Mike Pompeo’s Kansas Run: He’s Running, He’s Not …He’s Running, He’s … He’s …

 

We don’t usually post about politics but since it’s about Secretary Pompeo, we’ll make an exception. Bloomberg is reporting that “Republican political donors have been told to hold off contributing to the 2020 U.S. Senate race in Kansas in the expectation that Secretary of State Michael Pompeo may decide to run, according to two people familiar with the matter.” 
The Kansas run was reportedly ruled out in late winter, but by mid-summer, it appeared to have been re-opened.
Bloomberg adds that “While Pompeo has been equivocal about a possible run, his actions and speeches have only fueled speculation that he’s laying the groundwork for a Senate bid — and possibly a presidential run in 2024.”

U.S. Secretary of State MIchael R. Pompeo and Mrs. Susan Pompeo wave as they depart, Brasila, Brazil, January 2, 2019. Secretary Pompeo is on travel to Brasilia, Brazil, and Cartagena, Colombia, from December 31, 2018, to January 2, 2019. [State Department photo by Ron Pryzsucha/ Public Domain]

Ballotpedia says that voters in Kansas will elect one member to the U.S. Senate in the election on November 3, 2020.  The election will fill the Class II Senate seat held by Pat Roberts (R). Roberts was first elected in 1996.  Apparently, some folks in the GOP are concerned that former Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius will run — and win — if Kobach is the GOP Senate nominee.” Yeah, that guy.
Senator Roberts was reelected in 2014 with 53.1% of the votes.  Senator Jerry Moran, the junior senator from Kansas was re-elected in 2016 with 62.2% of the votes.  Roberts has held his seat for 22 years, Moran for 8 years. So.
Basically Mr. Pompeo has two glaring choices: stay and face the possibility of firing by a tweet, by a volatile, thin-skinned president, or run for an almost sure seat with a 6-year term extending from January 3, 2021 until January 3, 2027.  If elected to the U.S. Senate, could he run for president in 2024?  Well, he could. We don’t know if he’d win but sixteen senators went on to become presidents. Four of them served just three years in the U.S. Senate before running for president: Obama, Barack (2005-2008); Nixon, Richard M. (1950-1953); Harrison, William Henry 1825-1828; and Jackson, Andrew  1797-1798; 1823-1825. Senate.gov says that G. Harding, John F. Kennedy, and Barack Obama moved directly from the U.S. Senate to the White House.
On the other hand, only six secretaries of state went on to become presidents (Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Adams, Van Buren, Buchanan).  The last one elected president was sooo long ago, the 17th Secretary of State  James Buchanan. He served at the State Department from 1845–1849 and eight years later became the 15th President of the United States and served one term from 1857 – 1861. So.
The candidate filing deadline is June 1, 2020 with the primary election scheduled for August 4, 2020. Let us know when he’s make up his mind, will ya?

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@StateDept Policy Planning’s Kiron Skinner Reportedly Out Over “Abusive” Management Style

 

In late June, Bloomberg reported on the impending resignation of Chief of Protocol  Sean Lawler over allegations of discrimination and harassment. Bloomberg said that he was pulled off AF1 manifest after his staff complained of intimidating behavior, including reportedly, carrying a horsewhip in the office. (see @StateDept’s Protocol Chief Sean Lawler to Quit Before G-20 Summit #horsewhip #wherearethehorses).
Also in June, we posted U.S. Embassy Gabon: State/OIG’s Ode to All Things Dreadful in a Small Post. In that case, the embassy’s top two officials departed post prior to the release of a State/OIG inspection report.
On August 2nd, Politico reported that Kiron Skinner, the head of Policy Planning at the State Department has been “fired over ‘abusive’ management style.” Just a year ago, Secretary Pompeo described Dr. Skinner as “a national security powerhouse” and “a one-woman, strategic thinking tour de force” in a statement to The Wall Street Journal. “I’m confident that she will enhance our influence overseas, protect the American people, and promote our prosperity,” he said.  Politico said it learned of the firing from a Trump administration official. A senior State Department official reportedly confirmed the firing to Politico, saying that several members of Skinner’s staff had threatened to quit if she wasn’t removed.
In July, Secretary Pompeo appointed Skinner as head of the executive secretariat of the controversial Commission on Unalienable Rights.
On August 11, Newsmax, the conservative website has a piece on Skinner that includes her denials, and multiple quotes from friends and allies. She will reportedly return to teaching at Carnegie Mellon University and will also rejoin as a Fellow at the Hoover Institution
According to the state.gov website, S/P members include 22 staffers and two staff writers. As of this writing, Skinner is still listed as director of S/P. The State Department’s telephone directory (though not always current) also has a different version of the office’s composition as of August 9, 2019.

 

Report: @StateDept Puts On Leave Staffer Who Allegedly Oversees Local Chapter of a White Nationalist Group

 

 

On August 7, the Southern Poverty Law Center‘s Hatewatch program linked a staffer at the Bureau of Energy Resources (State/ENR) to a white nationalist organization in the Washington, D.C. area.  Hatewatch alleged in its report that this individual “oversaw the Washington, D.C.-area chapter of a white nationalist organization, hosted white nationalists at his home and published white nationalist propaganda online.”
We asked the State Department for a comment beyond what was already reported (that the agency is an “inclusive organization”). An agency spokesperson did confirm that this individual is employed by the agency as a foreign affairs officer assigned to the Bureau of Energy Resources. The Department further stated that it cannot comment on personnel issues but “is committed to providing an inclusive workplace.”
Reports indicate that the individual is a “foreign affairs officer“, a Civil Service position in the 0130 Foreign Affairs series. These positions are typically located in the DC area, and though may involved occasional travel, it is not a rotational position. Incumbents to these positions are normally required to “obtain and maintain a Top Secret security clearance” among other federal service requirements.
Barely 24 hours after the Hatewatch report broke, Politico, citing “two sources familiar with the situation” reported that the State Department has put the employee on leave following reports that “he has been an active member of a white supremacist group for more than five years.”
We’re waiting to see what the State Department will do with this case following the reported leave.  A 2017 article on federal employees’ rights notes that “At a minimum, before taking an adverse action like termination, an agency must issue a notice to the employee identifying the charge(s) against them. The employee has the right to see the evidence against them and the right to reply to the charge(s), as well as the right to have counsel represent them.”
Unlike political appointees who can be fired at anytime, career federal employees are generally afforded workplace protection. Recent media reports also show the fallout from recent high profile terminations. In one case, former Special Agent Peter Strzok firing resulted in a complaint alleging violations of Strzok’s First Amendment and due process rights, as well as a violation of the Privacy Act concerning the release of the text messages. Similarly, on August 8, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe also filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia over his demotion and dismissal from the FBI. The complaint alleges that the Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray’s actions violated both McCabe’s First Amendment and due process rights.  See the common thread there? We expect both court cases will be lengthy and instructive.
As an aside, Mick “it’s nearly impossible to fire a federal worker” Mulvaney has a grand new idea on how to get rid of federal employees; which should give people some pause whether they’re with Agriculture or anywhere else in the federal government.

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Consular Affairs Asst Secretary Carl Risch Visits A$AP Rocky in Sweden, Who Else Wanna Visit?

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Update: ASAP Rocky and Co-Defendants Allowed to Leave Sweden While Awaiting Verdict (set for August 14).
Sweden’a national public television broadcaster SVT reported on July 19 that the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Carl Risch was in country to meet with A$AP Rocky and the other two detained US citizens.  He reportedly also meet staff from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Also see U.S. Sends Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien to A$AP Rocky’s Assault Trial in Sweden).

The report cites a statement from Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying that “Risch will, among other things, meet with representatives of the Foreign Office’s consular unit and the Justice Department, as well as in the role of consular officer in attendance at one of the US embassy’s previously scheduled visits to the three detained US citizens.” (via online translation).
The Foreign Ministry further writes according to SVT that “The US embassy has confirmed that the conditions in the Swedish detention comply with both the Vienna Convention and the international standard.” This in reference to a report by TMZ that A$AP was being held in “shockingly inhumane condition”.
A$AP Rocky was arrested in Sweden on July 3. The State Department previously announced on July 17 that CA’s Assistant Secretary Risch was traveling to Sweden from July 18-20 apparently to “observe U.S. consular operations and meet with foreign government counterparts to underscore the enduring commitment to the safety and welfare of U.S. citizens overseas and the facilitation of legitimate travel to the United States.”
The State Department’s own 2018 Country Report on Human Rights Practices on Sweden  under Prison and Detention Center Conditions notes:
There were no significant reports regarding prison, detention center, or migrant detention facility conditions that raised human rights concerns.
Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse.
Administration: Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent, nongovernmental observers, including the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).
In any case, the top gun at Consular Affairs already visited A$AP Rocky on July 19th. (Prior to Asst Secretary Risch’s visit, do you know when was the last time the assistant secretary of Consular Affairs made a prison visit overseas?).
When @StateSPEHA Robert O’Brien (the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs)  showed up in the Swedish courtroom on July 30 along with journalists, teenage rap fans and curious onlookers, the highest official in charge of Consular Affairs appeared to have already seen the three detained Americans.   One specific embassy official also has a clear role and reporting duties in the arrest and detention of American citizens. We would be surprised if U.S. Embassy Sweden’s Charge d’affaires ad interim Pamela Tremont, or post’s Consular Chief have not already visited the detainees.
Since neither the Consular Affairs Assistant Secretary nor the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs could sprung A$AP Rocky from jail, how useful are their presence in Sweden beyond appearances that they are doing something to get these individuals released?
Do we have senior officials actually thinking through the potential consequences of these actions — with senior officials descending into Sweden, and presidential tweets pressuring for the release of those in detention, plus the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs tweeting about “expedited paperworks “?
Does anyone enjoy the appearance of giving in because of some very public arm-twisting? No?
It may interest you to know that Sweden is also the “protecting power” for the United States in North Korea and has been so since September 1995. These folks know hostages. Do you think Sweden appreciates the United States decision to send a Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs to a non-hostage situation there? Even if this case were to get resolved next week, do you think the Swedes will simply forget this?

U.S. Sends Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien to A$AP Rocky’s Assault Trial in Sweden

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According to the State Department, when an American is arrested or detained abroad, the State Department—through its Embassies and Consulates—ensures that U.S. consular officers are there to assist. They help see that Americans are treated humanely and in accordance with local law, are given the opportunity for a lawyer, and can correspond with family back home.
Per its Foreign Affairs Manual, the Department expects consular officers to be “particularly active in, and to fully engage in” the protection of the welfare of the arrestee; ensure that the arrestee is being treated fairly and is afforded all due process under local law, provide needed consular services such as EMDA or administer a trust fund in a timely and efficient manner; track the process of the case through the host country’s legal system; and to keep the Department, family members, congressional representatives and others full informed on all aspects of the case, consistent with Privacy Act.

 

Consular assistance to Americans arrested or detained overseas includes the following:
State Department/U.S. Embassies Can:
  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen (with their written permission)
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate
  • Ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
  • Upon request, ensure that prison officials permit visits with a member of the clergy of the religion of the detainee’s choice
  • Establish an OCS Trust, if necessary, so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens
State Department, U.S. Embassies Cannot:
  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees
Reports note that POTUS sent the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien to Sweden for the A$AP Rocky trial.  “The president asked me to come here and support these American citizens,” O’Brien told the New York Times. “I’ll be here until they come home.” (via). How often is he going to do this for other American citizens?
Nowhere in the Foreign Affairs Manual is there any mention of the role the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs play in cases of U.S. citizens incarcerated abroad or while they are on trial. In most of the normal world, it is understood that American citizens are subject to the local laws and regulations while visiting or living in the particular countries they are in. In this particular case, Time says that “Sweden does not have a bail system, which is why the rapper was detained with no way to get out even before he was formally charged.” Also see our old post below about the non-portability of American rights.

Non-Portability of American Rights

In any case, we don’t understand why the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs is involved with this case.  Does the U.S. Government considers A$AP Rocky on trial for assault in Sweden, a hostage? Are we to understand that Americans incarcerated and detained overseas are now considered hostages to bring back as soon as possible? And if that’s not the case, and if this is an exception, what are the grounds for the Trump Administration to make this type of exception?
Is the Special Envoy’s role now includes affecting the release of all American citizens from foreign incarceration/detention?
How does a regular American citizen’s family petition for the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs to be involved in their cases overseas?
Any guidance sent to consular officers doing ACS work? When is the State Department updating the Foreign Affairs Manual?
Also the next time U.S. diplomats overseas talk to their local counterparts about judicial independence and the rule of law, should they expect a push back with this case as Exhibit A?

 

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“UberEats With Guns”, Susan Pompeo, and Don’t Forget Sherman

 

The week that we left for a break, CNN reported on July 1st about a State Department whistleblower talking to congressional investigators and raising “multiple issues over a period of months, about special agents being asked to carry out some questionable tasks for the Pompeo family.”
Some of the reported allegations?
“An agent was asked to pick up Chinese food—without Pompeo in the car. The whistleblower said this led agents to complain that they are now serving as “UberEats with guns,” which has created a buzz within the department, according to multiple Democratic congressional aides who cited the whistleblower.”
[…]
“CNN has seen a document given to the committee aides by the whistleblower showing that in January, Diplomatic Security was asked by a person in Pompeo’s office to pick up his adult son [Nicholas] from Union Station in Washington and bring him to the family home.”
[…]
“On another occasion, the whistleblower told aides, a Diplomatic Security special agent was given the job of picking up the Pompeo family dog from a groomer.”
That would be this cute dog, Sherman Pompeo, previously introduced at the Extra Exclusive by belovedly despised former WH spox, Sean Spicy:

 

Pompeo’s Special Agent in Charge gave a statement, that is, a Diplomatic Security agent (them who are typically tight-lipped) gave a statement about his protectee/protectees without getting into the details of the allegations reported by CNN:
Lon Fairchild, the special agent in Charge of the Diplomatic Security Service, did not deny that the specific trips, such as the dog or the takeout food, were carried out by agents, but said in a statement, “I was head of Secretary Pompeo’s security detail since his first day on the job. At no point during my service did he or any member of his family ask me or any member of my team to act in any way that would be inconsistent with our professional obligation to protect the Secretary 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.”
And then there’s “Shocker”:
Furthermore, the whistleblower told aides that shortly after Susan Pompeo received her personal security detail, in July 2018 [Note: Pompeo assumed office at State on April 26, 2018], agents were verbally told not to use her callsign—which is “Shocker”—over the radios or publicly. The reason, according to one aide, citing the whistleblower, was that “they knew it wasn’t kosher.”
CNN has viewed an email from within the State Department confirming that she has an agent assigned to her, along with her callsign.
And more “Shocker”:
The aides said another whistleblower has come forward, who worked on the State Department’s executive seventh floor where the secretary of state and top aides are based—telling them that employees there have been told not to put information concerning Susan Pompeo into official emails, so that it would not be preserved in required recordkeeping.
[…]
The role Susan Pompeo has played within the State Department and when the secretary travels is another area of concern to congressional aides, Diplomatic Security officers and multiple sources within the State Department and the CIA, which Pompeo previously led. Several sources told CNN when Susan Pompeo accompanies the secretary on certain trips she has not only had a dedicated special agent to tend to her, but also a State Department staffer. They said that ahead of a recent trip to Kansas, during which she accompanied her husband, she had at times chaired meetings on trip logistics at the State Department, which raised eyebrows, including of senior State officials. One person familiar with the situation called it “the worst kept secret at State,” telling CNN. ”
[…]
[Secretary Pompeo] takes her on … trips, has separate meetings, requiring control officers, motor pool assets, security, and time. It was especially brazen during the shutdown when people were actually called into the embassy while furloughed. Just one more thing killing morale at the department.”
The Assistant Secretary  for Diplomatic Security, Michael Evanoff also issued a statement:
Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Michael Evanoff said, “The Diplomatic Security Service has been protecting the spouse of the Secretary of State since the 1970s as the security threat dictates. We are a federal law enforcement agency, and this is an integral part of our core mission. Today the security threats against Secretary Pompeo and his family are unfortunately very real. The Diplomatic Security Service is proud to protect the Pompeo family from those who would harm the Secretary of State and the United States.”
The question now is who did not issue a statement of support?
We imagine Sherman Pompeo’s statement to CNN would be like this:

At no point during my service did I act in any way that would be inconsistent with my professional obligation to be the best, well groomed dog for Secretary Pompeo and his family 24-hours a day, 7-days a week.

More on CNN:
The former senior Diplomatic Security official who asked not to be identified said that such a full-time detail for a spouse is unusual and would only be assigned once a formal process was followed, assessing the need for such security. They said that the risk investigation would be performed by Diplomatic Security’s Protective Intelligence and Investigations Division, in the Office of Threat and Intelligence Analysis. The former official told CNN this protocol has existed within Diplomatic Security for decades. And that in this person’s lengthy tenure at Diplomatic Security, no spouse was ever given a security detail for more than a short, specific period of time.
Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Wayne Tillerson (2017-2018) limited the number of press seats on his plane purportedly in his commitment to a smaller footprint. As far as we are aware, his wife was never on any of his trips.
John Kerry (2013-2017)  almost never traveled with his wife (we could find only one instance when Teresa Heinz went on a trip with JK).
Hillary Rodham Clinton (2009-2013) – her spouse, Bill already had his own security detail as ex-POTUS).
Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009) did not have a spouse.
Colin Luther Powell (2001-2005) – we don’t recall Alma Powell prominently traveling around the globe with her husband during his tenure as Secretary of State.  It should be interesting to learn if the spouse of the 65th secretary of state (in office during the Iraq War) had her own security detail when Secretary Powell served from January 2001 – January 2005.  Secretary Powell, after all, was a retired four-star general in the United States Army, a former National Security Advisor (1987–1989), ex-Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and ex-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993) during Persian Gulf War prior to his appointment to Foggy Bottom.
On July 6th, the Washington Times also just so happened to come out with a Susan Pompeo interview about her “mission.”
Uh-oh. But that interview should have been timed to appear at the end of June, before “Shocker” and Sherman made the news.  Public Affairs people, we’re utterly disappointed; haven’t you learned anything?
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Trump Announces Sanctions Against Ayatollah Khomeini, One Very Dead Man From Long, Long Ago

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On June 24, the White House announced the Executive Order on Imposing Sanctions with Respect to Iran. Here is POTUS making the official announcement.

DOJ’s Sarah Fabian Makes Outrageous Argument USG Isn’t Required to Provide Toothpaste, Soap, or Beds For Detained Children

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Update: Justice Department career lawyer defends herself after viral video on child migrant treatment

@StateDept Calls on Iran to Abide by JCPOA Commitments, an Agreement the U.S. Is No Longer a Party #NotTheOnion

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Apparently, the Iranians recently announced that they are ramping up enrichment of low-grade uranium and that Iran will pass the limit it is allowed to stockpile under the nuclear deal in 10 days.  Media reports also say that after exceeding the limit, Iran will accelerate uranium enrichment to 3.7%, above the 3.67% mandated by the JCPOA nuclear deal.

At the State Department daily press briefing, the official spokesperson called on the Iranians “not to obtain a nuclear weapon and to abide by the commitments that they’ve made to the international community.”  Just to be clear, this is the deal that the United States withdrew from in May 2018, so the U.S. is no longer a party to this agreement.

Basically, the United States is telling Iran that it is stuck in a bad marriage but it is still expected to keep its vows, while the United States, which divorced itself from this same bad marriage calling it “was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions” ever, paints town red, coz see, divorced already.  We hope no one accidentally runs over the cat in the driveway but we are not sleeping well these days.

slow walk to war again

Via the State Department Press Briefing, June 17, 2019:

QUESTION: Okay. I just want to focus on the nuclear deal, the JCPOA —

MS ORTAGUS: Sure, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and nothing else.

MS ORTAGUS: Okay.

QUESTION: Just that. Not taking hostages, not malign activity, not things that are not covered in the JCPOA. Does the administration believe there is value in Iran staying – continuing to comply with the JCPOA, which the President called the worst deal ever negotiated?

MS ORTAGUS: Listen, we continue to call on the Iranian regime not to obtain a nuclear weapon, to abide by their commitments to the international community. And I think it’s unfortunate that they’ve made this announcement today. As I said earlier, it doesn’t surprise anybody. I think this is why the President has often said that the JCPOA needs to be replaced with a new and better deal. Iran, as evident by their announcement today but also their pattern of behavior over the past few years, is keen on expanding – or seems to be keen on expanding their nuclear program, and it now wants to exceed these nuclear limits in advance of these so-called sunset clauses.

QUESTION: But that suggests that you believe that there is —

MS ORTAGUS: Yeah.

QUESTION: — values in these limits, no? Does it not? I mean, if you look at —

MS ORTAGUS: We call on the Iranians not to obtain a nuclear weapon and to abide by the commitments that they’ve made to the international community.
[…]
QUESTION: Thank you. Just to follow on Matt’s question, so while there is no new deal between the U.S. and Iran, you ask Iran to abide by the JCPOA even though you left – the U.S. left this deal. When you say you ought to abide to their international commitments, you mean to abide to the JCPOA, which the U.S. left?

MS ORTAGUS: Yeah. We have made it very clear since this President came into office and since the Secretary came here that we will not tolerate a – Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. Full stop. So any actions that they take to get a nuclear weapon will be countered by a maximum pressure campaign by the United States Government that continues to this day. There should be no relieving of sanctions for their malign and unacceptable behavior.

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Cartoonists Draw #TrumpUKVisit In Vivid Colors, Also NYT to Drop Editorial Cartoons as of July 1st

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The National Cartoonists Society recently expressed its great dismay at the NYT decision to cease running daily editorial cartoons in all international editions of the New York Times as of July 1st, 2019 as they have also done for the domestic edition.

“Editorial cartooning is an invaluable form of pointed critique in American newspapers that dates back to the 19th-century work of the legendary Thomas Nast, as well as to pamphlet images published by Benjamin Franklin. The history of our great nation can be read through the pens of our editorial artists and cartoonists. … We find ourselves in a critical time in history when political insight is needed more than ever, yet we see more and more cartoonists vanishing from the pages of our publications. If we are to dull the voices of our most valued critics, satirists, and artists, we stand to lose much more than the ability to debate and converse; We lose our ability to grow as a society. We rob future generations of their opportunity to learn from our mistakes.”

Read the full statement here.

A couple of weeks earlier, during Trump’s visit to the UK, the political cartoonists were out in vivid colors. What’s going on, New York Times?