After Leaked Diplomatic Letters Over A$AP Rocky’s Detention in Sweden, Where Should @StateSPEHA Go Next?

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Trump’s Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien who was in Sweden for A$AP Rocky’s assault trial apparently told USAToday reporter Kim Hjelmgaard that it is “entirely appropriate” for him to be in Sweden even though this was a criminal case. “When foreign govts. hold American citizens it’s always appropriate”.
The things we learn these days!
As of December 2018, the Bureau of Consular Affairs has conducted 10,399 visits to U.S. citizens in prison overseas. Note – prison visits not hostage visits. Only a few of those U.S. citizens make the news (see CA Fact Sheet).
The Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs also said publicly, while tagging his ultimate boss on Twitter, that the president “has made bringing our fellow citizens home a center piece of his foreign policy”.
Consular work just got so utterly fascinating. Now, which ones of the over 10,000 prison visits by consular officers to U.S. citizens incarcerated overseas will now be done by the special envoy? Which fellow citizens jailed overseas will be brought home next?

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Consular Affairs Asst Secretary Carl Risch Visits A$AP Rocky in Sweden, Who Else Wanna Visit?

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Update: ASAP Rocky and Co-Defendants Allowed to Leave Sweden While Awaiting Verdict (set for August 14).
Sweden’a national public television broadcaster SVT reported on July 19 that the Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs Carl Risch was in country to meet with A$AP Rocky and the other two detained US citizens.  He reportedly also meet staff from the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Also see U.S. Sends Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs Robert O’Brien to A$AP Rocky’s Assault Trial in Sweden).

The report cites a statement from Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying that “Risch will, among other things, meet with representatives of the Foreign Office’s consular unit and the Justice Department, as well as in the role of consular officer in attendance at one of the US embassy’s previously scheduled visits to the three detained US citizens.” (via online translation).
The Foreign Ministry further writes according to SVT that “The US embassy has confirmed that the conditions in the Swedish detention comply with both the Vienna Convention and the international standard.” This in reference to a report by TMZ that A$AP was being held in “shockingly inhumane condition”.
A$AP Rocky was arrested in Sweden on July 3. The State Department previously announced on July 17 that CA’s Assistant Secretary Risch was traveling to Sweden from July 18-20 apparently to “observe U.S. consular operations and meet with foreign government counterparts to underscore the enduring commitment to the safety and welfare of U.S. citizens overseas and the facilitation of legitimate travel to the United States.”
The State Department’s own 2018 Country Report on Human Rights Practices on Sweden  under Prison and Detention Center Conditions notes:
There were no significant reports regarding prison, detention center, or migrant detention facility conditions that raised human rights concerns.
Physical Conditions: There were no major concerns in prisons and detention centers regarding physical conditions or inmate abuse.
Administration: Authorities conducted proper investigations of credible allegations of mistreatment.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent, nongovernmental observers, including the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).
In any case, the top gun at Consular Affairs already visited A$AP Rocky on July 19th. (Prior to Asst Secretary Risch’s visit, do you know when was the last time the assistant secretary of Consular Affairs made a prison visit overseas?).
When @StateSPEHA Robert O’Brien (the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs)  showed up in the Swedish courtroom on July 30 along with journalists, teenage rap fans and curious onlookers, the highest official in charge of Consular Affairs appeared to have already seen the three detained Americans.   One specific embassy official also has a clear role and reporting duties in the arrest and detention of American citizens. We would be surprised if U.S. Embassy Sweden’s Charge d’affaires ad interim Pamela Tremont, or post’s Consular Chief have not already visited the detainees.
Since neither the Consular Affairs Assistant Secretary nor the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs could sprung A$AP Rocky from jail, how useful are their presence in Sweden beyond appearances that they are doing something to get these individuals released?
Do we have senior officials actually thinking through the potential consequences of these actions — with senior officials descending into Sweden, and presidential tweets pressuring for the release of those in detention, plus the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs tweeting about “expedited paperworks “?
Does anyone enjoy the appearance of giving in because of some very public arm-twisting? No?
It may interest you to know that Sweden is also the “protecting power” for the United States in North Korea and has been so since September 1995. These folks know hostages. Do you think Sweden appreciates the United States decision to send a Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs to a non-hostage situation there? Even if this case were to get resolved next week, do you think the Swedes will simply forget this?

Venezuela Special Envoy Elliot Abrams Gets a Protest, and a Grilling in Congress

Posted: 2:45 am EST

 

After thirty or so years, Elliot Abrams is back at the State Department. This time as the Trump Administration’s Special Envoy for Venezuela (see @SecPompeo Appoints Elliott Abrams, Iran-Contra Figure to “Help” Restore Democracy in Venezuela).

On February 13, together with Sandra Oudkirk, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Energy Resources at the State Department and USAID’s Steve Olive, the Acting Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mr. Abrams appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) to talk about Venezuela at a Crossroads.

Note that the State Department’s WHA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary in charge of Venezuela did not testify at this hearing.

Protesters interrupted Mr. Abrams testimony, and the grilling he received from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn) received much commentary. For those too young to remember the old times, see Brown University’s Understanding the Iran-Contra Affairs,  a project developed from its applied ethics and public policy course on Good Government.

It is likely that this is not an isolated incident; that every time Mr. Abrams appear before a committee in Congress, or before the media that his past will never be too far away; he may have been pardoned but he has not been forgotten. Even when he is there to talk about Venezuela, people will ask him questions about Iran-Contra, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, human rights, El Mozoteetc. etc. etc.

Which makes one wonder why he was appointed to this job in the first place. Whatever message there is will pale in the presence of the messenger.

On February 14, Cuba accused the U.S. of moving special forces in preparation for a Venezuelan intervention under the pretext of a humanitarian crisis. Reuters reported that that Special Envoy Elliott Abrams was asked about the Cuban statement at an event in Washington, and he said “it is a new lie.”

A side note, with the Senate’s confirmation of William Barr as the next attorney general of the United States — it’s like we’re back to the 80’s.  On December 25, 1992, this was the NYT headline: Bush Pardons 6 in Iran Affair, Aborting a Weinberger Trial; Prosecutor Assails ‘Cover-Up’:

[…]

Besides Mr. Weinberger, the President pardoned Robert C. McFarlane, the former national security adviser, and Elliott Abrams, the former assistant Secretary of State for Central America. Both officials had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of withholding information from Congress about support for the contras.
[…]
But not since President Gerald R. Ford granted clemency to former President Richard M. Nixon for possible crimes in Watergate has a Presidential pardon so pointedly raised the issue of whether the President was trying to shield officials for political purposes. Mr. Walsh invoked Watergate tonight in an interview on the ABC News program “Nightline,” likening today’s pardons to President Richard M. Nixon’s dismissal of the Watergate special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, in 1973. Mr. Walsh said Mr. Bush had “succeeded in a sort of Saturday Night Massacre.”

Democratic lawmakers assailed the decision. Senator George J. Mitchell of Maine, the Democratic leader, called the action a mistake. “It is not as the President stated today a matter of criminalizing policy differences,” he said. “If members of the executive branch lie to the Congress, obstruct justice and otherwise break the law, how can policy differences be fairly and legally resolved in a democracy.”

The main supporters of the pardon were Vice President Quayle, the Senate Republican leader, Bob Dole, and Mr. Gray, one senior Administration official said today. The decision, discussed in private, seemed to coalesce in the last three weeks although Mr. Bush was said to believe that Mr. Weinberger had been unfairly charged ever since the former Reagan Cabinet officer was first indicted in June.

Throughout the deliberations, Mr. Bush consulted with Attorney General William P. Barr and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser, who had sat on a Presidential review panel that examined the affair in early 1987.

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@SecPompeo Appoints Elliott Abrams, Iran-Contra Figure to “Help” Restore Democracy in Venezuela

Posted: 3:35 am EST

 

On January 25, Secretary Pompeo announced that he was “incredibly excited” that Elliot Abrams “a seasoned, principled, and tough-minded foreign policy veteran is joining our State Department team.” Pompeo cited Abrams’ work during the Reagan years as  “former assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs and as assistant secretary for inter-American affairs.” He also cited Abrams service under President George W. Bush where the new special envoy previously “served on the National Security Council as the senior director for democracy, human rights, and international affairs; senior director for North African and Near East affairs; and deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy.”

Pompeo told reporters that “Elliott will be a true asset to our mission to help the Venezuelan people fully restore democracy and prosperity to their country.”

Left unmentioned was Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh’s Iran/Contra report which notes that Elliott Abrams — “Pleaded guilty October 7, 1991, to two misdemeanor charges of withholding information from Congress about secret government efforts to support the Nicaraguan contra rebels during a ban on such aid. U.S. District Chief Judge Aubrey E. Robinson, Jr., sentenced Abrams November 15, 1991, to two years probation and 100 hours community service. Abrams was pardoned December 24, 1992.” (see Summary of Prosecutions xxiii and Chapter 25 U.S. v. Elliott Abrams 375).

Meanwhile, National Security Adviser John Bolton, also could not contain his excitement, tweeting: “Pleased to hear that my good friend Elliott Abrams is rejoining State as Special Envoy for Venezuela. Welcome back to the fight.”

On January 27, Secretary Pompeo also issued the following statement on the appointment of Carlos Alfredo Vecchio as the Chargé d’Affaires of the Government of Venezuela to the United States:

The United States accepted interim President Juan Guaido’s designation of Carlos Alfredo Vecchio as the Chargé d’Affaires of the Government of Venezuela to the United States on January 25. Mr. Vecchio will have authority over diplomatic affairs in the United States on behalf of Venezuela.

After his accreditation, Mr. Vecchio met with Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale, who reaffirmed the United States’ strong support for interim President Guaido’s leadership of Venezuela. The United States looks forward to working with Mr. Vecchio and other diplomatic staff as designated by interim President Guaido.

 

And here is a blast from the past, a 1995 video from a Rose show of Friday 03/31/1995 with then Representative Robert Torricelli, former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, and journalist Allan Nairn discuss the potentially illegal intervention in the Guatemalan military:

2018 Goodbyes and Resignations

Jim Mattis Quits in Protest Over Trump’s Chaos Strategery
Brett McGurk, U.S. Envoy in ISIS Fight, Quits Over Trump’s Syria Withdrawal
Ex-Amb. to Estonia James D. Melville Writes Why He Quit
Russia Expels U.S. Diplomats, Closes Consulate General @USinStPete
Foggy Bottom Bids Goodbye to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
U.S. Ambassador to Panama John Feeley Resigns From the Foreign Service Over Trump Policies

Brett McGurk, U.S. Envoy in ISIS Fight, Quits Over Trump’s Syria Withdrawal

Uh-Oh News: No Denuclearization Until U.S. Removes Nuclear Threat

In the 1990’s, denuclearization, a key aim of U.S. diplomacy, was at the heart of a series of crises on the Korean Peninsula throughout the Clinton Administration. Via history.state.gov:

Season 1:

There were signs of hope in early steps toward denuclearization. In January 1992, North Korea publicly committed to signing the nuclear safeguards agreement with the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to permitting inspections of its primary nuclear facility at Yongbyon. In April of the same year, the North and South signed the Joint Declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which barred the parties from developing or acquiring nuclear weapons and limited them to using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes only. […]

The parties returned to negotiations, but these, too, faltered as North Korea resisted IAEA inspections. By March 1994, North Korean diplomats threatened war if the United States and South Korea went to the U.N. In May North Korea withdrew from the IAEA. A last-minute private trip to North Korea by President Jimmy Carter in June 1994 averted war and led to U.S.-North Korean bilateral negotiations and the October 1994 Agreed Framework for the denuclearization of North Korea.

The Agreed Framework was a staged, multilateral agreement involving the two Koreas, the United States, and Japan. It required Pyongyang to halt its nuclear activities at Yongbyon, allow IAEA monitors in, and eventually dismantle the facility. In exchange, the United States, Japan, and South Korea would provide light water reactors, and the United States would provide interim energy supplies in the form of fuel-oil. Each stage was to build confidence that the parties were willing to continue.

In carrying out the agreement, however, numerous setbacks eroded trust among the parties. While the United States followed through on its promises to ship fuel-oil, the U.S. Congress delayed the deliveries. The 1997 IMF Crisis limited the ability of South Korea to contribute to the construction of the light water reactors, leading to delays. Meanwhile, North Korea engaged in provocative acts against South Korea and Japan, testing ballistic missiles and pursuing other weapons activities. In 1998, suspected nuclear weapons activities at Kumchang-ri brought the Agreed Framework to the brink of collapse. Once inspectors were finally allowed in, they found no evidence of nuclear activity, but mistrust remained high. The Clinton administration worked to get the Agreed Framework back on track, leading to the visit of a North Korean envoy to the United States, a joint statement of no hostile intent, and a reciprocal visit by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to Pyongyang in October 2000.

However, despite these efforts, the nuclear issue was still unresolved. It was not long before the next crisis would arise, requiring the international community to take another approach to addressing the denuclearization issue. North Korea broke out of the 1994 agreement in the winter of 2002, resulting in the opening of the Six-Party Talks the following year, hosted by China.

Season 10: 

Trump Exits From Syria, Cites “Historic Victories Against ISIS”

The President of the United States minus the “Mission Accomplished” banner, announcing the “historic victories against ISIS” and withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria:

The happy, thumbs-up people:

Iran Special Rep Brian Hook’s War March Gets Interrupted, Blames Coffee

 

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Catching Up on @StateDept Presidential Appointments – NonCareer Officials

STATE DEPARTMENT

Brian J. Bulatao of Texas, to be an Under Secretary of State for Management | Via 

Mr. Bulatao has served as the chief operating officer of the Central Intelligence Agency since 2017 and as a senior advisor to then-CIA Director Pompeo.  Mr. Bulatao also served for seven years as an officer in the United States Army from 1986 to 1993.  Following his honorable discharge from the military, Mr. Bulatao was the president and chief operating officer of a number of private sector companies, including Thayer Aerospace, Wichita, Kansas, Nefab America, Coppel, Texas, and Niteo Products, Dallas, Texas.  Mr. Bulatao was a distinguished graduate of the United States Military Academy, receiving his B.S. in 1986.  He received his master of business administration  from Harvard Business School, in 1995.  Mr. Bulatao was the recipient of the CIA Director’s Award for Distinguished Service and was an honor graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger School.

On June 18, the WH sent its withdrawal of the nomination of Eric M. Ueland, of Oregon, to be an Under Secretary of State (Management), vice Patrick Francis Kennedy, which was resubmitted to the Senate on January 8, 2018.

Related posts:

 

Tibor Peter Nagy Jr. of Texas, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs | Via 

Ambassador Tibor Peter Nagy, Jr., a retired career member of the Senior Foreign Service, formerly class of Minister-Counselor, served as an American diplomat from 1978 to 2003.  Twice a U.S. Ambassador—to Ethiopia from 1999 to 2002 and to Guinea from 1996 to 1999—he also served as Deputy Chief of Mission three times—in Nigeria from 1993 to 1995, Cameroon from 1990 to 1993, and Togo from 1987 to 1990.  In all, he served eight tours of duty at U.S. Embassies in Africa.  Ambassador Nagy served as Vice Provost for International Affairs at Texas Tech University from 2003 to 2017.  He currently serves as Ambassador-in-Residence, Institute for Peace and Conflict, and Honors College Adjunct Faculty at Texas Tech University, where he teaches about Africa.  Ambassador Nagy was born in Budapest, Hungary, and arrived in the United States as a political refugee in 1957.  He received a B.A. from Texas Tech University and a M.S.A. from George Washington University.  Ambassador Nagy speaks Hungarian and French, and has received numerous awards from the Department of State.

Ellen E. McCarthy of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research | Via

Ms. McCarthy has been president of Noblis NSP since 2016.  She has experience in the intelligence community including service as the chief operating officer of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency from 2013 to 2016.  Before joining NGA, Ms. McCarthy served as president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance from 2009 to 2013.  She was also director of the human capital management office from 2005 to 2009 and the acting director of security within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence from 2003 to 2005.  Ms. McCarthy also served as the  Director of Intelligence Operations, Strategy and Policy for the United States Coast Guard from 1998 to 2003 and an intelligence research specialist for the U.S. Atlantic Command from 1991 to 1998.  Ms. McCarthy earned a B.A. from the University of South Carolina, and she holds a Master’s Degree in public policy from the University of Maryland.  She is the recipient of  a Secretary of Defense Meritorious Civilian Service Medal, a National Intelligence Superior Service Medal, and a Presidential Rank Award, Meritorious.

R. Clarke Cooper of Florida, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs | Via

Mr. Cooper currently serves as the Director of Intelligence Planning for Joint Special Operations Command’s Joint Inter-Agency Task Force – National Capital Region.  A combat veteran, Mr. Cooper’s active duty assignments include tours with United States Africa Command, Special Operations Command Africa, Joint Special Operations Task Force Trans-Sahara, and Special Operations Command Central.  His background in intergovernmental affairs, foreign policy, counter-terrorism, and rule of law is coupled with his extensive operational experience.  Mr. Cooper’s civilian and military postings include security cooperation and capacity building in Africa, the Levant, and the Middle East.  He served in the Department of State as United States Alternate Representative to the United Nations Security Council and as the United States Delegate to United Nations Budget Committee from 2007 to 2009, Senior Advisor in Near Eastern Affairs Bureau from 2006 to 2007, and Advisor at United States Embassy-Baghdad from 2005 to 2006.  Mr. Cooper earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University. The WH announcement omits mentioning Cooper’s tenure as head of Log Cabin Republicans from 2010 to 2012. The Washington Blade notes that under Cooper’s tenure at Log Cabin, the organization oversaw a lawsuit challenging “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and assisted with legislative effort to convince Republicans to vote to repeal the military’s gay ban.

Robert A. Destro of Virginia, to be the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor | Via 

Mr. Destro is a human rights advocate and a civil rights attorney with expertise in elections and employment law.  He is also professor of law and director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America.  Mr. Destro has been on the faculty at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law since 1982 and served as its Interim Dean from 1999 to 2001.  He served a six-year term as Commissioner of the United States Commission on Civil Rights.  Mr. Destro’s legal work includes collaboration with the Peace Research Institute Oslo in a fifteen-year dialogue among Muslim, Christian, and Jewish legal, business, and religious leaders in the United States and the Middle East and efforts promoting the release of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in the Middle East.  He has also served as voting rights counsel for the Ohio Secretary of State and advocated for the First Amendment rights of individuals and organizations.  He earned a B.A. from Miami University, Ohio, and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.  He is an active member of the Bar in Ohio and California.

Denise Natali of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operation | Via

Dr. Denise Natali is the Director for Strategic Research at the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), National Defense University, where she specializes on the Middle East, Iraq, trans-border Kurdish issues, and post-conflict stabilization.  Prior to joining INSS in January of 2011 as the Minerva Chair, Dr. Natali spent more than two decades researching and working in the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Turkey, Iran, and Syria, and was also engaged in post-conflict relief and stabilization.  She served as the director of cross-border operations for a non-governmental organization in Peshawar, Pakistan, a specialist for the American Red Cross Gulf Relief Crisis Project in Washington D.C., and an information officer for the Disaster Assistance Relief Team, U.S Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in northern Iraq.  From 2005 to 2010, Dr. Natali supported a university start-up and taught at public and private universities in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, including the American University of Iraq Sulaimania (AUI-S).  She received a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, a M.I.A. from Columbia University and a B. A. from Franklin & Marshall College.  She speaks French and is conversant in Kurdish and Farsi.

John Cotton Richmond of Virginia, to be the Director of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking at the Department of State | Via

Mr. Richmond is the founder of the Human Trafficking Institute, a nonprofit that works inside criminal justice systems to decimate modern slavery by empowering police and prosecutors to stop traffickers. Previously, he served as the Special Litigation Counsel with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice and as a founding member of the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit. Additionally, he served as Field Office Director at the International Justice Mission in Chennai, India and is a two time recipient of the Department of Homeland Security’s Outstanding Investigative Accomplishments in Human Trafficking Award. Mr. Richmond earned his B.A. from the University of Mary Washington and J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law.

Robert Charles O’Brien of California, to be the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs | Via 

Robert C. O’Brien, an attorney, diplomat, and author, is a founding partner of Larson O’Brien LLP.  His practice focuses on complex litigation and international arbitration.  Mr. O’Brien has extensive government and private sector experience in national security and foreign policy matters.  He has served as an arbitrator in over twenty international proceedings and been appointed by the Federal courts to serve as a Special Master in over a dozen complex cases.  Mr. O’Brien has been named one of the top 100 lawyers in California and one of the top 500 lawyers in America. Mr. O’Brien was appointed as a Representative to the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, served as Co-Chairman of the Department of State’s Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2011 and was appointed to serve as a member of the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee in 2008.  He was a senior legal officer with the United Nations Security Council in Geneva, Switzerland from 1996 to 1998.  Mr. O’Brien served as a major in the JAG Corps of the U.S. Army Reserve.  Mr. O’Brien received a B.A. degree from UCLA and a J.D. degree from Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley School of Law.

CHIEFS OF MISSION

Harry B. Harris Jr. of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Korea | Via 

Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr. currently serves as the 24th commander of U.S. Pacific Command.  A highly decorated, combat proven Naval officer with extensive knowledge, leadership, and geopolitical expertise in the Indo-Pacific region, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1978 and was designated a naval flight officer in 1979.  He earned a M.P.A. from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a M.A. from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, and attended Oxford University.  During his 40-year career, he served in every geographic combatant command region, and he has held seven command assignments, including the U.S. Pacific Fleet, the U.S. Sixth Fleet, and VP-46.  He and his wife, Bruni, live in Hawaii.

On May 23, the WH sent to the Senate its withdrawal of Admiral Harris’ nomination to be Ambassador  to the Commonwealth of Australia, which was sent to the Senate on February 13, 2018.

Lynda Blanchard of Alabama, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Slovenia | Via 

Ms. Blanchard co-founded 100X Development Foundation in 2004, an organization dedicated to fostering creative solutions to eradicate poverty and improve the lives of children around the world.  Concurrently, she co-founded and is currently senior advisor at B & M Management Company, a real estate investment management company.  Ms. Blanchard has worked in Africa, Asia, and South America, engaging with local partners to further 100X Development Foundation’s mission.  As an advocate for people with special needs for more than 20 years, Ms. Blanchard has voluntarily served on boards of non-profit organizations and supported numerous education programs in Alabama, as well as helped families who are interested in adoption.  She is the mother of seven children, four of which were adopted internationally.  Ms. Blanchard earned a B.S. in mathematics and a minor in computer science from Auburn University.

Christine J. Toretti of Pennsylvania, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Malta | Via

Ms. Toretti is an accomplished businesswoman, philanthropist and civic leader.  She was President and CEO of the S.W. Jack Drilling Company for over two decades.  She has served as vice chair of the Rural Telephone Bank, U.S. Department of Agriculture, as a member of the National Petroleum Council, and on the advisory board for the U.S. Secretary of Energy.  Ms. Toretti was also a director of the Pittsburgh branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.  Ms. Toretti has been Republican National Committeewoman from Pennsylvania since 1997 and founded the Anne Anstine Excellence in Public Service Series and the Dodie Londen Excellence in Public Service Series, to educate, empower and advance women in politics.  She received her B.S. from the University of Virginia.

Ronald Gidwitz of Illinois, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Belgium  | Via 

Mr. Gidwitz is a partner in GCG Partners and previously led Helene Curtis Industries as President and Chief Executive Officer.  Mr. Gidwitz is also Chicago regional chair of the Business Executives for National Security and, for almost thirty consecutive years, and led three important public institutions; the Chicago Economic Development Commission, the City Colleges of Chicago, and the Illinois State Board of Education.  In addition, Mr. Gidwitz chaired the Illinois Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Workforce Development and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.  Mr. Gidwitz earned a B.A. from Brown University, Providence Rhode Island.  He has received numerous honors and awards including the Bertha Palmer Distinguished Civic Leadership Award from the Chicago Historical Society and been named Laureate by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois.

Donald Ray Tapia of Arizona, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Jamaica | Via 

Mr. Tapia served as Chairman and CEO of Essco Group Management, the largest Hispanic owned business in Arizona, for over three decades. Mr. Tapia’s philanthropic efforts include serving on the Board of Directors for the Sun Angel Foundation and Endowment at Arizona State University, the Tau Kappa Epsilon Educational Foundation Board of Indianapolis, Indiana, and as Chairman of Board and Trustee at Saint Leo University. Additionally, he served on the boards of the Boys and Girls Club of Metropolitan Phoenix, Teen LifeLine Phoenix, the Advisory Council of the Arizona Animal Welfare League, and the Advisory Board for the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix, Arizona. Mr. Tapia is a U.S. Army veteran and received his B.A. and M.B.A. from Saint Leo University in Saint Leo, Florida, where he was later awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Gordon D. Sondland, of Washington, to be Representative of the United States of America to the European Union, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary | Via 

Gordon D. Sondland is the Founder, Chairman, and Chief Executive Officer of Aspen Lodging Group, LLC, d.b.a. Provenance Hotels, in Portland, Oregon.  For almost 15 years Mr. Sondland managed the Aspen Group, an investment fund and he has served on the Advisory Board of U.S. Bancorp for more than a decade.  Additionally, Mr. Sondland was the Senior Republican advisor to the Democratic Governor of Oregon.  He also served as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Portland Art Museum.  Mr. Sondland attended the University of Washington in Seattle, and has maintained an Airline Transport Pilot License since 1978.

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