Confirmations: Bill Burns as CIA Director, Brian McKeon as State D/MR; Cancún Cruz Still a Hold on Sherman

 

On March 18, the U.S. Senate confirmed by voice vote the following nominations:
  • Executive Calendar #28, William Joseph Burns, of Maryland, to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
  • Executive Calendar #36, Brian P. McKeon, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources
The nomination of Wendy Sherman to be Deputy Secretary of State remains pending on the Executive Calendar with the reported hold placed on her nomination by  Cancún Cruz, a senator who will forever be remembered as either one of the heroes of the January 6 insurrection or one who fled to Mexico while his state froze.


 

 

SFRC Clears Sherman, McKeon Nominations; Cancún Cruz Announces Hold

13 GoingOn 14: Help Keep the Blog Going For 2021GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

Via senate.gov:

The senator from Texas has previously put a hold on the confirmation of Bill Burns as CIA Director.


 

 

Forty-Four Blind Mice on the Senate Floor

Note: This week feels like reliving the nightmare of January 6 but one could not just look away. It was a close call. Closer than we ever imagined. It was more than just an attack of the Capitol, it was an assault on our democracy. And forty-four senators want to just look away, hide under their desks and not have to deal with the insurrection that killed five people, wounded many, and could have resulted in the deaths of so many more. So I wrote the piece below for these blind mice disgracing the Senate floor.

–Domani Spero

 

Forty-Four Blind Mice on the Senate Floor

Day 1 of the Second Trump Impeachment Trial

 

The “world’s greatest deliberative body”
Is now the world’s most cowardly one.
The most cowardly one for all to see.
Lookit! Except Sasse, Toomey, Cassidy
Also Collins, Romney, and Murkowski.
Poor senators like three blind mice
Three blind ones times fourteen plus two.
Watch them willfully go blind, go blind
In the service of self, not country.
In a chamber still fresh from that mad kind.
See how they run. See how run.
Who cut off their spines with a carving knife?
Have you ever see such a sad sight in your life
As forty-four blind mice on the Senate floor?
–February 9, 2021

 


 

 

 

U.S. Senate Confirms Antony John Blinken as 71st Secretary of State

On January 26, 2021, the U.S. Senate confirmed Antony John Blinken, of New York, in a 78-22 vote to be Secretary of State. He will assume office as the 71st Secretary of State.
The 78 Senators who voted for confirmation includes Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 elections. The 22 Senators who voted against the Blinken confirmation includes seven who voted to overturn the 2020 election results after the mob assaulted the U.S. Capitol on January 6.  This country has a short memory. We think that all reporting that includes these senators should always append an asterisk for the repugnant roles they took before and after that mob attack. 

 

Deputy Secretary Blinken Poses for a Photo With Former Deputy Secretaries Burns, Wharton, and Negroponte
Deputy Secretary of State Antony “Tony” Blinken poses for a photo with former Deputy Secretaries of State Bill Burns, Clifton Wharton, and John Negroponte at a Foreign Service Institute reception highlighting American diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on February 2, 2016. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]


 

SFRC Clears Blinken Nomination, Full Senate Vote on Tuesday, Jan 26

In a 15-3 vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the nomination of Tony Blinken on January 25 to be the next secretary of state. It looks like Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Rand Paul (R-KY) voted no on this nomination. Insurrectionist Senator Ted Cruz of Texas also voted no.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the Blinken nomination mid-day tomorrow, January 26. Foggy Bottom may see the 71st Secretary of State in Foggy Bottom by afternoon.

Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Sesame Street’s “Grover” to talk about refugees at the United Nations in New York City, New York on September 19, 2016. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]


 

 

US Ambassador to Brazil Todd Chapman on Reported “Favor” to Help Trump Reelection

 

Excerpt from HFAC letter to Ambassador Todd Chapman, a career diplomat who has been COM at the US Embassy in Brazil since March 2020. He was previously Ambassador to Ecuador from 2016 – 2019:

“We are extremely alarmed by a report in Brazilian newspaper O Globo yesterday which stated that while lobbying your counterparts on reducing ethanol tariffs, you raised “the importance for the Bolsonaro government of maintaining Donald Trump as U.S. President.” The article further stated, “Iowa is the largest ethanol producer in the United States…and could be a key player in Trump’s election. Hence the importance – according to Chapman – for the Bolsonaro government to do the U.S. a favor.”

These statements are completely inappropriate for a U.S. ambassador to make, and if true, would be a potential violation of the Hatch Act of 1939. We ask that you respond in writing by 5:00 p.m. EST on August 4th as to whether the allegations in the aforementioned article (attached to this correspondence) are true. Specifically, please provide us with a complete description of all conversations that you have had with Brazilian government officials in the executive and legislative branches with regard to ethanol tariffs and the U.S. presidential election. If you deny these allegations, please provide complete and unredacted copies of any and all documents referring or related to any discussions you have had with Brazilian government officials in the executive and legislative branches with regard to ethanol tariffs, to reassure Congress and the American people that our Ambassador to Brazil is truly representing the interests of the United States and not the narrow, political interests of President Trump.

The Des Moines Register printed a denial from the State Department:
“Allegations suggesting that Ambassador Chapman has asked Brazilians to support a specific U.S. candidate are false,” said a department spokesperson. “The United States has long been focused on reducing tariff barriers and will continue to do so.”
Allegations suggesting that the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine …. oh, wait, that was different, silly.
But as Pompeo’s new motto insistently says dear ones, “distrust and verify”.
So what motivated the Brazilians for making this public? More than one source reported this on Brazilian media. Is Foggy Bottom saying they’re making this all up? To what end?
Look, Ambassador Chapman is a Senate confirmed career diplomat. As such, he has an obligation to respond to questions that U.S. senators may have on this issue.  But the  SFRC under GOP Senator Jim Risch doesn’t seem at all interested in asking further questions. No surprise there. The HFAC is asking questions, however, and we hope the ambassador answer those questions.
For folks in the FOIA business, if/if there were instructions related to this, there would have to be a paper trail from the State Department’s WHA bureau, the home bureau of U.S. Mission Brazil.  Ambassadors typically get their marching orders from their home bureau.

@USAGMgov: Heads of MBN, Radio Free Asia, RFE/RL, and the Open Technology Fund Ousted

On June 16, the top two officials at the Voice of America resigned with the arrival of new Trump appointee Michael  Pack as CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (see Top VOA Officials Resign as Michael Pack Assumes Charge as CEO of @USAGMgov).
On Wednesday evening, the news media reports the dismissal of the remaining heads of the four organizations under USAGM. OCB already has an interim director since 2018, and VOA was just vacated. For those unfamiliar with the agency, this used to be BBG prior to its “larger modernization effort”  in August 2018.

Via CNN:
The heads of four organizations overseen by the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) were all dismissed Wednesday night — a move likely to heighten concerns that new Trump-appointed CEO Michael Pack means to turn the agency into a political arm of the administration.
In what a former official described as a “Wednesday night massacre,” the heads of Middle East Broadcasting, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and the Open Technology Fund were all ousted, multiple sources told CNN.
“They let go all of the heads of the networks. It’s unprecedented,” an agency source told CNN.
A source familiar with the situation said at least two of the removals — that of RFE/RL’s Jamie Fly and MBN’s Alberto Fernandez — were unexpected. The head of the Open Technology Fund, Libby Liu, had resigned effective July, but was still fired Wednesday evening, one of the sources said.
[…]
In addition, Jeffrey Shapiro, an ally the ultra-conservative former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, is expected to be named to lead the Office of Cuba Broadcasting.

 

SFRC Chairman @SenatorRisch Chickens Out From Holding Oversight Hearing With Pompeo

 

Michael Pack’s Nomination to be @USAGMgov Head Hits Double Snag

 

US Embassy Lima: Avianca Airlines May Have Outbound Flights For #StuckinPeru Americans

 

According to the US Embassy in Lima, Peru, on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the Peruvian Ministry of Health (MINSA) has 145 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Peru, with 13 hospitalized.
For Americans stranded in Peru, the embassy provided a link to Avianca Airlines’ sign up page for travelers interested in departing Lima. It looks like there are flights for March 19 and 23, 2020 from Cusco to Lima, and Lima to Miami, as well as to other non-US destinations. Avianca’s sign-up page says that the airline is trying to program new flights based on the request of embassies with nationals in the country. Travelers are asked to complete a short form to  confirm their interest in purchasing a flight.  “In case there are enough passengers confirming interest in flying, we will notify you so that you can purchase it through the different Avianca channels. In case the flight does not operate, we will also contact you” (rough translation).
As of March 19, one social media account tracking the number of those stranded in country estimates there are over 1,660 U.S. citizens in the country from 48 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Below via US Embassy Lima:

Avianca Airlines notified the U.S. Embassy it has created an online signup page here for travelers to express interest in flights departing from Lima and Cusco to destinations including the United States.  If you are interested in this offer, please respond immediately through the link.  You are encouraged to keep contacting your airline for reservation and flight updates.  To contact major airlines with flights from Peru to the United States, below are their customer service telephone numbers:

  • The Peruvian government declared a national state of emergency on March 15, 2020, at 8:00 PM Peru local time.  Under the state of emergency, Peru enacted 15 days of mandatory quarantine, starting at 00:00 on March 16, 2020.  At 23:59 PM on March 16, 2020, the Peruvian Government closed all international borders (land, air, and maritime) and suspended all interprovincial travel within Peru (land, air, and river).  American Citizens who remain in Peru should arrange lodging for the duration of the quarantine period and plan to limit their movements.  Limited quarantine exemptions include movement to obtain food and medical care.  Travelers currently in country should consult iPeru for the latest guidance for tourists.  The Embassy will provide a daily update on this page as this situation develops.
  • As of March 17, Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima is closed to the public.  Please contact your airline carrier for updates on flight information.
  • The Peruvian government issued a decree on March 14 suspending the docking of all cruise ships in Peruvian ports for 30 days.
  • American Airlines announced via its website on March 14 that it will suspend service from Dallas/Fort Worth and Miami to Lima, Peru effective end of day March 16, after flying all legs scheduled through the end of that day.  This suspension will last through May 6.
  • On March 13 the Peruvian government issued a decree to suspend all flights to and from Europe and Asia, beginning on March 16, for 30 days.
  • On March 12 President Martín Vizcarra announced the suspension of classes at university and vocational educational institutions, following his March 11 announcement suspending primary and secondary school classes through March 30.