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@StateDept Deputy Secretary of State Nominee John Sullivan Gets a Senate Hearing

Posted: 2:11 am ET

 

On April 11, the White House officially announced President Trump’s intent to nominate Mr. Sullivan not only as the State Department’s Deputy Secretary of State (D) but to also serve concurrently as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources (D/MR). )see Trump to nominate John J. Sullivan to be @StateDept’s No.2 and to also serve as No.3 and Previously Announced DOD Nominee John J. Sullivan Now Slated to be @StateDept’s No. 2).

On May 9. Mr. Sullivan appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing. NPR reported that the deputy secretary of state nominee said during the confirmation hearing that there have been no decisions on job cuts despite reports that 2,300 positions are on the chopping block. Sullivan says that the secretary of state has only just begun to solicit input from staff around the globe.

The nominee is a nephew of the late Ambassador William Healy Sullivan (October 12, 1922 – October 11, 2013), a career FSO who served as Ambassador to Laos from 1964–1969, the Philippines from 1973–1977, and Iran from 1977–1979.  Barring any late minute issue, we expect that Mr. Sullivan will be confirmed as the next “D.”

Excerpt from his prepared testimony:

A small number of public servants are accepted into the Foreign Service, which I know well. My uncle Bill Sullivan was a Foreign Service Officer for 32 years. He was the last U.S. Ambassador to Iran in the late 1970s. It was his staff in Tehran that was taken hostage on November 4, 1979—a few months after the President had recalled him.

It is an earlier date from 1979, however, that sticks out in my mind: February 14, Valentine’s Day. The U.S. Embassy in Tehran was overrun by a mob, and my uncle and his staff were seized. After a few hours, the Americans were released and the embassy reopened. My uncle appeared in a picture on the cover of the next issue of Newsweek. He was surrounded by Iranians carrying assault weapons, one of whom was brandishing a bayonet in his face.

That day in 1979 is significant to me not merely because of the drama in Iran, but also because of a tragedy in Afghanistan. Our Ambassador, Spike Dubs, was kidnapped and assassinated in Kabul. Like my uncle, Ambassador Dubs was a U.S. Navy World War II veteran and a career Foreign Service Officer.

The assassination of Ambassador Dubs and the seizure of our embassy in Tehran on February 14, 1979, made a huge impression on me. I have remained in awe of our Foreign Service Officers who venture into such dangerous places on our behalf.

If confirmed, it would be my highest honor to work with the Foreign Service, the Civil Service, and the Department’s locally employed staff in the conduct of American diplomacy. In a world in which we face significant and enduring threats, these challenging times require leadership from the United States. As Secretary Tillerson said when he came before this committee, “to achieve the stability that is foundational to peace and security in the 21st century, American leadership must not only be renewed, it must be asserted.”

Read in full here (PDF). Clips below:

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SFRC Clears Branstad (China), Mushingi (Senegal), Haskell (Congo), and Five FS Lists

Posted: 2:03 am ET

 

On May 9, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) cleared the nominations of the following appointees for ambassadorial posts. It also cleared five Foreign Service lists with 337 names.

PN52 | The Honorable Terry Branstad, of Iowa, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People’s Republic of China

PN84 | The Honorable Tulinabo Salama Mushingi, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Senegal, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Guinea-Bissau

 PN83 | Mr. Todd Philip Haskell, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of the Congo


FOREIGN SERVICE LIST

* PN116 FOREIGN SERVICE nomination of Alexander Dickie, IV, which was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of March 21, 2017.

* PN353 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (201) beginning Joel Justin Agalsoff, and ending Iva Ziza, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of April 25, 2017.

* PN354-1 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (96) beginning Edward Francis Acevedo, and ending Benjamin D. Zinner, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of April 25, 2017.

* PN355-1 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (19) beginning Jim Nelson Barnhart, Jr., and ending Anne N. Williams, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of April 25, 2017.

* PN357-1 FOREIGN SERVICE nominations (20) beginning Jeffery S. Austin, and ending Jeffrey G. Willnow, which nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record of April 25, 2017.

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SFRC Hearing: Terry Branstad to be Ambasador to The People’s Republic Of China (Updated)

Posted: 2:53 am ET
Updated: 2:02 pm ET

 

Date: Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Time: 10:00 AM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Corker

Nominee

The Honorable Terry Branstad Of Iowa, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The People’s Republic Of China

Live hearing and prepared testimony are posted here. Excerpt below from prepared statement:

If confirmed, as Ambassador, I will work every day to represent American values to the leadership of China and the Chinese people at large; values that include upholding human rights for all, a free and open market, a rules-based order in the oceans surrounding China, and the importance of a free press.

I look forward to joining the impressive and committed team of public servants and their families from the U.S. State Department and many other U.S. government agencies at our embassy in Beijing and consulates across China. Leading this team of dedicated professionals, who are working as we speak to promote America’s interests in China, would be a great honor and a responsibility that I would not take lightly.
[…]
If confirmed, I hope to use my unique position as an “old friend” of President Xi and a trusted confidant of President Trump to positively influence the U.S.-China relationship. As the Governor of Iowa, I saw first-hand the importance of a positive and healthy trade relationship between our two countries. Nearly, one out of every two rows of Iowa soybeans is sent to China, as well as $33.5 million in pork in 2016. The importance of trade extends well beyond agriculture too. Aviation products, manufactured goods, chemicals, electronics, and many other products and services are exported to China daily and help support and sustain the American economy.

Updated: 2:02 pm ET

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SFRC Hearings: Mushingi (Senegal/Guinea-Bissau), Haskell (Republic Of The Congo)

Posted: 12:46 am ET

 

We missed this one last week, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) finally held confirmation hearings for career diplomats Ambassador Tulinabo Mushingi, nominated for Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, and Todd Haskell who was nominated for the Republic Of The Congo. The links to the video of the hearings and to their prepared testimonies are provided below.

Date: Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Time: 01:30 PM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Flake

Video available to watch here: https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/nominations-042617

The Honorable Tulinabo Salama Mushingi

Of Virginia, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Republic Of Senegal, And To Serve Concurrently And Without Additional Compensation As Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Republic Of Guinea-Bissau

 

Mr. Todd Philip Haskell

Of Florida, A Career Member Of The Senior Foreign Service, Class Of Counselor, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Republic Of The Congo
Download Testimony

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Five Ex-U.S. Ambassadors to Israel Tell Senate Trump Pick David Friedman “Unqualified” For Post

Posted: 1:31 am  ET

 

On December 15,  Trump named David Friedman, a two-state solution critic as the next Ambassador to Israel. On Thursday, February 16, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) will hold his confirmation hearing (see SFRC Hearing 2/16/17: David Friedman to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel).

We understand that a letter signed by five former U.S. Ambassadors to Israel during Republican and Democratic administrations (Thomas Pickering, William Harrop, Edward Walker, Daniel Kurtzer and James Cunningham) was delivered on February 15 to the senior staffers of all members of the SFRC to be passed to their principals. The letter quickly leaked to the press.

“We believe him to be unqualified for the position,” the former ambassadors wrote.

The letter also urged the Senators to examine whether Friedman “has the balance and the temperament required to represent the United States as ambassador to Israel.”

“The American ambassador must be dedicated to advancing our country’s longstanding bipartisan goals in the region: strengthening the security of the United States and our ally Israel, and advancing the prospects for peace between Israel and its neighbors, in particular the Palestinians,” the former ambassadors wrote. “If Israel is to carry on as a democratic, Jewish nation, respected internationally, we see no alternative to a two-state solution.”

Read more below:

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SFRC Hearing 2/16/17: David Friedman to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel

Posted: 2:51 am  ET

 

We’ve previously posted about the Trump nominee to be the U.S. Ambassador to Israel (see Trump Names David Friedman, Two-State Solution Critic as Next Ambassador to Israel. On Thursday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) will hold its confirmation hearing on Mr. Friedman’s nomination.

Date: Thursday, February 16, 2017
Time: 10:00 AM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Corker

Nominee: Mr. David Friedman
Of New York, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To Israel

The prepared testimony and live video will be posted here when available.

The following Certificate of Demonstrated Competence per Foreign Service Act, Section 304(a)(4) requirement was submitted to the SFRC and made available publicly by the State Department:

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POST: State of Israel
CANDIDATE: David M. Friedman

David M. Friedman, a nationally top-ranked attorney, is a founding partner of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman of New York, New York, where, since 1994, he has chaired Kasowitz’s Creditors’ Rights and Bankruptcy Practice Group. He frequently represents high-profile clients in large and significant cases, and has published articles and lectured on novel and complex areas of bankruptcy law. Mr. Friedman has played a lead role in negotiating multilateral disputes in some of the nation’s most complex business and financial restructurings. Well known for his excellent public speaking, negotiating and interpersonal skills, Mr. Friedman has been active for decades in U.S. policy as it relates to Israel and the Middle East. He speaks and reads Hebrew and travels to Israel frequently. His skills, knowledge of Israel and the Middle East, language capability and extensive contacts in the region make him well qualified to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Israel.

Previously, Mr. Friedman was a Partner in Mudge Rose Guthrie Alexander & Ferdon, New York, New York (1990-1994), a Partner in Gordon Hurwitz Butowsky, New York, New York (1987-1990), an Associate in Finley Kumble, New York, New York (1986-1997), an Associate in O’Sullivan Graev & Karabell, New York, New York (1985-1986) and an Associate in Finley Kumble, New York, New York (1981-1985).

Mr. Friedman earned a B.A from Columbia University in New York, New York in 1978 and a J.D. from New York University School of Law, in New York, New York in 1981. He is the recipient of the Sir Harold Acton Medal from New York University for endowing the David Friedman Fellowship at the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law & Justice and has received numerous recognitions from Chambers, Lawdragon, Law 360, and other publications for excellence in the legal field.

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If confirmed, Mr. Friedman would succeed Daniel B. Shapiro who was appointed by President Obama and served at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv from  July 2011 to January 2017. Previous appointees to Tel Aviv include Ambassadors Thomas R. Pickering, Bill Harrop, and Martin Indyk.

According to Open Secrets, Mr. Friedman made political contributions to both Democrats and Republicans going back to 1998, with the latter receiving 70% of his donations. The largest contributions occurred in the 2004 cycle (almost split between Democrats and Republicans) and in the 2016 cycle (100% went to Republicans).  He has made modest contributions to five senators, four of whom will be voting on his confirmation (Schumer, Menendez, McCain, McConnell; Reid, retired). To see more, click on the Trump Appointee Giving – David Friedman page by Open Secrets.

Some clips to read:

 

Related posts:

 

Senate Panel Clears Rex Tillerson For Secretary of State, Full Vote Likely Next Week

Posted: 3:17 am ET
Updated: 3:38 pm PT

 

On January 23, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) cleared the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be President Trump’s Secretary of State with members voting along party lines, 11-10.  If the Senate does not hold a full vote on Tuesday, Mr. Tillerson will not get it until next week. According to Roll Call, House and Senate Republicans will hold a joint retreat from January 25 to 27 in Philadelphia to discuss priorities for the 115th Congress.  Citing leadership aides from both parties, CNN reported that the final confirmation vote by the full Senate is expected next week.  Cloture vote for Mr. Tillerson is now scheduled for Monday, January 30. 

Related items:

OGE: Ethics Agreement

OGE: Nominee 278 (01/03/2017)

 

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Foreign Service Tradition: Political Ambassadors Have To Be Out By January 20

Posted: 4:36 pm PT
Updated: 6:02 pm PT
Updated: Jan 10, 2:29 am ET

 

The United States has 170 embassies and 11 missions other than an Embassy headed by a chief of mission (OSCE, UNVIE, USOAS, USOECD, USEU, USUN, USNATO, USUN Geneva, USAU, ASEAN, and US Mission to Somalia).  About 30 percent of these posts are encumbered by political/noncareer appointees (about 50 ambassadors), while the remaining 70 percent are filled by career diplomats.

The NYT coverage of Jan. 5 says that the Trump’s transition staff has issued a blanket edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by Inauguration Day, and that the mandate was issued “without exceptions.” The piece quotes Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann, the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy, who tells NYT that it is reasonable to expect ambassadors to return at the end of a term, given that they are direct representatives of the president with broad grants of authority.

“But I don’t recollect there was ever a guillotine in January where it was just, ‘Everybody out of the pool immediately.’”

The article also quotes Ambassador Marc Grossman who cites former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell who reportedly offered particularly wide latitude to ambassadors facing family issues.  “This was something that was important to Secretary Powell because of his own experience living and serving all over the world, so when people asked him, ‘Could I stay another couple of weeks, couple of months; my kids are finishing school,’ he was very accommodating,” Mr. Grossman said, adding that his flexibility was an “exception” to the general practice.

Secretary Powell was an “exception” to the general practice of the wholesale departure of political appointees at the beginning of every administration.

 

By Tradition, All Political Ambassadors Are Expected to Leave By January 20

All political appointees, including ambassadors “serve at the pleasure of the president.” All appointees of the outgoing administration are expected to leave by the time a new president is sworn into office on January 20. We’ve heard that some chiefs of mission have made requests for extensions to their tenure overseas but until this week, no one reportedly received an official response. We understand that some folks were looking for the cable directive but could not locate it.   We’ve asked State about the cable requesting the COM resignations and the nonresponse to these requests last week but we were later directed to the Transition Team. To-date  we have not received a response to our inquiry.

To read more about this Foreign Service tradition, see FDR’s Request For the Formal Resignations of All Chiefs of U.S. Diplomatic Missions Overseas from 1940 and 1944.

 

Resignation Instructions

Political Ambassadors:  We understand that there was no general cable issued this year and that the resignation instructions to the ambassadors came by email. Individual cables were reportedly sent to political appointees who requested extensions telling them the requests were declined.  These cables directed to individual ambassadors would have been captioned personnel channel and would have had limited distribution. Political ambassadors who did not request extensions did not receive such a cable as it was understood they will depart by January 20.

Career Ambassadors:  The scuttlebutt in our inbox said that for the first time the new administration will actually ask some career ambassadors for their resignations as well. This rumor is not/not true.  We can confirm that career ambassadors were not/not required to submit resignation letters to the Trump Transition. Career ambassadors received this notification last month.  If we’re looking for a break in precedent, this might be it.  This year, there has been no directive, or expectation for career Foreign Service ambassadors to have to submit resignations at the end of the Obama term.

Here is State Department spokesman John Kirby:

kirby-precedent

 

The Hows and Whys of Ambassadorial Extensions

Political ambassadors are some of the president’s, shall we say, best friends. Just as the Bush political ambassadors were closely identified with President George W. Bush, the Obama political ambassadors are also closely identified with President Barack Obama.   All ambassadors are direct representatives of the president. However, political ambassadors are partisan operatives who received their appointments due to their political support of the president. There is therefore, no incentive for any incoming administration, whether Democratic or Republican, to extend the appointments of their political opponents.

Getting political ambassadors to leave is less urgent when the president is on his second term or if the president-elect is from the same party . For example, President Obama appointed Bruce J. Oreck as Ambassador to Finland in 2009. His tenure actually extended to the second Obama term and he did not leave until 2015.  President George W. Bush appointed his pal Roy L. Austin as Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, and his tenure spanned the full two Bush terms.

When there is a change of administration from one political party to the other, as we currently have, the departures become more imperative.  Did some Bush ambassadors asked for extensions when President Obama came to office? Yes. Did the Obama Transition Team agree? In one case we could find, yes.  We don’t have all the names of those given extensions but the AP’s Matt Lee (@APDiplowriter) tweeted that according to officials, in the past two inter-party transitions (Clinton-Bush, Bush-Obama) only about 10 political ambassadors have gotten extensions.  That one example we found is noncareer Ambassador Peter Cianchette who was appointed to Costa Rica by President George W. Bush in May 2008. He stayed in office until June 19, 2009, five months after President Obama’s inauguration.  One of our readers alerted us that Ambassador Dick Morningstar was appointed to the European Union by President Bill Clinton on July 7, 1999. He was allowed to remain at post by Powell/Armitage up to September 21, 2001, eight months into President George W. Bush’s first term.  A blog pal also reminded us that noncareer Ambassador Ford M. Fraker was appointed by President George W. Bush as US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia in May 2007, and departed post in February 8, 2009, a few weeks into President Obama’s tenure.

 

So it happens, though not often, but …

There is nothing that prevents the Trump Transition from granting some of these requests on a case by case basis.  We should note that President-elect Trump has announced his nominees for the United Nations, China and Israel. While there are rumors of nominees for certain posts, the president elect needs to appoint about 50 ambassadorships as he assume office in two weeks. Based on time required to vet nominees, process security clearance, training, and Senate confirmation, we estimate that the firsts of the new ambassadors may not get even to post until late spring or summer.  Also, the Trump Landing Team at the State Department includes two former political ambassadors from the George W. Bush years and one former career diplomat (see Trump Transition: Agency Landing Team For @StateDept Includes Old Familiar Names). They should know what this is like, right?

That said, we have to acknowledge that it is the incoming administration’s prerogative whether to accept or decline extension requests. The new administration holds all the keys.

In a perfect world, Secretary Powell’s “exception” to general practice ought to be the rule. Folks with kids in school would then be able to depart posts without too much disruption for school and the family. But we do not live in a perfect world.  We are sympathetic about not pulling kids out of school in the middle of the school year. Nothing to do with political ambassadorships (kids don’t get to vote what their parents do) just the recognition, from personal experience that moving kids in the middle of a school year is hard and challenging.  While most kids in the Foreign Service are indeed resilient and adaptable, not everyone has that gift.

A side note — even in the career Foreign Service,  the “needs of the service” does not really consider “family issues” even when it should.  Just part and parcel of the job.  At other times, of course, it simply couldn’t.  The risks of diplomatic assignments range from coup d’etats and civil unrests to natural disasters which means that career diplomatic employees and family members have “go-bags” and must always be ready for evacuation orders to  leave homes, schools, friends, even pets, at a moment’s notice (See Children of diplomats displaced by strife often caught between two worlds). A sad reality of the Foreign Service, and a reflection of the ongoing disruptions in various parts of the world.

Embassies Won’t go “Empty”

Finally, as the NYT reported, some of our largest, and most desirable diplomatic posts like France, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Belgium, etc. will leave our embassies without Senate-confirmed ambassadors.  While this is true, this does not mean that posts will go “empty”.  At these ambassadors departures, their deputy ambassadors who are career diplomats would step up as chargé d’affaires (CDAs) until the new appointees get to posts.  Maybe it will take six months, maybe eight, we don’t know at this point  how fast the Senate can get them confirmed, though it would be a shorter wait if the new nominees are from the career service.

Note: We remain interested in the resignation instruction to COMs sent via cable so we can compare it to FDR’s. Nerdy request. If you have a copy of the 2008 cable, please drop us a line.

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Some hot and cold reactions from here and there:

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Trump to Nominate Robert Lighthizer as the Next U.S. Trade Representative

Posted: 1:38 am ET

 

On January 3, President-elect Trump announced his intent to nominate former deputy USTR Robert Lighthizer as the next U.S. Trade Representative (@USTradeRep).  If confirmed, Ambassador Lighthizer would replaced Ambassador Michael Froman who was sworn in as the 17th United States Trade Representative (USTR) on June 21, 2013 as President Obama’s principal advisor, negotiator and spokesperson on international trade and investment issues. The Transition Team released the following statement:

(New York, NY) — President-elect Donald J. Trump today announced that he intends to nominate Robert Lighthizer as U.S. Trade Representative.

Ambassador Lighthizer served under President Ronald Reagan as Deputy United States Trade Representative, playing a major role in developing trade policy for the Reagan Administration and negotiating roughly two dozen bilateral international agreements on a variety of topics from steel to grain. These agreements were uniformly tough and frequently resulted in significant reductions in the shipment of unfairly traded imports into the United States.

In his new role, Ambassador Lighthizer will work in close coordination with Secretary of Commerce-designate Wilbur Ross and Peter Navarro, head of the newly created White House National Trade Council, to develop and implement policies that shrink our trade deficit, expand economic growth, strengthen our manufacturing base and help stop the exodus of jobs from our shores.

“Ambassador Lighthizer is going to do an outstanding job representing the United States as we fight for good trade deals that put the American worker first,” said President-elect Donald J. Trump. “He has extensive experience striking agreements that protect some of the most important sectors of our economy, and has repeatedly fought in the private sector to prevent bad deals from hurting Americans. He will do an amazing job helping turn around the failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity.”

“It is a very high honor to represent our nation and to serve in President-elect Trump’s administration as the U.S. Trade Representative,” said Ambassador Robert Lighthizer. “I am fully committed to President-elect Trump’s mission to level the playing field for American workers and forge better trade policies which will benefit all Americans.”

Ambassador Lighthizer has long been a leader in U.S. trade policy, and has extensive experience in the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the private sector. Aside from his service in the Reagan Administration, he was Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Committee of Finance when Congress passed the Reagan program of tax cuts and spending reductions, and also aided in the passage of legislation which implemented the Tokyo Round of trade negotiations. He has also represented the United States at meetings of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and meetings related to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (the precursor to the World Trade Organization).

Ambassador Lighthizer headed up the international trade law practice at Skadden, Arps Slate, Meagher and Flom for over three decades. He has represented American manufacturers in many of the largest and most significant trade cases of the last 25 years, such as the steel safeguard case of the early 2000s — the last time any president granted global safeguard relief. He has worked on scores of successful cases that resulted in reducing unfair imports and helping thousands of American workers and numerous businesses.

Ambassador Lighthizer has also been an outspoken commentator on trade issues, giving speeches and writing articles for the New York Times and other publications, as well as providing testimony to key Congressional committees, the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission, and other government agencies with responsibility for trade policy. He graduated from Georgetown University and the Georgetown University Law Center.

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Related items:

 

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Who Will Be Acting Secretary of State Pending Rex Tillerson’s Confirmation? (Updated)

Posted: 1:11 pm ET
Updated: 5:26 pm PT | New clips added

 

WaPo reported that Republicans want most Trump Cabinet confirmation votes to occur on Inauguration Day. However, Democratic senators reportedly are planning to aggressively target eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March. WaPo notes that this would be “an unprecedented break with Senate tradition.”  The targeted nominees include Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State.

The third Secretary of State Timothy Pickering initially served as Acting Secretary of State from August 20, 1795 to December 10, 1795 under President George WashingtonHe was appointed as ad interim Secretary of State on August 20, 1795, and elevated to the position of Secretary of State on December 10, 1795.  It was one of the longest stints in an acting capacity for the State Department.

Since then, several individuals have served as Acting Secretary of State ranging in tenure from a couple of days to a couple of months. Career diplomat Lawrence Eagleburger served in an acting capacity from August 23, 1992 to December 8, 1992 under President G.H.W. Bush.  Michael Armacost also served in an acting capacity for six days in 1989 under President G.H. W. Bush while Walter J. Stoessel Jr served from July 5-16, 1982 under President Reagan.  More recently, however, the appointment in an acting capacity spans no more than a few days.  Frank G. Wisner served one day as Acting Secretary of State in January 20, 1993 under President Clinton.  Before Warren Christopher was appointed 63rd Secretary of State, he was previously appointed Acting Secretary of State for five days in May 1980 under President Carter.  During the transition from Bush to Obama in 2009, career diplomat William Joseph Burns served as Acting Secretary of State from January 20-21, 2009.

Secretary Kerry and his two deputies (Tony Blinken and Heather Higginbottom) are all political appointees who are expected to depart their posts by January 20. Of the six under secretary positions, two have incumbent political appointees (Sarah Sewall, Catherine A. Novelli) who are also expected to step down on or before Inauguration Day, two have acting incumbents who are career diplomats (Thomas Countryman, D. Bruce Wharton) and the remaining two are career diplomats, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. and the Under Secretary for Management, Patrick F. Kennedy.

We’ve asked the State Department who will be designated as Acting Secretary of State in the event that Mr. Tillerson does not get confirmation immediately after inauguration day. The State Department directed us to Executive Order 13251 of December 28, 2001 which designates the order of succession for the agency. Based on this E.O., if the Senate drags the confirmation of Mr. Tillerson for months, the State Department will have the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. as Acting Secretary of State until such time when the Senate can confirm the 69th Secretary of State. In the event that Ambassador Shannon is not able to, the next in line is the Under Secretary for Management, Patrick F. Kennedy.

Sec. 2. Order of Succession.
(a) Deputy Secretary of State; (Blinken)

(b) Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources; (Higginbottom)

(c) Under Secretary of State designated for political affairs pursuant to section 2651a(b) of title 22, United States Code; (Shannon)

(d) Under Secretary of State designated for management affairs pursuant to section 2651a(b) of title 22, United States Code; (Kennedy)

(e) The remaining Under Secretaries of State, in the order in which they shall have taken the oath of office as such; (Thomas Countryman, D. Bruce Wharton)

(f) Assistant Secretaries of State designated for regional bureaus pursuant to section 2651a(c) of title 22, United States Code, in the order in which they shall have taken the oath of office as such

Executive Order 13251 rules out the appointment of anyone who are in an acting capacity saying that “No individual who has not been appointed by the President by and with the consent of the Senate shall act as Secretary pursuant to this order.” It also says that “Notwithstanding the provisions of this order, the President retains discretion, to the extent permitted by the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, 5 U.S.C. 3345 et seq., to depart from this order in designating an acting Secretary.”

 

Two clips to read on Rex Tillerson, one concerning his tax returns, and another from an individual who served on a jury duty with him in Texas.

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