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Five Ex-U.S. Ambassadors to Israel Tell Senate Trump Pick David Friedman “Unqualified” For Post

Posted: 1:31 am  ET

 

On December 15,  Trump named David Friedman, a two-state solution critic as the next Ambassador to Israel. On Thursday, February 16, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) will hold his confirmation hearing (see SFRC Hearing 2/16/17: David Friedman to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel).

We understand that a letter signed by five former U.S. Ambassadors to Israel during Republican and Democratic administrations (Thomas Pickering, William Harrop, Edward Walker, Daniel Kurtzer and James Cunningham) was delivered on February 15 to the senior staffers of all members of the SFRC to be passed to their principals. The letter quickly leaked to the press.

“We believe him to be unqualified for the position,” the former ambassadors wrote.

The letter also urged the Senators to examine whether Friedman “has the balance and the temperament required to represent the United States as ambassador to Israel.”

“The American ambassador must be dedicated to advancing our country’s longstanding bipartisan goals in the region: strengthening the security of the United States and our ally Israel, and advancing the prospects for peace between Israel and its neighbors, in particular the Palestinians,” the former ambassadors wrote. “If Israel is to carry on as a democratic, Jewish nation, respected internationally, we see no alternative to a two-state solution.”

Read more below:

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@USUN Ambassador Nikki Haley: Taking Names and Diplomatic Dustup

Posted: 12:44 am  ET

 

On November 23, then President-elect Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate SC Governor Nikki Haley as his Ambassador to the United Nations (see Trump to Nominate SC Governor Nicki Haley as U.N. Ambassador).  She had her confirmation hearing on January 18 and was confirmed by the Senate in a 96-4 vote on January 24.  The following day, she was sworn into office by Vice President Pence. She made her first appearance before the press as USUN ambassador on January 27 prior to presenting her credentials. She made a huge splash with her opening salvo:  “For those who don’t have our back, we’re taking names – we will make points to respond to that accordingly.”  A short while later, a diplomatic dustup.

This  round-up is a bit late, but we want this up for future reference. It’s not even a month yet, stuff could happen here, there, everywhere …  tonight, tomorrow … heck, there’s “breaking news” every 5 minutes!

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Tillerson/Priebus Standoff on Ambassadorships, Plus Rumored Names/Posts (Updated)

Posted: 2:03 am  ET
Updated: 2:31 pm PT

 

The following report may explain the slow announcement of ambassador picks under the Trump administration. To-date, only two ambassador’s postings have been announced, China and Israel. The nominee for Israel, David Friedman has a scheduled confirmation hearing this week.   Terry Branstad’s nomination as Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China was sent to the Senate on January 20 but so far, no schedule has been announced by the SFRC. Note that Nikki Haley was previously announced as Trump’s pick for the UN and was confirmed by the Senate on January 24. Her official title is United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, an ambassador-rank position; it is also a cabinet level position. 

For a list of ambassadorships that may be the cause of the reported standoff between Secretary Tillerson and WH Chief of Staff Priebus, see America’s Cushiest Ambassadorships Will Go Vacant By Inauguration Day.

Via the WSJ:

Senior White House advisers have suggested to cabinet secretaries or nominees that they need to be consulted on all personnel and policy decisions, creating friction between the agencies and the White House officials who have been permanently stationed inside their buildings.

Many of the U.S. ambassadorships remain unfilled, a result of a standoff between Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Priebus, the chief of staff, said people familiar with the process.

Below is a round-up of names floated around as possible picks for ambassadorships to Canada, Austria, Dominican Republic, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Czech Republic, and the UK.

Ex-Senator Scott Brown to New Zealand

Sarah Palin to Canada, to Canada. Or not.

Patrick Park, Sound of Music Fan to Austria?

From Palm Beach — Robin Bernstein to the Dominican Republic? Brian Burns to Ireland?

Major Campaign Donors Lewis Eisenberg to Italy, William Hagerty to Japan?

Woody Johnson to the United Kingdom, but role not official?

Ivana to the Czech Republic, and she’ll get agrément?

Ted Malloch, potential European Union pick attacks the EU?

Miami Marlins owner Jeff Loria to head to France?

GOP activist Georgette Mosbacher to Luxembourg?

Hedge funder Duke Buchan to Spain?

Edwin Feulner, Heritage Foundation founder to South Korea?

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Patrick Kennedy, Other Officials Step Down – Yo! That’s Not the “Entire” Senior Management

Posted: 10:09 am PT
Updated: 10:29 am PT

 

Yesterday, Mark Toner, the State Department’s Acting Spokesperson said that “Patrick Kennedy will resign as Under Secretary for Management on January 27, and retire from the Department of State on January 31. A career Foreign Service Officer, Under Secretary Kennedy joined the Department in 1973.”  To read more about him, see The State Department’s Mr. Fix-It of Last Resort Gets the Spotlight.

Today, WaPo reports that the “entire senior management team just resigned.” In addition to U/S Kennedy stepping down, others named includes A/Barr, CA/Bond, DS/Gentry Smith, all career diplomats, and presumably are retiring from the Foreign Service. Previous departures include OBO’s non-career appointee, Lydia Muniz o/a January 20, and Diplomatic Security’s Greg Starr who retired a week before inauguration.

As we have noted before in this blog, U/S Kennedy has been the Under Secretary for Management since 2007. He is the longest serving “M in the history of the State Department, and only the second career diplomat to encumber this position. U/S Kennedy’s departure is a major change, however, it is not unexpected.

The “M” family of offices is the train that runs the State Department, it also affects every part of employees lives in the agency. But there are 13 offices under the “M” group.  Four departures this week including Kennedy, plus two previous ones do not make the “entire” senior management.  If there are other retirements we are not hearing, let us know.  But as one former senior State Department official told us  too much hyperventilation at the moment “is distracting from things that really are problematic.”  

The challenge now for Mr. Tillerson who we expect will be confirmed as the 69th Secretary of State next week, is to find the right successor to lead the “M” group.  We hope he picks one who knows the levers and switches in Foggy Bottom and not one who will get lost in the corridors.

Update: Via CCN “Any implication that that these four people quit is wrong,” one senior State Department official said. “These people are loyal to the secretary, the President and to the State Department. There is just not any attempt here to dis the President. People are not quitting and running away in disgust. This is the White House cleaning house.”

Update: Statement from Mark Toner, Acting Spokesperson:

“As is standard with every transition, the outgoing administration, in coordination with the incoming one, requested all politically appointed officers submit letters of resignation. The Department encourages and advocates for senior officers to compete for high level offices in the Department. These positions are political appointments, and require the President to nominate and the Senate to confirm them in these roles. They are not career appointments but of limited term. Of the officers whose resignations were accepted, some will continue in the Foreign Service in other positions, and others will retire by choice or because they have exceeded the time limits of their grade in service. No officer accepts a political appointment with the expectation that it is unlimited. And all officers understand that the President may choose to replace them at any time. These officers have served admirably and well. Their departure offers a moment to consider their accomplishments and thank them for their service.”

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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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U.S. Ambassadors Bid So Long, Farewell, Auf wiedersehen, Adieu

Posted: 1:56 am ET

 

In early December, we did a round up of FS retirements and State Department goodbyes (see Foreign Service Retirements, and State Department Farewells and Departures).

This week, some of President Obama’s top representatives overseas mark the conclusions of their tours abroad with speeches, interviews, parties, videos, and long goodbyes.  There were also awards, and breakfasts. One got an honorary degree, another got a poster of thanks from a window.  Take a look!

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America’s Cushiest Ambassadorships Will Go Vacant By Inauguration Day

Posted: 2:46 am ET

 

Unless requested to stay on, all political appointees of the outgoing Obama administration are expected to leave by the time President-elect Trump is sworn into office on Inauguration Day. The expectation includes politically appointed ambassadors (see Foreign Service Tradition: Political Ambassadors Have To Be Out By January 20). Some reports say that all Obama ambassadors were recalled, or fired, or asked to quit by January 20. All ambassadors were appointed by President Obama, so they are all Obama ambassadors.  About 50 ambassadors who are political appointees will step down by January 20.  The fact that these positions will go vacant next week is not unique, of course; the last time embassies went through this exact process was in January 2009, and previous to that, in January 2001, and on and on.  Those who are career ambassadors (worked up the ranks) were not asked to submit their resignations during this transition so they will continue with their tenures. If there are career ambassadors also stepping down in the next few weeks, those would merely be coincidences when their typical 3-year tour ends and they “rotate” to their new assignments.

Due to popular demand, we’ve compiled a list where political ambassadors are expected to step down next week.  The list is primarily extracted from a State Department document on ambassadorial assignments overseas prepared by the Office of Presidential Appointments (HR/PAS).  We’ve added a couple of vacancies that occurred since the document was last updated in October 2016. You will note that these embassies/posts are in some of the world’s most desirable locations. These positions are sometimes described as some of the “world’s cushiest ambassadorships” or the State Department’s “swankiest gigs”.  The list below also includes vacancies most recently encumbered by political appointees (with the exception of Syria which is traditionally encumbered by a career ambassador, and currently on suspended operation).

 

Ambassadors List (Political Appointees) Jan 2017 | p.1

Ambassadors List (Political Appointees) Jan 2017 | 1/2

Ambassadors List (Political Appointees) Jan 2017 | p.2

Ambassadors List (Political Appointees) Jan 2017 | 2/2

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Foreign Service Tradition: Political Ambassadors Have To Be Out By January 20

Posted: 4:36 pm PT
Updated: 6:02 pm PT
Updated: Jan 10, 2:29 am ET

 

The United States has 170 embassies and 11 missions other than an Embassy headed by a chief of mission (OSCE, UNVIE, USOAS, USOECD, USEU, USUN, USNATO, USUN Geneva, USAU, ASEAN, and US Mission to Somalia).  About 30 percent of these posts are encumbered by political/noncareer appointees (about 50 ambassadors), while the remaining 70 percent are filled by career diplomats.

The NYT coverage of Jan. 5 says that the Trump’s transition staff has issued a blanket edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day, and that the mandate was issued “without exceptions.” The piece quotes Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann, the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, who tells NYT that it is reasonable to expect ambassadors to return at the end of a term, given that they are direct representatives of the president with broad grants of authority.

“But I don’t recollect there was ever a guillotine in January where it was just, ‘Everybody out of the pool immediately.’”

The article also quotes Ambassador Marc Grossman who cites former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell who reportedly offered particularly wide latitude to ambassadors facing family issues.  “This was something that was important to Secretary Powell because of his own experience living and serving all over the world, so when people asked him, ‘Could I stay another couple of weeks, couple of months; my kids are finishing school,’ he was very accommodating,” Mr. Grossman said, adding that his flexibility was an “exception” to the general practice.

Secretary Powell was an “exception” to the general practice of the wholesale departure of political appointees at the beginning of every administration.

 

By Tradition, All Political Ambassadors Are Expected to Leave By January 20

All political appointees, including ambassadors “serve at the pleasure of the president.” All appointees of the outgoing administration are expected to leave by the time a new president is sworn into office on January 20. We’ve heard that some chiefs of mission have made requests for extensions to their tenure overseas but until this week, no one reportedly received an official response. We understand that some folks were looking for the cable directive but could not locate it.   We’ve asked State about the cable requesting the COM resignations and the nonresponse to these requests last week but we were later directed to the Transition Team. To-date  we have not received a response to our inquiry.

To read more about this Foreign Service tradition, see FDR’s Request For the Formal Resignations of All Chiefs of U.S. Diplomatic Missions Overseas from 1940 and 1944.

 

Resignation Instructions

Political Ambassadors:  We understand that there was no general cable issued this year and that the resignation instructions to the ambassadors came by email. Individual cables were reportedly sent to political appointees who requested extensions telling them the requests were declined.  These cables directed to individual ambassadors would have been captioned personnel channel and would have had limited distribution. Political ambassadors who did not request extensions did not receive such a cable as it was understood they will depart by January 20.

Career Ambassadors:  The scuttlebutt in our inbox said that for the first time the new administration will actually ask some career ambassadors for their resignations as well. This rumor is not/not true.  We can confirm that career ambassadors were not/not required to submit resignation letters to the Trump Transition. Career ambassadors received this notification last month.  If we’re looking for a break in precedent, this might be it.  This year, there has been no directive, or expectation for career Foreign Service ambassadors to have to submit resignations at the end of the Obama term.

Here is State Department spokesman John Kirby:

kirby-precedent

 

The Hows and Whys of Ambassadorial Extensions

Political ambassadors are some of the president’s, shall we say, best friends. Just as the Bush political ambassadors were closely identified with President George W. Bush, the Obama political ambassadors are also closely identified with President Barack Obama.   All ambassadors are direct representatives of the president. However, political ambassadors are partisan operatives who received their appointments due to their political support of the president. There is therefore, no incentive for any incoming administration, whether Democratic or Republican, to extend the appointments of their political opponents.

Getting political ambassadors to leave is less urgent when the president is on his second term or if the president-elect is from the same party . For example, President Obama appointed Bruce J. Oreck as Ambassador to Finland in 2009. His tenure actually extended to the second Obama term and he did not leave until 2015.  President George W. Bush appointed his pal Roy L. Austin as Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, and his tenure spanned the full two Bush terms.

When there is a change of administration from one political party to the other, as we currently have, the departures become more imperative.  Did some Bush ambassadors asked for extensions when President Obama came to office? Yes. Did the Obama Transition Team agree? In one case we could find, yes.  We don’t have all the names of those given extensions but the AP’s Matt Lee (@APDiplowriter) tweeted that according to officials, in the past two inter-party transitions (Clinton-Bush, Bush-Obama) only about 10 political ambassadors have gotten extensions.  That one example we found is noncareer Ambassador Peter Cianchette who was appointed to Costa Rica by President George W. Bush in May 2008. He stayed in office until June 19, 2009, five months after President Obama’s inauguration.  One of our readers alerted us that Ambassador Dick Morningstar was appointed to the European Union by President Bill Clinton on July 7, 1999. He was allowed to remain at post by Powell/Armitage up to September 21, 2001, eight months into President George W. Bush’s first term.  A blog pal also reminded us that noncareer Ambassador Ford M. Fraker was appointed by President George W. Bush as US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia in May 2007, and departed post in February 8, 2009, a few weeks into President Obama’s tenure.

 

So it happens, though not often, but …

There is nothing that prevents the Trump Transition from granting some of these requests on a case by case basis.  We should note that President-elect Trump has announced his nominees for the United Nations, China and Israel. While there are rumors of nominees for certain posts, the president elect needs to appoint about 50 ambassadorships as he assume office in two weeks. Based on time required to vet nominees, process security clearance, training, and Senate confirmation, we estimate that the firsts of the new ambassadors may not get even to post until late spring or summer.  Also, the Trump Landing Team at the State Department includes two former political ambassadors from the George W. Bush years and one former career diplomat (see Trump Transition: Agency Landing Team For @StateDept Includes Old Familiar Names). They should know what this is like, right?

That said, we have to acknowledge that it is the incoming administration’s prerogative whether to accept or decline extension requests. The new administration holds all the keys.

In a perfect world, Secretary Powell’s “exception” to general practice ought to be the rule. Folks with kids in school would then be able to depart posts without too much disruption for school and the family. But we do not live in a perfect world.  We are sympathetic about not pulling kids out of school in the middle of the school year. Nothing to do with political ambassadorships (kids don’t get to vote what their parents do) just the recognition, from personal experience that moving kids in the middle of a school year is hard and challenging.  While most kids in the Foreign Service are indeed resilient and adaptable, not everyone has that gift.

A side note — even in the career Foreign Service,  the “needs of the service” does not really consider “family issues” even when it should.  Just part and parcel of the job.  At other times, of course, it simply couldn’t.  The risks of diplomatic assignments range from coup d’etats and civil unrests to natural disasters which means that career diplomatic employees and family members have “go-bags” and must always be ready for evacuation orders to  leave homes, schools, friends, even pets, at a moment’s notice (See Children of diplomats displaced by strife often caught between two worlds). A sad reality of the Foreign Service, and a reflection of the ongoing disruptions in various parts of the world.

Embassies Won’t go “Empty”

Finally, as the NYT reported, some of our largest, and most desirable diplomatic posts like France, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Belgium, etc. will leave our embassies without Senate-confirmed ambassadors.  While this is true, this does not mean that posts will go “empty”.  At these ambassadors departures, their deputy ambassadors who are career diplomats would step up as chargé d’affaires (CDAs) until the new appointees get to posts.  Maybe it will take six months, maybe eight, we don’t know at this point  how fast the Senate can get them confirmed, though it would be a shorter wait if the new nominees are from the career service.

Note: We remain interested in the resignation instruction to COMs sent via cable so we can compare it to FDR’s. Nerdy request. If you have a copy of the 2008 cable, please drop us a line.

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Some hot and cold reactions from here and there:

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Request For the Formal Resignations of All Chiefs of U.S. Diplomatic Missions Overseas

Posted: 2:33  am ET

 

On November 15, 1944, Robert M. Scotten, a career Foreign Service Officer serving as U.S. minister to the Dominican Republic, submitted his resignation to President Roosevelt “in accordance with traditional usage” according to The Text Message blog of the National Archives.  Upon receipt, FDR sent a copy of the letter to Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles requesting preparation of a response for the President’s signature.[2]

The Under Secretary sent the draft to the President under cover of a letter that read, in part:

 It had been my understanding that during your Administration you have not expected chiefs of mission who have been promoted by you from the ranks of the Foreign Service to present their resignations before the commencement of your new term of office.  In 1936, and again in recent weeks, I have told certain chiefs of mission who come within this category that that is my understanding.

In that belief I have drafted a reply for you to send to Scotten along these lines.

If I am mistaken in this understanding, will you let me know accordingly?[4]

President Roosevelt responded with the following long memorandum:[5]

Memorandum from President Franklin Roosevelt to Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles, November 22, 1940 via The Text Message blog

Continue reading, “In the Interest of the Efficiency of the Foreign Service”: Changes in US Diplomatic Representation Abroad after the Election of 1940.

According to The Text Message blog, a similar directive went out after the election of 1944. The Under Secretary of State Edward Stettinius asked President Roosevelt if he wanted to follow the same practice and FDR “said he thought it would be wise.” As a result, the Department of State sent the following telegram:[1]

121.4 [11-1944.1] Circular to All Chiefs of Mission, Nov. 14, 1944 Via The Text Message

121.4 [11-1944.1] Circular to All Chiefs of Mission, Nov. 14, 1944 Via The Text Message

Also see “In the Interest of the Efficiency of the Foreign Service”: Changes in U.S. Diplomatic Representation Abroad After the Election of 1944

The  formal resignations by chiefs of mission has been the practice after every presidential election.  We understand that a similar cable goes out even when there is a second presidential term.  We are curious if the language of this cable has changed through the years.  We will update if we are able to locate a copy of the current directive.

 

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Trump to Nominate Robert Lighthizer as the Next U.S. Trade Representative

Posted: 1:38 am ET

 

On January 3, President-elect Trump announced his intent to nominate former deputy USTR Robert Lighthizer as the next U.S. Trade Representative (@USTradeRep).  If confirmed, Ambassador Lighthizer would replaced Ambassador Michael Froman who was sworn in as the 17th United States Trade Representative (USTR) on June 21, 2013 as President Obama’s principal advisor, negotiator and spokesperson on international trade and investment issues. The Transition Team released the following statement:

(New York, NY) — President-elect Donald J. Trump today announced that he intends to nominate Robert Lighthizer as U.S. Trade Representative.

Ambassador Lighthizer served under President Ronald Reagan as Deputy United States Trade Representative, playing a major role in developing trade policy for the Reagan Administration and negotiating roughly two dozen bilateral international agreements on a variety of topics from steel to grain. These agreements were uniformly tough and frequently resulted in significant reductions in the shipment of unfairly traded imports into the United States.

In his new role, Ambassador Lighthizer will work in close coordination with Secretary of Commerce-designate Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, head of the newly created White House National Trade Council, to develop and implement policies that shrink our trade deficit, expand economic growth, strengthen our manufacturing base and help stop the exodus of jobs from our shores.

“Ambassador Lighthizer is going to do an outstanding job representing the United States as we fight for good trade deals that put the American worker first,” said President-elect Donald J. Trump. “He has extensive experience striking agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of our economy, and has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans. He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity.”

“It is a very high honor to represent our nation and to serve in President-elect Trump’s administration as the U.S. Trade Representative,” said Ambassador Robert Lighthizer. “I am fully committed to President-elect Trump’s mission to level the playing field for American workers and forge better trade policies which will benefit all Americans.”

Ambassador Lighthizer has long been a leader in U.S. trade policy, and has extensive experience in the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the private sector. Aside from his service in the Reagan Administration, he was Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Committee of Finance when Congress passed the Reagan program of tax cuts and spending reductions, and also aided in the passage of legislation which implemented the Tokyo Round of trade negotiations. He has also represented the United States at meetings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and meetings related to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (the precursor to the World Trade Organization).

Ambassador Lighthizer headed up the international trade law practice at Skadden, Arps Slate, Meagher and Flom for over three decades. He has represented American manufacturers in many of the largest and most significant trade cases of the last 25 years, such as the steel safeguard case of the early 2000s — the last time any president granted global safeguard relief. He has worked on scores of successful cases that resulted in reducing unfair imports and helping thousands of American workers and numerous businesses.

Ambassador Lighthizer has also been an outspoken commentator on trade issues, giving speeches and writing articles for the New York Times and other publications, as well as providing testimony to key Congressional committees, the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission, and other government agencies with responsibility for trade policy. He graduated from Georgetown University and the Georgetown University Law Center.

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