Three Congressional Chairs Statement on State/OIG Linick Briefing

 

 

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House Committees Subpoena Pompeo For Documents, Schedule Depositions of Senior @StateDept Officials

 

On September 27, Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Rep. Adam Schiff, the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for documents related to their impeachment inquiry. The letter says that the documents they seek include many Pompeo “has refused to produce for weeks.” The original document request was sent by Congress to Secretary Pompeo on September 9, 2019. A follow-up letter was sent on September 23, 2019.

“Pursuant to the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry, we are hereby transmitting a subpoena that compels you to produce the documents set forth in the accompanying schedule by October 4, 2019,” the Chairmen wrote.

Your failure or refusal to comply with the subpoena shall constitute evidence of obstruction of the House’s impeachment inquiry,” the Chairmen wrote. 

The Chairmen also sent a separate letter on September 27, notifying Pompeo that the Committees have scheduled depositions for five State Department officials over the next two weeks.
October 2, 2019:  Ambassador Marie “Masha” Yovanovitch
(Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine (2016-2019)

(Via Georgetown/ISD: Ambassador Marie L. Yovanovitch joins ISD after three years as the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine (2016-2019). She previously served as Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia (2008-2011) and the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008). From 2012-2013, Ambassador Yovanovitch was the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, where she was responsible for policy on European and global security issues. She also served as the Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2004-2005. Ambassador Yovanovitch served as the Dean of the School of Language Studies at the Foreign Service Institute, as well as the Deputy Commandant at the Eisenhower School at the National Defense University, where she also taught national security strategy. A Career Minister in the U.S. Foreign Service, Ambassador Yovanovitch has received numerous Presidential and State Department Awards, including the Secretary’s Diplomacy in Human Rights Award. Ambassador Yovanovitch graduated from Princeton University and holds a master’s degree from the National Defense University.

 

October 3, 2019:  Ambassador Kurt Volker
(U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations)

(Via state.gov: Ambassador Kurt Volker is a leading expert in U.S. foreign and national security policy with some 30 years of experience in a variety of government, academic, and private sector capacities. Ambassador Volker serves as Executive Director of The McCain Institute for International Leadership, a part of Arizona State University based in Washington, DC. He is also a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, a Senior Advisor at the Atlantic Council, and a Trustee of IAU College in Aix-en-Provence, France. He is a consultant to international business, a member of the Board of Directors of CG Funds Trust, and had previously served as Managing Director, International, for BGR Group. He has taught Transatlantic Relations at The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs. In July, 2017, Secretary of State Tillerson appointed Ambassador Volker as U.S. Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations).

Note: BGR Group indicates Ambassador Volker as a Senior International Advisor. Also see Trump’s Ukraine envoy has a problem named Rudy Giuliani. Tillerson Appoints Ex-USNATO Ambassador Kurt Volker as Special Representative For Ukraine Negotiations (July 2017). As of late Friday, shortly after subpoenas for documents and scheduled depositions were announced, media reported the resignation of Ambassador Volker as Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations.

October 7, 2019:  Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent
Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs

(Via state.gov: George Kent currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the European and Eurasian Bureau at the U.S. Department of State, overseeing policy towards Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Previously, he was Deputy Chief of Mission in Kyiv, Ukraine (2015-18). In 2014-15, George was the Senior Anti-Corruption Coordinator in the State Department’s European Bureau from 2014-15, leading development and advocacy of anti-corruption messages across Europe and Eurasia).

 

October 8, 2019:  T. Ulrich Brechbuhl
Counselor of the U.S. Department of State

Via state.gov: T. Ulrich Brechbuhl currently serves as the Counselor of the Department. In this capacity, he provides strategic guidance to the Secretary on foreign policy, undertakes efforts to enhance U.S. diplomacy and public outreach, and conducts special diplomatic assignments as directed by the Secretary. Prior to joining the Department, Mr. Brechbuhl was president of Appenzeller Point, LLC, a family investing and consulting business. He also served as the executive chairman of Avadyne Health and on the board of five other healthcare and financial services businesses. Mr. Brechbuhl graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1986 and served as a cavalry officer with the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment patrolling the Iron Curtain before its fall. He also served with the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry in the U.S. Army’s First Calvary Division during the Persian Gulf War. After leaving active duty, Mr. Brechbuhl graduated from Harvard Business School, receiving his Master of Business Administration in 1994. Since then he worked with Bain and Company, Inc., and has served as the CFO and CEO of multiple companies, both private equity owned and publicly traded. Born in Switzerland, Mr. Brechbuhl grew up in Garden City, New York, and speaks French, German, and Swiss-German.

 

October 10, 2019:  Ambassador Gordon Sondland
U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, Belgium

Via USEU: Gordon Sondland was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on June 29, 2018, as U.S. Representative to the European Union with the rank of Ambassador.  He arrived in Brussels on July 8, 2018, and presented his credentials at the European Commission and to President of the European Council Donald Tusk on July 9, 2018. Ambassador Sondland is the Founder and CEO of Provenance Hotels, a national owner and operator of full-service boutique “lifestyle” hotels.  Provenance and its affiliates (founded in 1985), currently own and/or operate 19 hotels in seven states and have another six hotels currently under development.  Provenance creates unique, independent full-service, urban hotels, each with their own design, story and closely associated art collection.  The Company employs over 1,000 associates between its hotels and its Portland headquarters.  The Company has received critical acclaim for its hotels from such varied publications as The New York Times, Conde Nast, Travel and Leisure, and many other national and international publications.  In 2015, Provenance consolidated more than half of its assets into a $500mm fund with a strong balance sheet and liquidity.  The Fund anticipates reaching a gross asset value of approximately $1 billion in 2018.

 

Click here to read the subpoena letter.

Click here to read the deposition letter.

Read the full text of the Trump-Ukraine whistleblower complaint

Read full text of Trump-Zelensky July 25, 2019  Memorandum of Conversation

 

John Lansing Resigns From USAGM to be CEO For National Public Radio (NPR)

 

The U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM, @USAGMgov) will soon be without a chief executive officer. USAGM released a statement on the departure of its CEO John Lansing. He joined USAGM (then known as BBG) as CEO and Director in September 2015. Excerpt below:

After four years serving as the first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Director of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), John F. Lansing will be leaving USAGM—an independent federal agency providing accurate, objective, and professional news and information worldwide—at the end of this month to start the next chapter of his career as the President and CEO of National Public Radio (NPR).

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs also released a statement. Excerpt below:

“It’s important that when John steps down, there is continuity of leadership at USAGM. Changes in the law adopted in 2016 provided for a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed CEO to lead the agency. But the Senate has not confirmed such a nominee and until it does so, the existing Board of Governors retains the power to name a replacement. I urge the Board to do so immediately, as we can’t predict when the Senate may act on the President’s nominee. This is too important a job to be left vacant for even a day.”

 

Congress Demands Pompeo Turn Over Documents on Political Targeting of @StateDept Employees

 

On March 15, Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Senator Bob Menendez, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations “denounced the State Department’s attempts to obstruct investigations into reports of politically-motivated retaliation against career Department employees.”

In a letter to Secretary Pompeo, they demanded that “the Department comply with past Congressional requests for information on this matter, stretching back over the past year.”

“To date, despite three specific requests and multiple follow-up efforts by our offices, the Department has failed to respond to our requests for interviews or provide any responsive records. After nearly a year, it suggests the State Department is stonewalling a legitimate congressional request for information on matters that are squarely within our Committees’ oversight jurisdiction. We are therefore restating our demand for a response to our prior queries on this matter and are prepared to use appropriate tools at our disposal to prompt a substantive response.”

The congressional demand requires that the Department submit all documents requested by March 21 and facilitate Committee interviews with Department officials implicated in this matter by April 30.

Among the items requested:

(1) all documents and communications referring or relating to any reassignment or proposed reassignment that was considered or ordered since January 20, 2017, of career or civil service employees at the Department;

(2) all documents and communications referring or relating to any proposed or actual reassignment or removal of career or civil service employees at the Department since January 20, 2017, based on alleged personal political beliefs, prior service with previous Administrations, or work on prior Administrations’ foreign policy priorities, including any documents authored by, copying, involving, or referring to:

(a) Christine Ciccone;

(b) Makan Delrahim;

(c) Sean Doocey;

(d) Julia Haller;

(e) Brian Hook;

(f) Edward Lacey;

(g) Matthew Mowers; or

(h) Margaret Peterlin; and

(3) all documents and communications referring or relating to proposed or actual personnel actions since January 20, 2017, against Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, including the curtailment of her detail to the Policy Planning staff.

The congressional request also notes:

“To the extent that the Department may have been relying on a legal theory that our requests somehow lapsed at the end of the 115th Congress, we write today to dispense with that argument and hereby formally restate our prior requests.”

The congressional request asks for transcribed interviews with the following individuals.

A schedule of availability for the Committees to conduct transcribed interviews with each of the following individuals, with the first interview to be conducted no later than April 1, 2019, and with all interviews to be conducted no later than April 30, 2019:

(a) Christine Ciccone;

(b) Makan Delrahim;

(c) Sean Doocey;

(d) Julia Haller;

(e) Brian Hook;

(f) Edward Lacey;

(g) Matthew Mowers;

(h) Margaret Peterlin;

(i) Andrew Veprek;

(j) John Zadrozny; and

(k) Kevin Moley

This request has been overgrown with grass;  some of those they want to interview are no longer in Foggy Bottom. It looks like Congress sent their first request on March 15, 2018, two days after Tillerson was fired in a tweet. The full statement from Rep. Engel and Senator Menendez is available here. The letter to Secretary Pompeo is here.

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Congress Seeks Documents/Transcribed Interviews in @StateDept “House Cleaning”

Posted: 4:32 am  ET

 

On March 15, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the Ranking Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to the White House and State Department releasing new documents obtained by a whistleblower showing high level political appointees targeting career civil servant employees they believed did not adequately support President Donald Trump’s agenda.

We have obtained extremely disturbing new documents from a whistleblower indicating that high-level officials at the White House and State Department worked with a network of conservative activists to conduct a “cleaning” of employees they believed were not sufficiently “supportive” of President Trump’s agenda. They appear to have targeted these staffers despite being fully aware that they were career civil service employees and despite the career employees expressing willingness to support the policy priorities of the Trump Administration.

Over the past year, we have heard many reports of political attacks on career employees at the State Department, but we had not seen evidence of how extensive, blunt, and inappropriate these attacks were until now. In light of this new information, we now request that you produce additional documents regarding these staffing decisions and make several officials available for transcribed interviews with Committee staff.

The congressional representatives say that the documents they have show that political appointees characterized career State Department employees in derogatory terms, including as “a leaker and troublemaker”; “Turncoat , associated with previous policy”; and “Obama/Clinton loyalists not at all supportive of President Trump’s foreign policy agenda.”

The congressional letter requests the following documents and information including transcribed interviews by March 29, 2018:

(1) all documents and communications referring or relating to any reassignment or proposed reassignment that was considered or ordered since January 20, 2017, of career or civil service employees at the Department;

(2) all documents and communications referring or relating to any proposed or actual reassignment or removal of career or civil service employees at the Department since January 20, 2017, based on alleged personal political beliefs, prior service with previous Administrations, or work on prior Administrations’ foreign policy priorities, including any documents authored by, copying, involving, or referring to:

(a) Christine Ciccone;

(b) Makan Delrahim;

(c) Sean Doocey;

(d) Julia Haller;

(e) Brian Hook;

(f) Edward Lacey;

(g) Matthew Mowers; or

(h) Margaret Peterlin; and

(3) all documents and communications referring or relating to proposed or actual personnel actions since January 20, 2017, against Sahar Nowrouzzadch, including the curtailment of her detail to the Policy Planning staff.

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State/OIG “Looking Into” Reported Political Targeting of @StateDept Career Employees

Posted: 3:02 am ET

 

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, have called on State OIG Steve Linick to look into reports of violations of personnel policies and political retribution against State Department employees.

Our staffs have been in touch with whistleblowers alleging that the Department is engaging in prohibited personnel practices that appear to conflict with agency regulations and policies.  The information we have received corroborates recent reporting by CNN on the same matter.  We ask that you look into allegations that the Department has unlawfully targeted employees for political reasons due to their work under the last Administration.

Our staffs have been made aware of credible allegations that the State Department has required high-level career civil servants, with distinguished records serving administrations of both parties, to move to performing tasks outside of their area of substantive expertise.  At the very least, this is a waste of taxpayer dollars.  At worst, it may constitute impermissible abuse and retaliation.

The two Ranking Members requested that the State OIG “investigate the State Department’s FOIA surge.” They want to know if 1) “these personnel assignments made according to U.S. law and Department regulations?”   2) “Were the rights of the Department’s employees violated?”and 3) “Did political retaliation play any role?”

On January 30, govexec reported that State/OIG is “looking into” allegations that the agency is engaged in political targeting and other prohibited personnel practices.

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