Senate Confirmations: Robinson, Torres, and Five Foreign Service Lists

Posted: 2:36 am EDT
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After eight months of waiting, the Senate finally confirmed 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) before heading out for the holiday break. The Senators also confirmed Carlos J. Torres, of Virginia (waited about a year), to be Deputy Director of the Peace Corps.

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Also previously confirmed are five Foreign Service lists with 226 names:

2015-12-10 PN72-5 Foreign Service Nomination for Daniel Sylvester Cronin, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 13, 2015.

2015-12-10 PN877-2 Foreign Service Nomination for Derell Kennedo, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on September 21, 2015.

2015-12-10 PN939 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Steven Carl Aaberg, and ending Sandra M. Zuniga Guzman, which 119 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 10, 2015.

2015-12-10 PN951-1 Foreign Service Nominations beginning James F. Entwistle, and ending Daniel R. Russel, which 3 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.

2015-12-10 PN954 Foreign Service Nominations beginning Christopher Volciak, and ending Edward L. Robinson III, which 102 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2015.

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Senator Grassley Lifts Hold on 20 Foreign Service Nominations, Places New Hold on “P”

Posted: 4:10  am EDT
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The nominations were received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations in June 2015.  On August 5, the SFRC 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.” The nominations went nowhere due to a Senate hold exercised by Senator Chuck Grassley.

According to The Hill, the Senator has now lifted his hold on nearly two dozen nominations, but has moved his hold on to a bigger fish. There goes “P.”

Grassley’s office confirmed that the Judiciary Committee chairman had lifted his hold on 20 foreign service officer nominations.

But the Iowa Republican also added a hold on a top State Department nominee, telling leadership that he intends to block Thomas Shannon’s nomination to be the under secretary of political affairs.

Grassley is also continuing his hold on Brian James Egan’s nomination to be a legal adviser for the department, as well as David Malcolm Robinson’s nomination to be assistant secretary for conflict and stabilization operations and coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization.

 

 

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Senators Grassley and Cotton Now Have 25 @StateDept Nominations Glued Down, and Going Nowhere

Senator Grassley Places Hold on 20 FSO Nominations Over Clinton Inquiry

 

 

Senators Grassley and Cotton Now Have 25 @StateDept Nominations Glued Down, and Going Nowhere

Posted: 2:58 am EDT
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In early August, Senator Chuck Grassley  (R-IA) placed a hold on the nomination of David Malcolm Robinson, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who was nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for the floundering Conflict and Stabilization Operations bureau. He also placed a hold on 20 Foreign Service mid-level nominees, something we don’t often see (see Senate Judiciary Sets Sight on Allegations Over Huma Abedin’s State Dept Employment, Senate Hold OnSenator Grassley Places Hold on 20 FSO Nominations Over Clinton Inquiry).

On September 30, Senator Grassley added a hold on the nomination of Brian Egan, the nominee for Legal Adviser at the State Department. The previously confirmed Legal Adviser was Harold Hongju Koh who left the State Department in early 2013. Mr. Egan has now waited at least 636 days for his senate confirmation.

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On October 5,  Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) added to the confirmation logjam by placing a hold on three ambassadorial nominees, apparently until “the administration shows it is taking steps to punish Secret Service staff involved in leaking unflattering information about a lawmaker.” According to WaPo, Cotton also said he will consider blocking more nominees if the administration refuses to fully investigate and discipline the Secret Service staff.

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You might wonder what do these ambassadorial nominations have to do with the Secret Service? Why, nothing at all.  The Secret Service is under the Department of Homeland Security and the subject of the Cotton hold are nominees for the State Department.  That distinction hardly matters in today’s Washington, D.C.. Remember in July last year when Senator Cruz deployed a blanket hold over the FAA’s prohibition of U.S. airlines flying to or from Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport? (See The Fault in Our Skies: Senator to Deploy Blanket Senate Hold Over DOS Nominees Cuz FAA). Right.  The Cotton hold are on three political appointees who have been waiting for senate confirmation between 141 days to 836 days.

There apparently is also a secret hold for the USAID administrator nominee but no one has officially filed a notice of his/her intent to object to the Gayle Smith’s nomination. Devex reported back in July that her nomination has hit a snag. Below is a list of nominees who are subject to a hold.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05

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Here is an updated list of nominees waiting for a full Senate vote as of October 1, 2015:

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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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David Malcolm Robinson – From Office of the High Representative to Conflict and Stabilization (State/CSO)

Posted: 2:41 am EDT
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President Obama recently announced his intent to nominate Ambassador David Malcolm Robinson as the next Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations and Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the Department of State. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador David Malcolm Robinson, a career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, currently serves as Principal Deputy High Representative of the International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a position he has held since 2014. Previously, Ambassador Robinson was Assistant Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2013 to 2014, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration from 2009 to 2013, and Special Coordinator for Venezuela in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs from 2008 to 2009. Ambassador Robinson served as U.S. Ambassador to Guyana from 2006 to 2008 and as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana from 2003 to 2006. He also served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Asuncion, Paraguay from 2000 to 2003. His earlier assignments included posts in El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, and Iceland.

Ambassador Robinson received a B.A. from the University of Notre Dame, an M.S. from the National War College, and a Master of Divinity from Christ the King Seminary.

If confirmed, Ambassador Robinson would succeed Frederick Barton who stepped down in August last year.  In March 2014, the Office of Inspector General released its blistering inspection report (pdf) of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations. The report gave us a sad and we blogged about it here. (See QDDR II Walks Into a Bar and Asks, What Happened to the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations?).  The 2014 OIG report famously noted CSO’s top management philosophy of “churn” to prevent people from staying in CSO for more than 3 years.

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