We’ve Only Just Biegun: Pompeo Swears-In New Deputy

Secretary Pompeo swore-in Stephen E. Biegun as Deputy Secretary of State on December 21, 2019. The State Department has posted his official bio on state.gov (see below). No word yet on when he will start on his new role as Acting Secretary of State (word on Twitterverse seems to be “when” not “if”). Without a nominee for Deputy Secretary for Management, it is likely that the new deputy secretary will be dual-hatted, unless, management has been delegated to Pompeo-pal and  Under Secretary for Management, Brian Bulatao.

On August 23, 2018, Secretary Pompeo appointed Stephen E. Biegun as the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea, responsible for leading U.S. efforts to achieve President Trump’s goal of the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea, as agreed to by Chairman Kim Jong Un at the Singapore summit. As Special Representative, on behalf of the Secretary of State he directed all U.S. policy on North Korea, led negotiations, and spearheaded U.S. diplomatic efforts with allies and partners.

Biegun has three decades of experience in government in the Executive and Legislative Branches, as well as in the private sector. Through his extensive career in foreign policy and business, he has excelled in tough negotiating settings. Most recently, Biegun was vice president of International Governmental Relations for Ford Motor Company, where—as a third generation Ford employee—he oversaw all aspects of Ford’s international governmental interactions including throughout the Indo-Pacific Region.

Previously, as national security advisor to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, he provided analysis and strategic planning for the U.S. Senate’s consideration of foreign policy, defense and intelligence matters, and international trade agreements. Prior to that, Biegun worked in the White House from 2001-2003 as Executive Secretary of the National Security Council. He served as a senior staff member to the National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, and performed the function of chief operating officer for the National Security Council.

Before joining the White House staff, Biegun served for 14 years as a foreign policy advisor to members of both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. During this time, he held the position of Chief of Staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations from 1999-2000. In addition, he served as a senior staff member of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs for 6 years.

From 1992 to 1994, Biegun served in Moscow, Russia, as the Resident Director in the Russian Federation for the International Republican Institute, a democracy-building organization established under the National Endowment for Democracy.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1963, Biegun graduated from the University of Michigan where he studied Political Science and Russian Language. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and has served on the boards of the National Bureau of Asian Research, the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council, the U.S.-Russia Foundation for Economic Development and the Rule of Law, and Freedom House.

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U.S. Senate Confirms John Sullivan as U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation

 

 

PN1232: John Joseph Sullivan, of Maryland, to be Ambassador to the Russian Federation
— By unanimous consent agreement, vote 12/11/2019.
— Cloture invoked in Senate by Yea-Nay Vote. 69 – 25. Record Vote Number: 392
— Considered by Senate.
— By unanimous consent agreement, debate and vote 12/12/2019.

 

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 The President’s Refusal to Allow Top Aides to Testify : T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, Counselor, Department of State

The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report includes Section II, The President’s Obstruction of the House of Representatives’ Impeachment Inquiry. Item #4 is The President’s Refusal to Allow Top Aides to Testify.    One of the twelve current or former Administration officials named in the report for refusing to testify under the President’s direction is T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, the Counselor for the State Department. The counselor position at State is not a legal position despite its title. It is an “Under Secretary-level principal officer” position. The incumbent serves the “Secretary as a special advisor and consultant on major problems of foreign policy and who provides guidance to the appropriate bureaus with respect to such matters. The Counselor conducts special international negotiations and consultations, and also undertakes special assignments from time to time, as directed by the Secretary.”
Excerpt from report:
At President Trump’s direction, twelve current or former Administration officials refused to testify as part of the House’s impeachment inquiry, ten of whom did so in defiance of duly authorized subpoenas. The President’s orders were coordinated and executed by the White House Counsel and others, and they prevented testimony from officials from the White House, National Security Council, Office of Management and Budget, Department of State, and Department of Energy.
[…]
In following President Trump’s orders to defy duly authorized Congressional subpoenas, several Administration officials who, to date, remain under subpoena may have placed themselves at risk of being held in criminal contempt of Congress.209 These witnesses were warned explicitly that their refusal to obey lawful orders to testify “shall constitute evidence that may be used against you in a contempt proceeding” and could also result in adverse inferences being drawn against both them and the President.210
T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, Counselor, Department of State
(see PDF pp 241-243)

On September 13, the Committees sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking transcribed interviews with Counselor T. Ulrich Brechbuhl and other officials.271

The Committees received no direct, substantive response to this letter. On September 27, the Committees sent a letter informing Secretary Pompeo that Mr. Brechbuhl’s deposition was being scheduled on October 8, stating:

On September 13, the Committees wrote to request that you make State Department employees available for transcribed interviews. We asked you to provide, by September 20, dates by which the employees would be made available for transcribed interviews. You failed to comply with the Committees’ request.272

That same day, the Committees sent a letter directly to Mr. Brechbuhl seeking his appearance at a deposition on October 8.273

On October 1, Secretary Pompeo sent a letter to the Committees stating, “Based on the profound procedural and legal deficiencies noted above, the Committee’s requested dates for depositions are not feasible.”274

Later that day, the Committees sent a letter to Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan stating that the State Department “must immediately halt all efforts to interfere with the testimony of State Department witnesses before Congress.”275

On October 2, Mr. Brechbuhl’s personal attorney sent an email to Committee staff stating:

My law firm is in the process of being formally retained to assist Mr. Brechbuhl in connection with this matter. It will take us some time to complete those logistics, review the request and associated request for documents, and to meet with our client to insure he is appropriately prepared for any deposition. It will not be possible to accomplish those tasks before October 8, 2019. Thus, as I am sure that you can understand, Mr. Brechbuhl will not be able to appear on that date as he requires a sufficient opportunity to consult with counsel. Moreover, given the concerns expressed in Secretary Pompeo’s letter of October 1, 2019, to Chairman Engel, any participation in a deposition would need to be coordinated with our stakeholders.276

 

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Highlighting Heroes: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch Honors Her Oath

It is highly likely that the State Department will not include Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in its Highlighting Heroes initiative.  So we will do our own highlights here. No matter what is in the future for her, we and many others will remember her and honor her for her courage in speaking up first when it mattered most.
The secretary of state, proud … um defender of the rule of law only when convenient, told the committee Ambassador Yovanovitch may not attend the deposition without agency provided counsel (counsel that looks after the government not the employee’s interest), and the undersecretary for management, who oversees personnel at the State Department instructed her not to appear for a deposition. She was issued a congressional subpoena and appeared for her deposition and public testimony.
Her private counsel wrote to U/S Brian Bulatao: “Although the Ambassador has faithfully and consistently honored her professional duties as a State Department employee—including at all times following her abrupt termination as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine—she is unable to obey your most recent directive.”
Excerpt from The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report

Despite President Trump’s explicit orders that no Executive Branch employees should cooperate with the House’s impeachment inquiry and efforts by federal agencies to limit the testimony of those who did, multiple key officials complied with duly authorized subpoenas and provided critical testimony at depositions and public hearings. These officials adhered to the rule of law and obeyed lawful subpoenas.

Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Department of State
See PDF pp 245-247

On September 13, the Committees sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seeking a transcribed interview with Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and other State Department officials.287

The Committees received no direct, substantive response to this letter. On September 27, the Committees sent a letter informing Secretary Pompeo that Ambassador Yovanovitch’s deposition was being scheduled on October 2, stating:

On September 13, the Committees wrote to request that you make State Department employees available for transcribed interviews. We asked you to provide, by September 20, dates by which the employees would be made available for transcribed interviews. You failed to comply with the Committees’ request.288

Also on September 27, the Committees sent a letter directly to Ambassador Yovanovitch seeking her appearance at a deposition on October 2.289

On October 1, Secretary Pompeo sent a letter to the Committees stating:

Therefore, the five officials subject to your letter may not attend any interview or deposition without counsel from the Executive Branch present to ensure that the Executive Branch’s constitutional authority to control the disclosure of confidential information, including deliberative matters and diplomatic communications, is not impaired.290

After further discussions with Ambassador Yovanovitch’s counsel, her deposition was rescheduled for October 11. On October 10, Brian Bulatao, the Under Secretary of State for Management, sent a letter to Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney directing Ambassador Yovanovitch not to appear for her deposition and enclosing Mr. Cipollone’s October 8 letter stating that President Trump and his Administration would not participate in the House’s impeachment inquiry. Mr. Bulatao’s letter stated:

Accordingly, in accordance with applicable law, I write on behalf of the Department of State, pursuant to the President’s instruction reflected in Mr. Cipollone’s letter, to instruct your client (as a current employee of the Department of State), consistent with Mr. Cipollone’s letter, not to appear before the Committees under the present circumstances.291

That same day, October 10, when asked whether he intended to block Ambassador Yovanovitch from testifying the next day, President Trump stated: “You know, I don’t think people should be allowed. You have to run a country, I don’t think you should be allowed to do that.”292

On the morning of Ambassador Yovanovitch’s deposition on October 11, the Committees sent a letter to her personal attorney transmitting a subpoena compelling her appearance, stating:

In light of recent attempts by the Administration to direct your client not to appear voluntarily for the deposition, the enclosed subpoena now compels your client’s mandatory appearance at today’s deposition on October 11, 2019.293

Later on October 11, Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney sent a letter to Mr. Bulatao, stating:

In my capacity as counsel for Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, I have received your letter of October 10, 2019, directing the Ambassador not to appear voluntarily for her scheduled deposition testimony on October 11, 2019 before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Oversight and Reform in connection with the House of Representatives’s impeachment inquiry. Just this morning, the Ambassador received a subpoena issued by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, requiring her to appear for the deposition as scheduled. Although the Ambassador has faithfully and consistently honored her professional duties as a State Department employee—including at all times following her abrupt termination as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine—she is unable to obey your most recent directive. As the recipient of a duly issued congressional subpoena, Ambassador Yovanovitch is, in my judgment, legally obligated to attend the depositions as scheduled.294

Ambassador Yovanovitch participated in the deposition on October 11, in compliance with the Committees’ subpoena.295 During her deposition, Ambassador Yovanovitch’s personal attorney confirmed that “she received a direction by the Under Secretary to decline to appear voluntarily.”296

On November 15, the Committees transmitted a subpoena to Ambassador Yovanovitch compelling her to testify at a public hearing of the Intelligence Committee that same day.297 Ambassador Yovanovitch complied with the Committees’ subpoena and testified at the public hearing. During the hearing, Chairman Schiff acknowledged Ambassador Yovanovitch’s compliance, stating:

Ambassador, I want to thank you for your decades of service. I want to thank you, as Mr. Maloney said, for being the first one through the gap. What you did in coming forward and answering a lawful subpoena was to give courage to others that also witnessed wrongdoing, that they, too, could show the same courage that you have, that they could stand up, speak out, answer questions, they could endure whatever threats, insults may come their way. And so in your long and distinguished career you have done another great public service in answering the call of our subpoena and testifying before us today.298

Oh, Looky There! They’re Gonna Gum Up the Ops Center’s Ears?

 

Who’s bright idea is this? Before long, senior officials will have to learn how to work the phones themselves and take their own notes. Oh, and take those important calls in secure, soundproof bathrooms!
We suspect that soon when there’s a qpq call (really, why stop at one), all that a senior official has to do is simply say, excuse me One Team, I need to go wee-wee. Senior official could then escape to the appropriate bathroom, and that’s all that the Foreign Relations of the United States could document for posterity, that some telephone diplomacy occurred in a secure, soundproof bathroom on such and such date!  And the State Department would call it the best record-keeping ever!
You’re welcome!

Ops Center. 2011. State Department

 

IO’s Kevin Moley Accused of Political Retribution Finally Leaves the Building

 

Friday, November 29 was reportedly IO Assistant Secretary Kevin Moley’s effective date of retirement. Via AP:

A senior State Department official accused of carrying out political retribution against career diplomats deemed insufficiently supportive of President Donald Trump has announced he is stepping down.

In a note sent to colleagues Friday, Kevin Moley said his “long-planned retirement” would take effect on Nov. 29, the date of his 50th wedding anniversary. Moley serves as the assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs.

“You have been great colleagues,” he wrote. “Keep up the fight.”

His four-sentence note made no mention of the controversy surrounding him and his former senior adviser Marie Stull.

As of this writing, Moley is no longer listed as IO’s assistant secretary but his bio is still up. on state.gov.  Two of the top bureau officials including the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Jonathan Moore and  DAS Joseph Manso are career FSOs, a third one is a career Civil Service Nerissa Cook, and the fourth, Kathy Wright joined the Department in 2018 following her tenure in the Office of the Majority Leader in the United States Senate as the Policy Advisor for Nominations.

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Related items:

Open Hearings Week #2: Williams, Vindman, Volker, Morrison, Sondland, Cooper, Hale, Hill, Holmes

 

Related posts: Impeachment Inquiry: Transcripts of Depositions Released (Updated 11/18/19)Impeachment Open Hearings Week #1: William Taylor, George Kent, Marie Yovanovitch

Thursday, November 21

  • WH/NSC: Fiona Hill, Fiona Hill, Former Senior Director for Europe and Russia
  • State/FSO David Holmes, Political Counselor, US Embassy Kyiv, Ukraine

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State/CSO DAS Mina Chang Resigns After NBC News Asked About Newly Discovered False Claims

 

We recently posted about State/CSO DAS Mina Chang following an NBC News investigation (see Dear @StateDept, How Many More Mina Changs Do You Have?). NBC News reported on November 18 that Ms. Change has resigned from the State Department “two and a half hours after NBC News went to her spokesperson to ask about newly discovered false claims she had made about her charity work.”

Senior Trump administration official Mina Chang resigned from her job at the State Department two and a half hours after NBC News went to her spokesperson to ask about newly discovered false claims she had made about her charity work.

NBC News had previously reported that Chang, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, had embellished her resume with misleading claims about her educational achievements and the scope of her non-profit’s work — even posting a fake cover of Time magazine with her face on it.

“It is essential that my resignation be seen as a protest and not as surrender because I will not surrender my commitment to serve, my fidelity to the truth, or my love of country,” Chang wrote in her resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Indeed, I intend to fight for those things as a citizen in the days and years to come.”

Chang said she had been “unfairly maligned, unprotected by my superiors, and exposed to a media with an insatiable desire for gossip and scandal, genuine or otherwise.”
[…[
The newly discovered false claims include misrepresenting a trip to Afghanistan as a humanitarian mission, listing an academic who says he never worked for her nonprofit as an employee, claiming a nonexistent degree from the University of Hawaii, inflating an award and claiming to be an “ambassador” for the United Nations’ cultural agency UNESCO.

Her bio page at state.gov now display a “We apologize for the inconvenience…” page.
We still want to know how she got to Foggy Bottom. That has implications not just with the vetting process but also Diplomatic Security’s security clearance process.

West Point Mafia Gets the Spotlight: Pompeo, Brechbuhl, Bulatao

 

 

Dear @StateDept, How Many More Mina Changs Do You Have?

 

As far as we know, no one starts a job at the State Department without a security clearance. Diplomatic spouses working security escort or mailroom jobs are not even allowed to start work without a security clearance or an interim clearance.
So when NBC News Investigation reported that a senior political appointee at the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations — a deputy assistant secretary (she’s one of the top three senior bureau officials)  made false claims and exaggerations, we were wondering what this means to the thoroughness of the background investigations conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security? Were the adjudicators aware of these issues prior to the issuance of the clearance? If not, why not? If yes, well, what in guacamole’s name happened here?

A senior Trump administration official has embellished her résumé with misleading claims about her professional background — even creating a fake Time magazine cover with her face on it — raising questions about her qualifications to hold a top position at the State Department.

An NBC News investigation found that Mina Chang, the deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stability Operations, has inflated her educational achievements and exaggerated the scope of her nonprofit’s work.

Whatever her qualifications, Chang had a key connection in the Trump administration. Brian Bulatao, a top figure in the State Department and longtime friend of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, attended a fundraiser for her nonprofit in Dallas and once donated $5,500 to her charity, according to a former colleague of Chang’s.

As of this writing, her biography is still up on state.gov. Her Twitter account appears to have disappeared but her Instagram account is still online. Back in July 2019, she was also rumored to be the next U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, a report that was officially denied by US Embassy Manila.
The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS headed by Director Todd J. Brown), an office which resides under the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (headed by Michael T. Evanoff), under the umbrella of the Under Secretary for Management (headed by Brian Bulatao), conducts personnel security background investigations for the Department of State and other federal agencies. After determining the candidate’s national security eligibility, DSS contacts the appropriate hiring authority.
According to Diplomatic Security, the national security eligibility determinations take into account a person’s:
  • Stability
  • Trustworthiness
  • Reliability
  • Discretion
  • Character
  • Honesty
  • Judgment
  • Unquestionable loyalty to the U.S.
The organization she once served as CEO, Linking The World, has now posted a lengthy message on its website primarily defending its former CEO. It claims that “Mina has undergone 4 independent agency reviews, including the FBI, and ultimately garnered both Top Secret and Sensitive Compartmented Information clearances.”
Item #8 says:

Mina obtained her position at the State Department on her own merit, at no time was Brian Bulatao part of her nomination / recruitment / review process.  An auction bid from 2015, is a despicable example of correlation with no foundation.  Anyone who reads her online articles would know that she has both supported and been critical of the current administration.  

Career diplomat George Kent who serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) in the European and Eurasian Bureau and testified on Wednesday at the Impeachment Hearings — now, he obtained his position as a DAS at the State Department on his own merit.
A political appointee gets  a job through a political connection. Ms. Chang is a political appointee; are we to understand that she got her job on her own merit by knocking on Foggy Bottom’s door?  Or did she apply through USAjobs.gov? Should be interesting to know how she got to Foggy Bottom.
According to Linking the World, Ms. Chang’s nomination was also “not withdrawn by the Administration of anyone other than herself.”

“Mina’s nomination was not withdrawn by the Administration, or anyone other than herself.  Simply, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has been rather busy with other activities and all nominees were subject to extensive delays.  Mina loves her position at State and decided to withdraw herself from the process to focus on stabilization operations.  Again, anyone who reviewed her recent past, with work in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Somalia, would know that this decision makes absolute sense.

This is, of course, contrary to reporting and public records that indicate the nomination was withdrawn by the President.  Ms. Chang was nominated in 2018 to be Assistant Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Jonathan Nicholas Stivers (see PN2528).  On January 03, 2019 the nomination was  “Returned to the President under the provisions of Senate Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 of the Standing Rules of the Senate.” The renomination was received by the Senate on January 16, 2019 (see PN115). On September 9, 2019, the U.S. Senate “Received message of withdrawal of nomination from the President.”
Deputy assistant secretaries do not require Senate confirmations. Appointments are typically not publicly announced.
So, now we’re left wondering if this case is an exception, or if there are any more cases like this in Foggy Bottom?