Senate Bill to Slash Embassy Security Funds in Half Until US Embassy Jerusalem Officially Opens

Posted: 2:22 am ET
Updated: Jan 12, 4:55 PM PT

 

Apparently, a viral image created by the group called the Other 98 with three Republican senators who once blasted lax embassy security in Benghazi, Libya made the social media rounds recently and readers asked @PolitiFact to check it out. “The image includes pictures of three Republican senators — Ted Cruz of Texas, Dean Heller of Nevada and Marco Rubio of Florida — along with the caption, “The same 3 senators who have spent the last 3 years s——- themselves over ‘Benghazi!’ just introduced a bill to reduce embassy security by 50 percent.” PolitiFact judged the meme “mostly false” but this blogpost was accused of being a “fake news’. We’ve re-read our reporting on this issue and there’s nothing that we feel needs a correction. For those who are new in this blog, you can read our post below, and you can also read the similar points made by PolitiFact here.    

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On January 3,  Senator Dean Heller (R-NV)  announced that he, along with Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), have introduced the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act, “legislation that would fulfill America’s commitment to Israel to relocate the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.‎”

Excerpt from Heller’s announcement:

“My support for Israel is unwavering.  From my very first days as a United States Senator, I have prioritized the strengthening of the important relationship shared between Israel and the United States. That’s why I’m proud to reintroduce the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act. For years, I’ve advocated for America’s need to reaffirm its support for one of our nation’s strongest allies by recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel.  It honors an important promise America made more than two decades ago but has yet to fulfill. While Administrations come and go, the lasting strength of our partnership with one of our strongest allies in the Middle East continues to endure. My legislation is a testament to that.

The announcement quotes Senator Marco Rubio: “Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel, and that’s where America’s embassy belongs. It’s time for Congress and the President-Elect to eliminate the loophole that has allowed presidents in both parties to ignore U.S. law and delay our embassy’s rightful relocation to Jerusalem for over two decades.”

It also says that Heller’s bill “withholds certain State Department funds until that relocation is complete.”

That is some understatement.  The bill does not withhold just any State Department funds but embassy security funds.

This is a similar bill Senator Heller had introduced in the 112th, 113th, and 114th Congress. The version of the bill introduced but died in the 114th Congress includes the provision to restrict State Department funding in FY2015, FY2016, and FY2017 and the following language:

Restriction on Funding Subject to Opening Determination.–Not  more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of  State for fiscal year 2015 for ``Acquisition and Maintenance of  Buildings Abroad” may be obligated until the Secretary of State  determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

The current bill, S.11, which had been read twice and referred to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee includes the elimination of the waiver and similar language on funding restriction but targets a specific State Department funding — not funds for the “Acquisition and Maintenance of  Buildings Abroad” but for “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance.” The bill further includes restrictions for all security, construction, and maintenance funding worldwide for FY2018 and FY2019 except for the embassy in Tel Aviv until its relocation.

Restriction on Funding Subject to Opening Determination.–Not  more than 50 percent of the funds appropriated to the Department of  State for fiscal year 2017 under the heading  “Embassy Security, Construction, and Maintenance” may be obligated until the  Secretary of State  determines and reports to Congress that the United States Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened.

Just so we’re clear, three American senators including those who were screaming #BENGHAZI for the last several years have put forward a bill that would freeze half the State Department funding on embassy security until the new secretary of state reports to Congress that the US Embassy in Jerusalem has “officially opened.”

Writing for FP, Hussein Ibish, Senior Resident Scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington writes:

Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue between Israelis and Palestinians, as the outbreak of the Second Intifada and other repeated instances in which it has served as a uniquely potent flash point have illustrated. Jerusalem brings together religious, nationalistic, symbolic, and ethnic sensibilities in a singularly powerful and dangerous mix. […] Along with other members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the leading Gulf Arab states would almost certainly feel it necessary to practically demonstrate their objections to the relocation of the U.S. Embassy by finding some means of reasserting Palestinian, and even broader Christian and Muslim, claims on Jerusalem — and the most likely fallout would be a curtailment of security cooperation with Israel on matters concerning Iran’s nefarious activities in the Middle East. Adding such an additional layer of tension between Israel and the Arab states would be an enormous gift to Tehran and its regional alliance.

Since officially opening the US Embassy in Jerusalem could not happen overnight, this bill with its restrictions on embassy security funding would put all American diplomats and family members overseas at greater risks. At a time when embassy security could be most crucial, only 50 percent of appropriated State Department  embassy security, construction, and maintenance funds may be obligated.

Get that?

So with only half the embassy security funds obligated, what happens to our 275 posts overseas? Half gets the funds and the other half doesn’t? Reduced funding across the board? Do these good senators realized that the unfunded parts could get Americans killed? They don’t know? How could they not know? That leaves us with two troubling guesses — that they know but don’t care, or that they know this bill won’t go anywhere but its worth squeezing the juice, anyway.

Oops, is that our jaded slip showing?

We should point out that similar bills were introduced previously by Senator Heller, and they all died in committee. This bill, however, now has the support of  Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). The two need no special introductions.

 

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Is the Tillerson/Bolton Combo For Foggy Bottom Really Happening?

Posted: 3:43 am ET

 

Greg Thielmann, a 25-year veteran of the Foreign Service who served two tours in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, worked as a senior staffer on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a senior fellow of the Arms Control Association writes about the potential appointment of John Bolton as Deputy Secretary of State:

I was a firsthand witness to the negative consequences of Bolton’s style and substantive approach while serving as director of the office in the State Department’s intelligence bureau (INR/SPM) responsible for monitoring Iraqi WMD issues. As my office delivered to him the heavy volume of sensitive information provided by the intelligence community, he demonstrated a penchant for quickly dismissing inconvenient facts and rejecting any analysis that did not serve his policy preferences.[…]As undersecretary in Colin Powell’s State Department, Bolton ran into a stone wall in trying to intimidate INR and squelch its independence. But if Trump succeeds in promoting Bolton to deputy secretary under a chain of command totally lacking in government experience, a purge of career professionals in the secondary and tertiary levels of the department seems likely.

Read Thielman’s Bolton: A Prime Mover of the Iraq WMD Fiasco via lobelog.

We are sure that Mr. Thielman and Senator Paul are not the only ones having strong feelings about this potential appointment. A couple of thoughts: 1) The Bolton appointment has yet to be formally announced. Is Bolton, Trump’s Plan B if the Senate rejects the Tillerson nomination?  This is an uncommon season, so stuff can happen, but we remain convinced that the Senate will not reject two nominations in a row for the same cabinet post. If the Senate rejects the Tillerson nomination, the alternate nominee will conceivably sail through a quicker confirmation process. That nominee could be Bolton. 2) We don’t know how much Trump wanted Tillerson for this job, and if Tillerson wanted this job as much as the other rumored nominees.  This is important because it could indicate how much leeway Tillerson will have in putting together his potential team in Foggy Bottom. Would he have a say on who will be his deputies? Would he pick Bolton?  Or would T-Rex cast a wider net?

More John Bolton clips:

Below is a clip with President-elect Trump and John Bolton talking about the United Nations.

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Trump’s Team Checking on How to Move US Embassy to Jerusalem. And Havoc That Follows?

Posted: 12:45 pm PT

 

In November, we blogged about the potential move of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem (see Will the US Embassy Move From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?). There were two related ongoing construction work at USG properties in Israel — a $50M renovation at US Embassy Tel Aviv, and ongoing work of undetermined cost at a consular annex for US Consulate General Jerusalem. Last month, we learned that both projects were put on hold the day after the election.

On December 12, Dana Weiss from Israel’s Channel2News tweeted, “Trump’s team already checking where and how to move embassy to Jerusalem. Among options Diplomat hotel . This week Israeli Foreign | Started to check availability as the hotel houses elderly. Was told not possible until 2020. Security sources are anxious the move | Would backlash and question the Arab response.”

In June 2014, YNet reported that the U.S. Government holds the option of purchasing land in the Arnona neighborhood, where the consulate is located. This land reportedly includes the Diplomat hotel that currently serves the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

A US administration official said that “Under the terms of its commercial lease agreement, the USG has the option to purchase the property we currently occupy in Arnona and acquire our landlord’s remaining leasehold interests in the adjacent property, which is the site of the Diplomat Hotel.

“The USG has exercised that option and intends to continue using the site as the Consular Annex of the US Consulate General, where we have provided American citizen services and visa services since 2010. Under the terms of the USG’s lease, once the option is exercised, the landlord is required to provide the USG vacant possession of the adjacent property, likely, in 2016.”

The actual move should it happen, requires the involvement of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) which directs the worldwide overseas building program for the Department of State and the U.S. Government community serving abroad under the authority of the chiefs of mission, and the Bureau of Diplomatic Security tasks with securing personnel and overseas facilities.

On the potential backlash for this move, Uri Savir, former diplomat and Israeli Chief Negotiator of the Oslo Accords wrote in AlMonitor that Cairo greeted Donald Trump’s election positively and that the Egyptian ambassador to Washington was in contact with president-elect Donald Trump. Egypt is reportedly looking at improved relations with Washington under a President Trump but one topic that was discreetly raised by the Egyptians is the potential move of the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: “Cairo cannot commit to an improved relationship if the US Embassy to Israel is moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Given the sentiments in Egyptian public opinion toward the Palestinians and the city, which is holy to Islam, Cairo considers this issue as a red line.”

A senior PLO official talking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity explained that “for the Palestinians, moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem is a “casus belli” (a provocation of war), thus they are planning a series of measures in case this will indeed take place. Ramallah is coordinating these measures with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and the Arab League. The official cited five measures: abolishing of the Oslo Accord (and all elements of security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians); severing diplomatic relations between Egypt and Israel and also between Jordan and Israel; canceling the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative as a relevant document; calling upon the international community to sever diplomatic ties with Israel; and planning an armed Al-Quds intifada.”

Mr. Savir concludes“it is clear that such a move would create havoc in the Arab world.”

Read more:

 

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Potential “D” Bolton, John Bolton Talks Russian Hacks, False Flag and Obama Admin #dazzleandwow

Posted: 3:20 am ET

 

John Bolton is reportedly the front-runner to be deputy secretary of state if Rex Tillerman is selected as secretary of state. According to Brian Urquhart’s 2008 piece, One Angry Man, this is not the first time that Bolton has aspired to be deputy secretary of state.

“At the outset of the second Bush term, the new secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, asked Bolton what job might interest him in the new term. Bolton’s mention of his interest in being deputy secretary of state was received with no enthusiasm, and two months later, in March 2005, Rice announced his nomination as ambassador to the UN, thus appointing to this unique post the US official most publicly contemptuous of the world organization. Bolton’s long and abrasive confirmation hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were, in his own words, not so much about the UN or his opinions, but about “whether I was a nice person, thereby inviting every person in government whom I had ever defeated in a policy battle, of whom there were many, to turn the issue into one of personal disparagement….” Even though Republicans held a majority at the time, his confirmation failed by four votes in the Senate. The President finally announced his recess appointment on August 1, 2005.”

 

Prior to his assignment in the UN, Bolton was Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security from May 2001 to May 2005. So with the exception of the top position, there are only two other jobs that he could potentially be interested in — the Deputy Secretary (D) position, or the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (DMR).

On Saturday, Rex Tillerson made news when NBC News reported that Trump was expected to name the Exxon CEO as secretary of state (see Trump Expected to Name Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State; ‘Stop Rex’ Petition Already Up).  During a Sunday morning show, Reince Priebus did say that the secretary of state pick was not a “done deal.”

In an interview with Fox News’ Eric Shawn on Sunday, John Bolton also made news when he talked about the Russian hack, false flag, and the Obama administration. Text below via TPM:

BOLTON: It’s not at all clear to me just viewing this from the outside that this hacking into the DNC and the RNC computers was not a false flag operation. Let’s remember what FBI director James Comey said dealing with Hillary’s home brew server. He said we found no direct evidence of foreign intelligence service penetration, but given the nature of this, we didn’t expect to. Meaning, a really sophisticated foreign intelligence service would not leave any cyber fingerprints. And yet people say they did leave cyber fingerprints in the hacks regarding our election. So the question that has to be asked is why did the Russians run their smart intelligence service against Hillary’s server but their dumb intelligence services against the election —

SHAWN: When you say false flag, that’s a very serious charge. False flag by whom? Here is “The Washington post.” The Post reported the CIA has concluded individuals with close ties to the Russian government hacked the e-mails. Intelligence officials have determined that Russia’s goal was to help trump win rather than simply undermine confidence in the election. Are you actually accusing someone here in this administration of trying — in the intelligence community of trying to throw something?

BOLTON: We just don’t know, but I believe that intelligence has been politicized in the Obama administration to a very significant degree.

Here’s a clip:

A couple of old clips down the John Bolton memory lane:

One writer called “his obsession with the United Nations is as serious as Ted Haggard’s with sin.” After he announced his resignation as U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in December 2006, the Heritage Foundation released In Their Own Words: Ambassador Bolton’s Record of Effectiveness at the U.N., a collection of quotes from media clips, senators, foreign officials and a few fans. Here he is with one of his greatest hits talking about the United Nations.

And then here’s Senator Rand Paul who sits in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) and says John Bolton “should get nowhere close” to the State Department.

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Reactions to Trump’s Reported T. Rex Pick For the State Department #dazzleandwow

Posted: 12:52 am ET

 

On Sunday, the Trump Transition says that “ There will be no announcements on Secretary of State until next week at the earliest.”  Even as unnamed sources continue to tell members of the press that Tillerson is the pick, Reince Priebus who is slated to become President-elect Trump’s chief of staff cautioned that it’s a “little premature to be claiming” the secretary of state choice for the incoming Trump administration is a “done deal.”  So until the official announcement is made, which could happen tomorrow or on Friday or whenever is the season finale, it may still be open season for the secretary of state candidates.

The secretary of state nomination has to go through a confirmation hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC).  That’s a 10 GOP/9 Dems split. GOP Members include Senators Marco Rubio, Jeff Flake, and Rand Paul. If the nomination makes it out of the SFRC, it has to go through a full vote in the Senate. The 115th Congress includes 46 Democratic Senators, 2 Independents, and 52 Republican Senators.  A simple majority vote is required to get confirmation. So the Senators. Don’t forget them, particularly the Republican Senators. Makes one wonder if the leak on Tillerson as pick is a trial balloon to see what kind of reception the nomination is going to get, and what the potential confirmation fight might look like in the Senate. Also, add this to your SOS candidate trivia.  Rex Tillerson’s salary in 2015 is reportedly $27.2 million. The secretary of state’s annual salary in 2015 is $203,700.

Reactions to the potential Tillerson appointment:

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Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani Won’t Be the Next Secretary of State

Posted: 2:06 pm PT

 

On December 9, President-elect Donald Trump announced that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani removed his name from consideration for a position in the Trump Administration. Who’s next?

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Related posts:

69th Secretary of State Race: New Names Include Stavridis, Huntsman, Tillerson, Manchin #dazzle&wow

Posted: 12:58 ET

 

In addition to the new names floated today, Politico is reporting that “whoever ultimately gets the top job at the State Department, multiple Trump transition sources said former United Nations ambassador John Bolton is widely expected to be offered a chance to be slotted in as one of the secretary’s top deputies, if not as the No. 2.”  Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., is reportedly also likely to be offered a lower post in the State Department, according to unnamed Politico sources.  Also as has been reported previously, Giuliani has told the Trump team directly that he isn’t interested in any other job than secretary of state.  As of this writing, Predictit still has Romney leading the pack, followed by Huntsman, Giuliani, Corker, Bolton, Petraeus, Rohrabacher, Tillerson and Manchin.

Howaboutthisguy? He razzle dazzle, hey? This is pretty doable for the 8th Floor, right?

The Funnies, not funnies over on Twitter:

69th Secretary of State Watch: The Prediction Market, Who’s Up, Who’s Down? Who’s at Trump Tower?

Posted: 1:53 am ET

 

CBS News is reporting today that the “battle” to become President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state appears to be down to three men: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and former CIA Director David Petraeus.  CBS News’ Major Garrett reported Tuesday morning that Giuliani is still the likeliest pick — but that as Mr. Trump meets with Romney over dinner in Midtown Manhattan tonight, it’s hard to discount Romney as a top pick as well.  “I’m told that Giuliani is still the leading candidate but this dinner with Romney tonight … does add to the atmospheric drama around this whole process,” Garrett said on CBSN.

These are exactly the top three names over at the prediction market with Romney leading at $0.41 now since we did the screen grab below, followed by Giuliani at $.0.26, and Petraeus at $0.12. 

Top tier names on predictit breaking above 1¢:

predictita

Lower tier names on predictit not breaking above 1¢:

predictitb

 

See the SoS predictit page here.

In any case, somebody apparently told Representative Dana Rorahbacher that he is under consideration as secretary of state. He released the following statement for folks who wanted to cast their votes over at the Breitbart News poll.

danar_soslist

Link to poll below where 146,450 people apparently voted on who should be the next secretary of state. They picked somebody else!

Meanwhile, Rudy, Rudy, Rudy, is still in the running.

And then, the Petraeus crashed Rudy’s party.

President-elect Trump also had dinner at a French restaurant with Mitt Romney and there’s a photo!  Somewhere is this photo is an invisible word cloud that says “GOTCHA!”  Looks like DJT is so tickled, he might just announced his secretary of state before the season finale.

Nooooo, it’s not Fabio.

And it’s not Mr. Large Wooden Stick. Stopit.

Da end. Until the next update.

 

Related posts:

Previously

 

 

Nigel Farage’s Quest For UK Ambassadorship to the US: “No Vacancy”, Ferrero Rocher, An Op-Ed

Posted: 2:36 am ET

 

So then, he had a party at The Ritz with lots and lots of Ferrero Rocher.

Now here he is with an op-ed saying “I’ve never thought of myself as a diplomat but I suppose in the changed world of 2016 anything is possible.”  He’s trying to make the case that he has “better relationships with Trump and his team in America than anybody in Westminster.” And in the most often repeated “people say” version from this election cycle, he writes that  “Fair minded people look at Downing Street’s constant rejections of the idea that I can help as being at best, small-minded, tribal politics and at worst potentially damaging our national interest.”  

If that’s not enough to convince the UK Government, here he is with Russia Today’s Sam Delaney on why he wants Sir Kim Darroch‘s  (@KimDarroch) job as UK Ambassador representing Her Majesty The Queen and the UK government in Washington, D.C. By the way, Ambassador Darroch is a seasoned diplomat with over three decades of diplomatic experience, in case you’re wondering.

The clip below  comes complete with an enlarged photo of Ambassador Darroch and his wife, and job interview questions for Mr. Farage, who obviously, is having the time of his life.

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69th Secretary of State Watch: Giuliani Gets Dinged, Bolton Writes an OpEd, Paul Spikes Transition Ball

Posted: 2:47 am ET

 

The other most mentioned name, John Bolton now calls for major NATO and UN reforms, and took to the pages of the NYPost to prescribe what Trump needs to do with Iran.

Meanwhile, Senator Rand Paul who sits in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) came out early and quickly to register disapproval over the potential nomination of John Bolton or Rudy Giuliani.

The Senate can approve or reject a nomination. A majority of Senators present and voting, a quorum being present, is required to approve a nomination. Read more here (PDF).

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