Trump Names Hostage Envoy Robert O’Brien as His Fourth National Security Advisor

 

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SFRC Confirmation Hearing: Marshall Billingslea to be Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J)

 

On September 19, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will have a confirmation hearing for  four Trump nominees including Marshall Billingslea to be the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights (J) at the Department of State. This office oversees five bureaus and four offices.
Mr. Billingslea was originally nominated in 2018, and re-nominated in January 2019.

Via WH, August 21, 2018:

Marshall Billingslea of Virginia, to be Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights at the Department of State.

Mr. Billingslea currently serves as Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing of the Treasury Department. Previously, he worked for Deloitte as a Managing Director; the Department of Defense as Deputy Under Secretary of the Navy, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Negotiations Policy; the NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, as Assistant Secretary General for Defense Investment; and the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as a senior staff member in national security affairs. Mr. Billingslea is the recipient of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service, the Cross of Merit of the Minister of Defence of the Czech Republic, and the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana of Estonia. Mr. Billingslea earned his B.A. from Dartmouth College and M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

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U.S. Announces Exchange of Ambassadors With Belarus After Meeting With Lukashenka

 

Via state.gov:

Since Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka came to power in 1994, he has consolidated power through widespread repression. In 1996, Lukashenka reacted to western criticism of a referendum that dissolved Parliament and expanded the authority of the presidency by temporarily expelling the U.S. and EU Ambassadors. After a presidential election in 2006 that violated international norms and was neither free nor fair, the United States implemented travel restrictions and targeted financial sanctions on nine state-owned entities and 16 individuals (including Lukashenka). In 2008, after the United States tightened sanctions due to worsening human rights abuses, Belarus expelled the U.S. ambassador – a position that has remained vacant – and 30 out of 35 U.S. diplomats. Over this period, Belarus became almost wholly dependent upon Russia – politically, economically, and militarily. In August 2015, Lukashenka released all six of Belarus’ political prisoners. In response, the United States provided limited sanctions relief, suspending sanctions on the state-owned entities. Since sanctions relief began, Belarus has taken some steps to improve democracy and human rights. Increased bilateral engagement depends on Belarus making additional progress on human rights and democracy issues.

Today, the State Department’s Under Secretary For Political Affairs (P) David Hale who is in Belarus announced a “joint efforts to move our bilateral relationship forward” and the “exchange ambassadors” as the next step in normalizing the relationship.

I am pleased to stand here today with Foreign Minister Makei to recognize our joint efforts to move our bilateral relationship forward.   Our meeting today marks an historic juncture in U.S. – Belarus relations.   It is my honor to announce that we are prepared to exchange ambassadors as the next step in normalizing our relationship.

The United States remains committed to a sovereign, independent Belarus with a prosperous future for the next generation. The United States also welcomes Belarus’ increased cooperation on issues of non-proliferation, border security, economic cooperation, and information sharing on matters of shared security.

I would like to reiterate that by normalizing our relationship, we are not asking Belarus to choose between East and West.  The United States respects Belarus’ desire to chart its own course and to contribute to peace and stability in the region.

There are still aspects of the Belarus Democracy Act with which the Belarusian government needs to contend, and the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections represent an opportunity to address the spirit of the concerns outlined in the Belarus Democracy Act. With such progress, we can discuss further easing of sanctions.

Belarus is a country with a rich culture and vibrant, talented people.  We look forward to increased cooperation and dialogue between our countries. Thank you.

 

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Pompeo Accuses Iran in Saudi Aramco Attacks, His Boss Tweets, US “Locked and Loaded”

 

 

Secretary Pompeo Will Not Take Second Job as National Security Advisor #nodualswagger

 

 

Season Finale: Trump Breaks Up With His Third National Security Advisor

 

 

 

Report: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Lacks Authority to Fire a Political Appointee #DeptofSwagger

 

Foreign Policy recently reported on a State Department town hall meeting where Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan “acknowledged having failed to act more vigorously to shield State Department staffers from retaliation by the Trump administration for their perceived political views” and reportedly said that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lacked the authority to fire a top Trump political appointee accused of inflicting, or abetting, the alleged harassment. (See State Department Failed to Shield Its Diplomats From Political Reprisals, Officials Concede; also Workplace Horror Award Goes to the IO Bureau, @StateDept Offers Counseling in Uppercase Voice).
Most notable items from the report:
— Deputy Secretary Sullivan and P’s David Hale “acknowledged shortcomings in their response and pledged to make amends for staffers whose careers were upended in a long-running controversy that triggered an investigation by the department’s inspector general.”
— “I will be the first to admit the failure on my part to have done more to address the situation,” Sullivan told the gathering, according to an account of the meeting relayed to Foreign Policy
— Hale encouraged staffers whose careers were damaged as a result of political retaliation to come to him to seek some sort of professional remedy or, if they preferred, to pursue a formal grievance against the department. “I’d like to help; I’d also like people to know they can come to me,” Hale said. He pledged to take their case to the undersecretary of state for management, the director general, or human resources “to make amends.”
— “There’s absolutely no doubt that what was going on was completely unacceptable,” Hale said. “Misconduct is a soft word, frankly, to use for what has occurred.” 
–[M]any of the questions revolved around the fate of Moley and why action had not been taken sooner to discipline him. And some noted that officials in other bureaus of the State Department have been subject to similar mistreatment. […] And other staffers privately expressed skepticism that the State Department’s leadership would hold Moley accountable, noting that Foggy Bottom’s top brass had known about the allegations of political targeting for well over a year and had failed to act swiftly to stop it.
— The “general vibe after the meeting was a mix of bitter disappointment and depression,” one State Department official told Foreign Policy, who was skeptical about assurances that Moley would be reprimanded. “Bottom line here is that there will be NO action taken on Kevin Moley.”
— “The decision to ignore the IG report is devastating,” said another staffer in the bureau. “Ultimately, it renders this kind of vicious political targeting acceptable.”
Perhaps the most shocking thing reportedly said by Deputy Secretary Sullivan:
“The secretary can’t fire an assistant secretary appointed by a president, so it adds a layer of complexity there,” Sullivan said.
*
Well, first, this individual is not the only non-career official appointed by the president.  According to AFSA, the State Department has 74 political ambassadors (or 45.4% ) appointed by Trump, and confirmed by the Senate. In addition, there are 55 senior officials in Foggy Bottom where 50 of them (or 90.9%) are also political appointees; almost all of them were presidentially appointed and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
So, we’d like to understand what Sullivan told State Department employees actually means. If Secretary Pompeo cannot fire an assistant secretary appointed by a president, does this mean, he cannot fire any of the politically appointed senior officials and political ambassadors working for him? Those are his highest ranking officials. They are appointed by the president but they do not report to the president or the White House but to the secretary of state.  How can the secretary manage his agency without authority to, as the FAM likes to put it, “promote the efficiency of the Service?”
Good gracious! Who, pray tell, can the Secretary of State fire?
Second, when Sullivan says “The secretary can’t fire an assistant secretary appointed by a president” does this mean Pompeo is not allowed to do so, or was told not to do it (base on what law or regulations exactly?). Or is it that the secretary is using his discretion as agency head not to fire this one individual?
As often the case these days, we’re quite perplexed about this reported excuse. The deputy secretary appears to be making a rather sweeping statement here, not just with this secretary, and not just with this assistant secretary or this president: “The secretary can’t fire an assistant secretary appointed by a president.”
Remember Elizabeth Tamposi?  She was Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs  from 1989 – 1992 during the George H. W. Bush Administration.  She was a political appointee. Her tenure is noted for the scandal related to the search of passport records of then presidential candidates Bill Clinton and Ross Perot  (see Throwback Thursday: An Election, an FOIA, and @StateDept in the Eye of the Storm). She was dismissed by acting Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger.
An acting Secretary of State fired an assistant secretary of state appointed by a president, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Remember Secretary Colin Powell and Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Mary Ryan? She was a widely respected career employee, and the “only U.S. government official to be fired as a consequence of the worst attack ever on U.S. soil” (see Remembering Mary Ryan, FSJ, June 2010)? The secretary of state fired a Senate-confirmed appointee of President George W. Bush. There was apparently another assistant secretary fired by Secretary Powell but we could not find a publicly available citation, so we’re leaving that out.
During the fallout from the Benghazi attack, the assistant secretary, principal deputy, and deputy assistant secretary all lost their jobs in Diplomatic Security. In the NEA bureau, one deputy assistant secretary lost his job; his firing reportedly ordered by the State Department counselor. This report says that then Secretary Clinton accepted the resignation of the DS assistant secretary. Whether “S” or “M” made the decision concerning the departure of the DS assistant secretary is not clear, but somebody in Foggy Bottom had the authority to do it.
In recent years, there were also very public departures by political ambassadors to Luxembourg, Kenya, and Malta; all were presidentially nominated and Senate confirmed.
Now, we have the Deputy Secretary of State telling employees that their agency head lacks this authority; an authority which has clearly been exercised by previous secretaries of state several times in the past, in very public ways. So this is mighty confusing for your poor blogger who can’t make sense of the goings on there.
We do want to know where does Sullivan’s “The secretary can’t fire an assistant secretary appointed by a president” excuse come from. We think this has implications not just for this secretary and the agency going forward but potentially for future secretaries of state. 

Related items:

MidEast Envoy Jason D. Greenblatt Resigns, Kushner Aide to Take Expanded Role in ‘Deal of the Century’

 

 

The president announced via tweet the departure of Jason D. Greenblatt, his former real estate lawyer and Special Representative for International Negotiations since December 2016. Together with Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, Greenblatt is credited as co-author of the Trump Middle East peace plan. According to Reuters, Greenblatt is one of only four senior officials with access to Trump’s plan for Middle East peace, alongside Jared Kushner, Ambassador David Friedman and Kushner aide Avi Berkowitz.
Politico reports that with Greenblatt’s departure, Kushner aide, Avi Berkowitz, a 30-year old, 2016 Harvard graduate  will take on an expanded role in the talks (as will as the State Department’s special representative to Iran, Brian Hook). Berkowitz previously worked for Kushner Companies and  later as Assistant Director of Data Analytics in early 2016 for the Trump campaign. This is really going very well don’t you think?

U.S. Special Rep for Iran Makes Stunning Million Dollar Offer to #AdrianDarya Captain

 

 

Who’s Going to be the Next @StateDept Deputy Secretary? Two Names Floating Around: Biegun, Bulatao

 

Politico is reporting that Steve Biegun, President Trump’s special representative for North Korea, is being seriously considered for the No. 2 job at the State Department, according to two senior administration officials with knowledge of the matter.
This follows an NYT report on August 20 concerning the expected nomination of Deputy Secretary John Sullivan to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Moscow.
The new report from Politico also says that “The whole building is vying for the job,” citing another senior administration official.  But only one other name, so far, has been mentioned besides Biegun.  A former State Department official told Politico that “one of the contenders could include Brian Bulatao, the undersecretary of state for management, who was chief operating officer of the CIA when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was CIA director.
Note that Bulatao was confirmed as “M” just this past May after the nomination languished in the Senate for several months.
The Deputy Secretary serves as the principal deputy, adviser, and alter ego to the Secretary of State …
Christopher (1993-1997) and Albright (1997-2001) had Strobe (Nelson Strobridge) Talbott III (1994–2001) although Clifton Reginald Wharton Jr. did serve as Deputy Secretary on the first year of Christopher’s tenure. Powell (2001-2005) had Richard Lee Armitage (2001–2005) for his entire tenure at State. Rice (2005-2009) had Robert B. Zoellick (2005–2006) and career diplomat John Dimitri Negroponte (2007–2009). Clinton (2009-2013) had James Braidy Steinberg (2009–2011) and career diplomat William Joseph Burns (2011–2014). Kerry (2013-2017) kept Burns as Deputy Secretary after taking office then had Antony Blinken (2015–2017) as Deputy for the remainder of his tenure.
John Sullivan was originally nominated for a post at DOD (see Previously Announced DOD Nominee John J. Sullivan Now Slated to be @StateDept’s No. 2). On April 2017, he was nominated to be Deputy Secretary at State (see Trump to nominate John J. Sullivan to be @StateDept’s No.2 and to also serve as No.3.   He got his confirmation hearing in May 2017, and was confirmed the same month as Deputy Secretary of State in a 94-6 vote. He went on to serve as Rex Tillerson’s deputy, and subsequently as Acting Secretary of State after Tillerson’s firing. If he is nominated for the ambassador’s post in Russia, we expect that he’ll sail quickly through the confirmation process.
We were kind of perplexed why he would take this Moscow job, which is a step down from his current position in Foggy Bottom. As chief of mission at the US Embassy in Moscow, his reporting chain would be to the EUR bureau, an office under the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (P), a position that reports to the Deputy Secretary (his old job) and to the Secretary. Of course, he is a political appointee so we expect that he’ll go where they send him but we’re really curious why or how this came to be.
CNN cites two sources saying that “Sullivan is well-liked at the State Department but is not inside Pompeo’s inner circle. Sullivan has often felt out of the loop and wanted a new post. Despite having little experience when it comes to Russia, Sullivan lobbied to get this job and Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton ended up supporting him. The sources said Pompeo and Bolton recognize that the US ambassador to Russia is a challenging role, but not one that holds a lot of significance in this administration.”
Hmmnn…. he could have also picked Japan, Brazil, Canada or Gabon and São Tomé & Príncipe among a host of capitals with no ambassadors!  We’ll have to wait for Mr. Sullivan’s oral history, hey?

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