Fischer to be Ambassador of the U.S. to the Kingdom of Morocco
USAID
PN614 Executive Calendar #411 Michelle A. Bekkering to be an Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.
FOREIGN SERVICE LISTS
2019-12-02 PN1318 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Shon Stephen Belcher, and ending David Mango, which 41 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on December 2, 2019.
2019-12-02 PN1319 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Kara Miriam Abramson, and ending Megan Elizabeth Zurowski, which 154 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on December 2, 2019.
2019-12-02 PN1321 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Jenny U. Abamu, and ending Hamda A. Yusuf, which 119 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on December 2, 2019.

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