Why didn’t the State Dept have a permanent IG from 2008-2013? Late, but a senator wants to know.

Posted: 12:13  am EDT
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Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley has been keeping the records folks awake in Foggy Bottom. Last week, he directed his attention on the missing permanent IG at the State Department from 2008-2013. Over two years late but this gotta be good.

The previously Senate-confirmed OIG for the State Department was Howard J. Krongard who announced his resignation on December 7, 2007 and left post on January 15, 2008.  President Obama nominated the current IG Steve Linick in June 2013. The U.S. Senate confirmed his nomination on September 17, 2013 and Mr. Linick officially started work at the State Department on September 30, 2013.  (By the way, on October 1, the federal government went on shutdown and Mr. Linick’s office was one of the very few offices at the State Department whose employees were put on furlough).  The vacancy at the IG’s office lasted more than five years before President Obama’s nominee finally took office.  (See Senate Confirms Steve Linick; State Dept Finally Gets an Inspector General After 2,066 DaysAfter 1,989 Day-Vacancy — President Obama Nominates Steve Linick as State Dept Inspector General).

In any case, Senator Grassley now wants to know why the IG vacancy at the State Department lasted, by official count, 2,071 straight days. Late but okay, we’d like to know, too.  The senator wrote a letter to Michael E. Horowitz, the Chair of Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) and to Secretary Kerry. Excerpt below:

Congress needs a better understanding of how and why the State Department lacked a permanent IG who could serve as an independent watchdog for 2,071 straight days. Accordingly, please respond to the following by September 11, 2015:

CIGIE Chair Horowitz: Assuming that CIGIE prepared a list of recommended candidates to fill the IG vacancy at the State Department created upon the departure of former IG Howard Krongard in 2008:

a. Who were the candidates?
b. When were they recommended?
c. Who sent the slate of recommendations from CIGIE to the White House?
d. Who received the slate of recommendations at the White House from CIGIE?

e. What was the response, if any, from the White House regarding the slate of candidates?
f. Who, if anyone, at CIGIE received the White House’s response?
g. When and how was any such response from the White House received?

h. Please provide all records from any CIGIE official at the time relating to communications with the White House about the IG vacancy or potential candidates to fill the vacancy.
i. Did CIGIE provide candidate names to the State Department? If so, please provide the Committee with all records from any CIGIE official at the time relating to communications with the State Department about the IG vacancy or potential candidates to fill the vacancy.

Secretary Kerry: Please provide the Committee with all State Department records related to the IG vacancy or potential candidates to fill the vacancy, including communications between and among former Secretary Clinton, her senior staff, or any State Department personnel, any CIGIE official, or any White House official.

In the letter’s footnotes, Senator Grassley cites the testimony of POGO’s Danielle Brian on “Watchdogs needed: Top Government Investigator Positions Unfilled for Years, June 3, 2015.”  POGO has previously questioned the independence of the State Department’s acting IG. POGO also published a letter from “very concerned employees” (pdf) dated January 12, 2008 sounding the alarm on the appointment of an acting IG. Senator Grassley is listed as one of the addresses of that letter.

Senator Grassley’s IG vacancy letter cites two cases:

1) The “appearance of undue influence and favoritism” in departmental investigations of three allegations related to Diplomatic Security investigations (see Review of Selected Internal Investigations Conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security | January 2015 (pdf).

[ As an aside — the original OIG draft/report on DS investigations dates back to 2012 and was made part of the Higbie v. Kerry, a title VII employment discrimination case in Texas. That case was subsequently dismissed by the district court and affirmed by the Court of Appeals (pdf) in March 2015.  But in 2013, the government sought to exclude the “improperly obtained documents” that Higbie obtained via a subpoena from a retired OIG employee, Aurelia Fedenisn. The government asserted that the documents, including the draft report, were improperly retained by Fedenisn after her employment ended in 2012.  We’re reminded of this case in relation to the IG vacancy because the Washington Examiner recently reported that the then acting IG had sought to keep early drafts of a controversial OIG report under wraps in the Higbie case in federal court in 2013. Note that the contents of that draft report have already circulated and were reported on by the press in June 2013].

2) Allegations related to “protected disclosures” at  the U.S. Consulate General in Naples Italy, a case currently in the court system  (see Howard v. Kerry: Court Denies Motion to Dismiss One Retaliation Claim.

Senator Grassley’s letter is available to read here: 2015-08-27 Grassley | CEG to CIGIE and State Dept (IG Vacancy)

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Senator Grassley Places Hold on 20 FSO Nominations Over Clinton Inquiry

Posted: 4:07 am EDT
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On August 5, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared a short Foreign Service list (PN573-4) containing 20 nominees for “appointment as Foreign Service Officer of Class Two, Consular Officer and Secretary in the Diplomatic Service of the United States of America.” On the same day, Senator Grassley [R-IA] filed a notice of intent to object to “any unanimous consent request” relating to these appointments:

grassley hold

 

This development follows Senator Grassley’s objection to the nomination of career foreign service officer David Malcolm Robinson to be an Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations (see Senate Judiciary Sets Sight on Allegations Over Huma Abedin’s State Dept Employment, Senate Hold On).  Senator Grassley called Mr. Robinson, “an innocent victim” in his public tussle with the State Department.  According to Senator Grassley, his hold on the 20 FSOs “is not intended to question the credentials of the individuals up for appointment.”

The State Department deputy spox was asked about this on August 6, and here is his response:

QUESTION: Well, he said he’s – he said the new holds are on 20 nominees.

MR TONER: I haven’t seen that additional add. I mean, look, we’ve received nearly a dozen letters and requests from Senator Grassley in recent months, and just in – as recently as July 1st we responded to him and then told him that a response that includes a document production was in process, and this response also included substantial responses to his queries on – specific queries on records retention at the State Department. These – as we’ve discussed at length here, these kind of document productions take time, and the Department will be providing information to Senator Grassley in response to the requests in the very near future. And in terms of – I think he sent a letter yesterday. We’re working on a response to his requests from the most recent letter.

According to time.com, the State Department has provided five letters since 2013 in response to Senator Grassley’s inquiries about everything from its use of SGE designations to Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server. But the senator has reportedly accused the department of willfully withholding responsive materials, demonstrating “a lack of cooperation and bad faith in its interaction with Congress.”

So 21 career nominees from 11 states right now. None from Iowa. Just. Pawns.

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Senate Judiciary Sets Sight on Allegations Over Huma Abedin’s State Dept Employment, Senate Hold On

Posted: 4:33  pm EDT
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On July 30, Senator Charles E. Grassley , the Judiciary Committee chairman  wrote a letter to Secretary Kerry saying it has learned that State/OIG has opened an investigation to examine the circumstances of Ms. Abedin’s work arrangements, leave status, and conversion from a full-time Department of State employee to a Special Government Employee (SGE) and Senior Advisor to former Secretary Clinton. He writes that the “OIG found at least a reasonable suspicion of a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 641, theft of public money through time and attendance fraud, and Title 18, United States Code, Section 208, acts affecting a personal financial interest related to conflicts of interest connected to her overlapping employment as an SGE and her employment at Teneo and at the Clinton Foundation. The Judiciary Committee first inquired about related issues in June 2013.”

The letter outlines questions and allegations related to Conflicts of Interest and Special Treatment, and Improper Designation as an SGE (special government employee). The letter is quite particular, using specific terms like “baby moon,” “out of the office,” “going out of town,” “maternity leave,” and inquiring about Ms. Abedin’s stay at the US Ambassador’s residence in Rome. Here’s a list of what the Committee is interested in:

To aid the Committee in its investigation of these allegations, please provide the following:

  1. All documents and communications referring or relating to time and attendance for Ms. Abedin, all approved timesheets, leave requests, and any requests for paid or unpaid excused absences or administrative leave.
  2. All documents and communications referring or relating to Ms. Abedin having applied for or having received approximately $33,000 for unused leave.
  3. All documents and communications referring or relating to Ms. Abedin having applied for or having received compensation for unused leave.
  4. All documents and communications between or among Ms. Abedin and any employees, clients, or other affiliates of Teneo.
  5. All documents and communications referring or relating to time and attendance for Ms. Mills, all approved timesheets, leave requests, and any requests for paid or unpaid excused absences or administrative leave.
  6. All documents and communications between or among Ms. Abedin and any employees or other affiliates of the Clinton Global Initiative.
  7. All documents and communications between or among Ms. Abedin and any employees or other affiliates of the Clinton Foundation.
  1. All documents and communications forwarded by Ms. Abedin to a non-State Department e-mail address.
  2. All documents and communications between or among Ms. Mills, Ms. Abedin or Secretary Clinton referring or relating to Ms. Abedin’s leave requests or time and attendance, including the mentioning of Ms. Abedin being “out of the office,” “going out of town,” “maternity leave,” “annual leave,” “sick leave,” “baby moon,” or other similar statements.
  3. All documents and communications referring or relating to the Office of Inspector General investigation into Ms. Abedin.
  4. A description of Ms. Abedin’s duties at the Department of State before her designation as an SGE.
  5. A description of Ms. Abedin’s duties at the Department of State after her designation as an SGE.
  6. All documents and communications previously requested by this Committee relating to communications between or among the Department of State, Teneo, and Mr. Band. Additionally, please provide a written explanation as to why these records have been withheld to date.
  7. All documents and communications referring or relating to Ms. Motley’s meeting with Secretary Clinton that allegedly resulted in the granting of Ms. Abedin’s SGE designation.
  8. All documents and communications referring or relating to Ms. Abedin’s stay at the U.S. Ambassador to Italy’s residence in Italy and her trip to France in 2011.
  9. Did the Department search for or consider any other candidates besides Ms. Abedin for the SGE-expert position requiring expert knowledge on policy, administrative, and other matters? If so, please provide the supporting documentation. If not, why not?
  10. A list of all other instances in which a Department of State employee converted from a regular, full-time position to an SGE, and subsequently became simultaneously employed by a private company.
  11. All work papers, background documents, and communications relating to whether Ms. Abedin’s employment as an SGE presented any ethical concerns or conflicts of interest with her multiple private sector jobs.

The full letter is available to read here: CEG to State (Abedin Annual Leave SGE), 7-30-15-3

And because this is not going to end anytime soon, the HuAb investigation has now turned into a Senate hold for the nomination of the Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operation (State/CSO); a bureau which appears to be in fundamental crisis. Having the top nominee snared in a Senate hold is not going to help the already problematic bureau, is it?

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According to time.com, the State Department has provided five letters since 2013 in response to Grassley’s inquiries about everything from its use of SGE designations to Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server. But Grassley says those letters have been incomplete and that the department has willfully withheld responsive materials, demonstrating “a lack of cooperation and bad faith in its interaction with Congress.”

Grassley filed a “Notice of Intent to Object” in the Congressional record on August 4 signifying his intent to block the  nomination of career foreign service officer David Malcolm Robinson , of Connecticut, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Conflict and Stabilization Operations).

Senator Grassley is quoted in the Time’s report as saying that Robinson was “an innocent victim” of the State Department’s “contemptuous failures to respond to Congressional inquiries.” Grassley also said the department “has engaged in unreasonable delay in responding to Judiciary Committee investigations and inquiries” including the Abedin issue.

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New Faces, Old Faces — State Dept’s Office of Inspector General Gets a Make-Over

— By Domani Spero

We were writing our welcome back blog post for State/OIG last week when we noticed that there were new faces and reshuffled desks at the Office of the Inspector General at the State Department.

You may be aware by now that the new IG Steve Linick took office on September 30 but he wasn’t the only one who started fresh at the State Department.  He came to the State  Department with  Emilia Di Santo, his Chief of Staff/Acting Deputy Inspector General for Policy from the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office (FHFA-OIG),and David Z. Seide, his Director of Special Projects at the FHFA-OIG.

Emilia Di Santo, Acting Deputy Inspector General

Ms. Di Santo who was appointed Acting Deputy IG on October 1, succeeded Harold Geisel, the Deputy IG who served as OIG boss for the last five years while the State Department did not have a Senate-confirmed Inspector General.

Ms. Di Santo was with the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office for two years prior to this month’s move to the State Department. Previous to that, she was the Chief Investigative Counsel for the Senate Finance Committee and was a longtime senior investigator for GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.  During her time with committee, particularly from 2004 onwards, the Wall Street Journal called the Finance Committee “a chamber of misery for the pharmaceutical industry and medical device makers, using its mandate to stop Medicare fraud as the grounds for many investigations.”  Ms. Di Santo also made news in 2005, when  she was repeatedly attack by someone with an unidentified object believed to be a baseball bat while unloading her belongings at her home in Virginia. The Hill reported at that time that nine staples were needed to close her head wound and that the FBI and Capitol Police investigated the vicious attack amid concerns that the assault was related to her work on the Finance Committee.  We could not locate a follow-up report on that incident.  She did not give interviews, and simply returned to work. Ms. Di Santo had been expected to follow Senator Grassley to the Judiciary Committee but in 2011 she moved instead to the Federal Housing Finance Agency-Inspector General’s Office.

David Z. Seide, Counselor to the Inspector General

Mr. Seide was appointed Counselor to the Inspector General on October 18, 2013.  Previously, he served for almost three years as Director of Special Projects in the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Federal Housing Finance Agency. According to his LinkedIn profile, while in that capacity, he made significant contributions to the work of the Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS) Working Group. Mr. Seide also spent nearly 12 years as an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles, where he was responsible for the investigation, prosecution and trial of multiple individuals and organizations suspected of engaging in securities and business fraud.

A side note here, Mr. Linick’s former office at Federal Housing Finance Agency worked with the RMBS Working Group and the New York Attorney General’s Office in support of the investigation and prosecution of RMBS fraud cases. On Friday, the WSJ  reported that JP Morgan has reached a tentative agreement of roughly $4 billion to settle Federal Housing Finance Agency claims the bank misled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac about the quality of mortgages it sold to them during the housing boom. Over the weekend, the NYT also reported about a larger tentative settlement over JP Morgan Chase mortgage practices and a potential record of $13 billion in penalty.

Another interesting note  we should add here.  Mr. Linick was FHFA’s first Inspector General. When he came to office in 2010, FHFA accused him of exceeding authority and went so far as to restrict the OIG access to agency documents, shared drive, and instructed employees that they should not communicate with FHF A-OIG without first apprising FHFA management. This guy did not fold.  (See Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) records provided to Senator Charles E. Grassley and Senator Tom Coburn concerning the independence of Inspectors General necessary to promote efficiency and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in agency programs, in response to the Senators’inquiry, 2011-2012, FOIA Request via governmentattic.org)

Two more new appointments:

Karen Ouzts, Assistant Inspector General for Administration

On September 4, 2013, Karen Ouzts was appointed as the new Assistant Inspector General for Administration.  She was previously the deputy at State/OIG’s Office of General Counsel. Ms. Ouzts succeeded David M. Yeutter who was appointed as OIG’s Executive Officer on October 2009. Mr. Yeutter is a Foreign Service specialist who presumably will return to a regular assignment in the Foreign Service.

Norman P. Brown, Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audits

On September 13, Norman P. Brown was appointed the Acting Assistant Inspector General for Audit. He was previously the deputy for the Audit directorate prior to this appointment.  He succeeded Evelyn R. Klemstine who was appointed Assistant Inspector General for Audits in November 2009. State Magazine’s October 2013 issue listed  Ms. Klemstine as newly retired from the Civil Service.

The following officials remain at posts:

State/OIG has 318 employees, more than double FHFA-OIG staff.  About 93% of State/OIG staff are civil servants.  Interesting times, over there.

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