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Previously Announced DOD Nominee John J. Sullivan Now Slated to be @StateDept’s No. 2

Posted: 3:30 am ET

 

On March 7, President Trump nominated John J. Sullivan as General Counsel for the Department of Defense. According to the WSJ, Trump administration officials in recent days have reportedly decided to tap Mr. Sullivan instead for the State Department’s deputy secretary position. The nomination has yet to be announced

The following brief bio was originally released during the announcement of Mr. Sullivan’s nomination for DOD General Counsel earlier this month:

Mr. Sullivan was most recently a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, D.C. office and co-chair of the firm’s National Security practice. He has held senior positions at the Justice, Defense, and Commerce Departments, advising the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Counsel to the President on the most sensitive legal and policy issues. During his tenure at Mayer Brown, Mr. Sullivan focused his practice on the growing intersection of global trade and investment and national security. Prior to joining Mayer Brown, Mr. Sullivan served at the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, where he was Counselor to Assistant Attorney General J. Michael Luttig. He advised senior officials on legal issues arising out of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and provided legal advice to the FBI, CIA, Treasury Department, and White House Counsel’s Office. Earlier in his career, he served as a law clerk for Associate Justice David H. Souter of the Supreme Court of the United States, and for Judge John Minor Wisdom of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Mr. Sullivan received his bachelor’s degree in history and political science from Brown University and his law degree from Columbia University School of Law, where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, Teaching Fellow, and Book Reviews Editor of the Columbia Law Review.

Mayer Brown has a more extensive Sullivan biography available online here: https://www.mayerbrown.com/en-US/people/John-Sullivan/

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Trump’s Diplomat: Rex Tillerson in His Own Words, Now With Gifs

Posted: 4:45 pm ET

 

Tillerson: “In the context of the budget, the fiscal year 2017 was a record high for the State Department.” (Note that the FY2013 budget was $1.6B more than the FY2017 budget. See “The Secretary” Writes FY18 Budget Love Letter to Foggy Bottom, But What’s This About Post Closures?).

 

Tillerson: “Looking at ongoing conflicts, if we accept that we’re just going to continue to never solve any of these conflicts, then the budget should stay at the current level.” (Note that proposed FY18 budget is nowhere near the current level.   See WH/OMB Releases FY2018 Budget Blueprint – @StateDept/@USAID Hit With 28% Funding Cuts Mar 16, 2017).

Via reactiongif.com

 

Tillerson’s top policy aide: “Tillerson and Mattis get along like gin and vermouth.” 

 

“Tillerson said he talks to Trump daily and has an open invitation to visit him at the White House whenever he chooses, he said they haven’t yet talked about what a dramatically different State Department will look like or how he will staff it. His eyes darted down to his desk when he said, “We haven’t gotten that far yet,” as though he realized he had been caught.”

 

Tillerson said he hopes eventually, “The people at the State Department will find their jobs much more rewarding.” And despite some of the commentary being bandied about, he thinks there’s been a lot of energy since the day he got started there. (See The Atlantic’s The State of Trump’s State Department).

via reactiongifs.com

Tillerson on NATO: “He [Trump] embarrassed them into increasing their spending.”

via reactiongifs.com

Tillerson: “We’ve got a lot going on inside the State Department, and we’re not talking about it until we’re ready, and that’s driving a lot of people nuts,” he said. He was so cagey when Russia came up, for example, that his answer wasn’t even worthy of inclusion.

via tumblr.com

Tillerson on  the Secretary of State job: “I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job.” He paused to let that sink in. A beat or two passed before an aide piped up to ask him why he said yes. My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”

 

Tillerson: “I serve at the pleasure of the president.” It doesn’t seem like he regrets accepting the job. “My wife convinced me. She was right. I’m supposed to do this.”

 

Read the full interview below and the transcript previously posted by the reporter, Erin McPike who was the sole journalist invited to accompany Secretary Tillerson on his trip to Asia:

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Tillerson of #NotBigMediaAccess Planet: NK ‘Imminent’ Threat, Fatigue News, Chinese Praise

Posted: 2:31 am ET

 

Secretary Tillerson traveled to Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing from March 15-18 —  without his full traveling press, but with one pre-selected journalist (see Lonesome Rex to Make Inaugural Trip to Asia Without His Traveling Press?). It sounds like this won’t be the last time he’s going to try to ditch his traveling press. Secretary Tillerson said that “we’re saving a lot of money by using this aircraft.”  Since cost savings has now been repeatedly cited as an excuse, let’s see the cost saved from this trip, please.

The controversy about press access to the 69th secretary of state continues.  Secretary Tillerson gave an interview to his sole traveling press, and once more cited saving money as one of the reasons for not taking a full traveling press:

Primarily it’s driven — believe it or not, you won’t believe it — we’re trying to save money. I mean, quite frankly, we’re saving a lot of money by using this aircraft, which also flies faster, allows me to be more efficient, and we’re going to destinations that, by and large, the media outlets have significant presence already, so we’re not hiding from any coverage of what we’re doing. The fact that the press corps is not traveling on the plane with me, I understand that there are two aspects of that. One, there’s a convenience aspect. I get it. The other is, I guess, what I’m told is that there’s this long tradition that the Secretary spends time on the plane with the press. I don’t know that I’ll do a lot of that. I’m just not … that’s not the way I tend to work. That’s not the way I tend to spend my time. I spend my time working on this airplane. The entire time we’re in the air, I’m working. Because there is a lot of work to do in the early stages. Maybe things will change and evolve in the future. But I hope people don’t misunderstand … there’s nothing else behind it than those simple objectives.

Apparently, Secretary Tillerson is not a “big media access person” and personally doesn’t need it. Holymolyguacamole! Can somebody in Foggy Bottom, please explain to him that this is not about what he needs.

“I’m not a big media press access person. I personally don’t need it. I understand it’s important to get the message of what we’re doing out, but I also think there’s only a purpose in getting the message out when there’s something to be done. And so we have a lot of work to do, and when we’re ready to talk about what we’re trying to do, I will be available to talk to people. But doing daily availability, I don’t have this appetite or hunger to be that, have a lot of things, have a lot of quotes in the paper or be more visible with the media. I view that the relationship that I want to have with the media, is the media is very important to help me communicate not just to the American people, but to others in the world that are listening. And when I have something important and useful to say, I know where everybody is and I know how to go out there and say it. But if I don’t because we’re still formulating and we’re still deciding what we’re going to do, there is not going to be a lot to say. And I know that you’ve asked me a lot of questions here that I didn’t answer, and I’m not answering them because we have some very, very complex strategic issues to make our way through with important countries around the world, and we’re not going to get through them by just messaging through the media. We get through them in face-to-face meetings behind closed doors. We can be very frank, open, and honest with one another and then we’ll go out and we’ll have something to share about that, but the truth of the matter is, all of the tactics and all of the things were going to do you will know them after they’ve happened.”

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“The Secretary” Writes FY18 Budget Love Letter to Foggy Bottom, But What’s This About Post Closures?

Posted: 2:21 pm ET

 

Earlier, we posted about Trump’s “skinny budget” which guts the State Department and USAID funding by 28%. (see WH/OMB Releases FY2018 Budget Blueprint – @StateDept/@USAID Hit With 28% Funding Cuts).  We understand that the actual cut is closer to 36% once the Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) is factored in. In early March, media reports indicate that the proposed cuts for the international affairs budget would be 37% (see In Disaster News, Trump Budget Seeks 37% Funding Cut For @StateDept and @USAID). If there was push back from the Tillerson State Department in the weeks before OMB released the “America First” budget blueprint, T-Rex’s diplomatic nudge appears to result in a 36% funding reduction instead of the first reported 37% funding cut.

Yesterday morning, as folks were waking up to the OMB release, a letter sent from Secretary Tillerson’s office arrived in the inboxes of State Department employees:

THE SECRETARY OF STATE
WASHINGTON

Today the Office of Management and Budget released a preview of the President’s budget request for 2018.  It is an unmistakable restatement of the needs the country faces and the priorities we must establish.  The State Department’s budget request addresses the challenges to American leadership abroad and the importance of defending American interests and the American people.  It acknowledges that U.S. engagement must be more efficient, that our aid be more effective, and that advocating the national interests of our country always be our primary mission. Additionally, the budget is an acknowledgment that development needs are a global challenge to be met not just by contributions from the United States, but through greater partnership with and contributions from our allies and others.

Over the coming weeks, we will work together to draw a new budget blueprint that will allow us to shape a Department ready to meet the challenges that we will face in the coming decades.  We will do this by reviewing and selecting our priorities, using the available resources, and putting our people in a position to succeed.

We have a genuine opportunity to set a new course.  Together, we are going to advance America’s national security and its economic security.  I am motivated to tackle this challenge and am eager to realize what we will achieve together.

We understand that this letter did not get very good reviews in Foggy Bottom. We really do think that Secretary Tillerson needs to have a town hall meeting with his employees as soon as he gets back from his travel. Before perceptions become realities.  We already know the why, now folks need to understand the where and how.  And it doesn’t help to just tell one bureau it’s zeroed out in funds, and then come back another day and say how about a 50% cut? As if the 7th floor taskmasters got off the wrong side of bed one morning and on the right side the next day.

During his stop in Japan, Secretary Tillerson finally took a few questions during press availability with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. The State Department budget was one of the questions asked during the presser. Below is a transcript from state.gov:

QUESTION: Secretary Tillerson, today the White House is revealing its blueprint for the federal budget that will include deep cuts to your department. Do you support efforts to make such drastic cuts to diplomacy and development funding at this time? And are you confident that you will be able to continue to represent U.S. interests with such reduced room to maneuver?

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Secretary Tillerson, please.

SECRETARY TILLERSON: Well, I think in terms of the proposed budget that has been put forth by President Trump, it’s important from the State Department perspective, I think, a little context, to recognize that the State Department is coming off of an historically high level of budgetary resources in the 2017 budget, and this is reflective of a number of decisions that have been taken over the past few years, in part driven by the level of conflicts that the U.S. has been engaged in around the world as well as disaster assistance that’s been needed.

I think clearly, the level of spending that the State Department has been undertaking in the past – and particularly in this past year – is simply not sustainable. So on a go-forward basis, what the President is asking the State Department to do is, I think, reflective of a couple of expectations. One is that as time goes by, there will be fewer military conflicts that the U.S. will be directly engaged in; and second, that as we become more effective in our aid programs, that we will also be attracting resources from other countries, allies, and other sources as well to contribute in our development aid and our disaster assistance.

I think as I look at our ability to meet the mission of the State Department, I am quite confident. The men and women in the State Department are there for one reason. They’re not there for the glory. They’re not there for the money, obviously. They’re there because they’re extraordinarily dedicated to the mission and dedicated to ensuring America’s national security, economic security. We are going to be undertaking a very comprehensive examination of how programs are executed, a very comprehensive examination of how we are structured, and I’m confident that with the input of the men and women of the State Department, we are going to construct a way forward that allows us to be much more effective, much more efficient, and be able to do a lot with fewer dollars.

So it’s challenging. We understand the challenge. I take the challenge that the President has given us on willingly and with great expectation that with everyone in the State Department’s assistance, we’re going to deliver a much better result for the American people in the future.

Secretary Tillerson talking about “historically high level of budgetary resources in the 2017 budget” for the State Department made us look up the budget request for the last five fiscal years. The largest funding request was five years ago for FY2013 at $51.6 billion.

FY2017:  $50.1 billion.  The State Department $50.1 billion request includes a base of $35.2 billion and $14.9 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) request. (SAO: For FY16 and ’17, we will be using OCO to support countries and programs that require assistance to prevent, address, or recover from human-caused crises and natural disasters, as well as to secure State and USAID’s operations from hostile acts and potential terrorism. OCO will be providing about 50 to 100 percent of the funding for some countries and programs, including a range of ongoing assistance operations and treaty commitments).

FY2016:  $50.3 billion. The State and USAID budget request totals $50.3 billion.  The base budget request is $43.2 billion plus $7 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funds  — to respond to immediate and extraordinary national security requirements. OCO funds supports critical programs and operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, as well as exceptional costs related to efforts to fight ISIL, respond to the conflict in Syria, and support Ukraine.

FY2015: $46.2 billion. The overall State and USAID Budget Request is $46.2 billion, plus $5.9 billion request for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) which funds key programs in — Iraq and Pakistan helps sustain hard-fought gains in Afghanistan through the 2014 transition.

FY2014: $47.8 billion. The overall request is $47.8 billion, includes $44 billion as part of base budget or enduring budget, and $3.8 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, (OCO)  which — largely covers the extraordinary costs of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

FY2013: $51.6 billion. The Department of State/USAID budget totals $51.6 billion which includes $43.4 billion for the core budget,  which funds the long-term national security mission of the Department and USAID and $8.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) to support the extraordinary and temporary costs of civilian-led programs and missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

The second thing we’d like to note is Secretary Tillerson’s assertion that “there will be fewer military conflicts that the U.S. will be directly engaged in.” If that’s really the expectation, why is Trump’s budget giving DOD $54billion more in funds as it guts the State Department and USAID? As we write this, we are mindful that the United States is still in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen, and a host of other places that are not front page news.

By the way, what’s this we’re hearing about the transition folks looking to close some US embassies in Africa?  Apparently there are now people at State who think we should close our embassy in country X for instance because — hey, AFRICOM is already there so why do we need an embassy?  Argh!  These folks realize that 3/4 of AFRICOM actually works at the command’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, right?  AFRICOM’s HQ is not the point, of course, but if there are transition folks thinking about AFRICOM (just one of the six geographic combatant commands) as an excuse for post closures overseas, where else might they be thinking of playing their game of disengagement?

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WH/OMB Releases FY2018 Budget Blueprint – @StateDept/@USAID Hit With 28% Funding Cuts

Posted: 2:14 am ET

 

WaPo posted a copy of President Trump’s budget proposal for FY2018 which OMB calls “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again”. Important to note that this is a proposal and that Congress has ultimate control over government funding. We’ll have to wait and see what Congress will do with this request and which cabinet secretary will decline the funds if the Hill insists on the agency/agencies getting more money than the Trump request. We’ve extracted the 2-page relevant to the State Department below:

The Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of the Treasury’s International Programs help to advance the national security interests of the United States by building a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world. The Budget for the Department of State and USAID diplomatic and development activities is being refocused on priority strategic objectives and renewed attention is being placed on the appropriate U.S. share of international spending. In addition, the Budget seeks to reduce or end direct funding for international organizations whose missions do not substantially advance U.S. foreign policy interests, are duplicative, or are not well—managed. Additional steps will be taken to make the Department and USAID leaner, more efficient, and more effective. These steps to reduce foreign assistance free up funding for critical priorities here at home and put America first.

The President’s 2018 Budget requests $25.6 billion in base funding for the Department of State and USAID, a $10.1 billion or 28 percent reduction from the 2017 annualized CR level. The Budget also requests $12.0 billion as Overseas Contingency Operations funding for extraordinary costs, primarily in war areas like Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, for an agency total of $37.6 billion. The 2018 Budget also requests $1.5 billion for Treasury International Programs, an $803 million or 35 percent reduction from the 2017 annualized CR level.

The President’s 2018 Budget:

➡ Maintains robust funding levels for embassy security and other core diplomatic activities while implementing efficiencies. Consistent with the Benghazi Accountability Review Board recommendation, the Budget applies $2.2 billion toward new embassy construction and maintenance in 2018. Maintaining adequate embassy security levels requires the efficient and effective use of available resources to keep embassy employees safe.

➡ Provides $3.1 billion to meet the security assistance commitment to Israel, currently at an all-time high; ensuring that Israel has the ability to defend itself from threats and maintain its Qualitative Military Edge.

➡ Eliminates the Global Climate Change Initiative and fulfills the President’s pledge to cease payments to the United Nations’ (UN) climate change programs by eliminating U.S. funding related to the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds.

➡ Provides sufficient resources on a path to fulfill the $1 billion U.S. pledge to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. This commitment helps support Gavi to vaccinate hundreds of millions of children in low-resource countries and save millions of lives.

➡ Provides sufficient resources to maintain current commitments and all current patient levels on HIV/AIDS treatment under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and maintains funding for malaria programs. The Budget also meets U.S. commitments to the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria by providing 33 percent of projected contributions from all donors, consistent with the limit currently in law.

➡ Shifts some foreign military assistance from grants to loans in order to reduce costs for the U.S. taxpayer, while potentially allowing recipients to purchase more American-made weaponry with U.S. assistance, but on a repayable basis.

➡ Reduces funding to the UN and affiliated agencies, including UN peacekeeping and other international organizations, by setting the expectation that these organizations rein in costs and that the funding burden be shared more fairly among members. The amount the U.S. would contribute to the UN budget would be reduced and the U.S. would not contribute more than 25 percent for UN peacekeeping costs.

➡ Refocuses economic and development assistance to countries of greatest strategic importance to the U.S. and ensures the effectiveness of U.S. taxpayer investments by rightsizing funding across countries and sectors.

➡ Allows for significant funding of humanitarian assistance, including food aid, disaster, and refugee program funding. This would focus funding on the highest priority areas while asking the rest of the world to pay their fair share. The Budget eliminates the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance account, a duplicative and stovepiped account, and challenges international and non-governmental relief organizations to become more efficient and effective.

➡Reduces funding for the Department of State’s Educational and Cultural Exchange (ECE) Programs. ECE resources would focus on sustaining the flagship Fulbright Program, which forges lasting connections between Americans and emerging leaders around the globe.

➡ Improves efficiency by eliminating overlapping peacekeeping and security capacity building efforts and duplicative contingency programs, such as the Complex Crises Fund. The Budget also eliminates direct appropriations to small organizations that receive funding from other sources and can continue to operate without direct Federal funds, such as the East-West Center.

➡ Recognizes the need for State and USAID to pursue greater efficiencies through reorganization and consolidation in order to enable effective diplomacy and development.

➡ Reduces funding for multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, by approximately $650 million over three years compared to commitments made by the previous administration. Even with the proposed decreases, the U.S. would retain its current status as a top donor while saving taxpayer dollars.

Read the document in full:

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

Posted: 2:37 am ET

 

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 of State McCord Punches Philippine President in the Face, Embassy Protests – Seriously!

Posted: 1:54 am ET

 

According to rappler.com, from July 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017, there have been over 7,000 deaths linked to the “war on drugs” in the Philippines – both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings (including deaths under investigation).  Photographer James Nachtwey did a series In Manila Death Comes by Night.  Local photographers are also documenting Duterte’s war on drugs in the Philippines. On March 6, the National Geographic’s Explorer started its 10th season with Episode 1 highlighting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs.

Meanwhile, in the fictional world, Madam Secretary is scheduled to air an episode entitled “Break in Diplomacy” on March 12.  In the trailer below, the series’ Secretary of State, Elizabeth McCord (Tea Leoni), is seen throwing a punch at a character Datu Andrada, the purported Philippine President in the show.  Apparently, after the fictional Philippine President  makes a sexually suggestive move at Secretary McCord during a private meeting, she punched and bloodied his nose. We have it in good authority that Secretary McCord did not/did not try to wash President Andrada’s mouth with Lifeboy soap.

On March 6, the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. issued a statement protesting the um, “highly negative depiction” of the Philippine President in the episode.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. wrote to CBS Corporation today, 06 March 2017, to strongly protest the highly negative depiction of a character purported to be the Philippine President on the next episode of the TV series Madam Secretary.

The trailer of Season 3 Episode 15 “Break in Diplomacy” shows the character – described in the episode’s synopsis as the “Philippines’ unconventional new president” – exhibiting inappropriate behavior towards the female lead character, US Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord.

The episode is scheduled to air on Sunday, 12 March 2017.

While Madam Secretary is a work of fiction, it tracks and mirrors current events. It is, therefore, inevitable that its depiction of world leaders will have an impact on how its audience views the real personages and the countries they represent. This highly negative portrayal of our Head of State not only casts doubt on the respectability of the Office of the Philippine President but also denigrates that way our nation navigates foreign affairs. It also tarnishes the Philippines’ longstanding advocacy for women’s rights and gender equality.

In view of the injurious effects that this program will have on the interests of the Philippines and the Filipino people, the Philippine Embassy urgently calls on CBS to take the necessary corrective actions.

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Related posts:

 

One Ridiculously Shy Secretary of State Plays ‘No See, No Hear’ Game With Press Corps

Posted: 6:25 pm ET
Updated: March 9, 3:05 am: added a video of Andrea Mitchell ejected from Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir’s presser

 

One day after C-SPAN captured Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Atty General Jeff Sessions, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly scurried out of the room while ignoring questions from the press on the new Trump travel ban, Secretary Tillerson was seen briefly for some photo-op with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin before their bilateral meeting at the U.S. Department of State on March 7, 2017. NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell was on hand to ask questions. She was quickly hurried out of the room by staffers who fortunately, yes, fortunately, were not riding on a motorized podium.

On March 2, 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also had a photo-op with International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano before their bilateral meeting at the U.S. Department of State.   And gosh darnit, Andrea Mitchell was also there to ask questions, but was escorted out with nothing but a memory (and a video) of the shy T-Rex.  Play that video again. Did you catch that T-Rex smile?  That’s the smile you have when you’re thinking, ‘That’s Andrea Mitchell asking me some questions, and I did not have to answer any of them because … hey, isn’t this great!?”

Folks, if the State Department bans Andrea Mitchell from in-person events with Secretary Tillerson, can we please have one more video of her being escorted out before you do that so we’ll have three in our collection? Also if that happens, we’ll have to make a plea for photoshop ninjas to switch Secretary Tillerson with the Naked Guy fella in this GIF below. That way, every time folks asks what’s going on at the State Department, we can just post the ‘nothing to see here’ GIF with T-Rex.

 

Diplomatic Security Agent With 17-Year Service Resigns Over Trump

Posted: 12:36 am ET

 

According to Government Executive more than one in four federal workers, or 28 percent, will definitely or possibly consider leaving their jobs after Jan. 20 when Trump is sworn into office and becomes leader of the executive branch, according to a new Government Business Council/GovExec.com poll. Sixty-five percent of feds say they will not consider ending their federal service.

Fear that the Trump Administration will trample on the Constitution and damage the political and moral fabric of our nation apparently prompted one Diplomatic Security agent to resign. There are approximately 2,000 Diplomatic Security agents. The State Department estimates that security officers will have the largest number of attrition for Foreign Service Specialist from FY2016-2020.

The letter below is by Supervisory DSS Agent TJ Lunardi, a career member of the Foreign Service who until last week was posted overseas.  In a note to friends he shared his resignation letter with, Mr. Lunardi writes that he is sharing it in the hope that friends “might understand and respect” his choice, even if they “do not agree or support it”.  Further, he writes, “the letter makes clear that, for me, this is not a question of politics or party, but one of personal adherence to the values I hold most dear”.  We understand that this resignation letter was submitted to the State Department on January 19, 2017. A blog pal shared with us the letter which has been shared internally within the department.  We’ve reached out to Mr. Lunardi who confirmed his authorship and expressed no objection with the publication of the letter in this blog.  Mr. Lunardi’s resignation was effective on March 4, 2017.

The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
Department of State
2201 C Street, Northwest
Washington, District of Columbia 20520

Dear Mr. Secretary:

With deep regret, I must resign from my position as a Supervisory Special Agent of the Diplomatic Security Service.  I cannot in good conscience serve in the Department of State under the incoming President, a man I believe to be a threat to our constitutional order.

For the last 17 years – the entirety of my professional life – I have been proud to work for the American people as a member of the Foreign Service.  Without hesitation, I have done so under Presidents of both parties.  Whether in Baghdad or Berlin, Washington or now in Kyiv, it has been an honor to carry the Diplomatic Security badge, a symbol of the special trust and confidence reposed in me by our fellow citizens to enforce our laws and defend our country’s values and interests.  I love this Department, which has been my home, and the extraordinary men and women in it, so many of whom have become like family.

But I take nothing more seriously than my oath to support and defend the Constitution, to bear it true faith and allegiance, to well and faithfully discharge the duties of my office.  Throughout my career, these obligations have guided my every action in service of our country.  They are what compel me now to resign.

As an American, it is an article of my political faith that our Constitution binds the government and its leaders – and by extension all of us in public service – to guarantee certain unalienable rights:  freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, due process, and equal protection of the laws, among others.  In his words and his deeds, Mr. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he little understands and less respects these tenets of our civic creed.  He has threatened the independent media.  He has called for the imposition of religious tests and the commission of war crimes.  He has incited hatred and violence.  He has mocked and bullied the most vulnerable among us.  He has empowered racists and emboldened bigots.  He has made open league with a despot who seeks to harm our national interests.  He disregards and distorts the truth for no other apparent purpose than to maintain his followers in a frenzy of confusion and anger.  These are not the acts of a liberal democratic leader.  They point the way to authoritarianism, the slippery path to tyranny.

I have thus concluded that defending the Constitution and performing the duties of my office in an Executive Branch under Mr. Trump are incompatible.  An honest adherence to my oath dictates that I withhold support from such a man and from the administration he will head.  For me this is not a career choice, not something I would desire under normal circumstances.  It is among the most difficult and painful decisions of my life.  Nonetheless, it is a moral and ethical necessity in the face of someone I judge to be so clearly inimical to the values I have sworn to protect.

Some may counter that the threat posed by Mr. Trump calls for people of conscience to remain in the Department, to blunt his excesses, to resist his agenda.  This may be a legitimate course for others, but I fear I lack the capacity for such a compromise.  Tyranny encroaches when met with silence, and the graveyard of failed democracies is littered with the epitaphs of those who believed collaboration could moderate the evil of authoritarianism.  Knowing these lessons, I cannot allow tacit accommodation of Mr. Trump’s administration to make me complicit in his assault on our Republic.

It is my fervent hope I will be proven wrong, that Mr. Trump will govern wisely, lawfully, and with respect for the Constitution – all of it, and not simply the parts convenient to his purposes.  Unless and until he does, however, my place is with those who will oppose him, not those charged to carry out his policies.  My oath, my honor, and my conscience demand nothing less of me, even if my heart wishes it could be otherwise.

Traveling the world with the Foreign Service, I have been blessed with the opportunity to reflect on how the fragile nation bequeathed by our Founders has grown to become a beacon of hope and progress, a bulwark against despotism.  I am convinced it is the decency of our citizens, and their willingness to put our ideals ahead of their wants, that has made this country both great and fundamentally good.  On the battlefields of Bunker Hill and Bastogne, in the jail cells of Occoquan, on Pettus Bridge and Christopher Street – ordinary citizens have written our extraordinary story through sacrifice and an unwavering faith in our constitutional principles.

The survival of our grand experiment in democracy once again depends on such acts of courage.  And so I close with a citizen’s request to my friends and colleagues who remain in the Department:  Remember and keep always before you the belief in our shared values which inspired you to serve the American people.  Whenever you can, rise above the all-consuming daily bureaucratic scrum so that its rigors do not distract from an incremental acceptance of the morally unacceptable.  Should the decisive moment come, hear and heed the call of conscience.

Through whatever trials lie ahead, I pray Providence will preserve the people and the Constitution of the United States.

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In Disaster News, Trump Budget Seeks 37% Funding Cut For @StateDept and @USAID

Posted: 2:25 am  ET