The Demise of Government: The Grim Task of Undoing Trump’s Damage (Via Just Security) #RealPostoftheMonth

Via Just Security:
“…The past three years in the United States have witnessed a concentration of discretionary authority in the hands of the president, the dismantling of the federal government’s institutional resources, and a degeneration of policy and budgeting into a short-term horizon focusing exclusively on immediate political gain — and often on croneyist profit. We did not need to be inside the room with John Bolton to see how de-institutionalized governance and discretionary power yield a “caudillo” or despotic style that would reduce democracy to little more than a show, with the claim that elections are periodically held.
Across five key dimensions, the result is a loss of capacity and direction that future administrations will struggle to restore. The Trump administration’s assault on state competence, in favor of freewheeling dominance by individual executive discretion, threatens the United States with an erosion of democracy that echoes the populist cascade in Hungary, India, Turkey, Brazil, the Philippines — unfortunately, the list goes on.
[…]
…change in the very nature of political practice far exceeds any easily identified policy demarcations. We have begun to see the unwinding of modern America. The effects will not simply evaporate when Trump leaves office. Lasting damage has been done to public trust in democratic institutions, the status of news media, the respect for science and proof, and more. Putting our political culture and democratic system back together will require more than mere policy repair.”
Read in full below:

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US Mission Saudi Arabia Now on Voluntary Evacuation After COVID-19 Cases Leaked #HoldOn

On Monday,  June 29, 2020, the State Department issued an updated Travel Advisory for Saudi Arabia announcing that on Wednesday, June 24, it authorized the voluntary evacuation of nonemergency personnel and family members from the US Mission in Saudi Arabia. This includes Embassy Riyadh, and the consulates general in Jeddah and Dhahran. The order was issued “due to current conditions in Saudi Arabia associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

On June 24, 2020, the Department of State authorized the departure of non-emergency U.S. personnel and family members from the U.S. Mission to Saudi Arabia, which is comprised of the Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulates General in Jeddah and Dhahran, due to current conditions in Saudi Arabia associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Apparently, dozens of mission employees got sick last month, and many more were quarantined. A third country national working as a driver for the mission’s top diplomats had reportedly died. The Embassy’s Emergency Action Committee “approved the departure for high risk individuals” but the State Department “denied” the request advising post  “to do whatever it can to hold on until the Covid problem improves.”
Whatthewhat? Hold on is the plan?
Also that “more recently, officials on the embassy’s emergency action committee recommended to Mr. Abizaid that most American employees should be ordered to evacuate, with only emergency personnel staying. Mr. Abizaid has not acted on that.”
Reminds us of what happened at some posts back in March (Is @StateDept Actively Discouraging US Embassies From Requesting Mandatory Evacuations For Staff? #CentralAsia? #Worldwide?). COVID-19 Pandemic Howler: “No one in DC, to include S, gives AF about AF”.  More recently, reports of COVID-19 cases at US Embassy Kabul (US Embassy Kabul: As Many as 20 People Infected With COVID-19 (Via AP).  Where else?

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Asst Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mary Elizabeth Taylor Resigns Over Trump’s Response to Racial Injustice

 

Via state.gov:
Mary Elizabeth Taylor is the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs for the U.S. Department of State.  Previously she served as senior advisor in the Office of the Counselor.  From 2017 to 2018, Ms. Taylor was Special Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs at the White House.  In that role, she led the process and strategy guiding Senate nominations, spearheading the successful confirmations of more than four hundred nominees, including the high-profile confirmations of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, and CIA Director Gina Haspel.  Previously she served in the office of United States Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, working on the Senate floor as the Senior Cloakroom Assistant and acting as a liaison between the majority and minority leadership to negotiate agreements on legislative and executive matters.  Ms. Taylor also provided Members of Congress with parliamentary advice and counsel on floor strategy during consideration of pending legislative matters.  A Washington, D.C. area native, Ms. Taylor holds a B.A. degree in political science and Spanish from Bryn Mawr College.
The Bureau of Legislative Affairs (H) coordinates legislative activity for the Department of State and advises the Secretary, the Deputy, as well as the Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries on legislative strategy.

@StateDept Senior Leadership “Requests” US Embassy Seoul to Take Down BLM Banner

On June 13, we posted this: US Embassy Seoul Displays Giant #BlackLivesMatter Banner In Support of Fight Against Racial Injustice.
US Embassy Seoul’s BLM banner that went up on Saturday came down on Monday. CNN reports that senior State Department leadership asked the embassy in Seoul to take down the Black Lives Matter sign that Ambassador Harry Harris had hung from the building’s façade . A spokesman for the embassy confirmed to CNN that the large Pride flag has also come down. Via CNN:
“The request from the department’s 7th floor — where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo‘s offices are located — cited as its reason the fact that Black Lives Matter is a non-profit organization and that the US government does not encourage contributions to the group or promote any specific organization, the source said. It is not clear why the Pride flag — which was hung in late May, according to the embassy’s Facebook page — was removed and no explanation has been offered yet.”
According to Bloomberg “on Monday, after the banners were removed, the embassy said that U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris did not intend “to support or encourage donations to any specific organization. To avoid the misperception that American taxpayer dollars were spent to benefit such organizations, he directed that the banner be removed.”

American Academy of Diplomacy Calls on @StateDept to Improve Diversity

On June 9, the American Academy of Diplomacy called on the State Department to improve diversity in its ranks. It says that it  believes that “a diplomatic service and other representatives of US foreign policy need to look like America, an essential part of representing our country abroad.” Excerpt:

The State Department falls short of this goal. Women and minorities continue to be significantly underrepresented in the Department of State, most glaringly in the senior ranks. Out of 189 U.S. Ambassadors serving abroad today, there are three African American and four Hispanic career diplomats. Thus, the Academy supports the following five commitments, the implementation of which can begin immediately:

1. The Department of State should publicly and repeatedly reaffirm and strengthen its previous commitments to establish a culture of diversity and inclusion in the Department of State. The Director General of the Foreign Service’s recent call for employees to engage in honest conversations with their peers is a good start.

2. The Department of State should expand and seek to substantially and verifiably increase the recruitment of minorities and women. This should include outreach to historically minority-serving institutions, increasing the number of Diplomats in Residence at these institutions, increasing the number of internships from minority and women candidates, and targeting future minority and women candidates starting at the high school level.The Department should significantly expand its ROTC-like fellowship programs for aspiring minority officers.

3. The Department of State should strengthen existing mentorship programs to specifically support minority and women officers. Senior officers should be assigned to mentor and sponsor younger officers from different backgrounds than their own. The Department should study best practices of how corporations sponsor future leaders who are minorities and women.

4. The Department of State should work to increase the assignment and promotions of minority and women candidates to the senior ranks and positions of the Foreign Service. A special effort should be placed on the retention of middle and senior level officers.

5. The Department should establish a culture of accountability for officers to ensure that they fulfill their diversity and inclusion objectives.

@StateDept’s Pompeo Muscle Desperately Throws Kitchen Sink at Ousted IG Steve Linick

Since the U.S. Senate majority doesn’t take anything seriously these days, State/OIG Steve Linick will officially be terminated on June 15, 30 days after Trump sent his congressional notification. And yet, on June 8th, the Undersecretary for Management Brian Bulatao fired two letters – one to Linick’s lawyers, and another to the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency ( CIGIE) asking for an investigation into the conduct of the soon to be former inspector general. As a CNN reporter pointed out, the State Department could have requested the CIGIE investigation at any point before Pompeo asked Trump to fire Linick. It did not. The State Department is asking for it now, the week that Linick officially leaves his job.
Why?
It looks like the State Department is throwing the kitchen sink full of dirty dishes at IG Linick, hoping one of those dirty dishes would hit him on his way out. We’re just waiting for one of these champions of diplomacy to turn around and say from the podium, “see, that dirt on his shirt? That’s the reason no one should pay attention to whatever he was investigating before he was fired.”
Apparently, faulting Linick for not promoting Pompeo’s professional ethos statement did not quite do the trick. So the 7th floor folks, they’re hoping this one would work, ey? Has somebody there already created a PowerPoint presentation on “How to be an Agile  Champion of Diplomacy Watchdog and Just Cover Your Eyes?”
We’d like to see that, please.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate yawns and scratches its bum. During his tenure as State Department watchdog, Linick has probably alienated enough Democrats in Congress during the email mess, and alienated enough Republicans in Congress during the Ukraine mess. So, that’s that.
Unfortunately, in the constant breaking news cycle we are currently living, the world will move on in short order. Media folks will report on other outrages, big and small that occurs on a daily basis.  Our country’s march towards a full blown banana republic continue. Still. We won’t forget that Mr. Linick was fired for doing his job. We’d take his word over any character from this 7th Floor of the Foggiest Bottom.

The Bulatao- CIGIE letter is here: https://www.scribd.com/document/465038049/CIGIELetter-June82020

The Bulatao-Linick’s lawyer letter is here: https://www.scribd.com/document/465025243/Bulatao-Linick

The Strength of America’s Apolitical Military: 571 Signatories and Counting

Via Just Security:
Retired members of the U.S. diplomatic corps, many of whom had seen first-hand in non-democratic countries the use of the military as a tool to suppress public protest, were alarmed this week at what seemed steps in that direction on the streets of Washington. The following letter expresses their concern at such measures and their support for the U.S. military’s proud tradition of staying outside of politics. It is addressed to national, state, and local leaders, and has been endorsed by 571 former officials from the diplomatic, military, and other services, as listed below.
For others who want to add their names to the list, please send a message to this email address.
Authored by  and .

Trump Appointee, George Floyd’s Death Spark #BLM Protests, Petition in Bermuda

 

On May 27, the State Department announced the appointment of Lee Rizzuto Jr. to be the next Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Hamilton, Bermuda (see Champion of US Diplomacy Announces Political Donor to be Principal Officer at US Consulate General Bermuda).
Since the announcement, there has been two protests at the consulate, and an online petition expressing solidarity with the  Black Lives Matter movement and calling for the rejection of the Rizzuto appointment. As of this writing, the petition has over 79,000 signatures. The island noted for its sandy beaches and cerulean blue ocean waters has an estimated 2018 population of 71,176.
The Consulate closed on June 1st when the first of two protests took place in front of the consulate (Demonstration Alert – U.S. Consulate General Hamilton, Bermuda, June 1, 2020).

So That’s Why @StateOIG Steve Linick Was Fired Urgently Under Cover of Darkness

 

State IG Steve Linick appeared before HFAC on June 3rd. You can read his prepared statement in the link below. There is also a summary of his congressional interview today. We understand that a transcript will be made available publicly at some point.
Politico reports:

“Linick also confirmed to lawmakers that he was investigating Pompeo and his wife for “allegations of misuse of government resources.” Linick revealed that he had sought documents from Pompeo’s executive secretary, Lisa Kenna, and discussed the probe with Bulatao and another senior State Department official, Stephen Biegun, to ensure that Pompeo’s inner circle “would not be surprised.” Pompeo later told The Washington Post that he was unaware of the investigation.”

The panel plans to seek interviews with the following current and former State Department officials. Dear HFAC, please have public hearings so we can see them earn points in their professional ethos scorecards.
Related:

 

More related posts:

 

@StateDept Officials Reportedly Wary of Acting IG Akard Who Also Reports to Pompeo BFF Bulatao

 

On May 30, CNN tweeted that “the ousted State Inspector General Steve Linick is expected to sit down for a transcribed interview on Wednesday, June 3rd,  with lawmakers who are probing his firing earlier this month, according to two congressional aides familiar with the inquiry and scheduling.”
Steve Linick’s removal was effective in “30 days.” But Linick has since been told apparently that “he is physically barred from returning to the State Department even to collect his belongings, complicating his ability to finish his work.”
Meanwhile, over in the Foggiest Bottom, the Acting State/IG Stephen Akard (who is reportedly keeping his other day job as @OFM_Ambassador) has assumed charged of the IG office the Monday following Linick’s Friday night firing.
Politico’s Nahal Toosi  is reporting about the reactions from State Department officials, and there are all sorts of worries:
    • “State Department officials are increasingly uneasy with their new acting inspector general, fearing he has conflicts of interest that could lead him to derail ongoing investigations — including ones into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — while endangering cooperating witnesses.”
    • “Some State Department staffers fear Akard will try to rescind, or otherwise undermine, past investigations conducted by his ousted predecessor, Steve Linick.”
    • “Others worry that the presence of Akard, who also has ties to Vice President Mike Pence, will scare off employees who wish to report waste, fraud and abuse.”
    • “Meanwhile, State Department employees who were interviewed for ongoing and past investigations – often under conditions of anonymity – are worried that Akard will track down their identities and share them with Pompeo and others. They fear they will be targeted for professional retribution as a result.”
    • “Another State Department staffer predicted that colleagues will shy away from reporting future cases of wrongdoing at the department because of Akard.”
Concerns from Capitol Hill:

“There also are concerns on Capitol Hill and beyond that Akard will seek ways to undermine Linick’s past, completed investigations that may have upset Pompeo and some of his top aides.”

Now, this part of Politico’s reporting should be a red flag. If true that this was Akards defense when asked about a potential conflict of interest, this is a bad sign:

“When asked about these potential conflicts of interest, Akard has offered a “head-scratching” take, a person familiar with the situation told POLITICO. Akard has said that, in reality, Bulatao is not his supervisor, but that his actual boss is Trump, because it’s the president who technically nominated him to serve as the head of OFM.”

OFM’s Stephen Akard reports to Under Secretary for Management Brian Bulatao. Period.

“As the head of the Office of Foreign Missions, Akard reports to Bulatao. As the undersecretary of State for management, Bulatao also oversees several other major divisions within the State Department, such as the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

If any of those other units falls under investigation by the inspector general’s office, some State Department officials argue, Akard can’t reasonably expect to play a role in the probe because he also reports to Bulatao. Bulatao is a longtime personal friend and former business partner of Pompeo’s.

His new staff have asked him what he will do if instructed by Pompeo or others not to investigate something. His response was that unless there was a very good reason, he would say that such an instruction was inappropriate. Akard also has acknowledged that he may have to recuse himself from certain matters.”

What does Pompeo want? A pet in his pocket?
    • But the fact that the chief U.S. diplomat has been so public about what he views as the proper role of an inspector general worries staffers who fear Akard will internalize the message.
    • In a Thursday interview with Fox News, Pompeo indirectly made it clear what he would like to see in an inspector general when he hinted that Linick was too independent.
    • “He was acting in a way that was deeply inconsistent with what the State Department was trying to do,” Pompeo said of Linick. “We tried to get him to be part of a team that was going to help protect his own officers from Covid-19; he refused to be an active participant. He was investigating policies he simply didn’t like. That’s not the role of an inspector general … This was about an IG who was attempting to undermine the mission of the United States Department of State. That’s unacceptable.”
Watch Pompeo’s actions not the blah, blah, blahs!
    • “One of the political appointees singled out for criticism by Linick was Kevin Moley, the head of the bureau. Even though some of Pompeo’s top aides acknowledged many of the problems described in Linick’s report, they claimed the secretary of State had no power to fire Moley because he was a presidential appointee. Instead, Moley was allowed to quietly retire several weeks later.
    • “(The State Department has never responded to questions from POLITICO about whether Pompeo had ever asked Trump to fire Moley. He did do so for Linick, who also was a presidential appointee.)”
The fact that Pompeo asked Trump to fire Linick but offered no actions following the IG reports on staff mistreatments says something about his organizational view of Foggy Bottom. There is an in-group and an out-group in Foggy Bottom’s universe, and only the in-group really matters.
You folks notice that Pompeo is really doing a nasty number on Linick? Not just recommending to Trump that Linick be fired, but throwing rocks and mud at Linick on his way out.  It really makes one wonder what kind of issues Linick was digging up as Foggy Bottom’s junkyard dog.
Linick was fired at a carefully selected time, then reportedly barred from returning to his office even if the firing did not become official for 30 more days. Pompeo quipped that he “should have done it some time ago,”  So why was it not done some time ago?
Why did it become so urgent, they had to fire him under cover of darkness on a Friday night on May 15th?
Then they apparently barred him from returning to his office, not even affording  a dedicated public servant the courtesy of allowing him to pack up his personal things, say goodbye to his colleagues, or have an orderly transition.
Then the Acting IG, double hatted as @OFM_Ambassadorshowed up at his new office the following business day to make everyone happy.
State OIG has a Deputy IG Diana R. Shaw.  Why was she not picked as Acting IG?  Questions, so many questions. If you got answers, we’re interested in listening.