WED 9/27 SFRC PM Hearings: Hoekstra, Buchan, Grenell, McMullen, McCourt

Posted: 11:05 am PT
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Date: Wednesday, September 27, 2017
Time: 02:15 PM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Johnson

Prepared statements and live video of hearing will be posted here when available.  Hyperlinked below are the Certificates of Competency for Nominees to be Chiefs of Mission per  Section 304 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980.

NOMINEES

The Honorable Peter Hoekstra
Of Michigan, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Kingdom Of The Netherlands
Hoekstra, Peter – Kingdom of the Netherlands – August 2017

Mr. Richard Duke Buchan III
Of Florida, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Kingdom Of Spain
Buchan III, Richard Duke – Kingdom of Spain and the Principality of Andorra – August 2017

Mr. Richard Grenell
Of California, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Federal Republic Of Germany
Grenell Richard Allen – Federal Republic of Germany- September 2017

Mr. Edward T. McMullen, Jr.
Of South Carolina, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Swiss Confederation, And To Serve Concurrently And Without Additional Compensation As Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Principality Of Liechtenstein
McMullen Jr. Edward Thomas – Swiss Confederation and Principality of Liechtenstein – September 2017

Ms. Jamie McCourtOf California, To Be Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The French Republic, And To Serve Concurrently And Without Additional Compensation As Ambassador Extraordinary And Plenipotentiary Of The United States Of America To The Principality Of Monaco
McCourt, Jamie – French Republic and Principality of Monaco – August 2017

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Troll and Mock: France’s Emmanuel Macron, Mexico’s Vicente Fox, Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull

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Posted: 1:29 am ET
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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the then President of the Islamic Republic of Iran wrote an open letter to the American people in 2006, then a year later blasted President George W. Bush during a speech at the United Nations. Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez also called President Bush names — donkey and Mr. Danger on his television show, and “the devil” during the 2006 General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.  But we can’t ever remember leaders of friendly countries upfront trolling or mocking the President of the United States. Until now.  But that’s where we are.

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Hôtel Rothschild: The Ambassador’s Residence Built by a Child Bride With a Story Worthy of An Opera

Posted: 3:15 am ET
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The Hôtel Rothschild (also known as the Hôtel de Pontalba) the American Ambassador’s residence in Paris is one of the thirty-three properties in the Secretary of State’s Register of Culturally Significant Property. The Register founded in 2000 as a White House Millennium Project, is similar to the National Register of Historic Places that is maintained by the Secretary of the Interior for domestic U.S. properties. It is an honorific listing of important diplomatic overseas architecture and property that figure prominently in our country’s international heritage.  The residence was built by an American, Micaela Almonester Pontalba whose life is the subject of Thea Musgrave‘s 2003 opera, Pontalba: a Louisiana Legacy which is based on Christina Vella’s biography of Micaela, Intimate Enemies: The Two Worlds of the Baroness Pontalba.

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Below via State/OBO:

No stronger tie between the U.S. and France exists than the U.S. Ambassador’s residence at No. 41 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, built by an American, Micaela Almonester Pontalba, who was born in New Orleans in 1795. An arranged marriage for a merger of fortunes brought her to France at sixteen years of age. Separated in 1831, but loving Paris, she bought on this site in 1836 one of the most famous d’Aguesseau houses in the city. After a visit to New Orleans, the newly-divorced baroness returned to Paris in 1838, demolished the house, and commissioned the architect Visconti to design a new one for the site. In 1845 she returned to New Orleans, where she built two monumental blocks of houses surrounding the church her father, Don Andres Almonester y Roxas, had funded on the now famous Jackson Square. Her monogram “AP,” designed by her youngest son Gaston, is still prominent on the wrought iron balustrades of the city’s most celebrated landmarks.

Baroness Pontalba returned to Paris and built the residence between 1852 and 1855. In her quest for grandeur she bought the state­ ly home of the Havré family and installed its treasures in her new home. Among the most famous of these were the chinoiserie pan­ els in one room that became the talk of Paris. The nineteenth century facade is defined by the famous local buff limestone, a slate mansard roof with dormers, and œil de bœuf lunettes. Her former husband, who had suffered a physical and mental breakdown, was waiting for her when she returned from New Orleans and asked her to take over and manage his affairs, which she did until her death in 1874. According to the Baroness’ wishes, the residence passed to her sons to provide pensions for her grandchildren.

In 1876 the Pontalba sons sold the residence to Edmond de Rothschild, one of the brothers managing the famous Rothschild family banking empire. With architect Félix Langlais, the facade was remodeled, roofline raised, and wings extended. The basic original floor plan was maintained and remains today as the entry hall, along with three salons that were adjusted in size but still overlook an expansive garden, one of the largest in Paris. In the main salon, now known as the Samuel Bernard Salon, Rothschild installed intricately carved paneling from the Left Bank home of Jacques-Samuel Bernard.

In 1934 Maurice de Rothschild inherited the residence from his father Edmond, who had sent many of its valuable items to his son James, owner of the palatial Waddesdon Manor in England. World War II disrupted the elder Rothschild’s ambitious renovation projects for the residence. The family fled Paris as the Nazis moved in, and Hermann Göring used the mansion for his Luftwaffe
offi­cers’ club. The residence was never again to be a strictly private home. After the war, the Allies rented it for three years, and in 1948 the United States purchased No. 41 for the U.S Information Services, USIS. The residence became one of the buildings occupied by individuals working on the Marshall Plan as Averell Harriman began this important endeavor. Prior to this purchase many of the valuable panels in the rooms and other architectural elements had been removed by Maurice Rothschild.

And here you go, the chief of mission residence (CMR) dressed up during various occasions:

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U.S. Embassy France Lights Up in Bleu, Blanc, & Rouge In Solidarity

Posted: 4:00 am EDT
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Multiple Terrorist Attacks Rock Central Paris, State of Emergency and Border Closures On

Posted: 8:51 pm PDT
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Paris has been rocked by a string of deadly attacks today, leaving reportedly 120 people dead in six or seven locations around the city. President François Hollande has declared a state of emergency, and has ordered all borders closed.
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The U.S. Embassy in Paris issued the following message concerning the multiple terrorist attacks in France:

November 13, 2015: The U.S. Embassy in Paris advises official U.S. personnel and U.S. citizens to shelter in place due to the terrorist attacks in the 10th and 11th arrondissements (districts) and the ongoing hostage situation at the Bataclan Theatre located at 50 Voltaire Boulevard in the 11th arrondissement.  U.S. citizens should heed local authorities and maintain security awareness.  France has declared a state of emergency which includes mobilization of security forces and closing its borders. People in France who are safe should be contacting family members. Anyone with travel plans should be contacting their airlines directly.

ParisEmergencyUSC@state.gov

1-888-407-4747 (From the United States and Canada)

+1-202-501-4444 (From all other countries)

@USAmbFrance is the official Twitter account of Jane D. Hartley, the U.S. Ambassador to France.
@USEmbassyFrance is the official Twitter account of US Embassy Paris.

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U.S. Embassy France: U.S. Consular Agency Nice to Close Permanently on Sept 1, 2015

Posted: 1:36 am EDT
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Via U.S. Embassy Paris, August 21, 2015:

The U.S. Embassy to France and Monaco and the U.S. Consulate General in Marseille announce a consolidation of consular services in southern France in order to better serve the public and enhance security for customers and staff.  Effective September 1, 2015, the U.S. Consular Agency in Nice will close.  All routine and emergency consular services in the Marseille consular district* will be provided by the U.S. Consulate General in Marseille.  The closure reflects the U.S. government’s policy of providing the highest quality consular service to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in a location that offers a secure environment for all concerned.

As of September 1, 2015, all U.S. passport applications, reports of birth abroad applications, and notarial services must be scheduled at either the U.S. Consulate General in Marseille or the U.S. Embassy in Paris. For emergency services in the Marseille consular district, U.S. citizens are advised to contact the consular section at the U.S. Consulate General in Marseille.  For emergency services in other regions of France, U.S. citizens are advised to contact the U.S. Embassy in Paris.

The OIG report of US Mission France from 2012 notes that  the Nice consular agency accepts passport applications and provides notarial services. It also says that a senior local employee with more than 40 years of consular experience essentially runs the office, making appointments for the part-time consular agent, who sees applicants on Wednesdays. Back in 2012, the Consulate General Marseille also referred all Federal benefits applicants to Nice. State/OIG notes that  the Social Security Administration funds a five-person Federal benefits unit at Embassy Paris that has responsibility for providing information and processing claims in France and regionally. The assistant in Nice, although knowledgeable about Federal benefits, is providing unreimbursed and duplicative services for customers living in the south of France. A long time to be working for Uncle Sam.

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US Embassy Paris: Three Americans in France, “Don’t just stand by and watch.”

Posted: 5.25 pm EDT
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Via France 24:

The three Americans, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler who overpowered a heavily-armed gunman in a train, and have been hailed as “heroes” had a press conference at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Paris over the weekend.

The alleged attacker, 25-year-old Moroccan national Ayoub El Khazzani, boarded a high-speed train in Brussels bound for Paris on Friday carrying a Kalashnikov rifle, an automatic pistol, ammunition and a box-cutter.

“The gunman would have been successful if my friend Spencer had not gotten up. I want that lesson to be learned. In times of terror like that to please do something. Don’t just stand by and watch.”

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Terrorist Attacks Rock France, Tunisia, Kuwait: Three Countries. Three Continents. All Soft Targets.

Posted: 4:41  pm EDT
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Terrorists attacked sites in France, Tunisia and Kuwait today. At least 37 people including British, Belgian and German nationals were killed by gunmen at a beach resort in Tunisia, one person was reportedly decapitated in France at a US-owned factory, and at least 25 people were killed at a suicide bombing at a mosque in Kuwait. Three countries, three continents and  all soft targets.
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The US Embassy Paris released the following security message on 

The U.S. Embassy in Paris informs U.S. citizens that a terrorist attack took place at approximately 10 AM today at a U.S.-owned factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, Isere, France, southeast of Lyon, at a large industrial park. One person was killed and two others were reported injured. None of the deceased or injured was a U.S. citizen. The motivation for the attack is unknown, and one suspect is in French government custody.   The Government of France maintains a threat rating system, known locally as “Vigipirate,” similar to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Advisory System. Following the January 2015 terrorist attacks, the Government of France raised the “Vigipirate” level and continues to evaluate its security posture on a regular basis. Up-to-date information is available on the “Vigipirate” website in French.

 

Under this system, the government routinely augments police with armed forces and increases visibility at airports, train and metro stations, and other high-profile locations such as schools, major tourist attractions, and government installations. Over the last few years, there have been arrests of suspected militant extremists allegedly involved in terrorist plots. French authorities have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions for terrorist attacks in Europe.

 

U.S. citizens in France are encouraged to remain vigilant. Immediately report unattended packages observed in public places, or any other suspicious activities, to French law enforcement authorities. French authorities are proactive and will respond immediately. If there is a security incident or suspicious package, do not linger in the area to observe.

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The  US Embassy in Tunis released the following  message:

The U.S. Embassy wishes to alert U.S. citizens to a terrorist attack in Tunisia around the Kantaoui area at the Imperial Riu Marhaba and Soviva hotels in Sousse.   The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to avoid the Kantaoui area and surrounding vicinity. The U.S. Embassy reiterates our standing guidance that U.S. citizens in Tunisia should exercise caution when frequenting public venues that are visited by large numbers of foreigners, such as hotels, shopping centers, and tourist sites and restaurants.

U.S. citizens should also be alert to the possibility of kidnapping.  U.S. citizens are reminded to exercise caution and avoid areas where large gatherings may occur.  Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.  U.S. citizens should monitor local events, report suspicious activity to the local police, and take appropriate steps to bolster their own security.

Travelers contemplating trips to the interior of the country should assess local conditions and routes when making travel plans.  In particular, all travel south of the designated military zone in the south must be coordinated in advance with Tunisian authorities.  Also, travel to either border should be avoided if possible given the periodic security incidents along the border regions.

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The US Embassy in Kuwait issued this: Explosion at Mosque in Al-Sawaber neighborhood of Kuwait City – Security Notice for U.S. Citizens 2015

There has been an explosion at a mosque in the Al Sawaber neighborhood of Kuwait.  There have been reports of deaths and injuries.  U.S. citizens should avoid the area.  Please stay current with media coverage of local and regional events. U.S. Mission personnel have been advised to continue to practice personal security awareness and we advise the U.S. citizen community to do the same.

The embassy also released a statement calling the explosion “a senseless terrorist attack on worshipers in the Al-Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque”, condemning the attack and says that “the United States stands ready to assist our friend and ally Kuwait in any way possible.”
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Below is the WH statement on the three attacks:

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Secretary Kerry Breaks Leg in Bike Accident, to Return Home Via Air Ambulance (Updated)

Posted: 10:07 am PDT
Updated:10:26 am PDT
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Statement by the U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Regarding Secretary John Kerry’s Injury
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Secretary Kerry broke his right femur in a bicycling accident this morning in Scionzier, France. Given the injury is near the site of his prior hip surgery, he will return to Boston today to seek treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital with his doctor who did the prior surgery. The Secretary is stable and never lost consciousness, his injury is not life-threatening, and he is expected to make a full recovery.

Secretary Kerry is in good spirits and is grateful to the French and Swiss authorities, doctors, and nurses who assisted him after the accident.

The Secretary very much regrets not being able to visit Spain to meet with one of our close allies for discussions on a range of issues, as well as being unable to attend the counter-ISIL coalition ministerial meeting on Tuesday in Paris in person. The Secretary plans to participate in the counter-ISIL coalition meeting remotely.

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Sending best wishes for a speedy recovery!

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State Department Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken Meets With Junior Diplomats

Posted: 12:26 am EDT
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In London

Deputy Secretary of State Antony “Tony” Blinken meets with junior officers at the U.S. Embassy in London, United Kingdom, on March 4, 2015. To the left of the Deputy Secretary is Embassy London’s Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Dibble. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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In Paris

Deputy Secretary of State Antony “Tony” Blinken speaks with junior officers at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, France, on March 2, 2015. Also pictured to the left of the Deputy Secretary is Embassy Paris Deputy Chief of Mission Uzra Zeya. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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In Seoul

Deputy Secretary of State Antony “Tony” Blinken, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea Mark Lippert, and Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim meet with junior officers at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, on February 9, 2015. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

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In Beijing

 

In Foggy Bottom

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