The long awaited OIG report on US Embassy London was finally released on August 12 (PDF). The inspection was conducted from September 3 to December 9, 2019. Copies of the draft report were furnished to “Department stakeholders” including the EUR bureau and the US Embassy in London. The report does not say when this draft report was sent out for comments. It also does not indicate if it sent a copy of this draft report to the Under Secretary for Management and Pompeo BFF Brian Bulatao. The State Department left a Senior Bureau official in EUR to respond on behalf of State Department Management.
Late April. According to the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), the inspection report went to US Embassy London for comment (see Watchdog Firing Came Amid Probe of Trump’s Friend, the U.S. Ambassador in London).
On Friday, May 15, 2020, the Senate-confirmed OIG Steve Linick was fired (Trump to fire State/OIG Steve Linick who is reportedly investigating Pompeo). NYT reported that Linick has been locked out of his office, despite a law mandating a 30-day waiting period for Congress to raise objections.
May 15, 2020, the President appointed Stephen Akard as Acting Inspector General (PDF).
On May 27, 2020, the US Ambassador to London Woody Johnson wrote a memo to the OIG Assistant Inspector General for Inspections Sandra Lewis in response to the draft report.
June 4, 2020: Acting OIG Stephen Akard informed Congress that he stepped away from OFM operations and is recused on “all matters related to OFM”, “matters I worked on”, and matters involving individuals he know personally (PDF).
On July 1, 2020, the EUR Bureau’s Senior Official Philip Reeker (they’ve given up on having a Senate-confirmed assistant secretary) responded to the draft report according to State/OIG. Reeker’s memo sent to State/OIG Sandra Lewis , appended to the OIG report, does not include the date it was written, and contains just one paragraph in response to OIG’s Recommendation 1. The EUR bureau did not even bother to respond to OIG Recommendation 9 related to the $31.5 million deficit in the the defined benefit pension plan for the LE staff of US Mission London.
August 5, 2020: Politico reported that Acting OIG Stephen Akard has resigned and not expected to return to the office for the remainder of the week.
August 7, 2020: Acting Inspector General Stephen Akard officially resigned from his position (PDF).
On August 12, 2020, State/OIG under Acting IG – Diana R. Shaw (deputy to Linick, then Akard) released its report of US Embassy London, omits from its front page summary the topics that merited the longest response from both the EUR bureau and the ambassador. Should be interesting to see what that draft report looked like. Excerpt below from publicly available OIG report (PDF):
Tone at the Top and Standards of Conduct
The Chief of Mission, a first time, non-career ambassador, arrived in August 2017 and presented his credentials to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in November 2017. From New Jersey, he was a businessman and philanthropist. The DCM, a career Senior Foreign Service officer, arrived in January 2019 following an assignment as acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Egypt and North Africa. Prior to that, she had multiple domestic and overseas assignments, principally in or involving the Near East.
When the Ambassador arrived at Embassy London in late summer 2017, he assumed responsibility from the previous DCM who had served as Chargé d’Affaires for approximately 7 months. OIG learned that the relationship between the Ambassador and the former DCM deteriorated during the year that they worked together, affecting mission morale and ending in the DCM’s reassignment. Based on interviews with embassy staff, OIG concluded that the Ambassador did not always model the Department’s leadership and management principles as contained in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214 and, in particular, 3 FAM 1214b(4) and (6) regarding communication and self-awareness. For example, some embassy staff told OIG that when the Ambassador was frustrated with what he interpreted to be excessive staff caution or resistance to suggestions about which he felt strongly, he sometimes questioned their intentions or implied that he might have them replaced. This caused staff to grow wary of providing him with their best judgment. With the arrival of the current DCM, chosen by the Ambassador, staff generally reported to OIG that they saw better communication from the Front Office and an increased confidence from the Ambassador in the mission’s staff.
OIG also found that some staff were impacted by the Ambassador’s demanding, hard driving work style and it had a negative effect on morale in some embassy sections. In addition, OIG learned, through employee questionnaires and interviews, that the Ambassador sometimes made inappropriate or insensitive comments on topics generally considered Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)-sensitive, such as religion, sex, or color. According to 3 FAM 1526.1, offensive or derogatory comments, based on an individual’s race, color, sex, or religion, can create an offensive working environment and could potentially rise to a violation of EEO laws. Based on the information that OIG learned during the inspection, and pursuant to the requirements in 3 FAM 1526.2, a more thorough review by the Department is warranted.
The Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, in coordination with the Office of Civil Rights, should assess the Chief of Mission’s compliance with Department Equal Employment Opportunity or leadership policies and based on the results of the review, take appropriate action. (Action: EUR, in coordination with S/OCR)
Washington interlocutors plus “coffee and donuts”
At the time of the inspection, OIG interviews indicated that both the Ambassador and the DCM modeled 3 FAM 1214 attributes of strategic planning and decisiveness. The Ambassador advised the embassy staff on the importance of spending U.S. taxpayer monies wisely, and he and the DCM practiced proper procedures with respect to receipt of gifts. Both mission employees and Washington interlocutors told OIG the Ambassador was reaching out to U.S. direct-hire and LE staff in an effort to know them better, to convey his appreciation for their work, and to continue to familiarize himself with the many aspects of the complex, multiagency mission he was leading. OIG also learned of several efforts by the Ambassador to engage with his staff, including an event at his residence, Winfield House, for LE staff with 30 years or more of service. He also invited staff to join him for informal “coffee and donuts” gatherings in the embassy. Staff and senior Washington interlocutors told OIG they were encouraged by the constructive and effective partnership formed between the Ambassador and the DCM.
Johnson’s Response to Recommendation 1, May 27, 2020 Memo to OIG:
During my tenure as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom and indeed for the entirety of my professional life, I have respected both the law and the spirit of EEO principles and have ensured that all employees under my direction do the same. If I have unintentionally offended anyone in the execution of my duties, I deeply regret that, but I do not accept that I have treated employees with disrespect or discriminated in any way. My objective is to lead the highly talented team at Mission UK to execute the President’s policies and to do so in a way that is respectful of our differences, with zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. I believe that team cohesion in our mission is better than ever and as is stated in the OIG report’s narrative, that I have taken extensive measures to get to know all of the staff and thank them for their contributions. I am especially proud of how the Mission UK team has handled these challenging times of COVID-19.
In order to address the concerns documented in your report, perceived or real, I have reviewed an S/OCR course on discrimination in the workplace and have instructed the entire Mission UK country team to do the same, with 100% compliance by the end of May. I respectfully disagree with Recommendation 1 and ask that the OIG consider the absence of any official complaints against me during my three year tenure and the generally positive tone of the OIG report on Mission UK before including the recommendation in the final report and concluding that my actions have negatively affected morale.
Management Response (State/EUR) to Recommendation 1, Memo to OIG:
In its July 1, 2020,2 response, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs disagreed with this recommendation. The bureau stated, that given the concern expressed, the Ambassador has viewed the Office of Civil Rights video on workplace harassment and has instructed all section and agency heads to do the same. He has also encouraged all staff to take the Foreign Service Institute training on mitigating unconscious bias. The bureau also represented that the Ambassador “is well aware of his responsibility to set the right tone for his mission and we believe his actions demonstrate that.” Accordingly, the bureau reported it did not believe a formal assessment was required, but proposed that, in coordination with the embassy, it would instead work with the Office of Civil Rights to provide advice and additional training to all staff, including the Chief of Mission, to heighten awareness on these important issues.
Here is the full undated response from the bureau via State/OIG:
OIG Reply to EUR’s response: SIR! Have you meet your obligations under 3 FAM 1526.2, SIR?
OIG considers the recommendation unresolved. OIG acknowledges the actions that the mission has taken with regard to training of staff and the stated bureau proposal to work with the Office of Civil Rights to provide advice and additional training to all staff. These actions, however, do not address the recommendation which calls for an assessment of Chief of Mission compliance with Department Equal Employment Opportunity or leadership policies. The recommendation can be closed when OIG receives and accepts documentation that the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs has met its obligations under 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1526.2.
3 FAM 1526.2 The Department’s Responsibilities Under This Policy
[Under 3 FAM 1520 – NON-DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF RACE, COLOR, NATIONAL ORIGIN, SEX, OR RELIGION]
(State) (Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)
a. If the Department receives an allegation of discriminatory harassment, or has reason to believe such harassment is occurring, it will take the steps necessary to ensure that the matter is promptly investigated and addressed. If the allegation is determined to be credible, the Department will take immediate and effective measures to end the unwelcome behavior. The Department is committed to taking action if it learns of possible discriminatory harassment, even if the individual does not wish to file a formal complaint.
b. The Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) is the main contact point for questions or concerns about discriminatory harassment. S/OCR is responsible for investigating or overseeing investigations of alleged discriminatory harassment. S/OCR is committed to ensuring that all investigations are conducted in a prompt, thorough, and impartial manner.
c. Supervisors and other responsible Department officials who observe, are informed of, or reasonably suspect incidents of possible discriminatory harassment must immediately report such incidents to S/OCR, which will either initiate or oversee a prompt investigation. Failure to report such incidents to S/OCR will be considered a violation of this policy and may result in disciplinary action.
d. S/OCR will provide guidance as needed on investigating and handling the potential harassment. Supervisors should take effective measures to ensure no further apparent or alleged harassment occurs pending completion of an investigation.
e. The Department will seek to protect the identities of the alleged victim and harasser, except as reasonably necessary (for example, to complete an investigation successfully). The Department will also take the necessary steps to protect from retaliation those employees who in good faith report incidents of potential discriminatory harassment. It is a violation of both Federal law and this policy to retaliate against someone who has reported unlawful harassment. Violators may be subject to discipline.
f. Employees who have been found by the Department to have discriminatorily harassed others may be subject to discipline or other appropriate management action. Discipline will be appropriate to the circumstances, ranging from a letter of reprimand to suspensions without pay to separation for cause. A verbal or written admonishment, while not considered formal discipline, may also be considered.
So, who you gonna call?
Dammit, the Ghostbusters!
It is Saturday, but Acting Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker is on the Hill for a deposition in the impeachment inquiry. On Friday, the Undersecretary for Management Brian Bulatao reportedly sent a letter to Ambassador Reeker’s lawyer ordering him not/not to testify.
Below is his official bio via state.gov:
Ambassador Philip T. Reeker is the Acting Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs since March 18.
Prior to his appointment, Ambassador Reeker assumed his duties as the USEUCOM Civilian Deputy and POLAD November 2017 and will continue to serve in this position until May 31, 2019. Prior to that he served as the United States Consul General in Milan, covering northern Italy beginning in September 2014. From July 2011 through 2013, Ambassador Reeker served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs focused on the Balkans, Central Europe, and Holocaust Issues.
He was U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia from 2008 to 2011, and Deputy State Department Spokesman/Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, under Secretaries of State Albright and Powell (2000-2004). Previous assignments also include: Minister Counselor for Public Affairs under Ambassador Ryan Crocker at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq (2007-2008); Deputy Chief of Mission in Budapest (2004-2007); and Director of Press Relations at the State Department (1999-2000). He was Spokesman for the Special Envoy for Kosovo, Ambassador Christopher Hill. Ambassador Reeker joined the Foreign Service in 1992, and served earlier tours in Budapest, Hungary and Skopje, Macedonia.
Ambassador Reeker is the 2013 Recipient of the Robert C. Frasure Memorial Award for “his commitment to peace and the alleviation of human suffering caused by war or civil injustice” in the Balkans; the National Albanian American Council presented Ambassador Reeker with its “Hands of Hope Award” the same year. He received the Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Public Diplomacy in 2003, and several State Department Superior Honor Awards.
Ambassador Reeker is a graduate of Yale University (1986), and received an MBA from the Thunderbird School of International Management in Arizona (1991). Born in Pennsylvania, Ambassador Reeker grew up in several U.S. cities and spent his high school years in Brisbane, Australia. His foreign languages are: Hungarian, Macedonian, Italian, and German.
Phil Reeker has arrived on the Hill to testify in the impeachment inquiry. Last night, the department’s undersecretary for management, Brian Bulatao, sent his lawyer a letter telling him not to testify. 1/4
— Nicholas Wadhams (@nwadhams) October 26, 2019
State dept aide Philip Reeker has arrived to testify in impeachment inquiry. He is under subpoena pic.twitter.com/x5oUgR6zB9
— Erik Wasson (@elwasson) October 26, 2019
Philip Reeker, a senior State Department official, was set to tell House impeachment investigators that Pompeo and other top officials stymied a show of solidarity for the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine after Trump had her removed. @vmsalama scoop: https://t.co/tyl4NzVtGZ
— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) October 26, 2019
State's Philip Reeker, whose testimony is still ongoing, is expected to testify that he did not learn about the push to have Ukraine announce an investigation into 2016 and the Bidens until it came out publicly, w/ @kylieatwood https://t.co/AC1xdJFWcx
— Jeremy Herb (@jeremyherb) October 26, 2019
NEWS: The State Department and White House tried to block George Kent from appearing — so the House Intel Committee subpoenaed him, according to a source working on the impeachment inquiry. He is complying with the subpoena.
This is Yovanovitch all over again.
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) October 15, 2019
George Kent, deputy assistant Secretary of State responsible for Ukraine, testified before impeachment inquiry on Tuesday.
And all I know is he was in excellent hands with this brilliant lawyer to the right of him, @AndyMcCanse.
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) October 15, 2019
Before he was deputy assistant secretary of state for Eurasia, George Kent served as deputy chief of mission at US embassy in Kyiv (2015-2018). He was close with civil society and focused on supporting its anti-corruption drive. He also has an encyclopedic knowledge of Ukraine. https://t.co/yTlVnwfLSz
— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) October 15, 2019
George Kent told House investigators he was instructed to "lay low," focus on other countries in his portfolio, and defer to Volker, Sondland and Perry — who called themselves the "three amigos" — on matter related to Ukraine, Rep. Gerry Connolly said. https://t.co/gNOrHUZMHk
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 16, 2019
Before Zelensky's inauguration earlier this year, Kent visited Kyiv and counseled members of the incoming presidential administration to be cautious in any meetings with Giuliani, and to not make him any promises, per a person familiar with the matter. https://t.co/drfpMKAkdT
— Dustin Volz (@dnvolz) October 15, 2019
George Kent is an outstanding public servant. We served together on @RNicholasBurns's staff & I am proud to know him–principled, forthright, & committed to US nat'l interests. "Impeachment Investigators Question George Kent, State Dept Ukraine Expert" https://t.co/u9sDNgKFkB
— 𝚊𝚕𝚢𝚜𝚜𝚊 𝚊𝚢𝚛𝚎𝚜🦌 (@AyresAlyssa) October 15, 2019
American diplomats who had pushed for the Trump administration to restore security funding to Ukraine were advised by the White House to play down the release of the money when it was finally approved, documents show.
“Keep moving, people, nothing to see here …” Brad Freden, the State Department’s acting deputy assistant secretary overseeing issues in Europe and Eurasia, wrote in a Sept. 12 email obtained by The New York Times.
He said the National Security Council would not publicly announce that $141 million in State Department assistance was being restored after being held up in what the White House described as a normal review.
NEW from me: A series of internal State Department emails, obtained by the NYT, show diplomats’ frustration when aid to Ukraine was frozen — and then were told to downplay it when the money was released 5 weeks later. https://t.co/BZqryzaACm via @NYTimes
— Lara Jakes (@jakesNYT) October 9, 2019
Nothing to see here
“Without being provided explanation or justification about why the administration was delaying the aid, some career officials at the OMB became worried they didn’t have the legal authority to hold up the funds"
OMB then had political appointee hold the funds https://t.co/EAzmZIHHyC
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) October 10, 2019
On August 30, 2019, Pompeo appointed career diplomat Matthew Palmer’s as Special Representative for the Western Balkans.
The Secretary of State has appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary Matthew Palmer as his Special Representative for the Western Balkans. In this role, Palmer will lead our efforts to strengthen U.S. diplomatic engagement in support of peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and focus on integration of the Western Balkan countries into Western institutions.
As Special Representative, Palmer will travel to Slovenia beginning on September 1 to attend the Bled Strategic Forum. He will also represent the United States at the Quint Balkan Directors meeting in Brussels and attend meetings in Vienna and Podgorica, September 4-10.
In addition to serving as the Secretary’s Special Representative, Palmer will continue to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, a position he has held since 2018. Previously, he was Director of the Office of South Central Europe.
October 3, 2019, Trump announced his intent to appoint Richard Grenell to serve concurrently as U.S. Ambassador to Germany and as Special Presidential Envoy for Serbia and Kosovo Peace Negotiations:
Richard A. Grenell has served as the United States Ambassador to Germany since May 8, 2018. Mr. Grenell, a foreign policy writer and commentator, founded the international consulting firm Capitol Media Partners in 2010. For nearly two decades, he has served as the primary communications adviser for public officials at the Federal, State, local, and international levels, as well as for a Fortune 200 ranked company. Mr. Grenell is the longest serving United States spokesman at the United Nations (2001-2008) having served four United States Ambassadors. He earned a B.A. from Evangel University and an MPA from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Great to hear that @StateDept has appointed Matthew Palmer as #US Special Representative for the Western #Balkans. An excellent and no nonsense diplomat. With a new #EU Commission emerging, seems we could see a fresh effort on #Kosovo #Serbia by year’s end https://t.co/NJAlgWBUyt
— James Ker-Lindsay (@JamesKerLindsay) August 31, 2019
State Department's Special Representative for Western Balkans Matthew Palmer met with PM @DuskoMarkovicCG: #Montenegro is the leader and most successful multi-ethnic state in the region. It is no coincidence that Montenegro is the first country I am visiting after taking office. pic.twitter.com/kvlHGuSkoz
— Govt. of Montenegro (@MeGovernment) September 9, 2019
OK, this is confusing. Thought the #US had appointed Matthew Palmer as its Special Envoy for the Western #Balkans, with the clear indication he’d lead on #Kosovo #Serbia. But now it’s reported @RichardGrenell will be the US special envoy for any talks!? https://t.co/j6DvY1pi97
— James Ker-Lindsay (@JamesKerLindsay) October 4, 2019
Yesterday, the US named Richard Grenell, currently the US Ambassador to Germany, as its new special envoy for Serbia-Kosovo normalization talks. This announcement has met with a mixed reception in the Western Balkans.https://t.co/KkJv1IWCvo
— European Institute (@ColumbiaEurope) October 4, 2019
A month after the appointment of Matthew Palmer as the new US Special Representative to the Western Balkans, US President Trump announced that his ambassador to Berlin, Richard Grenell, will be the envoy for the ongoing Serbia-Kosovo negotiations.https://t.co/ARIkfXfvpM
— Balkan Insight (@BalkanInsight) October 4, 2019
On Wednesday, the WH released the transcript (PDF) of President Trump’s July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Just Security has a helpful timeline here for those not caught up with the matter yet.
Foggy Bottom watchers were immediately drawn to the two presidents’ exchange referencing the then U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Louise Yovanovitch who served as Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv from August 18, 2016 – May 20, 2019. (see @StateDept Recalls Amb. Marie Yovanovitch From Ukraine After Persistent Campaign For Removal).
We have seen folks calling publicly for Secretary Pompeo to stand up for one of his top career diplomats. Maybe he’ll surprise us but those waiting will probably be in for a disappointment.
The Trump-Zelensky call occurred in July 25, 2019 (although there apparently was an April 2019 call, too), about two months after Ambassador Yovanovitch was recalled from Ukraine. The released July 25 transcript does not indicate the individuals in on the call, but the declassified whistleblower complaint identified at least one participant from the State Department, Secretary Pompeo’s Counselor Ulrich Brechbuhl (see Pompeo Appoints West Point Pal, Ulrich Brechbuhl as @StateDept Counselor). Somebody pointed out to us that the “counselor” title often causes outsiders to believe that this position handles legal matters. It does not. With few exceptions, most recently, Tom Shannon Jr. (2013–2016) and Kristie Ann Kenney (2016–2017), the “C” position is typically held by a political appointee who performs tasks assigned by the Secretary of State (i.e., a senior official without portfolio).
“Counselor of the Department, T. Ulrich Brechbuhl, is an Under Secretary-level principal officer who serves the Secretary as a special advisor and consultant on major problems of foreign policy and who provides guidance to the appropriate bureaus with respect to such matters. The Counselor conducts special international negotiations and consultations, and also undertakes special assignments from time to time, as directed by the Secretary.
The day after the phone call, July 26, Secretary Pompeo also met with the president at the White House. The notion that the targeting of a veteran public servant by this president, his personal lawyer, and others is a surprise to the secretary of state, begs for some creative imagination. He had a chance to stand up for her before she was recalled, did he do that? The idea that he must have done so or she would have been fired doesn’t make sense. She is a career FSO with workplace protections. They could not just fire her on a whim. But what could a recalled career diplomat do with no onward assignment? The State Department could send her to a university, right?
Ambassador Yovanovitch is currently a Senior State Department Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy (ISD), in the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown. She is a Career Minister (FE-CM) of the U.S. Foreign Service; that’s equivalent in rank to a Lieutenant General in the U.S. military. She had three previous ambassadorial appointments: Ukraine (2016-2019) and Armenia (2008-2011) under the Obama Administration, and the Kyrgyz Republic (2005-2008) under the G. W. Bush Administration. She also previously worked as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, the #2 senior ranking official at the EUR bureau. Which is to say that she has extensive diplomatic experience overseas and in Foggy Bottom. And yet, for some reason, Secretary Pompeo, who talks way too much about swagger and professional ethos could not find a spot for Ambassador Yovanovitch in his org chart.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, we ‘d like to note once more that ambassadors like Ambassador Yovanovich, a career diplomat, do not go freelancing nor do they go rogue; they do not make their own policy concerning their host countries. They typically get their marching orders from their home bureau, in this case, the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) at the State Department, under the oversight of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, who reports to the Secretary of State. And they follow those orders. Even on instances when they personally disagree with those orders or the administration’s policies, they follow orders. Career diplomats who do not follow their instructions do not have lengthy careers in the U.S. diplomatic service.
We, of course, have to acknowledged the presidential prerogative on the appointments of ambassadors. But. If her recall had really nothing to do with politics, if as the State Department puts it, the departure was “as planned” how come Foggy Bottom has not put her extensive experience and training to appropriate use? How come she’s not in Foggy Bottom? How come she had no senate-confirmed successor at the US Embassy in Kyiv, if this was “as planned”? There are a few officials at State who would know the whys and hows of her treatment based on their responsibilities in the bureaucracy.
The U.S. Senate confirmed Secretary Pompeo’s second bestie in Foggy Bottom in May 2019 (see Senate Confirms Brian Bulatao as Under Secretary of State For Management). Prior to Bulatao’s confirmation, the Deputy Under Secretary for Management William Todd was running the bureau with oversight on personnel and assignments.
The Director General of the Foreign Service and Director of Human Resources Carol Perez assumed her post as DGHR on January 30, 2019. She directs the recruitment, assignments and professional development of State Department and Foreign Service personnel. Prior to her assumption of office, William Todd was also Acting DGHR.
At the geographic bureau, the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine is under the umbrella of the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) . The most recent Senate-confirmed assistant secretary Wess Mitchell took office in October 2017 and left post on February 15, 2019 (see EUR’s Wess Mitchell Quits, New Acting EUR A/S Millard Reportedly to Retire 2/22). Since March 18, 2019, Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, a career diplomat has been the Acting Assistant Secretary for the bureau.
Given what we know now, what happened at the IO bureau was not a glitch but a marker to alert us of a dreadful trend (IO case involved the departures of 50 of 300 domestic IO employees). There are now two very public instances where Secretary Pompeo appeared unable to protect his people from political retaliation. How good a “champion of diplomacy” are you if your umbrella can only keep the shit off your head but not your people? This is a necessary question to ask as we enter a most difficult period in our national life.
While it’s still not clear what Pompeo did or did not do, the still-unfolding Ukraine scandal could dramatically affect his standing at Foggy Bottom and on Capitol Hill, not to mention his well-known political future political ambitions.
State Department staffers, meanwhile, are questioning how the secretary could have allowed the Ukraine-related dealings to go on under his nose, and whether he was complicit in derailing the career of a respected ambassador along the way.
“It’s impossible to believe that the secretary wasn’t aware of what was happening,” said one State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “If he was kept in the dark, that’s even more troubling.”
Aside from Pompeo, lawmakers and their aides are trying to establish what role certain U.S. envoys played in connecting Giuliani with Ukrainian officials, and whether Pompeo signed off.
Those diplomats include the special envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker and the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland. There also are questions about the actions of U.S. ambassadors in other European countries where Giuliani may have met with Ukrainian officials.
Of special interest: the role Pompeo and his aides played in recalling Marie Yovanovitch, the career diplomat who was serving as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
- @StateDept Bureau Junks Professional Ethos Big Time (Who Wanna Tell Mike?)
- Pompeo Unveils “New Professional Ethos” For @StateDept One Glorious Day, Touts “Enormous” Success
- @StateDept’s New “One Team” Award For Employees Includes $10,000 Prize, Certificate, and a Glass Statuette .
- Foreign Service Institute Rolls Out Pompeo’s Pursuit – A ‘One Team’ Four-Day Pilot Course For “Everyone” .
- Pompeo: “you will treat every human being with the dignity and respect …” (except when senior leaders don’t) .
- Workplace Horror Award Goes to the IO Bureau, @StateDept Offers Counseling in Uppercase Voice .
- Report: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Lacks Authority to Fire a Political Appointee #DeptofSwagger
- Pompeo Unveils “New Professional Ethos” For @StateDept One Glorious Day, Touts “Enormous” Success
“It’s impossible to believe that the secretary wasn’t aware of what was happening,” said one State Department official. “If he was kept in the dark, that’s even more troubling.” https://t.co/uvs0Fs809G
— Nahal Toosi (@nahaltoosi) September 25, 2019
A man who never served his country until the 2016 election is trashing a woman with years of public service to Rep and Dem Presidents. He did it on a call with Zelensky and is now threatening her publicly.@SecPompeo – she's a member of your team. Your silence is deafening. https://t.co/kPKOV4tVei
— Sam Vinograd (@sam_vinograd) September 25, 2019
I would like to know if @SecPompeo stands by the president's trashing of our ex Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovich. Asking for the men and women of the Foreign Service.
— Tom Malinowski (@Malinowski) September 25, 2019
Someone, e.g., @SecPompeo or @statedeptspox, should stand up for Amb. Masha Yovanovich. Absent their sense of professional duty or moral fibre, I will state categorically that she is a public servant of the highest integrity who places her country's interests above all others.
— Amb. Adam Ereli (@erelija) September 25, 2019
A U.S. president denigrating the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine is beyond disturbing.. not supporting the U.S. ambassador if, in fact, this fictional memo has any kernal of truth in it.. it is betrayal.. pic.twitter.com/hpSqEZmovF
— Jack Hutton (@jackhutton) September 25, 2019
The call memo released today shows Trump's contempt for Amb. Yovanovitch.
"The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that," he tells Zelensky. https://t.co/dBvo0H8cpd
— Jennifer Hansler (@jmhansler) September 25, 2019
The Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs (WHA) Kimberly Breier who assumed charge of the bureau on October 15, 2018 has resigned. She was barely 10 months into her tenure (she was with S/P prior to her WHA appointment). The AP reports that she “stepped down earlier this week, although they offered differing reasons for her departure.” Two AP sources say that Breier cited personal reasons for her decision, but that “the two officials suggested it was prompted by differences over a recent migration accord with Guatemala.” A congressional aide told the AP that her departure was “mainly driven by family responsibilities.” The WaPo report includes an item about a clash with White House darling Stephen Miller over Trump’s Guatemala asylum accord.
Secretary Pompeo tweeted that Ms. Breier is “stepping down to spend more time with her family.” [Sorry, gotta LOL here. He really did tweet that]. Ms. Breier also tweeted her “profound thanks” to the president and the secretary of state, and for the “friendship and support” of the president’s daughter and son-in-law.
This resignation follows the departure of EUR’s Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell who left his post after some 16 months on the job. A/S Mitchell took office in October 2017 and left Foggy Bottom in February 2019 (see EUR’s Wess Mitchell Quits, New Acting EUR A/S Millard Reportedly to Retire 2/22). That position is currently filled by career diplomat Philip T. Reeker who has been appointed Acting Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs since March 18, 2019. As far as we are aware, no nominee for EUR has been announced.
The latest departure means that three of the seven geographic bureaus within the State Department will have officials appointed in an acting capacity (SCA, EUR, WHA). Assistant secretaries appointed to EAP and NEA were just confirmed this past June.
So now the next question becomes, who will be the new assistant secretary at WHA? If State follows its normal ladder, career diplomat Julie Chung who assumed position as WHA’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in November 2018 would be the Acting Assistant Secretary until a new nominee is announced and confirmed. But these days, under the chaos strategy intended to confuse friends and enemies alike, we just don’t really know anymore.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs. I offer my profound thanks to @POTUS, @SecPompeo, and the administration for the opportunity to serve, and to @IvankaTrump and Jared Kushner for their friendship and support. https://t.co/aO6ZGFS0lY
— Kimberly Breier (@WHAAsstSecty) August 8, 2019
After 2+ years of late nights & constant travel, A/S Kim Breier will be stepping down to spend more time with her family. Kim's expertise, counsel & passion ensured our nation seized opportunities & got results. I’m grateful for her service & wish Kim, Peter, & Emma all the best.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 8, 2019
Kimberly Breier resigns as assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere https://t.co/4iaC6Ydcx2
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) August 7, 2019
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) August 8, 2019
Posted: 12:01 am EDT
Via @StateDept deputy spox:
“We are delighted to welcome back Ambassador Philip Reeker to Washington later this month. On March 18th, he will become the principal deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary of the Department of State’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Now, Ambassador Reeker is a career Foreign Service officer who’s currently the civilian deputy commander at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart. He’s previously served as the consul general in Milan; as the deputy assistant secretary for the Balkans, Central Europe, as well as Holocaust issues; as the United States ambassador to what is now North Macedonia; and – the only blight on his entire professional career – he was previously the department’s deputy spokesperson.”
Continuing tdy’s meetings w/ ambassador 🇺🇸 Philip #Reeker, on this occasion tgtr w/ my colleague DPM Kocho #Angjushev, exchanging views on the new political context of Republic of #NorthMacedonia 🇲🇰, and the economic perspectives of this political success pic.twitter.com/1K0UzLPdrv
— Bujar Osmani (@Bujar_O) March 4, 2019
Posted: 1:57 am EST
Big news last week was the soon to be departure of EUR’s Assistant Secretary Wess Mitchell who is leaving his post after some 15 months on the job. A/S Mitchell took office in October 2017 and is resigning from his appointment effective February 15. The State Department announced that the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) Elisabeth Millard will serve as Acting A/S for the European and Eurasian Affairs. We’re not sure how long she will be in that acting capacity as we understand that her paperwork has been submitted to retire on February 22. The bureau appears to have six career DASes, two special envoys (one career, one noncareer), and one vacancy (Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia – is this a newly created position?). In any case, let us know when you know who will be the next Acting A/S.
Wess has done an outstanding job as Assistant Secretary. I have valued his counsel and wisdom as he has led our European team in this administration. I wish him and his wife Elizabeth, who is also a committed public servant, much happiness with their two young children. https://t.co/BkrNWOJGOl
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 22, 2019
Assistant Secretary Mitchell is stepping down as leader of the @StateDept Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. His departure is effective February 15, 2019. Elisabeth Millard, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, will serve as acting Assistant Secretary of State.
— Robert Palladino (@StateDeputySPOX) January 22, 2019
Here is the resignation letter from Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell to Secretary Pompeo. It's dated Jan. 4 but news broke today, in Mitchell's interview with the @washingtonpost pic.twitter.com/MT4aZdTULR
— Robbie Gramer (@RobbieGramer) January 22, 2019
Wess Mitchell’s replacement is scheduled to retire several weeks later… State needs plan for leadership on Europe ASAP. https://t.co/1KcdwrWn06
— Amanda Sloat (@A_Sloat) January 22, 2019
For more on Wess Mitchell's tenure, may I recommend a piece on Wess Mitchell's tenure: https://t.co/NoCwv1IOcv
— Emily Tamkin (@emilyctamkin) January 22, 2019