WH Withdraws Doug Manchester’s Nomination to be U.S. Ambassador to The Bahamas

 

On November 13, the White House formally withdrew its nomination of San Diego Developer “Papa” Doug Manchester to be Ambassador to The Bahamaas.  The Nassau Guardian reported in late October that Mr. Manchester  “has stepped back from his bid to become the United States ambassador for The Bahamas.” The report said that when reached for comment, Manchester Financial Group wrote in a statement, “He has withdrawn due to the threats on his and his family’s lives including three infant children under four years old.”  The report also said: “It also noted that Manchester had received “severe” threats on his life.”
The report does not include details on who made these threats against the nominee and if there is an ongoing investigation concerning these threats.
In related news, the US Embassy in Nassau recently broke ground on a new U.S. Embassy in downtown Nassau.  The new  facility will reportedly “provide a secure, modern, and resilient platform for U.S. diplomacy in The Bahamas. Its central location will facilitate our partnership with the Bahamian government as well as support to U.S. citizens living and traveling here.”  The project is expected to be completed in 2023.

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Dear @StateDept, How Many More Mina Changs Do You Have?

 

As far as we know, no one starts a job at the State Department without a security clearance. Diplomatic spouses working security escort or mailroom jobs are not even allowed to start work without a security clearance or an interim clearance.
So when NBC News Investigation reported that a senior political appointee at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations — a deputy assistant secretary (she’s one of the top three senior bureau officials)  made false claims and exaggerations, we were wondering what this means to the thoroughness of the background investigations conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security? Were the adjudicators aware of these issues prior to the issuance of the clearance? If not, why not? If yes, well, what in guacamole’s name happened here?

A senior Trump administration official has embellished her résumé with misleading claims about her professional background — even creating a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it — raising questions about her qualifications to hold a top position at the State Department.

An NBC News investigation found that Mina Chang, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, has inflated her educational achievements and exaggerated the scope of her nonprofit’s work.

Whatever her qualifications, Chang had a key connection in the Trump administration. Brian Bulatao, a top figure in the State Department and longtime friend of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, attended a fundraiser for her nonprofit in Dallas and once donated $5,500 to her charity, according to a former colleague of Chang’s.

As of this writing, her biography is still up on state.gov. Her Twitter account appears to have disappeared but her Instagram account is still online. Back in July 2019, she was also rumored to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, a report that was officially denied by US Embassy Manila.
The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS headed by Director Todd J. Brown), an office which resides under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (headed by Michael T. Evanoff), under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Management (headed by Brian Bulatao), conducts personnel security background investigations for the Department of State and other federal agencies. After determining the candidate’s national security eligibility, DSS contacts the appropriate hiring authority.
According to Diplomatic Security, the national security eligibility determinations take into account a person’s:
  • Stability
  • Trustworthiness
  • Reliability
  • Discretion
  • Character
  • Honesty
  • Judgment
  • Unquestionable loyalty to the U.S.
The organization she once served as CEO, Linking The World, has now posted a lengthy message on its website primarily defending its former CEO. It claims that “Mina has undergone 4 independent agency reviews, including the FBI, and ultimately garnered both Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information clearances.”
Item #8 says:

Mina obtained her position at the State Department on her own merit, at no time was Brian Bulatao part of her nomination / recruitment / review process.  An auction bid from 2015, is a despicable example of correlation with no foundation.  Anyone who reads her online articles would know that she has both supported and been critical of the current administration.  

Career diplomat George Kent who serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) in the European and Eurasian Bureau and testified on Wednesday at the Impeachment Hearings — now, he obtained his position as a DAS at the State Department on his own merit.
A political appointee gets  a job through a political connection. Ms. Chang is a political appointee; are we to understand that she got her job on her own merit by knocking on Foggy Bottom’s door?  Or did she apply through USAjobs.gov? Should be interesting to know how she got to Foggy Bottom.
According to Linking the World, Ms. Chang’s nomination was also “not withdrawn by the Administration of anyone other than herself.”

“Mina’s nomination was not withdrawn by the Administration, or anyone other than herself.  Simply, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been rather busy with other activities and all nominees were subject to extensive delays.  Mina loves her position at State and decided to withdraw herself from the process to focus on stabilization operations.  Again, anyone who reviewed her recent past, with work in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Somalia, would know that this decision makes absolute sense.

This is, of course, contrary to reporting and public records that indicate the nomination was withdrawn by the President.  Ms. Chang was nominated in 2018 to be Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Jonathan Nicholas Stivers (see PN2528).  On January 03, 2019 the nomination was  “Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate.” The renomination was received by the Senate on January 16, 2019 (see PN115). On September 9, 2019, the U.S. Senate “Received message of withdrawal of nomination from the President.”
Deputy assistant secretaries do not require Senate confirmations. Appointments are typically not publicly announced.
So, now we’re left wondering if this case is an exception, or if there are any more cases like this in Foggy Bottom?

Private Wealth Manager William Ellison Grayson to be U.S. Ambassador to Estonia

 

On Sept 30, 2019, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate William Ellison Grayson of California to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Estonia. The WH released a brief bio:

William E. Grayson is the National Director of the Family Offices of Bernstein Private Wealth Management in San Francisco, California.  In a long career of public service, Mr. Grayson has served four Presidents.  He was appointed by President Donald J. Trump to the Presidio Trust Board of Directors in San Francisco, California, where he was elected Board Chair by his fellow directors.  During the Obama Administration he served as a Regional Panelist for the White House Fellows Commission.  President George W. Bush appointed Mr. Grayson as a Commissioner on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships and nominated him to the Internal Revenue Service Oversight Board.  As Principal Deputy General Counsel of the Army under President George H.W. Bush, Mr. Grayson oversaw the Army’s 2,700 lawyers.  Mr. Grayson received his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his J.D. degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law.  He is the recipient of the Outstanding Civilian Service Award from the Secretary of the Army.

The Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California Berkeley has a more extensive bio here. If confirmed, Mr. Grayson would succeed career diplomat James Desmond Melville Jr. (1957–) who served as Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Tallinn from December 8, 2015–July 29, 2018 (also see Ex-Amb. to Estonia James D. Melville Writes Why He Quit). Career FSO Elizabeth K. Horst (?–) served as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim at the US Embassy Tallinn from July 29, 2018–August 2, 2019. Post is currently headed by career FSO Brian Roraff as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
Trump previously nominated Retired Navy Rear Admiral Edward Masso to be Ambassador to Estonia in September 2017.  The nomination for Edward Masso was withdrawn on May 24, 2018.
Grayson’s nomination is currently pending in Committee: 2019-10-15 PN1160 Department of State

Career SES Donald Wright – From HHS to US Embassy Tanzania

 

On Sept 30, 2019, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate Donald Wright of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the United Republic of Tanzania.

Don J. Wright, M.D., MPH, a career member of the Senior Executive Service, is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health and Director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  His career at HHS includes service as Acting Assistant Secretary for Health and Acting Executive Director of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition.  Dr. Wright developed and implemented the National Action Plan to Reduce Healthcare Associated Infections and Healthy People 2020, the Nation’s framework for disease prevention and health promotion initiatives.  Before joining the government as Director of the Office of Occupational Medicine at the Department of Labor, he was a clinician in Texas for 17 years.  Dr. Wright received his B.A. at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, and his M.D. at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas.  He received an MPH at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa.  He was honored by the American College of Preventive Medicine in 2019.

If confirmed, Mr. Wright would succeed Mark Bradley Childress (1959–), a non-career appointee who served as Ambassador to Tanzania from May 22, 2014–October 25, 2016.   Senior FSO Inmi Patterson has been Chargé d’Affaires since June 2017.

Office of Special Counsel Announces Suspensions of Two Federal Employees Over Hatch Act Violations

 

On October 18, the Office of Special Counsel announced disciplinary actions imposed on two federal employees working for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for Hatch Act violations.

​The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today announced significant discipline imposed on two federal employees working for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) who engaged in prohibited political activity in violation of the Hatch Act.

One DLA employee violated the Hatch Act on numerous occasions by sending partisan political emails and making political Facebook posts while at work.  The employee also used Facebook to solicit political contributions nearly two dozen times in violation of the Act.  During OSC’s investigation, the employee admitted he was aware of the Hatch Act and that his supervisor had counseled him about the Act prior to engaging in the prohibited activity.  In a settlement agreement, the employee agreed to a 90-day suspension without pay.

Another DLA employee violated the Hatch Act by displaying the words “Vote Republican” on a PowerPoint presentation that he gave while on duty and in the federal workplace.  The employee had received extensive Hatch Act training and was explicitly told prior to giving the presentation that certain images he planned to use, including the “Vote Republican” image, would be problematic.  In a settlement agreement, the employee agreed to a 30-day suspension without pay for his violation.

“With election season drawing near, it is critical that federal employees understand and abide by their Hatch Act obligations,” said Special Counsel Henry J. Kerner. “As demonstrated in these two cases, there are significant repercussions for federal employees who violate the Hatch Act.”

Note that last June, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) sent a report to President Donald J. Trump finding that Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act on numerous occasions by disparaging Democratic presidential candidates while speaking in her official capacity during television interviews and on social media. “Given that Ms. Conway is a repeat offender and has shown disregard for the law, OSC recommends that she be removed from federal service.”
On June 13, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) said it “respects the Office of White House Counsel but respectfully disagrees with its position, and will not withdraw its Report​ sent to the President today finding numerous Hatch Act violations made by Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway (OSC File Nos. HA-19-0631 and HA-19-3395).”

Special Rep For Korea Stephen E. Biegun to be Deputy Secretary of State

 

On October 31, the WH announced the president’s intent to nominate Stephen E. Biegun of Michigan, to be Deputy Secretary of State. The WH released the following brief bio:

Stephen E. Biegun is the United States Special Representative for North Korea at the Department of State, where he directs all United States policy on North Korea.  Prior to returning to government service in 2018, Mr. Biegun served as Vice President of International Governmental Relations for Ford Motor Company, where he was a third-generation Ford employee.  At Ford, he led an 80-person team located across 20 countries and was responsible for global trade strategy and international risk assessment.  Mr. Biegun has more than two decades of service in the Executive and Legislative Branches of government.  In Congress, he served as national security advisor to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, as Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and as a senior staff member of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs.  At the White House, he served as the National Security Council Executive Secretary, a senior staff position under National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.  A graduate of the University of Michigan, Mr. Biegun is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has served on the boards of the National Bureau of Asian Research, the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, the U.S.-Russia Foundation for Economic Development and the Rule of Law, and Freedom House.

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D/Secretary John Sullivan on the Effort to Smear Former US Amb to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch

On October 30, 2019, Deputy Secretary John Sullivan appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation. His 2-page Opening Statement is available to read here. Given his prior confirmation, and what appears to be bipartisan support in the Senate (plus GOP got the votes), it is likely that he will sail through this confirmation process and may be in Moscow by Thanksgiving Day.

Read: USEU Amb. Gordon Sondland’s Prepared Statement For Impeachment Inquiry

 

 

USEU Ambassador Gordon Sondland in the News: Drip …Drip … Drip…

 

U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, a Trump donor and a central figure in the Ukraine nightmare is scheduled to appear for a deposition on Thursday, October 17. As far as we could tell there are currently three streams of reporting concerning Sondland: Ukraine. the late breaking news of the renovation of the Chief of Mission Residence (CMR), in Brussels, and the reported ongoing boycott of his Portland-based hotel properties, Provenance Hotels. The Oregonian citing Oregon Public Broadcasting also said that “the popular local ice cream company Salt & Straw had severed its professional ties with Provenance, a chain of upscale hotels across the country, including six in Portland.”
We imagine that if his testimony is favorable to his boss, that we would likely see him tweeted as, oh, who knows … superman or the greatest ambassador ever. Or he could end up spending more time with his family. We should know soon.
WaPo on the $1 million official residence renovation:

The State Department defended the renovations, saying they were part of a “regular 17-year cycle of reviewing and refreshing furnishings and interior décor in representational residences.” The renovations were funded in April, after Sondland’s confirmation, a spokesman said. “Other minor renovations currently underway” were reviewed and approved by staff at the U.S. mission and funded in fiscal 2019, which began in October, after Sondland was confirmed.

Remember when a political ambassador was not pleased with the condition of the official residence mattress, or when embassy staff members spent several days to locate and purchase an umbrella for the official residence patio? Those were way cheaper than  a “family kitchen,” at a cost of just under $223,000. Not sure why he was not allowed to spend his own money. Anyone remember Ambassador Ronald Spogli and the $1.1M wine cellar donated to Villa Taverna in Rome? Also Ambassador Thomas Foley who reportedly spent $500,000 of his own money restoring the US ambassador’s residence in Phoenix Park in Dublin?
By the way, we’d like to know what other official residences are on State/OBO’s docket for renovations. These renovations are not unheard of but these are often scheduled years in advance. We’ve looked for the fiscal year projection for the USEU official residence in Brussels going back to FY2016, and so far have not been able to locate it.  But we see that the “major rehabilitation” of the Chief of Mission Residence Paris is on the expected to be awarded list for FY 2019. Cost for that should be interesting.

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Interior Design Businesswoman Barbera Hale Thornhill to be U.S. Ambassador to Singapore

 

The WH recently announced the president’s intent to nominate Barbera Hale Thornhill of California, to be U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore. The WH released the following brief bio:

Barbera Hale Thornhill currently serves as president of Impact Design, a business-focused interior design firm in Los Angeles, California.  She is an active member of the Getty Research Institute Council, the Getty Paintings Council, the World Affairs Council, and the Pacific Council on International Policy.  Ms. Thornhill’s extensive philanthropic work has address the needs of children affected by poverty, abuse and neglect, especially as Secretary of the Board of the Children’s Institute of Los Angeles.  She has promoted literacy, technology, and cultural programs through the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, as a board member of the West Los Angeles County Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and as a leader of the National Children’s Chorus of Los Angeles and New York.  Ms. Thornhill attended the University of California at Los Angeles, George Washington University, and North Carolina State University in Raleigh.

The US Embassy in Singapore was headed for a time by Chargé d’Affaires ad interim  Stephanie Syptak-Ramnath  who served from January 20, 2017–July 26, 2019. On July 30, 2019, she was succeeded by senior U.S. diplomat Rafik Mansour  to be Chargé d’Affaires, a.i.
If confirmed, Ms. Thornhill would succeed Ambassador Kirk W.B. Wagar (1969–) who was appointed during the second term of the Obama Administration and served in Singapore from September 25, 2013–January 20, 2017.
The last career diplomat appointed U.S. Ambassador to Singapore was J. Stapleton Roy (1935–) . who served from October 26, 1984–October 4, 1986. Yes, a very long time ago, though not the career service’s fault, of course.
Other appointees to this position include politicians Jon M. Huntsman Jr. (September 22, 1992–June 15, 1993), David Adelman (April 29, 2010–September 1, 2013), Patricia Louise Herbold (1940–) (December 29, 2005–January 20, 2009).
Given the GOP majority in the U.S. Senate, and the body’s underwhelming performance as the world’s greatest deliberative body, particularly when it comes to political and judicial nominees, it is likely that Ms. Thornhill will get confirmation at some point between now and election day.