Senate Passes 98-0 Resolution Against Making Available Current/Ex-Diplomats For Russia Questioning

 

A follow-up to Trump-Putin Summit Fallout: POTUS Entertains Proposal For Russia to Question Ex-US Amb Mike McFaul. The Senate has just passed a 98-0 resolution against making available for Russian questioning  current or former diplomats as well as other officials of the United States Government. The White House has now released a statement about Putin’s proposal that the President of the United States purportedly disagreed with but had previously called “an incredible offer.”

See July 19 update below via VOA with Secretary Pompeo saying “It’s not going to happen,” then added that “”President Trump was very clear – we’re not gonna force Americans to go to Russia to be interrogated by the Russians.”  

The notion that this proposal was made in “sincerity” by President Putin, and that President Trump disagreed with it is actually laughable. Were that true, the Press Secretary could have said immediately that the president pushed back hard against that proposal. This White House must really think we’re all dumb as rocks.

This was a no brainer. Ambassador McFaul, and the other officials that Russia wanted to question may not have been employees of this president, but they were employees and representatives of the United States of America, not of the Democratic Party (despite what this president might think or believe). The fact that this was even offered as a proposal tells us just what Putin think of this President. And the fact this President Trump did not push back and even appeared to consider it is horrifying.

So instead, the Press Secretary announced from the podium that the president “would work with his team” — excuse me, to do what exactly? And now the Press Secretary is saying that while President Trump disagreed with Putin’s proposal, “hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”  That proposal was supposedly in exchange for the questioning of USG individuals. And now all they have left is “hoping” that Putin will go ahead with the proposal anyway?

Holy caramba! No wonder Putin is laughing his head off; he’s playing chess against our White House playing find the shortest toothpick.

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UPDATE:

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Question of the Day: Do you personally agree with the President’s decision?

Posted: 3:27 am ET

 

Via Special Briefing with David M. Satterfield
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
December 7, 2017

QUESTION: As a veteran diplomat and representative of NEA, do you personally agree with the President’s decision?

AMBASSADOR SATTERFIELD: Oh, now. I am an employee of the U.S. Government. I am a Foreign Service officer. We all – and I speak of my boss, the Secretary, and the other principals in the U.S. Government – we are all part of this team. This is a decision which we will work our best to execute and advance.

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Ambassador John F. Tefft Pens Op-Ed as He Departs Russia, to Retire After 45 Years of Service

Posted: 2:23 am ET
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Ambassador John F. Tefft, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia left post on September 28. He is also retiring from the U.S. Foreign Service for the second time after 45 years of public service. He pens the following op-ed for The Moscow Times:

On the Day of My Departure

We need to rebuild trust between our two countries.

When I first joined the diplomatic service, working on the Soviet desk in the 1980s, our relationship with Russia was at a low point. The Soviet Union had just shot down a Korean Airliner, with almost 100 Americans including a Congressman on board. There was a lot of anger in America.

Today, as I prepare to leave Russia, our relationship has reached another low point. Americans are concerned and angry about Russian interference in our elections and by the Russian authorities’ refusal to accept their responsibility for it.

As Secretary Tillerson said, we need to rebuild trust between our two countries and move our relationship to a different place. The American people want the two most powerful nuclear nations in the world to have a better relationship. From the earliest days of this Administration we have said time and again that we would prefer a constructive relationship with Russia based on cooperation on common interests. We remain prepared to try to find a way forward.

Serving the American community is at the heart of the work of the U.S. Mission in Russia, and it will continue to be a main priority moving forward. The U.S. Embassy and our Consulates General throughout Russia first and foremost are here to provide services to the Americans living, working, and traveling in Russia. During my time here, I have seen what Americans can do in Russia to bring our countries together on a people-to-people, business-to-business, scholar-to-scholar, performer-to-performer level. This gives me hope, even during these difficult times.

With the help of our Foreign Commercial Service and Foreign Agricultural Service, U.S. and Russian businesses receive assistance developing and expanding new relationships and introducing innovative technologies. This increases trade and investment and strengthens ties between our two countries. I have seen how cattle ranchers from the United States and Russia work together to produce high quality beef for the Russian market and how American-trained managers bring productivity and streamlined processing into Russian businesses to help make them more profitable and more successful.

I am particularly proud of the positive influence U.S. companies have had on the Russian business culture. When I contrast the present business culture with what I witnessed here in the 1990s, I notice tremendous progress in the areas of transparency, business ethics, and corporate social responsibility.

U.S. companies have led by example on corporate social responsibility. One major soft drinks manufacturer has partnered with governmental and non-governmental organizations to preserve and protect important watersheds; an oil and gas corporation has provided over $250 million to support infrastructure and community projects in Sakhalin and Khabarovsk Krai; and a paper and pulp producer supports social programs in Svetogorsk. These are just a few of the many examples of the benefits of the presence of U.S. companies here in Russia. I have also been very impressed with Russia’s talented business leaders, including women, many of whom rose from entry-level positions at U.S. companies to the highest ranks of leadership.

As I look back over my time here in Russia, I am struck by the richness of Russian culture and history. I will look back fondly on my travels to places like Tikhvin, where I had the pleasure of visiting Rimsky-Korsakov’s childhood home and seeing the piano on which so many amazing and talented Russian composers played and composed their works. I will particularly remember my annual visits to events such as the pop-culture and entertainment conference Comic-Con, my travels throughout the country to visit American businesses and partnerships, and all of the opportunities I have to meet with many creative, intelligent young Russians who are inspired by the possibilities of what we can do when we work together.

We will continue to stand up for our interests while looking for avenues of dialogue. We remain dedicated to finding ways to bring together Russians and Americans both to discuss our differences and to discover the many things we have in common. Having seen how we weathered the storm in the 1980s and the dedication of our staff of talented professionals in the State Department back home and here in Mission Russia, I remain optimistic that our governments will ultimately find a way forward. On our side, we’re certainly ready.

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Ambassador Tefft served as the United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation since September 2014. He previously served as Ambassador to Lithuania from 2000 to 2003, to Georgia from 2005 to 2009, and to Ukraine from 2009 to 2013. He worked from 2004 to 2005 as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs responsible for U.S. relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova.

Ambassador Tefft retired from the Foreign Service in September 2013 and served as Executive Director of the RAND Corporation’s Business Leaders Forum from October 2013 to August 2014 until his recall to duty and confirmation as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation.  From 2003 to 2004 Tefft was the International Affairs Advisor at the National War College in Washington, D.C. He was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 1996 to 1999, and was Chargé d’Affaires from November 1996 to September 1997. His other Foreign Service assignments include Jerusalem, Budapest, and Rome.

He received the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award in 1992, the DCM of the Year Award for his service in Moscow in 1999 and the Diplomacy for Human Rights Award in 2013. He also received Presidential Meritorious Service Awards in 2001 and 2005.

House GOP to Use Holman Rule to Target Staff/Funds of the Congressional Budget Office #Bonkers

Posted: 2:06 pm ET
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In early January, we blogged about the Holman Rule, which was removed from the standing rules in 1983 but reinstated by House Republicans early this year (see House GOP Brings Back Holman Rule to “Retrench” Agency Spending, Cut Pay of Any Federal Employee. According to the Hill, the House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) is trying to eliminate 89 positions from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s staff and require the office to aggregate think tank data instead of using its own professional expertise. The Hill says that Meadows would use the Holman Rule. “In an amendment to be offered to the security-related spending bill scheduled for a House vote this week, Meadows would cut $15 million of funding to CBO staff members responsible for estimating the budgetary costs of bills in Congress…”

This is bonkers.  They don’t like the Congressional Budget Office’s scores, so they’ll eliminate 89 positions and slash the agency’s funding. If they succeed in doing this, they could replicate this at any agency. It will hasten the death of expertise in federal agencies and we will be left with whatever desirable facts and fancy reports will be rolled out by the administration of the day based on aggregated reports from preferred think tanks.

The “Holman Rule” in the rules package passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 234 to 193. WaPo previously reported in January that a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any amendment to an appropriations bill that targets a specific government employee or program, but that its passage put agencies and the public on notice that their work is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

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Top U.S. Diplomat in China David Rank Resigns Over #ParisAgreement Withdrawal

Posted: 3:22 am ET
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Reports broke on Twitter on Monday that David Rank, the chargé d’affaires of the US Embassy in Beijing, has left the State Department over the Trump administration’s decision to quit the 2015 Paris agreement to fight climate change.  Reuters later confirmed his resignation citing the spokesperson from the EAP Bureau:

“He has retired from the foreign service,” said Anna Richey-Allen, a spokeswoman for the department’s East Asia Bureau. “Mr Rank has made a personal decision. We appreciate his years of dedicated service to the State Department.”
[…]
A senior US official confirmed the account given in the tweets but added that after Rank announced his intention to retire on Monday in Beijing, he was told by the State Department to leave his post immediately.

David H. Rank is the Chargé d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy Beijing. He assumed the position when Ambassador Max Baucus departed post.  Prior to assuming the position of Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy Beijing in January 2016, he served as the Director of the State Department’s Office of Afghanistan Affairs and as a Senior Advisor to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.  From 2011-2012, Dave was the Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Since joining the State Department in 1990, he has also served in Washington, DC; Beijing, Taipei, Shanghai, Athens and Port Louis, Mauritius.  In Washington, he worked in the Office of Korean Affairs, served as the Special Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, and was a Dean Rusk Fellow at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

Dave has received numerous Superior Honor and Meritorious Honor Awards, as well as the American Foreign Service Association’s Sinclaire Award for the study of languages and their associated cultures (Greek, 2004).  In 2015 he received the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award for his role in securing the return of the only American service member held by the enemy in Afghanistan. Dave speaks Mandarin Chinese, French, Dari and Greek.  He and his wife, Mary, have three children – Mary Margaret, Robert and Ellen.

If true that his resignation is over the Paris Agreement withdrawal, this would be the first resignation by a career Foreign Service officer over a policy disagreement.  In March 2017, a Foreign Service specialist, DS Agent TJ Lunardi resigned over his belief that President Trump is “a threat to our constitutional order” (see Diplomatic Security Agent With 17-Year Service Resigns Over Trump). If there are other resignations we should know about, email us!

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Talking to the Press, Congress, and the Path to Blowing the Whistle

Posted: 12:30 am ET
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The Foreign Policy Project produced a podcast in partnership with the Women’s Foreign Policy Network on the do’s and don’ts of talking to the press, congress, and the path to blowing the whistle. The discussion includes an overview of protections available – do you want to disclose openly or anonymously?  What does the process of going to the Project on Government Oversight look like? What tools can you use to encrypt your communications? What should you consider before going to the press? POGO’s Danielle Brian is in the podcast. Check it out.

Check out the rest of the podcasts here: http://theforeignpolicyproject.org/women-in-diplomacy-podcast/.

 

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Lonesome Rex to Make Inaugural Trip to Asia Without His Traveling Press?

Posted: 2:37 am ET
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Secretary Tillerson knew when he took this job that he would be the face and the voice of America to the world. That includes talking to the press, and more importantly answering questions from the press corps. We get that he’s new at this but he better get it together fast; he’s now one of our most prominent public servants, and he cannot continue to evade the press and avoid answering questions without running afoul of one of his three core principles.

NBC’s Andrea Mitchell  has now been escorted twice out of a State Department presser. Reporters were also previously escorted out during the Lavrov-Tillerson meeting in Germany. We betcha when Secretary Tillerson starts talking to the press, reporters would not have to shout their questions during every 30-second photo-op. And now, we’re hearing that Secretary Tillerson is making his inaugural trip to Asia next week. He will be traveling with the new Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the EAP Bureau Susan Thornton who assumed post after Danny Russel’s recent departure.  According to the State Department, Secretary Tillerson will arrive in Tokyo on March 15, continue on to Seoul on March 17, and travel to Beijing on March 18 —  apparently without his traveling press.

Here is the official word on this according to the acting @StateDept spox, Mark Toner:

[W]ith respect to the trip to Asia, we’re still working out the logistics, so I really can’t say specifically or speak definitively, I guess, as to whether we will be able to accommodate any press on the Secretary’s plane. I think we’re all aware that it is a smaller plane for this particular trip. There will, as you know, going to – there will be some U.S. media who will be traveling to the destinations, each destination, and of course, we will do our utmost to support them at those destinations and provide whatever access we can.  And I think going forward, the State Department is doing everything it can to – and will do everything it can to accommodate a contingent of traveling media on board the Secretary’s plane.

Wait, Secretary Tillerson’s minders did not purposely select a smaller plane, did they?  The smaller plane excuse would only really work had Secretary Tillerson traveled with the full press during his trips to Mexico and Germany, then say, hey, can’t this time because we’re forced to use a smaller plane. But in Mexico, Secretary Tillerson reportedly only traveled with press pools, took a small plane and had one writer and one photographer. So this is starting to look like this could be the new normal.  If he can get away with not taking his traveling press this time, are we looking at our top diplomat ditching the press for good in the future?  This is, of course, worrisome coz how are we going to Make America Great Again if we can’t even provide a good size plane for our chief diplomat and his traveling press?

Folks, this doesn’t look good. You need to make this right. And hey, about the milkbox, does he have a favorite color?

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Secretary Rex Tillerson to Foggy Bottom: Core Principles to Adopt – Accountability, Honesty, Respect

Posted: 6:30 pm PT
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A day after he was sworn in as the 69th Secretary of State, Secretary Tillerson walked into Foggy Bottom with his wife, Renda, and gave his welcome remarks to an anxious group of employees in DC and worldwide. He started his talk with a spark of humor saying, “We apologize for being late. It seemed that this year’s prayer breakfast, people felt the need to pray a little longer.” Except for one exception, Secretary Tillerson did not make any direct reference to the widely reported dissent  from our diplomats but did say, “Each of us is entitled to the expression of our political beliefs, but we cannot let our personal convictions overwhelm our ability to work as one team.”  He declared that “Change for the sake of change can be counterproductive, and that will never be my approach.” He went on to cite a few core principles that he asked to adopt in  Foggy Bottom: accountability, honesty, and respect.  Secretary Tillerson said, “What I ask of you and what I demand of myself – I will embrace accountability, honesty, and respect no less than anyone.”

In possible reference to the leaked Dissent Channel memo, he said, “Let us extend respect to each other, especially when we may disagree.” The full transcript of his remarks is here.

The reception appears warm and Secretary Tillerson’s speech was both reassuring and encouraging.

One Foggy Bottom nightingale gave the welcome remarks an A+.

An unnamed foreign service officer attending the event described Tillerson’s remarks to VOA as sincerely communicating “a genuine concern for the well-being of all members of the State Department team.”

People appreciate his stop at the Memorial Wall where 248 individuals are memorialized for heroic service and for perishing in the line of duty.

Secretary Tillerson has no prior government service but some folks we know liked what they’ve seen and heard so far.  We’re guessing that all are hopeful that the new secretary of state remain interested and engaged in the building and its people — contrary to some of his predecessors — oops … did we say that out loud?!

Good luck Foggy Bottom with your new captain, keep the four leaf clover in your pocket.

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OMB/OPM Issues Additional Guidance For Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze, Jan 31.2017 (Read)

Posted: 2:43 am ET
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On January 31, Mark Sandy, Acting OMB Director, and Kathleen McGettigan, Acting OPM Director issued a joint memo which provides  additional guidance regarding the freeze on the hiring of Federal civilian employees. The hiring freeze  was directed by the President on January 23, 2017, via Presidential Memorandum entitled “Hiring Freeze.”

Item #3 lists the exemptions permitted under the Federal civilian hiring freeze. Take note of the following:

c.  Nomination and appointment of officials to positions requiring Presidential appointment, with or without Senate confirmation.

d.  Appointment of officials to non-career positions in the Senior Executive Service (SES) or to Schedule C appointments in the Excepted Service, or the appointment of any other officials who serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority (i.e., “appointed” positions of a political/non-career nature).

h.  Appointments made under the Pathways Internship and Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Programs (this does not include the Recent Graduates Program).  Agencies should ensure that such hires understand the provisional nature of these appointments and that conversion is not guaranteed.

and

r.  The head of any agency may exempt any positions that it deems necessary to:

i.  Meet national security (including foreign relations) responsibilities, or

ii.  Meet public safety responsibilities (including essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property).  Agencies may refer to longstanding guidance, which provides examples of such activities in OMB Memorandum, Agency Operations in the Absence of Appropriations, dated 11/17/1981 [see examples 3(a) to 3(k)].

Note that the memo ends with the following:  The guidance in this memorandum is effective immediately.  Within 90 days of the publication of the PM issued on January 23, 2017, the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Director of OPM, shall recommend a long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.  The hiring freeze will expire upon implementation of the OMB plan.

The original memo is here or read in full below (click on lower right hand corner arrow to maximize reading space).

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Trump’s New Liaison to Hill Conservatives: ‘Go after the State Department folks, too … Let’s go after the Foreign Service”

Posted: 3:35 am ET
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“Go after the State Department folks too. Everybody talks about the civil service domestically, but no one talks about the Foreign Service. Let’s go after the Foreign Service.”

–Paul Teller
Trump Liaison to Congressional Conservatives
William F. Buckley Jr. Council – November 2016

 

Full talk via vox.com, at 27 min mark: https://soundcloud.com/cnp-786867471/william-f-buckley-jr-council-november-2016

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