Maximum Pressure Season 2 Ends With Iran Special Rep Brian Hook Walking Off Into the Sunset

 

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Acting @StateOIG Stephen Akard Quits After Less Than 3 Months

 

Well, now, what do we make of this?  The Acting State OIG Stephen Akard has reportedly quit after less than three months in office. WaPo is reporting that Akard was taking a position with a law firm in Indiana, his home state. “It’s unclear whether there were other factors in his decision.”
The guy who caused the firing of Akard’s predecessor dismissed a question about Akard’s departure during a news conference on Wednesday. “He left to go back home,” Pompeo said. “This happens. I don’t have anything more to add to that.”
How long before Mr. Akard gets called “a bad actor?
CNN reported that Akard previously told State/OIG officials and at the State Department that “he would be recusing himself from the ongoing investigations into Pompeo and his wife due to the fact that he was maintaining his State Department post.” Apparently, in early June, he also “told Democratic lawmakers investigating the circumstances of Linick’s ouster that he had stepped away from his role as Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, but had not resigned.”
A day prior to his reported resignation, Politico reported about an IG investigation into the  Office of the Chief of Protocol. The report cited by Politico “asserts that two senior officials in the protocol office, Cam Henderson and Mary-Kate Fisher, saw or learned of allegedly abusive behavior by Sean Lawler, the former chief of protocol, but failed to report it to human resources officials.”
Via Politico:
Its report cites “numerous” employees, as well as other probes by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Office of Civil Rights, in laying out its findings. But it also states that “all employees” interviewed “expressed a fear of retaliation” for speaking out. To protect their confidentiality, the report notes that it “discusses its findings in general terms.”
A top Pompeo deputy zeroed in on the resulting lack of specificity in his response, issued on behalf of the department’s 7th-floor leadership.
The response, dated June 30 and marked “unclassified,” is from Ulrich Brechbuhl, the State Department counselor and Pompeo’s de facto chief of staff. It is addressed to Stephen Akard, the acting inspector general, and his deputy Diana Shaw, and it is largely defensive of Henderson and Fisher while questioning the motives of the investigators.
[…]
“Leadership considers this matter closed,” Brechbuhl concludes. “We expect future reports from the OIG to be objective, comprehensive, professional and appropriate.”
The next thing we’re going to hear is that Pompeo’s other BFF Brechbuhl did not inform his boss before blasting the agency’s own “watchdog” of  “systemic pattern of selective inclusion and exclusion of facts.”
But State OIG is warned, very clearly, that future reports from that office is “expected”  to be “objective, comprehensive, professional ….”  Oh, and also “appropriate.”
Got that?

 

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Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Michael Evanoff Resigns

 

WaPo’s John Hudson is reporting that DS Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security Michael T. Evanoff has informed DS employees of his resignation with an expected departure next week. He reportedly has a new job at a “multinational company.  Mr. Evanoff who was a career special agent in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security from 1985 to 2011 was sworn in as Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security (DS) on November 3, 2017. Prior to his return to State in 2017, he was the Vice President for Asset Protection & Security for Walmart International, Inc. in Arkansas. He also previously served as Chief Security Officer at Coca-Cola HBC, in Zug, Switzerland and Athens, Greece, and as Global Director of Security at Och-Ziff Capital Management Group in New York.
This is the top security position at State so we hope a new nominee is announced and confirmed quickly but it is also likely that we may not see a new nominee until next year.  When DS appointee David Gordon Carpenter’s appointment ended in June 29, 2002, his successor, Francis Xavier Taylor  did not assume charge until November 18, 2002. Similarly, when DS appointee Richard J. Griffin‘s ended his appointment on November 1, 2007, his successor, career appointee Eric J. Boswell did not assume charge until July 8, 2008.
Traditionally, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) who is also the Director of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) assumes charge of the bureau in an acting capacity. That would be Todd J. Brown who has been in the bureau’s number two position since March 2018. However, given the appointment practices in this administration, we’ll have to wait and see who will actually becomes interim bureau head. We should note that despite the proliferation of political appointees in Foggy Bottom, DS is one bureau where the top leadership ranks are career officials (or former career officials). 

Michael T. Evanoff

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

 

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

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

 

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

First Person: DSS Agent Assaulted By Spouse Says “Our HR process is garbage”

 

The following is a first person account shared by a Diplomatic Security agent who was assaulted twice by his spouse in USG quarters temporary housing located in the Washington DC area.  He wrote that he wanted  to call attention to a situation he faced in the hope that “others who find themselves in similar circumstances know what to expect.”  He added that “with the ongoing pandemic and quarantine other employees may find themselves in similar situations as they are trapped with their spouses under stressful circumstances.” He told us he was a DS Agent with a few years on the job.  “Despite being relatively junior, I was a good agent that made tenure, had no disciplinary issues, and I received several awards.” 
The individual who wrote this told us that he resigned from the State Department and is now employed by another agency in his home state.
This is his story, as sent to us. We’ve added links in [brackets] for the relevant offices:  

I was assigned to an HTP [High Threat Post] post in Africa and I was there for several months.  While there, a medical issue surfaced that couldn’t be treated at Post.  I went on leave to my home state (which was also the location of my previous assignment and where my spouse and child lived while I was at post) and saw a specialist.  While on leave, I was “caught out”-the medical condition I was diagnosed with while on leave prevented my return to post.  I was told by MED [Bureau of Medical Services] that I could not return to Post, my medical clearance was downgraded, and (after what seemed like an eternity), I was eventually assigned to a position in the DC/NOVA area.  Never mind that I burned through all my leave so that I could keep getting paid and the medical per diem that I was authorized didn’t pay out until the very end.  I rented out my house in my home state and prepared to move my family to the NOVA area.

 While in temporary housing at one of the Oakwood properties, my spouse assaulted me.  Our relationship had been badly strained by the long durations apart for training and an unaccompanied tour (while at post, things got so bad that I retained a lawyer and initiated divorce proceedings).  After the assault, my spouse was arrested by the local police-and after the mandatory separation period we decided to try to patch things up and try again.  Thankfully our child was not present when this happened; several weeks later we brought our child to Virginia.  I also started looking for a position with another agency knowing that the foreign service lifestyle was taking its toll.  We wound up buying a condo in one of the suburbs and moved in.

I went on a brief TDY and this separation caused issues to resurface to in our relationship.  I committed to restarting the divorce proceedings.  However, court proceedings, custody issues, and property would be decided in my home state-not in Virginia.  I could not afford another residence in Virginia, and I could not stay with my spouse due to the violent outbursts.  I was essentially homeless.  I reached out to Employee Consultation Services and my CDO [Career Development Officer] and asked about being transferred back to my home state.  At least in my home state I would be able to stay with family and see the divorce through.  Remaining in Virginia would mean continuing to “crash” at AirBnBs until my tour was up…another 18 months.  After several weeks, my spouse assured me that it was safe to return to the condo and I wanted to see my child.

Approximately 3 weeks after returning from this TDY things again took a turn for the worse and my spouse assaulted me-this time with a weapon.  I only sustained minor injuries, but my spouse was arrested and this left me responsible for taking care of our child alone.  My chain-of-command was incredibly understanding and supportive and I was able to meet family and work obligations without issue.  Unfortunately, or HR system was much less understanding and supportive. There were open positions in my home state that I wanted to return to.  However, it seems like it takes an act of God to get an employee to one of them.  I was told that my request to “the panel”…which was supported by police and court reports, and an affidavit from my attorney which explained the need to be in my home state for the divorce, may not be sufficient justification for reassignment.  According to one of the CDOs I was dealing with (more on that later), the panel is concerned that people may “take advantage of (domestic violence) situations” and try to get reassigned.  I guess that it is more career enhancing to just continue to get abused and windup losing custody than to transfer an employee.  Thankfully, I was able to secure a position with another agency in my home state.  I won’t be homeless and I can see the divorce through to the end.  Although the pay cut hurts, at least I am safe and will see my child again.

Overall, DS [Diplomatic Security] was a great experience.  The work and the people were great.  The same goes for all of the Foreign Service and Civil Service colleagues that I had the pleasure of working with.  We hire some very talented people, but we don’t do a good job retaining them.  Our HR process is garbage.  [HR office is now officially the Bureau of Global Talent Management].

I understand that everyone has unique circumstances but just be aware that the programs that you think can help you cannot be relied upon.  By all means, try to stay with the foreign service if you like the job…had they been able to accommodate me until my issue was resolved I’d have done 20 and retired.  Your DS experience, training, and security clearance make you marketable to other agencies….keep trying and one will come through.  If DS (and the Dept. as a whole) were serious about retaining employees, they would fix the HR system.  I am now looking to see if I have any legal recourse; others shouldn’t have to go through this.  As a wise person said, “at the end of the day it is just a job”.  It was an interesting and rewarding job-but still just a job.  There is other good work out there.  If you think things may go bad, get your applications in.  Constantly have applications going with other agencies so you always have a parachute…that is what saved me.

Below are his “lessons learned,” shared for those who may be in similar circumstances:

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Ambassador Mark Green Steps Down as USAID Administrator

On March 16, 2020, USAID Administrator Mark Green announced his plans “to leave USAID and return to the private sector next month.” He served for two and a half years at USAID. He said “With the vision and dedication of the men and women of USAID, the Agency has done unceasing and robust work to change and improve the power of foreign assistance to help our partner nations on their Journeys to Self-Reliance. The purpose of foreign assistance is to end the need for its existence. The work of USAID every day provides a powerful return on investment to the American taxpayers for our national security, our economic growth – this generosity is simply in our DNA as a country.”
Ambassador Green officially ended his tenure on April 10, 2020. Three names have been reported as potential successor:  Jim Richardson (currently State/F)  and Pompeo’s chief of staff when he was at the U.S. House of Representatives; Rep. Ted Yoho, a Republican from Florida; Ed Royce, the former Republican congressman from California and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC).

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State/CSO DAS Mina Chang Resigns After NBC News Asked About Newly Discovered False Claims

 

We recently posted about State/CSO DAS Mina Chang following an NBC News investigation (see Dear @StateDept, How Many More Mina Changs Do You Have?). NBC News reported on November 18 that Ms. Change has resigned from the State Department “two and a half hours after NBC News went to her spokesperson to ask about newly discovered false claims she had made about her charity work.”

Senior Trump administration official Mina Chang resigned from her job at the State Department two and a half hours after NBC News went to her spokesperson to ask about newly discovered false claims she had made about her charity work.

NBC News had previously reported that Chang, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, had embellished her resume with misleading claims about her educational achievements and the scope of her non-profit’s work — even posting a fake cover of Time magazine with her face on it.

“It is essential that my resignation be seen as a protest and not as surrender because I will not surrender my commitment to serve, my fidelity to the truth, or my love of country,” Chang wrote in her resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Indeed, I intend to fight for those things as a citizen in the days and years to come.”

Chang said she had been “unfairly maligned, unprotected by my superiors, and exposed to a media with an insatiable desire for gossip and scandal, genuine or otherwise.”
[…[
The newly discovered false claims include misrepresenting a trip to Afghanistan as a humanitarian mission, listing an academic who says he never worked for her nonprofit as an employee, claiming a nonexistent degree from the University of Hawaii, inflating an award and claiming to be an “ambassador” for the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO.

Her bio page at state.gov now display a “We apologize for the inconvenience…” page.
We still want to know how she got to Foggy Bottom. That has implications not just with the vetting process but also Diplomatic Security’s security clearance process.

Ambassador P. Michael McKinley, Senior Advisor to Pompeo, Quits

 

Ambassador P. Michael McKinley, Senior Adviser to the Secretary of State has reportedly resigned from his post. Citing “a person familiar with the situation”, WaPo reported  that “McKinley felt that Pompeo had been a positive force compared to his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, in terms of encouraging alternative views within the department, as well as lifting a Tillerson freeze on promotions and prohibitions against spouses working abroad.”  Also that “Like many others, he was disappointed in the secretary’s lack of public support for diplomats who have been named in the Ukraine controversy and called to testify before House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry into the actions of Trump and his personal attorney, Rudolph W. Giuliani.”
Pompeo ‘s statement about McKinley’s departure is reportedly forthcoming. We’re bracing for a revelation about this departure.  We hope Pompeo’s minders have a more creative excuse for this departure … like Ambassador McKinley is leaving because he wants to start a farm in Oregon, or Ambassador McKinley is writing a book, and going on a book tour. Something like that. We’re getting tired of being told that an official would like to spend more time with her/his family. Or that this departure is “as planned” as PA folks like to put it when things are certainly not “as planned.”

Via state.gov

P. Michael McKinley was appointed to the position of Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State in May 2018. He most recently served as the U.S. Ambassador to Brazil from 2017-2018, and as the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2014 to 2016. He was also U.S. Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014. Ambassador McKinley was the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia from 2010-2013 and the U.S. Ambassador to Peru from 2007-2010. He was Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d’Affaires at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels between 2004 and 2007. From 2001-2004, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Between 1994 and 2001, Ambassador McKinley was Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d’ Affaires at U.S. Embassies in Mozambique, Uganda, and Belgium. Earlier assignments include U.S. Embassy London (1990-94), three tours in Washington (1985-90), and Bolivia (1983-85). Ambassador McKinley joined the Foreign Service in 1982. Ambassador McKinley was born in Venezuela and grew up in Brazil, Mexico, Spain, and the United States. He did his undergraduate and graduate studies in the United Kingdom, and has a doctorate from Oxford University. His history of colonial Venezuela was published by Cambridge University Press as part of its Latin America series, and also appeared in a Spanish edition.

Trump’s Special Representative For Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker Steps Down

 

Shortly after news broke last Friday of House Committees issuing subpoenas for State Department documents on Ukraine and a scheduled depositions for five state Department officials, news also broke on the resignation of the U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations Kurt Volker.  Ambassador Volker was a career diplomat from 1988-2009. It appears he left the Foreign Service  in 2009 following his stint as U.S. Ambassador to NATO.
Kurt Douglas Volker was born on December 27, 1964 (age 54) in Pennsylvania. His NNDB profile notes that he was an analyst for the CIA from 1986-88. He joined the State Department in 1988. (By the way, in June this year, he married Voice of America journalist and Georgia native Iya Meurmishvili). 

August 11, 1988: His name appears on congress.gov (PN1205 — 100th Congress (1987-1988) on his appointment to be “to be Consular Officers and/or Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America, as indicated: Consular Officers and Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America” on August 11, 1988.

1988-1994: ???.

On June 28, 1991: He was “Confirmed by the Senate by Unanimous Consent” for his appointment “as Foreign Service Officers of Class Four, Consular Officers and Secretaries in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America (PN433 — 102nd Congress (1991-1992).

His archived state.gov biography did not indicate where he served his first posts only that “his prior Foreign Service assignments include Budapest, London, and several positions in the U.S. Department of State.” His Wikipedia bio includes service in Budapest, London and Brussels and places these assignment in the 1994–1997 bracket. This could mean a one 2-year assignment at one post, and then two other single year assignments at two posts. Junior officers typically serve 2-year assignments for their first two tours.

1994-1997: Budapest, London, Brussels, State Department ???

1997-1998: He was a State Department Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Senate from 1997-1998, working on foreign policy matters for Senator John McCain

1998-1999: He was First Secretary at the U.S. Mission to NATO responsible for the Membership Action Plan and Partnership for Peace issues according to his USNATO bio.

1999-2001: He was Deputy Director of the Private Office of then-NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson.

2001-2005?:  He was Acting Senior Director for European and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC); He served at the NSC for four years, working as Director for NATO and West Europe according to his USNATO bio. If these are the correct years of his tenure at the NSC, it would have overlapped with Condi Rice’s tenure as National Security Advisor prior to her appointment as Secretary of State.

July 2005-June 2008: He was appointed Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs (State/EUR).

January 10, 2008: President George W. Bush announced his intent to nominate Volker  as Permanent Representative to USNATO.

April 29, 2008: Volker was  confirmed by the Senate by Voice Vote to be USNATO Permanent Representative (PN1179 — Kurt Douglas Volker — Department of State 110th Congress (2007-2008):

“Kurt Douglas Volker, of Pennsylvania, a Career Foreign Service Officer of Class One, to be United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary”

October 2, 2008: Volker was confirmed by the Senate by Voice Vote for “promotion into the Senior Foreign Service, as indicated: Career Members of the Senior Foreign Service of the United States of America, Class of Counselor” (PN2000 — 110th Congress (2007-2008). 

May 2, 2008-May 15, 2009: History.state.gov indicates that Ambassador Volker served as U.S. Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (USNATO) from May 2, 2008 – May 15, 2009. Typical tours for career appointees is three years.

2009? Resignation/Retirement from the U.S. Foreign Service? His Wikipedia entry only says that “Volker went into the private sector in 2009 …” We have not been able to find any entry for him on  congress.gov after 2008.

December 18, 2009: Ambassador Volker was appointed as Independent Director of the Wall Street Fund, Inc.

May 24, 2012: He was named Executive Director of Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership.

July 7, 2017: Tillerson Appointed Volker as Special Representative For Ukraine Negotiations . At the time of his appointment, Volker had been out of the State Department for several years. We don’t know how Tillerson picked him as special rep for Ukraine. But they had one shared connection — with the former secretary of state. CNN previously reported that Condi Rice was one of the Republican foreign policy veterans who “played a crucial role in convincing Trump’s team to select Tillerson to become America’s top diplomat.” Did Rice recommend Volker to Tillerson?

September 27, 2019: Volker resigned from post as Special Representative