As Ukraine Opens Probe Into Yovanovitch Surveillance, Foggy Bottom Remains Mute as a Mouse

Update 1:37 pm PST: Mid-day on Friday, CNN reports: After more than 48 hours of silence, Pompeo says State will investigate possible surveillance of ex-US ambassador

On January 14, we blogged about the Parnas documents indicating a possible surveillance of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch while she was posted as U.S. Ambassador to Kyiv (see Parnas Materials: Surveillance of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in Kyiv).
According to NBC News reporter Josh Lederman, Robert F. Hyde reportedly dismissed the Parnas texts as “colorful texts” from when they’d “had a few pops way back when I used to drink” (see). When asked about Hyde’s claims of tracking Ambassador Yovanovitch, Lev Parnas in his first TV interview also said, “Well, I don’t believe it’s true.”  He added, “I think he was either drunk or he was trying to make himself bigger than he was, so I didn’t take it seriously.”
Since we have not heard anything from the State Department or Secretary Pompeo, are we to understand that the State Department is just taking their words that they’re joking around or drunk as claimed in their worrisome exchange? Given subsequent reporting on the Hyde character, that’s possible, of course. But if there was something there, anyone really expect that these individuals would admit to some nefarious intent publicly?
On January 16, Ukraine’s Ministry of Interior announced that it opened an investigation on the possible surveillance:

Ukraine’s position is not to interfere in the domestic affairs of the United States of America. However, the published references cited contain a possible violation of the law of Ukraine and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which protects the rights of a diplomat on the territory of the foreign country.

Ukraine cannot ignore such illegal activities on the territory of its own state.

Also on January 16, NBC News reported that the FBI paid a visits to Republican congressional candidate Robert Hyde’s Connecticut home and business.  FBI spokesperson told The Hill, “There is no further information that can be shared at this time.”  But as former DOJ staffer Matthew Miller points out, DOJ has had these messages for months. They’re investigating this claimed surveillance just now.
As of this writing, neither Pompeo nor the State Department has released any statement of concern on the possibility that one of its ambassadors was under surveillance for unknown reasons by people directly connected to Rudy Giuliani, the shadow secretary of state.
When State officials and Pompeo talk about protecting and supporting our diplomats in their town halls and chitchats, do they still say that loud with straight faces? Really, we’re curious.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

United Arab Emirates to Pay For Estimated $60Million USA Pavilion in Expo2020 Dubai #foreignassistance

 

The world exposition Expo2020 is set to open in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on October 20, 2020.  In December 2019, InPark Magazine reported that nearly 200 countries have signed up to participate, each participant with a national pavilion. The per-pavilion investment was reported to be in the millions with China’s pavilion cited at a cost of $100 million. (see The U.S. could be a no-show at Expo 2020 Dubai). In fall last year, UAE’s The National also reported that the United States has yet to secure funding and begin construction on its $60 million pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai. The US Consul General in Dubai Philip Frayne was reportedly confident that funding would be available despite  failure of a private consortium to raise the needed funds (see Financial troubles stall construction of US pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai).
On January 16, UAE’s The National reported that the US will participate at Expo 2020 Dubai with UAE funding:

American participation had been in doubt due to a law, passed in the 1990s, which prevents public funds being used for Expos. In the past, businesses have met the bill, but despite a lobbying effort led by Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, the US failed to attract enough private funding for Dubai. Legislative efforts to get around the rules proved unsuccessful.

It is not yet known how much money the UAE will provide to the US. However, it is understood that the original design of the US pavilion, which was estimated to cost $60 million (Dh220m) will be changed, not least because of time pressures with the opening of the event just nine months away.

The National also got a quote from Danny Sebright, president of the US-UAE Business Council: The US State Department would be “100 per cent” in charge of the pavilion, Mr Sebright said, with the UAE government to offer support and assistance “as appropriate”.
Below is the State Department’s announcement citing the generosity of the Emirati Government in making America … er great anew by providing funds for the building of the USA Pavilion and making U.S. participation in Expo2020 Dubai possible.

Pompeo’s New Songs Bring Back the Old Times With #BaghdadBob

 

 

Iraqi Protesters Breach U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s Compound

Media reports indicate that Iraqi protesters, identified as Iraqi Shiite militia members and their supporters, stormed the U.S. Embassy Baghdad on December 31, in protest of the deadly air strikes conducted by U.S. forces over the weekend. Reports note that the Sunday strikes killed at least 25 fighters and wounded 55.
On December 30, SecDef Mark Esper announced that “the Department of Defense took offensive actions in defense of our personnel and interests in Iraq by launching F-15 Strike Eagles against five targets associated with Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia group.  The targets we attacked included three targets in Western Iraq and two targets in Eastern Syria that were either command and control facilities or weapons caches for Kata’ib Hezbollah.”
On December 27, a rocket attack at an Iraqi base killed one U.S. contractor and wounded four U.S. troops. See 
According to the AP, the State Department has stated that all U.S. personnel at Embassy Baghdad are safe and that there are no plants to evacuate.
This morning, U.S. Embassy Baghdad issued a security alert advising “U.S. citizens not to approach the Embassy.  U.S. citizens should keep in touch with family members.  In an emergency, U.S. citizens in Iraq or those concerned about family in Iraq should contact the Department of State at +1-202-501-4444 or toll-free in the U.S. at 1-888-407-4747.”

 

Santa Mike Is Coming Late to Town, But Wait … Who’s Avoiding Embassy Kyiv?

 

News media reported earlier that US Embassy Kyiv’s CDA Bill Taylor is stepping down at the end of the year (see US Embassy Ukraine Chargé d’Affaires Bill Taylor to Leave Kyiv at End of Year).  WSJ has the follow-up report:

“Ulrich Brechbuhl, a key aide to Mr. Pompeo who serves as State Department counselor, informed Mr. Taylor on Dec. 11 that Mr. Pompeo had instructed him to hand over his responsibilities in Kyiv on Jan. 1, according to the person familiar with the situation.

Mr. Taylor is planning to leave the country on Jan. 2, and had understood that Mr. Pompeo wanted to avoid being photographed with him while visiting Ukraine, the person familiar with the situation said.”

The Daily Beast reported the following:

“Pompeo is now scheduled to arrive in Kyiv on Jan. 3, according to two U.S. officials and one Ukrainian official. Two other individuals familiar with his visit to Ukraine said the secretary wanted to visit the country after Taylor’s departure.[…] In conversation with department aides about planning a trip to Ukraine, Pompeo said he wanted to avoid the embassy altogether and would hold meetings in his hotel, according to two individuals with knowledge of those conversations.”

Holyswagger macaroni! That’s one leaky ship!
So no photo-op with the diplomats’ children at Embassy Kyiv for Miles With Mike? Or is Mike going to show up on Sikorsky Street and say BOO! to all creatures large and small for the new year? Stay tuned!
All righty. All righty. But hey, serious question. If true that the secretary did not want to be photographed with Ambassador Taylor, what are they going to do with the Embassy’s Counselor for Political Affairs David Holmes? Hide him in the vault? PM, please, or we would not get any sleep at all!

#ArmenianGenocide: “The position of the Administration has not changed”

 

On December 12, the U.S. Senate also passed S.Res.150 “Expressing the sense of the Senate that it is the policy of the United States to commemorate the Armenian Genocide through official recognition and remembrance.” The Resolution was agreed to in Senate without amendment and passed by unanimous consent.
Previously, on October 29, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 405-11 agreeing to H.Res. 296 “Affirming the United States record on the Armenian Genocide”. October 29 is also Turkey’s Republic Day, the 96th anniversary commemorating the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923.
On December 17, the State Department released the following press statement:
The position of the Administration has not changed.  Our views are reflected in the President’s definitive statement on this issue from last April.

Related posts:

Afghanistan Papers: A secret history of the war #hardreading

 

 

Sergey Lavrov Comes to Town For the Merriest Christmas

He got to see the President of the United States who was grinning ear to ear in the best photo ever.
With the whole world watching, he got to say “We have highlighted once again that all speculations about our alleged interference in domestic processes in the United States are baseless.”
In after-meeting reports, he got people to question the veracity not just of what he said/was discussed but what the White House/POTUS said/was discussed during the meeting.
Not bad for a day’s work.

Kennedy Center Honoree Linda Ronstadt Knows When Mike Pompeo Will be Loved

 

On December 8, Secretary Pompeo hosted the Kennedy Center Honors Dinner at the State Department. Excerpt from his remarks:

It doesn’t matter which political party we’re from. Art belongs to no party, no class, no gender, no age. It belongs to each and every one of us. This event’s really important. I regret that I couldn’t make it last year. I was worried in Morocco on Thursday I might not make it this year too. (Laughter.) Actually, I got a note from a couple who says, “You need to get on the plane now.” (Laughter.) It’s important because it celebrates something that we’ve all fought so hard for here in America, our prized value to express our views, our beliefs, our freedoms, our ideas. (Also see Think Tank Cancels NATO Conference After U.S. Ambassador Objects to Keynote Speaker’s Participation).
[…]
It won’t surprise you with my time in Kansas that I’m a big fan of Linda Ronstadt as well, an icon of folk and country music. Thirty albums, ten Grammys, a bestselling memoir.

And as a nod to her own ancestry, Ms. Ronstadt released a collection of traditional Mexican songs, which became the best-selling non-English-language album in all of American history.

She’s shared her musical gifts in uniquely impactful ways, including teaching music and dance to the children in Mexico.

Ms. Ronstadt, thank you and congratulations. (Applause.) And I will say my job, as I travel the world – I just want to know when I will be loved. (Laughter.) I just read them. (Laughter.)

Via Variety:


Early in the evening Pompeo, who played host, referred to the lyrics of “When I Be Loved,” one of Ronstadt’s hit songs, saying to the 200 guests gathered, “As I travel the world, I wonder when will I be loved.”

Via CNN:

Later, when Ronstadt had the opportunity to take the microphone, she delivered her response. In front of more than 200 guests, Ronstadt, who has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration, stood up and looked straight at Pompeo’s table and said, “I’d like to say to Mr. Pompeo, who wonders when he’ll be loved, it’s when he stops enabling Donald Trump.”

Besides “I wonder when will I be loved,” Ms. Ronstadt’s numerous hits also include “You’re No Good.”
You’re welcome to sing along to either song.  It’s still a free country; ask BNET to play it for the holidays.

Think Tank Cancels NATO Conference After U.S. Ambassador Objects to Keynote Speaker’s Participation

 

The Danish Atlantic Council released a statement announcing the cancellation of its international conference on NATO and transatlantic cooperation after the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark  Carla Sands “did not want” the keynote speaker’s participation. Sands is a political appointee, and one of Trump’s top donors. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate  by voice vote in November 2017 (see PN1012).
The invited speaker Stanley Sloan (@srs2_) is a Visiting Scholar in Political Science at Middlebury College and a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Scowcroft Center of the Atlantic Council of the United States.
Mr. Sloan has now released a brief statement about this debacle and also provided a link to the draft of the address he would have delivered at the event:

The Danish Atlantic Council had invited Stanley R. Sloan to give a keynote address at their conference celebrating NATO’s 70th anniversary on 10 December. The conference was co-sponsored and heavily funded by the US Department of State. Just days before the conference, the US Ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, ordered the Council to remove Sloan from the program. The form of censorship by the US government is a dramatic change from past practice, when the US Public Diplomacy program provided  a variety of American views to foreign audiences, in many ways demonstrating the strength of American democracy. For those who are interested in what Sloan would have said at the meeting, check out the draft as it stood before the Embassy’s veto: “Crisis in transatlantic relations: what future will we choose?” 

US Embassy Denmark has taken to Twitter to defend its role in the cancellation of the event:

In our planning for the Seminar as co-hosts and co-sponsors, the U.S. Embassy and had jointly agreed on a program of speakers with a wide range of views on the Alliance.

Mr. Stanley Sloan’s proposed last-minute inclusion in the program by did not follow the same deliberative process of joint decision-making and agreement that we followed when recruiting all other speakers.

The U.S. Embassy will continue to support future programs to strengthen security cooperation and people-to-people ties.

We laughed so hard we fell off our chair! We all know that “deliberative” and “process” have both been left to bleed all over the white carpet.  We can see the stains on the official burial; the embassy, unfortunately, thought we could not.

Click image to view original post