Secretary Pompeo Issues a Statement on SOTU #ButWhosFirst?

Big mystery.

On February 5, 2019 10:32 pm, the State Department’s Press Office released  an official statement from the 70th Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “On President Trump’s State of the Union Address”:

In his first two years, President Trump has strengthened America at home and abroad by putting the interests of the American people first and reasserting American leadership around the world. History will remember this period not only for what America has achieved on its own, but for the partnerships we have built with strong, sovereign, and independent nations and the contributions we have inspired from our partners. From making historic progress with North Korea, to confronting the regime in Iran, to supporting the Venezuelan people against tyranny, and more, President Trump’s diplomatic agenda has made America safer, more respected, and more prosperous.

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“History will remember this period …for the partnerships…” kind of does not really work when … what’s that? Recent bureau departures are attributed  to fears  that Trump will pull us out of NATO? Pardon me? Top ranking folks really did not want to be associated with that? But … but.. he said history …. okay, never mind.

Anyway, we had a hard time recalling any secretary of state releasing an official statement on the SOTU. Except it turned out, T-Rex also did a statement when Trump delivered his first SOTU on February 28, 2017.  On March 1, Tillerson released a 100-word statement.

Trump delivered his second SOTU on January 30, 2018. Then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not appear to release any statement prior to the SOTU but delivered a Remarks at the High-Level Opening Session of the Inaugural U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue on the same day.

By the way, former Secretary of State John Kerry did not issue statements on President Obama’s SOTUs. We’ve looked.

So we should note that while Pompeo maybe one of the firsts to be out with the statement, he got some company (see DHS Secretary Nielsen’s statement, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s statement , Labor Secretary Acosta’s statement, Agriculture Secretary Perdue’s statement, and who knows who else?  Cabinet secretaries and public affairs people burning their late night oil to come up with these statements on the night of February 5.

But you know, folks really need to get these statement night-stamped, otherwise, how will Trump know which statement went out first or last?

It’s probably worth mentioning that Energy Secretary Perry released his state of the union statement on February 6!  February 6. He was the “designated survivor” and he is a day late with his statement?! That’s unforgivable. Yeah, so no cookies for him or his his PA people.

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John Kerry: Every Day Is Extra (Book Preview)

Via Amazon:

John Kerry tells the story of his remarkable American life—from son of a diplomat to decorated Vietnam veteran, five-term United States senator, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and Secretary of State for four years—a revealing memoir by a witness to some of the most important events of our recent history.

Every Day Is Extra is John Kerry’s candid personal story. A Yale graduate, Kerry enlisted in the US Navy in 1966, and served in Vietnam. He returned home highly decorated but disillusioned, and testified powerfully before Congress as a young veteran opposed to the war.

Kerry served as a prosecutor in Massachusetts, then as lieutenant governor, and was elected to the Senate in 1984, eventually serving five terms. In 2004 he was the Democratic presidential nominee and came within one state—Ohio—of winning. Kerry returned to the Senate, chaired the important Foreign Relations Committee, and succeeded Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State in 2013. In that position he tried to find peace in the Middle East; dealt with the Syrian civil war while combatting ISIS; and negotiated the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement.

Every Day Is Extra is Kerry’s passionate, insightful, sometimes funny, always moving account of his life. Kerry tells wonderful stories about colleagues Ted Kennedy and John McCain, as well as President Obama and other major figures. He writes movingly of recovering his faith while in the Senate, and deplores the hyper-partisanship that has infected Washington.

Few books convey as convincingly as this one the life of public service like that which John Kerry has lived for fifty years. Every Day Is Extra shows Kerry for the dedicated, witty, and authentic man that he is, and provides forceful testimony for the importance of diplomacy and American leadership to address the increasingly complex challenges of a more globalized world.

 

WH Dobby Devin Nunes Eyes @StateDept For Phase II of His Passion Project

Posted: 3:15 am ET

 

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Tom Shannon’s ‘Dear Friends and Colleagues’ Note Announcing His Foreign Service Retirement

Posted: 1:12 am ET

 

Congress first authorized the position of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs in the Department of State Organization Act of July 30, 1959. Under Secretary Tom Shannon is the 22nd incumbent to the third highest ranking position in Foggy Bottom since 1959. He is only the 16th career diplomat to be appointed as “P”.  He was nominated by President Obama in September 2015 but he did not get confirmed until February 2016. He officially signed his appointment and assumed post in April 2016, so he’s barely two years on the job. We understand that he recently turned 60 years old and wants to set a new direction in his life but we should also note that he is five years short of the mandatory Foreign Service retirement age inscribed in the Foreign Service Act of 1980.

Signed “Warm Regards, Tom Shannon,” the following is the text of the note addressed to friends and colleagues sent by the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs announcing his retirement from the Foreign Service and the State Department:

Yesterday I spoke with the Secretary and informed him of my decision to retire from the United States Foreign Service and the Department of State.  After more than 34 years of service to our great Republic, I have decided that it is time to step aside.  I do so confident in the next generation of Foreign Service leadership, and proud of what we have accomplished across four decades of American diplomacy.

My decision is personal, and driven by a desire to attend to my family, take stock of my life, and set a new direction for my remaining years.

The Secretary has asked me to stay on until my successor is named, and to ensure a smooth transition to the new Under Secretary for Political Affairs.  I have agreed to do so.

I want to express my profound gratitude to the Secretary and the President for the privilege of serving at the highest levels of the Department during this past year.  I have had the honor of serving under six presidents and ten secretaries of state.  All have been extraordinary public servants and great Americans.  As with each of you, my service has been defined by our oath of office and the commitment we make to protect and defend our Constitution, our institutions, and our values.  Underlying this commitment is our deep respect for the will of the American people and a determination to advance the interests and well-being of our nation by ensuring the success of our elected governments.  The sense of duty and obligation that this implies, and the discipline it imparts, has allowed the Department of State and its officers to serve successfully since the earliest days of our Republic.

One of the greatest honors I have been afforded during my career is the opportunity to have worked with all of you.  I am deeply grateful for your friendship and solidarity, and I have been humbled by your generosity of spirit, your courage in confronting the dangers and risks inherent in our profession, and your joyful embrace of a life spent far from home and hearth.

To be an American diplomat is a high calling.  I salute you all, and look forward to having the opportunity to say my farewells to you in the weeks to come.

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@StateDept Releases New Sexual Assault Guidance For COM Personnel & Facilities Outside the United States

Posted: 1:09 am ET
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We’ve written several blogposts (see below) about the lack of sexual assault guidance in the Foreign Affairs Manual, most recently in May this year (see A #SexualAssault Reporting Process Foreign Service Members Deserve: How Much Longer Secretary #Tillerson?).

On June 6, the State Department finally issued a new Foreign Affairs Manual sub-chapter 1710 SEXUAL ASSAULTS INVOLVING CHIEF OF MISSION PERSONNEL AND FACILITIES but it was not made available online. On June 20, a FAM revision was made according to the Change Transmittal to correct the subchapter title, specifying that the subchapter pertains to matters outside the United States, as well as to update a few other references. The chapter is now available online for folks to read.

https://fam.state.gov/FAM/03FAM/03FAM1710.html

You may also read it below; use the lower-right hand arrow to maximize the Cloudup page.

We’re still reading though this. We hope to have a follow-up post later. For now we want to say thank you to the FS members who shared their difficult stories with us and our readers; to former U/S Patrick Kennedy for the creation of the inter-bureau taskforce to create this subchapter; to the members of the task force who did the work on this, and Secretary Kerry then, and Secretary Tillerson now who oversees the Department and the Foreign Service.

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Sexual Assault Related posts:

 

#ThrowbackThursday: Secretary of State Hosts an #Iftar in Foggy Bottom #Ramadan

Posted: 1:24 am ET
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Via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts an Iftar to commemorate the month of Ramadan at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on July 24, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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#ThrowbackThursday: Secretary of State Addresses Reporters in Saudi Arabia

Posted: 5:35 pm PT
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Via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, joined by Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, addresses reporters following a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council member nations on January 23, 2016, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

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Diplomatic Security Agent With 17-Year Service Resigns Over Trump

Posted: 12:36 am ET
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According to Government Executive more than one in four federal workers, or 28 percent, will definitely or possibly consider leaving their jobs after Jan. 20 when Trump is sworn into office and becomes leader of the executive branch, according to a new Government Business Council/GovExec.com poll. Sixty-five percent of feds say they will not consider ending their federal service.

Fear that the Trump Administration will trample on the Constitution and damage the political and moral fabric of our nation apparently prompted one Diplomatic Security agent to resign. There are approximately 2,000 Diplomatic Security agents. The State Department estimates that security officers will have the largest number of attrition for Foreign Service Specialist from FY2016-2020.

The letter below is by Supervisory DSS Agent TJ Lunardi, a career member of the Foreign Service who until last week was posted overseas.  In a note to friends he shared his resignation letter with, Mr. Lunardi writes that he is sharing it in the hope that friends “might understand and respect” his choice, even if they “do not agree or support it”.  Further, he writes, “the letter makes clear that, for me, this is not a question of politics or party, but one of personal adherence to the values I hold most dear”.  We understand that this resignation letter was submitted to the State Department on January 19, 2017. A blog pal shared with us the letter which has been shared internally within the department.  We’ve reached out to Mr. Lunardi who confirmed his authorship and expressed no objection with the publication of the letter in this blog.  Mr. Lunardi’s resignation was effective on March 4, 2017.

The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, Northwest
Washington, District of Columbia 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

With deep regret, I must resign from my position as a Supervisory Special Agent of the Diplomatic Security Service.  I cannot in good conscience serve in the Department of State under the incoming President, a man I believe to be a threat to our constitutional order.

For the last 17 years – the entirety of my professional life – I have been proud to work for the American people as a member of the Foreign Service.  Without hesitation, I have done so under Presidents of both parties.  Whether in Baghdad or Berlin, Washington or now in Kyiv, it has been an honor to carry the Diplomatic Security badge, a symbol of the special trust and confidence reposed in me by our fellow citizens to enforce our laws and defend our country’s values and interests.  I love this Department, which has been my home, and the extraordinary men and women in it, so many of whom have become like family.

But I take nothing more seriously than my oath to support and defend the Constitution, to bear it true faith and allegiance, to well and faithfully discharge the duties of my office.  Throughout my career, these obligations have guided my every action in service of our country.  They are what compel me now to resign.

As an American, it is an article of my political faith that our Constitution binds the government and its leaders – and by extension all of us in public service – to guarantee certain unalienable rights:  freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, due process, and equal protection of the laws, among others.  In his words and his deeds, Mr. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he little understands and less respects these tenets of our civic creed.  He has threatened the independent media.  He has called for the imposition of religious tests and the commission of war crimes.  He has incited hatred and violence.  He has mocked and bullied the most vulnerable among us.  He has empowered racists and emboldened bigots.  He has made open league with a despot who seeks to harm our national interests.  He disregards and distorts the truth for no other apparent purpose than to maintain his followers in a frenzy of confusion and anger.  These are not the acts of a liberal democratic leader.  They point the way to authoritarianism, the slippery path to tyranny.

I have thus concluded that defending the Constitution and performing the duties of my office in an Executive Branch under Mr. Trump are incompatible.  An honest adherence to my oath dictates that I withhold support from such a man and from the administration he will head.  For me this is not a career choice, not something I would desire under normal circumstances.  It is among the most difficult and painful decisions of my life.  Nonetheless, it is a moral and ethical necessity in the face of someone I judge to be so clearly inimical to the values I have sworn to protect.

Some may counter that the threat posed by Mr. Trump calls for people of conscience to remain in the Department, to blunt his excesses, to resist his agenda.  This may be a legitimate course for others, but I fear I lack the capacity for such a compromise.  Tyranny encroaches when met with silence, and the graveyard of failed democracies is littered with the epitaphs of those who believed collaboration could moderate the evil of authoritarianism.  Knowing these lessons, I cannot allow tacit accommodation of Mr. Trump’s administration to make me complicit in his assault on our Republic.

It is my fervent hope I will be proven wrong, that Mr. Trump will govern wisely, lawfully, and with respect for the Constitution – all of it, and not simply the parts convenient to his purposes.  Unless and until he does, however, my place is with those who will oppose him, not those charged to carry out his policies.  My oath, my honor, and my conscience demand nothing less of me, even if my heart wishes it could be otherwise.

Traveling the world with the Foreign Service, I have been blessed with the opportunity to reflect on how the fragile nation bequeathed by our Founders has grown to become a beacon of hope and progress, a bulwark against despotism.  I am convinced it is the decency of our citizens, and their willingness to put our ideals ahead of their wants, that has made this country both great and fundamentally good.  On the battlefields of Bunker Hill and Bastogne, in the jail cells of Occoquan, on Pettus Bridge and Christopher Street – ordinary citizens have written our extraordinary story through sacrifice and an unwavering faith in our constitutional principles.

The survival of our grand experiment in democracy once again depends on such acts of courage.  And so I close with a citizen’s request to my friends and colleagues who remain in the Department:  Remember and keep always before you the belief in our shared values which inspired you to serve the American people.  Whenever you can, rise above the all-consuming daily bureaucratic scrum so that its rigors do not distract from an incremental acceptance of the morally unacceptable.  Should the decisive moment come, hear and heed the call of conscience.

Through whatever trials lie ahead, I pray Providence will preserve the people and the Constitution of the United States.

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Goodbye Benjamin F. Kerry, a/k/a @Diplomutt — We Hardly Knew Ye!

Posted: 4:40 pm PT
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In November 2013, Secretary Kerry flew to Maine to pick up his new yellow Labrador puppy, Ben from Frances Plessner of Puddleduck Boarding Kennel who spent two months training the dog. According to the Boston Globe, Ben is named in honor of Ben Franklin, also known as the “Father of the American Foreign Service.” (Also see Secretary Kerry Gets a New Dog, Now a State Dept. Dog is Tweeting, Who Needs the NSA?) Ben, whose Twitter handle says @Diplomutt has 3,131 followers but is not terribly social online. He has only tweeted four six times, and followed only six accounts, all State Department-connected.

Now, he’s off to the beach to watch the sunset. And no goodbye tweets. Sad.

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68 Delivers Farewell and Thanks to Foggy Bottom, See More Goodbyes and Parting Thoughts

Posted: 3:33 pm PT
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