@USAGMgov: Heads of MBN, Radio Free Asia, RFE/RL, and the Open Technology Fund Ousted

On June 16, the top two officials at the Voice of America resigned with the arrival of new Trump appointee Michael  Pack as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (see Top VOA Officials Resign as Michael Pack Assumes Charge as CEO of @USAGMgov).
On Wednesday evening, the news media reports the dismissal of the remaining heads of the four organizations under USAGM. OCB already has an interim director since 2018, and VOA was just vacated. For those unfamiliar with the agency, this used to be BBG prior to its “larger modernization effort”  in August 2018.

Via CNN:
The heads of four organizations overseen by the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) were all dismissed Wednesday night — a move likely to heighten concerns that new Trump-appointed CEO Michael Pack means to turn the agency into a political arm of the administration.
In what a former official described as a “Wednesday night massacre,” the heads of Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund were all ousted, multiple sources told CNN.
“They let go all of the heads of the networks. It’s unprecedented,” an agency source told CNN.
A source familiar with the situation said at least two of the removals — that of RFE/RL’s Jamie Fly and MBN’s Alberto Fernandez — were unexpected. The head of the Open Technology Fund, Libby Liu, had resigned effective July, but was still fired Wednesday evening, one of the sources said.
[…]
In addition, Jeffrey Shapiro, an ally the ultra-conservative former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, is expected to be named to lead the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.

 

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Trump Appointee, George Floyd’s Death Spark #BLM Protests, Petition in Bermuda

 

On May 27, the State Department announced the appointment of Lee Rizzuto Jr. to be the next Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Hamilton, Bermuda (see Champion of US Diplomacy Announces Political Donor to be Principal Officer at US Consulate General Bermuda).
Since the announcement, there has been two protests at the consulate, and an online petition expressing solidarity with the  Black Lives Matter movement and calling for the rejection of the Rizzuto appointment. As of this writing, the petition has over 79,000 signatures. The island noted for its sandy beaches and cerulean blue ocean waters has an estimated 2018 population of 71,176.
The Consulate closed on June 1st when the first of two protests took place in front of the consulate (Demonstration Alert – U.S. Consulate General Hamilton, Bermuda, June 1, 2020).

@StateDept Officials Reportedly Wary of Acting IG Akard Who Also Reports to Pompeo BFF Bulatao

 

On May 30, CNN tweeted that “the ousted State Inspector General Steve Linick is expected to sit down for a transcribed interview on Wednesday, June 3rd,  with lawmakers who are probing his firing earlier this month, according to two congressional aides familiar with the inquiry and scheduling.”
Steve Linick’s removal was effective in “30 days.” But Linick has since been told apparently that “he is physically barred from returning to the State Department even to collect his belongings, complicating his ability to finish his work.”
Meanwhile, over in the Foggiest Bottom, the Acting State/IG Stephen Akard (who is reportedly keeping his other day job as @OFM_Ambassador) has assumed charged of the IG office the Monday following Linick’s Friday night firing.
Politico’s Nahal Toosi  is reporting about the reactions from State Department officials, and there are all sorts of worries:
    • “State Department officials are increasingly uneasy with their new acting inspector general, fearing he has conflicts of interest that could lead him to derail ongoing investigations — including ones into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — while endangering cooperating witnesses.”
    • “Some State Department staffers fear Akard will try to rescind, or otherwise undermine, past investigations conducted by his ousted predecessor, Steve Linick.”
    • “Others worry that the presence of Akard, who also has ties to Vice President Mike Pence, will scare off employees who wish to report waste, fraud and abuse.”
    • “Meanwhile, State Department employees who were interviewed for ongoing and past investigations – often under conditions of anonymity – are worried that Akard will track down their identities and share them with Pompeo and others. They fear they will be targeted for professional retribution as a result.”
    • “Another State Department staffer predicted that colleagues will shy away from reporting future cases of wrongdoing at the department because of Akard.”
Concerns from Capitol Hill:

“There also are concerns on Capitol Hill and beyond that Akard will seek ways to undermine Linick’s past, completed investigations that may have upset Pompeo and some of his top aides.”

Now, this part of Politico’s reporting should be a red flag. If true that this was Akards defense when asked about a potential conflict of interest, this is a bad sign:

“When asked about these potential conflicts of interest, Akard has offered a “head-scratching” take, a person familiar with the situation told POLITICO. Akard has said that, in reality, Bulatao is not his supervisor, but that his actual boss is Trump, because it’s the president who technically nominated him to serve as the head of OFM.”

OFM’s Stephen Akard reports to Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao. Period.

“As the head of the Office of Foreign Missions, Akard reports to Bulatao. As the undersecretary of State for management, Bulatao also oversees several other major divisions within the State Department, such as the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

If any of those other units falls under investigation by the inspector general’s office, some State Department officials argue, Akard can’t reasonably expect to play a role in the probe because he also reports to Bulatao. Bulatao is a longtime personal friend and former business partner of Pompeo’s.

His new staff have asked him what he will do if instructed by Pompeo or others not to investigate something. His response was that unless there was a very good reason, he would say that such an instruction was inappropriate. Akard also has acknowledged that he may have to recuse himself from certain matters.”

What does Pompeo want? A pet in his pocket?
    • But the fact that the chief U.S. diplomat has been so public about what he views as the proper role of an inspector general worries staffers who fear Akard will internalize the message.
    • In a Thursday interview with Fox News, Pompeo indirectly made it clear what he would like to see in an inspector general when he hinted that Linick was too independent.
    • “He was acting in a way that was deeply inconsistent with what the State Department was trying to do,” Pompeo said of Linick. “We tried to get him to be part of a team that was going to help protect his own officers from Covid-19; he refused to be an active participant. He was investigating policies he simply didn’t like. That’s not the role of an inspector general … This was about an IG who was attempting to undermine the mission of the United States Department of State. That’s unacceptable.”
Watch Pompeo’s actions not the blah, blah, blahs!
    • “One of the political appointees singled out for criticism by Linick was Kevin Moley, the head of the bureau. Even though some of Pompeo’s top aides acknowledged many of the problems described in Linick’s report, they claimed the secretary of State had no power to fire Moley because he was a presidential appointee. Instead, Moley was allowed to quietly retire several weeks later.
    • “(The State Department has never responded to questions from POLITICO about whether Pompeo had ever asked Trump to fire Moley. He did do so for Linick, who also was a presidential appointee.)”
The fact that Pompeo asked Trump to fire Linick but offered no actions following the IG reports on staff mistreatments says something about his organizational view of Foggy Bottom. There is an in-group and an out-group in Foggy Bottom’s universe, and only the in-group really matters.
You folks notice that Pompeo is really doing a nasty number on Linick? Not just recommending to Trump that Linick be fired, but throwing rocks and mud at Linick on his way out.  It really makes one wonder what kind of issues Linick was digging up as Foggy Bottom’s junkyard dog.
Linick was fired at a carefully selected time, then reportedly barred from returning to his office even if the firing did not become official for 30 more days. Pompeo quipped that he “should have done it some time ago,”  So why was it not done some time ago?
Why did it become so urgent, they had to fire him under cover of darkness on a Friday night on May 15th?
Then they apparently barred him from returning to his office, not even affording  a dedicated public servant the courtesy of allowing him to pack up his personal things, say goodbye to his colleagues, or have an orderly transition.
Then the Acting IG, double hatted as @OFM_Ambassadorshowed up at his new office the following business day to make everyone happy.
State OIG has a Deputy IG Diana R. Shaw.  Why was she not picked as Acting IG?  Questions, so many questions. If you got answers, we’re interested in listening.

 

Who Sits in @StateDG Carol Perez’s DCM Committee?

Via Foreign Affairs Handbook
3 FAH-1 H-2425.8-3  Deputy Chiefs of Mission (DCMs) and Principal Officers (POs) Assignments (SOP C-2)
(CT:POH-131;   05-01-2008)
(State only)
(Applies to Foreign Service Employees)
a. The DG chairs a committee, known as the DCM committee that reviews and proposes candidates to serve as DCMs and POs at positions overseas.
b. The DG selects members of Department management to serve on the committee.  The committee reviews, in consultation with HR and the relevant bureaus, the eligible bidders on DCM and PO positions.  The committee then decides on a list of candidates to fill the position.
c.  The committee sends the list of DCM candidates to the COM; the COM may select from among the candidates to fill the position.  If there is no COM at post, or in some cases if the COM is to depart post before the DCM arrives, the committee sends the list of candidates to the Assistant Secretary of the relevant bureau.  The Assistant Secretary, in these cases, selects the DCM.
d. The DCM committee itself selects candidates to serve as POs.

 

Another Dual-Hatter? Marshall Billingslea Joins @StateDept as Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control

 

Marshall Billingslea was confirmed by the United States Senate to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in June 2017. As of today, five days after the WH announcement, Mr. Billingslea’s bio is still up at the Department of Treasury website. Making folks wonder if this is another of those dual-hatted appointees, with Mr. Billingslea straddling two positions at State and Treasury.
State Department statement on the appointment of Marshall Billingslea:

President Trump has appointed Marshall Billingslea as Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control.  In this role, Billingslea will lead arms control negotiations on behalf of the U.S. Government.

Mr. Billingslea most recently has been serving as Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing at the U.S. Department of Treasury since June 2017.  In that role, he has built international coalitions and led U.S. efforts to counter illicit financial activities.  In 2018 he was selected unanimously by the 37 member countries of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) — the global anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing body — to serve as its President.  Mr. Billingslea also co-chairs the global Counter-ISIS Finance Group and multiple bilateral negotiating fora with friendly and allied nations.  He has deep expertise in arms control and broad experience in foreign policy and national security, having held senior positions in the private sector, NATO, the Department of Defense and on the staff of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Billingslea holds a Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College and a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from Tufts University.

The United States remains committed to effective arms control that advances U.S., allied, and partner security; is verifiable and enforceable; and includes partners that comply responsibly with their obligations.  President Trump has charged this Administration with beginning a new chapter by seeking a new era of arms control that moves beyond the bilateral treaties of the past.  The appointment of Marshall Billingslea reaffirms the commitment to that mission.

 

Ousted WH Official Mick Mulvaney Gets a New Gig as Special Envoy to Northern Ireland

 

On March 11, 2020, the State Department released a statement on the appointment of former White House Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney as the new Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, a position first created under the Clinton Administration in 1995. Apparently, the formal title is Special Envoy of the President and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.  This is the top U.S. diplomat supporting the Northern Ireland peace process.
Mulvaney’s predecessors  include former U.S. Senator and former Majority Leader of the United States Senate George Mitchell, former S/P Richard Haass, former S/P Mitchell Reiss, former  Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs  Paula Dobriansky, and businessman Declan Kelly appointed as economic envoy to Northern Ireland by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  There were two long stretches where no one was appointed to this job; from 2011-2014 and again from 2017-2020.
The most recent appointee to this position was former Colorado Senator Gary Hart who was appointed during the Obama Administration and served from 2014-2017.  Special envoy positions do not require Senate confirmations.  Some special envoys have offices in Foggy Bottom but we have not been able to find a listing for the Office of the Special Envoy to Northern Ireland in the State Department directory. Any guesses on where they will put his desk?

Trump Installs U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell as Acting Director of National Intelligence #triplehatted

 

Report: Fringe Conspiracy Guy/Trump Official Joins @StateDept ‘One Team’ as Arms Control Senior Advisor

 

Why State/OIG Should Look Into Diplomatic Security’s Mina Chang Headache

 

NBC News did a follow up report on the Mina Change story it broke that lead to the resignation of the deputy assistant secretary of state at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. Excerpt:

To secure her job at the State Department in April, Chang leveraged social connections to senior officials who could help open the doors to the administration, including Brian Bulatao, a close friend and deputy to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; a State Department official and former defense contractor who she succeeded as deputy assistant secretary, Pete Marocco; and a congressional staffer for key GOP lawmaker Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, multiple sources said. Marocco endorsed her for the job and McCaul wrote her a recommendation letter.
[…]
By the time Rep. McCaul issued the recommendation letter, Chang’s nomination was moving ahead thanks to her own contacts in the administration, said a spokesperson for the congressman, Kaylin Minton.
[..]
Chang lists just $12,000 in income before she took the State Department job and listed no salary from her charity. According to papers from her divorce case in 2011, she was due to receive nearly $1,400 a month in child support and $500 in alimony per month for a year from her ex-husband, a real estate developer. She lived in an affluent neighborhood in Dallas in a high-end apartment building, former colleagues and acquaintances said.

The updated NBC News piece also notes that “The State Department and its Diplomatic Security Service, which helps vet appointees, did not respond to requests for comment.”
Oh, dang!
State and DSS are probably hoping that this story will just go away now that she had submitted her resignation. But there is something in this story that is troubling.  If it was this easy for her to get this position despite the now revealed holes in her resume,  how many more are there in Foggy Bottom who were hired under similar circumstances? And how exactly did Diplomatic Security “missed” um …  a few things that reporters were able to easily dig up? Is this a case of Diplomatic Security “missing” a few things or a case of the security bureau being “responsive” to the 7th Floor?
Perhaps more importantly, if it was this easy to get around these “holes” and get a deputy assistant secretary position (which typically requires years and years of experience for career appointees), just how hard could it be for foreign intel services to do the same?
Now, we’re not suggesting that Diplomatic Security investigates itself on how this individual got through its security clearance process,  or see if the bureau has systemic holes in that process. We think State/OIG or a congressional panel with oversight authority should look into it.

 

Related posts:
State/CSO DAS Mina Chang Resigns After NBC News Asked About Newly Discovered False Claims;
Dear @StateDept, How Many More Mina Changs Do You Have?

Senior Career Diplomat Matthias Mitman to be the National Security Council’s Executive Secretary

 

On October 23, the White House announced Trump’s intention to appoint senior career diplomat Matthias Mitman of Virginia, to be the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council. The WH released the following brief bio:

Mr. Mitman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, most recently served as Chief of Staff to the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.  He previously served as Principal Officer in U.S. Consulates General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; Erbil, Iraq; and Basrah, Iraq.  Mr. Mitman was also the Deputy Chief of Mission at U.S. Embassy Tegucigalpa, Honduras and Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at U.S. Embassy Moscow, Russia.  This will be his third detail to the National Security Council, having earlier served as Senior Duty Officer in the White House Situation Room and as Director for Iraq.  Before joining the Foreign Service, Mr. Mitman taught as an Assistant Professor of Economics at Ball State University.  He is a Distinguished Graduate of the National War College and earned an A.B. from Wabash College.

The most recent Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien was named this Administration’s fourth National Security Advisor in September following the departure of John Bolton (see Trump Names Hostage Envoy Robert O’Brien His Fourth National Security Advisor).