Travels With the Pompeos and the Espers: Who Invited the Spouses?

 

Ukraine: US Embassy Kyiv Spouse Micala Siler Killed While Jogging

Obituary: Micala “Mikey” Christie-Hicks Siler (December 19, 1978 – September 30, 2020)

Remember When an Ex-Army Captain/SecState Displaced a General/Flag Officer For Military Housing?

Via Politico

In his early months on the job, Mike Pompeo sought an unusual perk for a secretary of State: permission to rent a Washington, D.C.-area house that was controlled by the U.S. military.

Pompeo and his aides initially tried to arrange for the chief U.S. diplomat and his family to live close to the State Department in the Potomac Hill campus, where the Navy maintained some homes. But ultimately the Pompeos moved into U.S. Army housing at the Fort Myer base in Virginia, according to people familiar with the issue.

Along the way, the request set off legal and logistical alarms, raising questions about whether Pompeo is eligible for any sort of military housing.

According to a memo obtained by the watchdog group American Oversight and shared this week with POLITICO, a top Navy lawyer warned that the Pompeos’ initial request for housing was “problematic” and raised “factual, legal, fiscal and ethical” issues, not the least of which was whether he’d be displacing military officers already in line for the limited housing.

[…]

The memo even questioned whether State Department officials should be trying to secure housing for the secretary of State seeing as it’s arguably not their job. The department could be violating the “Antideficiency Act” by devoting time and resources to the issue, the memo warned.

“Given that obtaining and paying for housing is a personal responsibility of civilian employees of the Government, [Department of State] Office of Counsel may need to consider whether the agency has been authorized by law and provided appropriations by Congress to expend time and agency resources to locate and secure personal housing for the Secretary of State,” the Navy memo states.

Excerpt from memo discussing Ethical Considerations:

(1) Use of Government Resources.

DOS Office of Counsel will need to determine whether the effort to obtain GFOQ housing for the Secretary of State constitutes an official agency act within the scope of their authority and funding, or whether the search for housing is more properly characterized as a personal matter of the Secretary. Subject to this determination, the Office of Counsel will then be able to determine, based upon their agency’s rules of ethics, together with the U.S. Government Standards of Ethical Conduct For Employees of the Executive Branch, 5 C.F.R. § 2635.702 & 705, whether it is proper to permit the use of employee time and agency resources to locate and obtain housing for the Secretary of State.

(2) Appearance of Impropriety.

The DOS Office of Counsel will require an opportunity to consider to what extent there might be a negative public perception relating to a civilian Secretary of State displacing a uniformed member of the military in a tight housing market. In accordance with CNICINST 11103.3B, Enclosure 3, Paragraph 5, Flag Officers are referred to Privatized GFOQs within each Navy Region. As mentioned earlier, there is a housing waiting list of Navy Flag personnel. DOS Office of Counsel may wish to consider whether placing the Secretary of State in Navy Flag quarters, while actual Navy Flag Officers—who are unquestionably entitled to such housing—continue to wait for assigned quarters, would raise the specter of the appearance of impropriety proscribed by the Standards of Ethical Conduct, 5 C.F.R. § 2635.101(b)(14).

So the Pompeos have occupied this military housing for a while now, and yet, their rental, which State Department folks say is “fair market value” for the residence still does not include a dollar amount?
The report also says that State Department spokespersons “defended Pompeo’s current arrangement by saying it made sense security-wise as well as financially, and that the department’s lawyers had fully vetted the topic.”
Are these the same legal folks who signed off on the nonemergency weapons sale to Saudi Arabia and UAE as emergencies? Or these folks: @StateDept Skirts Thresholds in Arms Transfers to Saudi Arabia and UAE, Avoids Congressional Notifications?

Who Knew What When: Reports on Russian Bounties on U.S. Troops in Afghanistan #SpeakUp

 

@StateDept’s Pompeo Muscle Desperately Throws Kitchen Sink at Ousted IG Steve Linick

Since the U.S. Senate majority doesn’t take anything seriously these days, State/OIG Steve Linick will officially be terminated on June 15, 30 days after Trump sent his congressional notification. And yet, on June 8th, the Undersecretary for Management Brian Bulatao fired two letters – one to Linick’s lawyers, and another to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency ( CIGIE) asking for an investigation into the conduct of the soon to be former inspector general. As a CNN reporter pointed out, the State Department could have requested the CIGIE investigation at any point before Pompeo asked Trump to fire Linick. It did not. The State Department is asking for it now, the week that Linick officially leaves his job.
Why?
It looks like the State Department is throwing the kitchen sink full of dirty dishes at IG Linick, hoping one of those dirty dishes would hit him on his way out. We’re just waiting for one of these champions of diplomacy to turn around and say from the podium, “see, that dirt on his shirt? That’s the reason no one should pay attention to whatever he was investigating before he was fired.”
Apparently, faulting Linick for not promoting Pompeo’s professional ethos statement did not quite do the trick. So the 7th floor folks, they’re hoping this one would work, ey? Has somebody there already created a PowerPoint presentation on “How to be an Agile  Champion of Diplomacy Watchdog and Just Cover Your Eyes?”
We’d like to see that, please.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate yawns and scratches its bum. During his tenure as State Department watchdog, Linick has probably alienated enough Democrats in Congress during the email mess, and alienated enough Republicans in Congress during the Ukraine mess. So, that’s that.
Unfortunately, in the constant breaking news cycle we are currently living, the world will move on in short order. Media folks will report on other outrages, big and small that occurs on a daily basis.  Our country’s march towards a full blown banana republic continue. Still. We won’t forget that Mr. Linick was fired for doing his job. We’d take his word over any character from this 7th Floor of the Foggiest Bottom.

The Bulatao- CIGIE letter is here: https://www.scribd.com/document/465038049/CIGIELetter-June82020

The Bulatao-Linick’s lawyer letter is here: https://www.scribd.com/document/465025243/Bulatao-Linick

US-Taliban Inks Deal, Afghanistan Bolts Over Prisoners Release, Taliban Attacks Resume #72Hours

 

 

NOTE: Right hand photo below is posted on state.gov’s Flickr account here but Taliban negotiator Stanikzai was not identified. Caption only says “Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo participates in a signing ceremony in Doha, Qatar, on February 29, 2020. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]”.

 

The Philippines Sends USG Notice of Military-Pact Termination #VFA #180days

 

Via Rappler (Philippines):

On Monday night, February 10, Duterte launched a fresh round of verbal tirades against the US saying while top officials, including President Donald Trump, were trying to salvage the VFA, he was bent on having it terminated. (EXPLAINER: Visiting Forces Agreement)

Duterte first broached his plan to terminate the VFA on January 23, after the US canceled the visa of Senator Ronald dela Rosa. Dela Rosa is Duterte’s first Philippine National Police chief known as the architect behind the government’s bloody anti-drug campaign.

The President later said he was serious about his decision, adding his choice to do so was anchored on US lawmakers’ moves to impose travel and financial restrictions on Philippine officials linked to the detention of opposition Senator Leila de Lima and alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs) under the Duterte administration. (READ: Why the Global Magnitsky Act matters to the Philippines)

 

Trump Ousts Impeachment Witnesses, Amb. Gordon Sondland, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, Plus Brother Yevgeny Vindman

 

@StateDept Evacuation Flights From China Heads to Military Bases in CA, CO, TX For 14-Day Quarantine

 

The State Department issued a health alert on February 4 indicating that it “may be staging additional evacuation flights with capacity for private U.S. citizens on a reimbursable basis, leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on February 6, 2020. The alert notes that evacuees from Hubei Province will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine.

“In accordance with the Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus, beginning at 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Sunday, February 2, the United States government will implement temporary measures to increase our abilities to detect and contain the coronavirus proactively and aggressively.  Any U.S. citizen returning to the United States who has been in Hubei Province in the previous 14 days will be subject to up to 14 days of mandatory quarantine to ensure they are provided proper medical care and health screening.” 

Military bases in California, Colorado and Texas are currently preparing to accommodate up to 1,000 people who will be quarantined upon arrival. U.S. Northern Command announced that it is expecting 350 inbound passengers in the “initial flights” destined for Travis Air Force Base and Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, both in California.
Also see Proclamation on Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Nonimmigrants of Persons who Pose a Risk of Transmitting 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

 

Was it the Mustache or the $5Billion Demand For U.S. Military Forces #furloughwarning

 

Ambassador Harry Harris was originally nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to Australia in February 2018. The nomination was withdrawn by May 2018 and he was nominated to be the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea the same month. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on June 28, 2018  by voice vote. He arrived in Seoul in July that year, and made his first public appearance on July 7, 2018.
As far as we could tell, he’s been sporting that mustache since he arrived in Seoul almost two years ago.  We did not hear about the mustache in 2018, so it has to be more than the mustache when the bad press started in the later part of 2019. If he was pestering the host country to pay up for the cost of U.S. troops in the country, that could do it. He’s not a career diplomat but he was a career military official. That means whatever he’s doing is blessed by his chain of command in Foggy Bottom. Or by the guy talking loudly on Twitter.
So apparently, the United States originally demanded $5 billion in payment for U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. Now it’s down to slightly under a billion or else. Bloomberg is reporting that the USG will send furlough notices within weeks to the base workers if no deal is made.

U.S. officials have indicated they’ve backed off Trump’s initial demand that President Moon Jae-in’s administration pay about $5 billion a year for U.S. forces stationed there, more than five times the $900 million in a stopgap one-year agreement that expired on Dec. 31.[…]U.S. officials say they are required to give those workers 60 days’ advance notice that their pay might be cut off because the last of the funds under the previous deal is running out.

Watch out. This is the same Administration which shut down the Federal Government for 35 days from December 22, 2018 until January 25, 2019 making it the record holder of the longest U.S. government shutdown in history.