Watchdogs’ Lawsuit Against Pompeo For Trump-Putin Notes Under Federal Records Act Moves Forward

 

Via American Oversight:

American Oversight and Democracy Forward, a pair of left-leaning watchdog groups, sued Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the archivist of the United States in June over the missing notes. The groups charge that Pompeo violated the Federal Records Act by allowing Trump to reportedly confiscate meeting notes prepared by State Department employees and for failing to preserve them.

In a ruling from the bench on Wednesday, Judge Trevor McFadden of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the government’s motion to dismiss the case.

The order by McFadden, a Trump appointee, means that the lawsuit will be allowed to move forward and gives the government until Jan. 10 to say whether Pompeo complied with federal records law or show why he was not obligated to do so. Pompeo will then have until the middle of March to produce the State Department’s record of evidence.

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U.S. Senate Joins House, Passes Resolution Recognizing the Armenian Genocide

 

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 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.

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Turkish Court Rules to Keep USG Employee Metin Topuz in Jail

 

Reuters reported on December 11, that a Turkish court ruled that U.S. Consulate General Istanbul employee, Metin Topuz remain jail “as his trial on espionage charges continues.”
Reuters previously reported in September that the lawyers for Metin Topuz applied in January to the European Court of Human Rights and that  the ECHR has accepted the application.
The AP previously reported that Topuz began working at the consulate in 1982 as a switchboard operator and was promoted to work as an assistant and translator to the DEA’s American personnel in Turkey a decade later.
Topuz was first arrested in October 2017 and has now been incarcerated for over two years. He is still an employee of the U.S. Government. We’ve been wondering what’s going to happen to him. There’ll be another hearing in March. And on and on it goes? Until when?
The State Department has previously updated its Foreign Affairs Manual in 2017 which provides the terms and conditions for authorizing compensation payments for current and former locally employed (LE) staff who are/were imprisoned by foreign governments as a result of their employment by the United States Government.
So for “amount of benefit” which applies to locally employed staff at State and All Agencies under Chief of Mission Authority (includes DEA):

a. State:  Compensation may not exceed an amount that the State Deputy Assistant Secretary for HR determines to approximate the salary and benefits to which an employee or former employee would have been entitled had the individual remained working during the period of such imprisonment.

b. All other agencies:  Compensation may not exceed an amount that the agency head determines to approximate the salary and benefits to which an employee or former employee would have been entitled had the individual remained working during the period of such imprisonment.

c.  Once the compensation amount has been set, each agency will deny or reduce this compensation by the amount of any other relief received by the employee or other claimant, such as through private legislation enacted by the Congress.

Under the section of “other benefits”:

Any period of imprisonment for which an employee is compensated under this section shall be considered for purposes of any other employee benefit to be a period of employment by the U.S. Government, with the following exceptions:

(1)  A period of imprisonment shall not be creditable toward Civil Service retirement unless the employee was covered by the U.S. Civil Service Retirement and Disability System during the period of U.S. Government employment last preceding the imprisonment, or the employee qualifies for annuity benefits by reason of other services; and/or

(2)  A period of imprisonment shall not be considered for purposes of workers’ compensation under Subchapter I of Chapter 81 of Title 5, U.S.C., unless the individual was employed by the U.S. Government at the time of imprisonment.

Just pause and think about this for a moment.  Local employees are typically are not paid in U.S. dollars but paid in local compensation plans/currencies. The United States Government will only pay the amount that the employee would have been entitled to if she were at work (and not in prison). Were Congress to allocate any compensation, USG will deny or reduce the amount claimed beyond the approximate salary.
So compensated for eight hours a day considered a workweek but none for weekends and 16 hours a day spent incarcerated and away from families or being slammed around by prison hosts? (A former Turkish official assigned to NATO arrested and accused as a “Feto” member spoke of tortures and show trials).
Wow!  This is breathtaking and full of heart, we wanna scream.
Also with very few exceptions, most locally employed staff are not covered by U.S. Civil Service retirement. But former USG local employees who gets in the cross-hairs of their governments and imprisoned due to their employment with the U.S. Government, their imprisonment “shall not be considered for purposes of workers’ compensation”. That only applies if they are employed by the USG at the time of imprisonment.
State/HR’s Overseas Employment should be proud of that ‘taking care of local employees’ award.

 

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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.

Authorized/Ordered Departures: U.S. Embassy Burkina Faso

The State Department has previously issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel Advisory for Bolivia on November 12, 2019 (US Embassy Bolivia Now on ‘Ordered Departure’ For Family Members).
On November 26, the State Department issued a Level 4 – Do Not Travel for Burkina Faso.  The Travel Advisory was issued due to terrorism, crime, and kidnapping.  It also included an announcement that the Department ordered the departure of all minor family members of U.S. government employees, and the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members. There are currently 14 countries with Level 4 designations.
Do not travel to Burkina Faso due to terrorism, crime, and kidnapping.

Country Summary: Terrorist groups continue plotting attacks in Burkina Faso. Terrorists may conduct attacks anywhere with little or no warning. Targets could include hotels, restaurants, police stations, customs offices, areas at or near mining sites, places of worship, military posts, and schools.

Kidnapping and hostage taking is a threat throughout the country.  On May 10, 2019 a hostage rescue operation freed four international hostages that had been kidnapped in Burkina Faso and in neighboring Benin.

The Government of Burkina Faso has maintained a state of emergency in the entire East and Sahel regions, the provinces of Kossi and Sourou in the Boucle de Mouhoun region, the province of Kenedougou in the Hauts Bassins region, the province of Loroum in the North region, and the province of Koulpelogo in the Center-East region.

The U.S. government is unable to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens throughout most of the country, as U.S. government personnel are restricted from travelling to regions outside the capitol due to security concerns. The U.S. Embassy prohibits U.S. government personnel from personal travel to the Karpala, Balkiui and Rayongo (also known as Dayongo) neighborhoods of Ouagadougou’s Arrondissement 11 due to the potential for security operations.

On November 26, 2019, the Department ordered the departure of all minor family members of U.S. government employees, and the voluntary departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members.

The US Embassy in Ouagadougou also posted this on its website:

Consistent with our primary responsibility to protect American citizens and consistent with the assessment that the security situation in Burkina Faso has reached a point where it is not appropriate for children to remain as part of the Embassy community at this time, the U.S. Embassy ordered the departure of U.S. mission family members under the age 21.  The U.S. Embassy remains open for all services including full diplomatic engagement and consular services, including the full range of services for American citizens.  There is no specific threat that prompted this decision, rather this reconfiguration of the U.S. Embassy staffing profile will enable refocused operations to assist Burkina Faso in its struggle against violent extremist organizations.

 

Pompeo Reportedly Consulting With Mega-Donors For Kansas Senate Run

 

Via McClatchyDC/KansasCityStar:

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reached out to Sheldon Adelson, the Republican Party’s largest donor, in recent weeks to “gauge interest” in his potential run for an open Senate seat in Kansas next year, three sources familiar with the matter told McClatchy.

It is the latest evidence of Pompeo’s outreach campaign to rally donor support around a potential Senate bid, following similar conversations with Charles Koch, a Kansas resident, as well as donors affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Pompeo has flirted with the race for months, and President Donald Trump said on Tuesday in London that he would encourage his secretary of state to leave office and run if he believed Republicans were at risk of losing the seat.”

Also, while in London, he reportedly also attended “an off-the-books sit-down meeting with a conservative group that included a small number of wealthy Republican donors, which was not on his official schedule” according to CNN.  The report says that “The State Department did not reply to a request for comment on Pompeo’s visit with the Hamilton Society.” That seems to be the trends these days; folks must be very busy updating his Miles With Mike scrapbook they just had no time to respond to a reporter’s inquiry.
When he officially runs, will the flag officer’s home  gets liberated to return to the Defense Department?

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Report: Fringe Conspiracy Guy/Trump Official Joins @StateDept ‘One Team’ as Arms Control Senior Advisor

 

 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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US Embassy Zambia: Threats Against Amb. Daniel Foote For Comments on Harsh Sentencing of Gay Couple

Excerpt from Ambassador Foote’s statement:

The Foreign Minister accused me of interfering with Zambia’s internal affairs, as he has done each time any foreign diplomat accredited to Zambia offers an opinion different to that of the current Zambian government, and of “questioning the Zambian constitution.”  I just re-read Zambia’s entire constitution, which I believe is an admirable document, and there is no reference to “having sex against the order of nature,” or of homosexuality for that matter.  Your constitution does declare, however, to uphold “a person’s right to freedom of conscience, belief or religion; the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person;” to “respect the diversity of the different communities of Zambia;” and to “promote and protect the rights and freedoms of a person.”  It is up to Zambian citizens and the courts to decide if your laws correspond to your constitution, but your constitution itself provides every person the right to freedom and expression of conscience and belief.  I expressed my belief about a law and a harsh sentencing I don’t agree with.  I didn’t interfere in internal affairs.
[…]
I have consistently pledged that it’s not my place to tell Zambia what to do, but that I would always be honest and frank.  The exceptional yearly assistance from American to Zambian citizens, and the constitution of Zambia, should enable all of us to express our opinions without acrimonious accusations or actions.  I hope the government of Zambia commits to improve its decaying relationship with the United States, but that is a decision for it to make.

If you think that foreign nationals were not paying attention on how the president talks about our diplomats, local media now report notes that “Zambian President Edgar Lungu rebuked the Ambassador and his remarks, saying his authorities will complain to the Trump administration.”