Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Rufus Gifford to be @StateDept’s Chief of Protocol

13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

On May 28, 2021, President Biden announced his intent to nominate his Deputy Campaign Manager and former US Ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford to be the State Department’s Chief of Protocol with the rank of Ambassador during his tenure. The WH released the following brief bio:

Rufus Gifford, Nominee for Chief of Protocol, with the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service, Department of State

Rufus Gifford is a private consultant who left his consultancy work to serve as Deputy Campaign Manager, Biden for President. Earlier, Gifford was the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark.  Prior to that, Gifford was the Finance Chair of the Presidential Inaugural Committee in Washington, D.C., Finance Director, Obama for America, Chicago, Illinois, and Finance Director, Democratic National Committee, Washington, DC.  Earlier he was the California Finance Director, Presidential Inaugural Committee, for President Obama’s first inauguration and was a Political Consultant in Los Angeles, California.  Actively engaged as a civil society leader, Gifford has promoted and sponsored a variety of organizations including UTEC in Lowell, Massachusetts, The LGBT History Museum in New York, NY, Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C. and The Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, MA. Gifford received a bachelor’s degree from Brown University in 1996. 

According to history.state.gov, the Department first established a Division of Protocol on Feb 4, 1928. All incumbents since 1961 have held the rank of Ambassador. The Protocol Office has been part of the Office of the Secretary of State since July 12, 1965. The Chief of Protocol serves as the protocol officer for the U.S. Government and advises the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and other high-ranking officials on this subject.
If confirmed, Ambassador Gifford would succeed Sean P. Lawler who served from 2017 until 2019. Lawler made news just prior to the G-20 summit in 2019 and left his post shortly after that according to news reports. The Chief of Protocol office has been a hot mess:

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Is @StateDept Suppressing the IG Report on Protocol Officials? What’s Happening to the Whatchamacallits @StateOIG?

The least surprising thing about this report is that a State Department spokesperson strongly defended Henderson and attacked the inspector general. Have you heard the Acting State/OIG Matthew Klimow offer any defense for his people or their work product? We have not. Is A/IG going to say he does not comment on leaked reports? But since there is no plan to release this report apparently, there is also no reason to offer a defense? Is that it? But wait, the State Department has commented on the leaked report and has attacked the inspector general office. Is that how this works?
The State Department spokesperson also shared testimonials purportedly from three unnamed State Department officials (they all have nice things to say!). Also, the spokesperson shared a lengthy comment from one of Pompeo’s two BFFs in Foggy Bottom, Counselor Ulrich Brechbühl.
HuffPost notes that “No part of the State Department’s response directly refuted the idea that Henderson regularly drank to excess on the job.”
If you remember, in November 2019, State/OIG also released a report on the Review of Allegations of Politicized and Other Improper Personnel Practices Involving the Office of the Secretary.  The State Department’s response includes Brian Hook’s 8-page response as well as an official response by  you guess it — Counselor Ulrich Brechbühl who wrote: “The Department disagrees with the finding in the report that improper considerations played a role in the early termination oof Employee One’s detail. The report ignores the compelling evidence provided by Brian Hook that his personnel decision in this matter was actually made prior to any of the non-merit factors being brought to his attention, and that the decision was mad for entirely professional and lawful reasons.”
Hey, isn’t this the same office that stayed quiet as mouse when career professionals were attacked by political characters, particularly last year?
Wondering why parts of this report kept getting leaked. Some questions though.
Is the State Department suppressing this IG report?
On what grounds? Hurt feelings?
Is the Acting State/OIG Matthew Klimow now allowing the State Department to decide which of the IG reports can be made public?

So what’s happening to the whatchamacallit …. the Linick-era investigations of you know who? Shhhhhh!  Shhhh!!! Keep it low. Top aides knew about it, but they were so bad they never bothered to tell their boss they knew the name of the fella in the IG’s crosshairs and then surprise, the former IG got fired and prevented from returning to his office. And they could not keep their excuses for the IG firing  in a straight line, the excuses kept toppling over like drunken sailors on liberty call. Then you know some staffers left or got fired. Then, the replacement guy quit. And then a career person stepped in, but then got replaced. Again.  So what’s happening to the whatchamacallits …. go ahead, tell us, just whisper….

Acting @StateOIG Stephen Akard Quits After Less Than 3 Months

 

Well, now, what do we make of this?  The Acting State OIG Stephen Akard has reportedly quit after less than three months in office. WaPo is reporting that Akard was taking a position with a law firm in Indiana, his home state. “It’s unclear whether there were other factors in his decision.”
The guy who caused the firing of Akard’s predecessor dismissed a question about Akard’s departure during a news conference on Wednesday. “He left to go back home,” Pompeo said. “This happens. I don’t have anything more to add to that.”
How long before Mr. Akard gets called “a bad actor?
CNN reported that Akard previously told State/OIG officials and at the State Department that “he would be recusing himself from the ongoing investigations into Pompeo and his wife due to the fact that he was maintaining his State Department post.” Apparently, in early June, he also “told Democratic lawmakers investigating the circumstances of Linick’s ouster that he had stepped away from his role as Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, but had not resigned.”
A day prior to his reported resignation, Politico reported about an IG investigation into the  Office of the Chief of Protocol. The report cited by Politico “asserts that two senior officials in the protocol office, Cam Henderson and Mary-Kate Fisher, saw or learned of allegedly abusive behavior by Sean Lawler, the former chief of protocol, but failed to report it to human resources officials.”
Via Politico:
Its report cites “numerous” employees, as well as other probes by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Office of Civil Rights, in laying out its findings. But it also states that “all employees” interviewed “expressed a fear of retaliation” for speaking out. To protect their confidentiality, the report notes that it “discusses its findings in general terms.”
A top Pompeo deputy zeroed in on the resulting lack of specificity in his response, issued on behalf of the department’s 7th-floor leadership.
The response, dated June 30 and marked “unclassified,” is from Ulrich Brechbuhl, the State Department counselor and Pompeo’s de facto chief of staff. It is addressed to Stephen Akard, the acting inspector general, and his deputy Diana Shaw, and it is largely defensive of Henderson and Fisher while questioning the motives of the investigators.
[…]
“Leadership considers this matter closed,” Brechbuhl concludes. “We expect future reports from the OIG to be objective, comprehensive, professional and appropriate.”
The next thing we’re going to hear is that Pompeo’s other BFF Brechbuhl did not inform his boss before blasting the agency’s own “watchdog” of  “systemic pattern of selective inclusion and exclusion of facts.”
But State OIG is warned, very clearly, that future reports from that office is “expected”  to be “objective, comprehensive, professional ….”  Oh, and also “appropriate.”
Got that?

 

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@StateDept Appoints Cam Henderson as Chief of Protocol

 

On August 12, the State Department appointed Cam Herderson as its new Chief of Protocol. She replaces Sean Lawler who was sworn in as Chief of Protocol of the United States, with rank of Ambassador on December 1, 2017. In late June, Bloomberg reported that Mr. Lawler was pulled off AF1 manifest after his staff complained of intimidating behavior, including reportedly, carrying a horsewhip in the office (see @StateDept’s Protocol Chief Sean Lawler to Quit Before G-20 Summit #horsewhip #wherearethehorses). It looks like the new Protocol Chief does not have an ambassador rank and did not require Senate confirmation. Below is a brief bio via state.gov:

Cam Henderson was appointed as the Chief of Protocol of the United States on August 12, 2019. In this role, Ms. Henderson leads the Office of the Chief of Protocol in its mission to advance the foreign policy of the Trump Administration by creating and fostering an environment for successful diplomacy. Welcoming kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers, and other foreign leaders to the United States, Ms. Henderson serves on the front lines of diplomatic engagement, building bridges and fostering understanding between peoples and governments. Prior to her appointment as the Chief of Protocol of the United States, Ms. Henderson served as the Deputy Chief of Protocol.

Ms. Henderson brings 20 years of experience in politics and fundraising to her role as the Chief of Protocol. Before joining the U.S. Department of State, she was Special Assistant to the President in the Office of Presidential Personnel in the Trump Administration. She worked extensively in the political realm in New Jersey, serving as former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s finance director during his 2016 presidential campaign. From 2010-2012, Ms. Henderson honed her protocol skills as First Lady Mary Pat Christie’s Chief of Staff and Director of Protocol. In 2013, she left the NJ State House to help New Jerseyans recover from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, working as executive director of the Hurricane Sandy NJ Relief Fund and ultimately raising 42 million dollars to help with those relief efforts.

In the early stages of her career, Ms. Henderson worked for President George W. Bush in the Office of Presidential Personnel, on the George W. Bush re-election campaign, and at the Republican National Committee.

Ms. Henderson is originally from Chattanooga, TN and is a proud graduate of American University.

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Saudi Jewelry Gifts Questions: @StateDept Retains Gifts for the U.S. Diplomacy Center Collection

Posted: 3:30 am ET
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Some questions have been raised about the gifts from Saudi Arabia, particularly a few specific, high valued items given to Secretary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State.  We’ve asked the State Department about this, and we were told that one gift is pending transfer to the GSA but three have been retained for the U.S. Diplomacy Center (@DiplomacyCenter) collection.  The United States Diplomacy Center which is scheduled to be completed in 2016 is a public private initiative which will include some 6,000 diplomatic artifacts  — via:

The Department of State is providing the space, staff and security, while the private sector will provide the funds to design and build the 40,000 sq. ft. facility. The Center includes a 20,000 sq. ft. exterior Pavilion and its informative exhibits about today’s Department of State in Hall 1, the Founding Ambassador Concourse below Hall I, and two interior Halls both of 10,000 sq. ft. each: one chronicling the history of the American diplomacy, and the other focusing on education. The USDC is located at the Department of State building on 21st Street at Virginia Avenue NW, in Washington, DC. Visit the USDC website www.Diplomacy.State.gov for information on the progress and developments of the creation of the United States Diplomacy Center.

The following response from a State Department spokesperson:

Per GSA guidelines, there is no timeline for reporting gifts of more than minimal value to GSA after they’ve been received. The Department of State reports all gifts of more than minimal value annually in the Federal Register and generally biannually directly to GSA when doing a transfer of gifts. The Department transfers the maximum quantity of gifts GSA has the capacity to accept.

When a gift is no longer being used for official use, it must be reported within 30 days to the Office of the Chief of Protocol, to pend transfer to GSA.

‎All four gifts in question are in the possession of the Department of State. The first three are in official use, as part of the collection of the U.S. Diplomacy Center. The final is being stored and pending transfer to GSA, and will be transferred when GSA has the ability to accept it.‎‎

Here are some gifts currently included in the Diplomacy Center’s online collection:

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Saudi Arabia Gave Some Serious Bling to Federal Officials, the Most Expensive to the Spouses

Posted: 2:29 pm EDT
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Remember that scene in Kevin Costner’s No Way Out where the protagonist was searching computer records for evidence that the Secretary of Defense gave the dead girlfriend a government-registered gift he received from the Moroccan foreign minister? It’s this list.

The State Department has released its 2014 list of Gifts to Federal Employees from Foreign Government Sources Reported to Employing Agencies. The annual compilation includes reports of both tangible gifts and gifts of travel or travel expenses of more than minimal value, as defined by the statute. Also included are gifts received in previous years including one gift in 1985, one gift in 1995, one gift in 1997, one gift in 2001, two gifts in 2009, one gift in 2010, six gifts in 2011, five gifts in 2012, forty-nine gifts in 2013, and one gift with an unknown date. The announcement in the Federal Register says that “these latter gifts are being reported in 2014 as the Office of the Chief of Protocol, Department of State, did not receive the relevant information to include them in earlier reports.”

Among the gifts just reported in the latest list are two that came from His Majesty Qaboos bin Said bin al Said, Sultan of Oman. One was a “Framed 18k gold military-style medals” given to David Dunford, then the US Ambassador to Oman. The gift was received on 6/21/1995 with an estimated value of $8,500.00. The report notes in the disposition that it is “Pending transfer to General Services Administration.” Another gift from the Sultan of Oman went to John B. Craig, also a US Ambassador to Oman. It is a “Framed military-style medals on a yellow background. Rec’d – 9/26/2001 Est. Value – $8,500.00. It is also “Pending transfer to General Services Administration.”

Note that these gifts are accepted on behalf of the United States and are disposed by the General Services Administration. These gifts are typically accepted because its “non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to the donor and U.S. Government.”  If the recipient desires to retain the gift for personal use, he/she would have to purchase it at the estimated market value from the U.S. Government through the General Services Administration and  it is so noted on the list.

For instance, the Minister of Interior of the Kingdom of Bahrain gave US Embassy Bahrain DCM Stephanie T. Williams some pearl earrings in January 2013 with an estimated value of $1,000. The 2014 report listed the disposition of this gift as “Purchased by the recipient from General Services Administration.”

The Minister of Defense of the Republic of Yemen gave  Thomas Kelly, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, a “Traditional sword with belt; Rec’d – 3/31/2014; Est. Value – $580.00. The gift is marked “Purchased by recipient from General Services Administration.”

According to the list, the most expensive gifts from Foreign Government Sources in 2014 came from Saudi Arabia.

Some of the gifts Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al- Saud, the King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave to Federal employees, including President Obama and family members, Secretary and Mrs. Kerry and other members of the executive branch are below. These gifts are marked for disposition by the National Archives and Records Administration or the General Services Administration.

President Obama:

48” gold-plated brass replica of the Makkah Clock Tower on marble base; Est. Value – $57,000.00

White gold men’s wristwatch with leather band; Est. Value – $67,000.00

First Lady and First Daughters:

Diamond and emerald jewelry set including necklace, earrings, ring, and bracelet Rec’d – 1/14/2014; Est. Value – $560,000.00

Diamond and pearl jewelry set including necklace, earrings, ring, and bracelet Rec’d – 4/15/2014; Est. Value – $570,000.00

(For daughters) Diamond and emerald jewelry set including earrings, necklace, ring, brooch, and wristwatch. Diamond and ruby jewelry set including earrings, necklace, ring, brooch, and wristwatch Rec’d – 1/14/2014; Est. Value – $80,000.00

Secretary Kerry:

Palm tree statue encrusted with various gemstones. Rolex men’s Yacht Master II watch; Rec’d –1/5/2014; Est. Value – $36,900.00

Large gold and silver desert scene with palm trees and a camel caravan; Rec’d – 6/27/2014; Est. Value – $34,000.00

(Mrs. Kerry) Emerald and diamond jewelry set containing a ring, earrings, bracelet, and necklace; Rec’d – 1/5/2014; Est. Value – $780,000.00

(Mrs. Kerry) Sapphire and diamond 18k white gold jewelry set containing earrings and a ring; Rec’d – 6/27/2014; Est. Value – $84,000.00

(Mrs. Kerry) Bvlgari ladies’ watch with a black satin band and a mother of pearl face; Rec’d –9/11/2014; Est. Value – $71,000.00

John O. Brennan, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency received a Decorative Rug on 5/31/2014 with  an estimated value of $7,500.00. The source of the gift is publicly undeclared per 5 U.S.C. 7342(f)(4). The rug has been “retained for official use in the Director’s office.”

An Agency employee received a Chopard Mille Miglia men’s watch valued at $5,600.00 from a publicly undeclared source. That has also been “retained for official use.”

Among other notable gifts from foreign sources:

The Attorney General of the State of Qatar gave Jeh Charles Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security of the United States, a “Cartier platinum bracelet engraved with “Jeh Charles Johnson” on the interior and an exterior engraved decoration in circles with a line through each circle center.” It’s estimated value is $15,700.00; Disposition – Currently stored in NAC05-01-111-F.”

The Attorney General of the State of Qatar gave Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States, a “Rug with case. Gold and silver ship depicting United States and the State of Qatar flags in case. Cartier bracelet with engraving. The gifts estimated value is $24,150.00.”Disposition – Accepted on behalf of the Department of Justice and forwarded to JMD/Property.”

The Attorney General of the State of Qatar also gave Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham each a “Silk rug; Rec’d – 5/13/2014; Est. Value – $4,000.00; Disposition – Deposited with the Secretary of the Senate.”

Paul Biya, the President of the Republic of Cameroon gave Linda Thomas- Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of the State for Africa,  a “3” commemorative gold coin. Framed bronze art depicting a mother and child; Est. Value – $15,245.00 Disposition – Coin pending transfer to General Services Administration. Artwork retained for official use.”

Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha of Brunei Darussalam have Mrs. Sangeeta Shields, the wife of US Ambassador of the United States to Brunei Darussalam Daniel L. Shields III, a “Sari purple and gold material. Heart shaped pendant. Floral brooch; Est. Value – $13,225.00 Disposition – Pending transfer to General Services Administration.”

His Royal Highness Prince Robert Louis François Marie of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg gave the US Embassy Luxembourg “Six bottles of 2009 Château Haut Brion wine; Rec’d –1/7/2014; Est. Value – $3,600.00. The entry is marked “Disposition – Perishable items handled pursuant to the guidelines set forth by General Services Administration.”

His Majesty Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan gave Senator John McCain a           “Rotisserie grill. Prime rib beef; Rec’d – 12/30/2014; Est. Value – $650.00; Disposition – Deposited with the Secretary of the Senate. Perishable items handled pursuant to guidelines set forth by General Services Administration

Also His Royal Highness Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge gave President Obama his own portrait with an estimated value of $888.00 — a “Framed, matted, and signed photographic portrait of Prince William.”

Here is the complete list:

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