DHS/OIG Recommends Disciplinary Action For Ex-Deputy COS Christine Ciccone For Failure to Cooperate With State/OIG Review

Posted: 3:11 am EST

 

On February 13, 2019, Acting DHS/OIG John V. Kelly wrote a memo to DHS Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen concerning DHS Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Christine Ciccone’s “failure to cooperate with Inspector General review.” Prior to moving to DHS, Ms. Ciccone served as deputy chief of staff to then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (also see Tillerson’s Redesign Chief Leaves Office After Three Months, Meet the New Redesigner-in-ChiefRex Tillerson’s Inner Circle Photo Album, Say Cheese Con Quezo!

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, joined by U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, left, and Deputy Chief of Staff Christine Ciccone, prepare for a meeting with U.S./Alaska Permanent Participants to the Arctic Council in Fairbanks, Alaska, on May 10, 2017. [U.S. Air Force photo / Public Domain]

DHS/OIG Kelly also formally recommended that Secretary Nielsen “take appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Ciccone for failing to cooperate with an Inspector General review.” Excerpt from memo:

Beginning in September 2018, our colleagues at the Department of State Office of Inspector General (State OIG) have been attempting to interview Ms. Ciccone. At the request of several congressional committees,1 State OIG is reviewing allegations of prohibited personnel practices that occurred while Ms. Ciccone was the State Department’s Deputy Chief of Staff. Ms. Ciccone is a key witness in State OIG’s review; however, she has been unwilling to schedule an interview despite repeated requests made to both her and her attorney over many months.
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Pursuant to the Inspector General Act (IG Act), we have assisted State OIG in attempting to schedule an interview with Ms. Ciccone and have enlisted Acting Deputy Secretary Grady in our efforts. We very much appreciate the Deputy Secretary’s assistance and her instruction to Ms. Ciccone that she must participate in the interview. However, as of today, Ms. Ciconne has not scheduled a time to meet with State OIG staff. On Monday February 11, 2019, staff from State OIG, along with DHS OIG Deputy Inspector General Jennifer Costello, met with congressional staff to inform them of Ms. Ciccone’s failure to cooperate.
[…]
DHS has implemented the requirements of the Act in DHS Management Directive 0810.1, which in part states that DHS employees will be subject to disciplinary action if they refuse to provide documents or information or to answer questions posed by the OIG. Ms. Ciccone’s handling of this situation is not consistent with her obligations as an employee under this directive. Further, Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to comply with State OIG’s request for an interview sets a dangerous precedent contrary to the fundamental tenants of the IG Act, with the potential to undermine our critical oversight function. Therefore, I recommend that you take appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Ciccone under Management Directive 0810.1.

The HFAC statement notes that this review relates to the “ongoing State Department Office of Inspector General review of allegations of politically-motivated retaliation against career State Department employees.”

The HFAC statement provides a background:

  • Multiple whistleblowers have contacted our Committees to call attention to allegations of politically-motivated personnel actions during Ms. Ciccone’s tenure as Deputy Chief of Staff at the State Department.  Chairman Cummings, Chairman Engel, and Ranking Member Menendez reported these practices to State OIG in multiple letters in 2018, as well as in letters to and hearings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
  • State OIG opened a review of politically-motivated personnel practices in response to congressional requests.
  • During the pendency of the Inspector General’s review, Ms. Ciccone left the State Department to join the Department of Homeland Security as the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs.  Though she left her position at the State Department, she remains in federal service and is obligated to cooperate with the Inspector General’s inquiry, per the terms of her home agency’s management directive requiring that all agency employees fully cooperate with OIG reviews.
  • On February 11, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Oversight Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee received a briefing from State OIG regarding Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to submit to State OIG’s interview requests.  State OIG stated that it was in possession of documentary evidence demonstrating Ms. Ciccone’s involvement in personnel actions against at least three career employees, but was unable to complete its review without Ms. Ciccone’s interview. State OIG noted that given her senior position, Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to submit to an interview was “unprecedented.”

According to the a DHS Directive, employees  will —

— be subject to criminal prosecution and disciplinary action, up to and including removal, for knowingly and willfully furnishing false or misleading information to investigating officials;

— be subject to disciplinary action for refusing to provide documents or information or to answer questions posed by investigating officials or to provide a signed sworn statement if requested by the OIG, unless questioned as the subject of an investigation that can lead to criminal prosecution.

What should be most interesting to see is how DHS and Congress will deal with this case. It would send a signal to the rest of the bureaucracy how serious they are in their support of government oversight, and whether or not there are real consequences for failure to cooperate with Inspector General reviews.

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VPOTUS Swears-In New U.S. Ambassador to Australia Arthur Culvahouse, Jr.

Posted: 3:05 am EST

 

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Trump to Nominate Career Diplomat David Satterfield to be U.S. Ambassador to Turkey

Posted: 6:59 pm EST

 

On February 15, the WH announced the President’s intent to nominate David Michael Satterfield of Missouri, to be a Career Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Turkey. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Satterfield, a career member of the senior Foreign Service, class of Career Minister, has been the Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs since 2017.  Previously, Ambassador Satterfield served as the Director General of the Multinational Force and Observers in Rome, Italy, from 2014 to 2017 and 2009 to 2013.  In 2014, Ambassador Satterfield was special advisor to the Secretary of State for Libya, based in Tripoli, Libya, and served as Charge d’Affaires at the United States Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, from 2013 to 2014.  He served as Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad, Iraq, from 2005 to 2006, and as the United States Ambassador to Lebanon from 1998 to 2001.  Ambassador Satterfield served at the United States embassies in Syria and Saudi Arabia as well as other senior assignments, including Deputy Assistant Secretary, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, and Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs from 2001 to 2005.  Ambassador Satterfield is the recipient of the Presidential Distinguished Executive Rank Award, the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, and the United States Department of the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award.  He earned a B.A. from the University of Maryland.  Ambassador Satterfield speaks Arabic, French, and Italian.

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If confirmed, Ambassador Satterfield would succeed John R. Bass (1964–) who served as chief of mission in Turkey from October 2014–October 2017. Previous appointees to this post includes Francis Joseph Ricciardone (1952–);Morton Isaac Abramowitz (1933–)Marc Isaiah Grossman (1951–)Ronald Ian Spiers (1925–); and James Franklin Jeffrey (1946–), who is now dual-hatted as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and as United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement.

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State/CA Asst Secretary Carl Risch to Give Up Control of 50 Attorneys to the Legal Adviser?

Posted: 1:56 am EST

 

We understand that Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs (CA) Carl Risch is reportedly “electing to give up control of 50 attorneys under his leadership” in the Consular Affairs bureau.

Give them up? CA has 50 attorneys? He is reportedly moving them to the Office of the Legal Adviser (L). 

“Guy has no idea how many of his requests will now go unanswered because legal adviser will be arbiter of what policies deserve attention. Major implications for immigration law at State.”

We’re not sure if this move covers just the Office of Legislation, Regulations and Advisory Assistance (CA/VO/L) or also includes the Office of Legal Affairs (CA/OCS/L).  If he gives them up, does CA stops funding them, so then he gets to write this move on his “savings” column? Or if he gives them up, does CA still pays for them but won’t be responsible for them? What does that give Consular Affairs? How does that impact Consular Affairs, and consular posts overseas who may need legal guidance/advisories? 

We’ve asked CA about this a week ago — about Mr. Risch’s justification for this move, and how this will this impact immigration law at State.  It looks like we have a hot/cold relationship with the CA dahrlings, sometimes they respond quickly, and sometimes they give us this glaring silent treatment for just asking questions.

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Nauert Withdraws, UN Ambassador Post Available Again, Hurry!

Posted: 12:30 am EST

 

We’re late on this but apparently, Heather Nauert who was publicly announced as nominee to be the next U.N. Ambassador has withdrawn herself from consideration citing “the past two months” as “grueling” for her family. Her statement released with the State Department announcement on February 16 says that “it is in the best interest” of her family to withdraw.

Bloomberg News says “Trump’s pick for UN ambassador had employed a nanny who was in US legally but didn’t have a US work permit.”

Wait. When was this nanny hired? The spokesperson job does not require senate confirmation but like almost all jobs at the State Department, it requires a security clearance. So are they saying that the nanny issue, if that was the issue, did not come up during her initial vetting when she first came to State two years ago?

MSM is also reporting that Ms. Nauert is not expected to return to her State Department jobs. Until her announced nomination, she was the department spokesperson, and for a while, she was also the Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, after the Senate-confirmed “R” Steve Goldstein was fired with Rex Tillerson.  In August 2018, the State Department appointed career FSO Robert Palladino as deputy spokesperson. But to-date, no one has been announced to succeed her as spokesperson, and there’s not even an acting spokesperson.

In any case, the post of UN Ambassador is up for grabs again, and some names we’ve heard before, we are hearing once more.  The Apprentice UN Edition is now on, people! So exciting dammit, I nearly micturated!

A side note —

At times, though not always, the State spokesperson is also dual-hatted as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs. The assistant secretary position used to be Senate-confirmed but P.L. 112-116, the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 (signed into law August 10, 2012), removed the requirement for Senate confirmation of Assistant Secretaries of State for Public Affairs.

Anyone remember why this was done?

You should know that on February 5, Secretary Pompeo delegated to Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michelle Giuda the authorities of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R). Her official title is “Senior Official for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs.

It appears that the State Department is just going with “senior official” now and no longer even make use of the “acting” title for officials.  It also appears that the State Department no longer adhere to the previous practice of only appointing Senate-confirmed officials in “acting” capacity (don’t remember senior officials as responsible for their bureaus prior to this administration). We should note that only one official at the “R” bureau has been confirmed by the Senate, that’s the Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce (and spouse of former HFAC chair Ed Royce).

Is this Pompeo’s version of Trump’s “I like acting. It gives me more flexibility.”

 

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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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US Embassy Haiti Now on Mandatory Evacuation For All Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members

Posted: 7:06 pm PST
Updated: 8:23 pm PST

 

After about a week of protests in Haiti, the State Department issued a mandatory and voluntary departure orders for some family members of non-emergency staff at the US Embassy in Haiti. See U.S. Embassy Haiti Now on Mandatory Evacuation For Diplomatic Family Members Under the Age of 18, “Authorized Departure” Also On.

On February 14, the US Embassy issued a Security Alert noting about “reports of armed men in the area near U.S. Embassy personnel housing compounds.” Post instructed embassy personnel “to remain indoors.”

We understand that post had requested the full “ordered departure” for non-emergency staff within the last 24 hours.  An official statement on the status of non-emergency personnel in country has now gone out. The mandatory evacuation is for all non-essential staff, and for all family members. As of this writing, the Haiti Travel Advisory is still dated February 12, and has not been updated to reflect the updated “ordered departure” status for non-essential personnel.

Updated: When we look at travel.state.gov again at 8:23 pm PST, the February 14 updated Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory for Haiti  is up. The Advisory notes the crime and civil unrest in the country, the mandatory evacuation of non-emergency staff and family members, and the U.S. government’s  limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Haiti.

U.S. Embassy Haiti Now on Mandatory Evacuation For Diplomatic Family Members Under the Age of 18, “Authorized Departure” Also On

Posted: 1:45 am, EST

 

On February 12, the State Department issued a Level 3: Reconsider Travel for Haiti and announced the mandatory evacuation of family members under the age of 18 of U.S. personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. It also approved the “authorized departure” (voluntary evacuation) of adult family members and non-emergency U.S. personnel.

Travel Advisory: U.S. Embassy Port-au-Prince (February 12, 2019)
Haiti – Level 3: Reconsider Travel

Reconsider travel to Haiti due to crime and civil unrest.

There are currently unpredictable and sporadic demonstrations in Port-au-Prince and elsewhere in Haiti. Due to these demonstrations, on February 12, 2019, the Department of State ordered the departure of family members under the age of 18 of U.S. personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Haiti, and approved the authorized departure of adult family members and non-emergency U.S. personnel.

Protests, tire burning, and road blockages are frequent and unpredictable. Violent crime, such as armed robbery, is common. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents, and emergency response, including ambulance service, is limited or non-existent.

Travelers are sometimes targeted, followed, and violently attacked and robbed shortly after leaving the Port-au-Prince international airport. The U.S. Embassy requires its personnel to use official transportation to and from the airport, and it takes steps to detect surveillance and deter criminal attacks during these transports.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in some areas of Haiti. The Embassy discourages its personnel from walking in most neighborhoods. The Embassy prohibits its personnel from:

  • Visiting establishments after dark without secure, on-site parking;
  • Using any kind of public transportation or taxis;
  • Visiting banks and using ATMs;
  • Driving outside of Port-au-Prince at night;
  • Traveling anywhere between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.; and
  • Visiting certain parts of the city at any time without prior approval and special security measures in place.

See the full advisory and contact info here.

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