Senator Menendez Asks WH to Withdraw Mark Burkhalter as Ambassador Pick For Norway

 

On May 15, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate J. Mark Burkhalter, of Georgia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway. The WH released the following brief bio:

Mr. Burkhalter is a Senior Advisor in the Public Policy and Regulation practice at Dentons U.S. LLP, and plays a significant role in Dentons’ public affairs and economic development initiatives in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Burkhalter represented the Atlanta suburbs of north Fulton County in the Georgia General Assembly for 18 years, where he focused on promoting economic development, business growth, and quality of life in the greater metropolitan Atlanta area.  He left office as the Speaker Emeritus, having served as Speaker of the House and Speaker Pro Tempore.

Parallel to his government service, Mr. Burkhalter built a successful career in real estate development.  He received his B.A. at the University of Georgia with a double major in German and Slavic Languages, and Global Studies/Political Science.  He is conversant in German.

On July 2, WaPo reports that the nominee “did not disclose his involvement in the creation of a racist flier that distorted the features of a black politician in Georgia.”
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is urging the White House to withdraw the Burkhalter nomination.
The most recently confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Oslo , Kenneth J. Braithwaite became the 77th @SECNAV last May. 

 

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Asst Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mary Elizabeth Taylor Resigns Over Trump’s Response to Racial Injustice

 

Via state.gov:
Mary Elizabeth Taylor is the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs for the U.S. Department of State.  Previously she served as senior advisor in the Office of the Counselor.  From 2017 to 2018, Ms. Taylor was Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs at the White House.  In that role, she led the process and strategy guiding Senate nominations, spearheading the successful confirmations of more than four hundred nominees, including the high-profile confirmations of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, and CIA Director Gina Haspel.  Previously she served in the office of United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, working on the Senate floor as the Senior Cloakroom Assistant and acting as a liaison between the majority and minority leadership to negotiate agreements on legislative and executive matters.  Ms. Taylor also provided Members of Congress with parliamentary advice and counsel on floor strategy during consideration of pending legislative matters.  A Washington, D.C. area native, Ms. Taylor holds a B.A. degree in political science and Spanish from Bryn Mawr College.
The Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H) coordinates legislative activity for the Department of State and advises the Secretary, the Deputy, as well as the Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries on legislative strategy.

Pompeo Calls Former NSA John Bolton a “Traitor” on Twitter, in Official Statement, Also Waves @MerriamWebster

 

@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.

 

Top VOA Officials Resign as Michael Pack Assumes Charge as CEO of @USAGMgov

 

The newly confirm CEO Michael Pack “oversees all aspects of U.S. international media.”  He reportedly also “provides day-to-day management of USAGM’s operations, including oversight of the technical, professional, and administrative support as well as strategic guidance and management of other programs. USAGM’s management team is listed here.

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).

Champion of US Diplomacy Announces Political Donor to be Principal Officer at US Consulate General Bermuda

Updated 1135 am PDT

On January 2018, we posted about the nomination of Leandro Rizzuto to be U.S. Ambassador to Barbados (Prominent Businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr to be Ambassador to Barbados, But Wait – #ForgotSomething?). The nomination was not acted by the Senate and was resubmitted for renomination by the White House in 2019 (see White House Submits Some @StateDept/Related Agencies Re-nominations to the Senate). This nomination was sent to a GOP majority Senate in the 115th Congress and the 116th Congress with no action from the Senate.  The last actions according to congress.gov for PN136:
01/16/2019: Received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations
01/03/2020: Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate;
On May 27, 2020, Mr. Pompeo announced the appointment of Lee Rizzuto to be the next Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Bermuda, a post typically held by career diplomats. Actually, we could not recall a political  appointee at this level in more than a decade of blogging. This position does not require Senate confirmation, which means, they could chuck out the current consul general this week and have this guy packed out and  sent down to the island before the month is over.
Foggy Bottom’s top champion of diplomacy strikes again!
According to its website, “the American Consulate General in Hamilton plays an integral role in Bermuda’s political, social and cultural communities.  The main office is located at “Crown Hill,” a historic property, just outside the city of Hamilton, that is owned by the US Government.  Approximately 40 employees, including the Consul General, Deputy Principal Officer, Consul, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Port Director and officers are assigned to the Consulate General.”
Updated: We understand that the Reagan Administration started the tradition of a political appointee in Bermuda (Thanks K!). In December 1981, Max L. Friedersdorf an assistant to the President for legislative affairs resigned and was announced simultaneously as the next consul general to Bermuda, “a post that usually goes to career Foreign Service employees rather than to political appointees.” 
In 2005, George W. Bush appointed Gregory Slayton as U.S. Consul General to Bermuda (Thanks K2). He was sworn in by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on August 15, 2005.
Note that Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. That’s right. The U.S. Consulate General in Hamilton is part of the United States Mission to the United Kingdom.
Anyone told Mr. Rizzuto, a billionaire that he will be reporting to another billionaire, Ambassador Robert Wood Johnson in London?
Also quick question, once Pompeo is done installing a political donor to USCG Hamilton, which post is next? The U.S. Virtual Presence Post in Wales may also be available. For the record, there are 75 more consulates general in the U.S. Foreign Service, and there are still 160 days till election day.
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A 29-Page “Eagle Plan” to Overhaul Social Security and Medicare From @StateDept Chief Strategery Official?

 

 

Michael Pack’s Nomination to be @USAGMgov Head Hits Double Snag

 

New Arms Control Special Envoy Marshall Billingslea Now Nominated as Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security (T)

 

On May 1st, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate Marshall Billingslea to be the next Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (T). Last month, Mr. Billingslea was appointed Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control. He was previously nominated as Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J) in 2018; he had a confirmation hearing in 2019 but that nomination appeared to have gone nowhere.
If the J nomination did not go anywhere in a GOP-controlled Senate, why would this nomination fare any better?
In any case, if confirmed, he would oversee the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance; the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation and the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.  
The immediate predecessor to this position is Andrea L. Thompson who was appointed in 2018 and left her position the following year (see Pompeo Announces Departure of Andrea Thompson as Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security).  With the exception of career diplomats Reginald Bartholomew (1989–1992) and Frank G. Wisner II (1992–1993), all other appointees to the “T” bureau were political appointees. Click here for the names of previous appointees.

Via WH:

Marshall Billingslea, of Virginia, to be Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security

Mr. Billingslea is the Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control at the State Department.  He has also recently served as an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing.

A former Managing Director at Deloitte, Mr. Billingslea has also served at the Department of Defense as Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Negotiations Policy.  He was Assistant Secretary General for Defense Investment at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, and a Senior Professional Staff Member for National Security Affairs for the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Mr. Billingslea received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, the Cross of Merit of the Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic, and the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana of Estonia, among other awards.  Mr. Billingslea earned a B.A. from Dartmouth College, and an M.A. from The Fletcher School, Tufts University.

 

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