Who Will Be Acting Secretary of State Pending Rex Tillerson’s Confirmation? (Updated)

Posted: 1:11 pm ET
Updated: 5:26 pm PT | New clips added
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WaPo reported that Republicans want most Trump Cabinet confirmation votes to occur on Inauguration Day. However, Democratic senators reportedly are planning to aggressively target eight of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees in the coming weeks and are pushing to stretch their confirmation votes into March. WaPo notes that this would be “an unprecedented break with Senate tradition.”  The targeted nominees include Rex Tillerson, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State.

The third Secretary of State Timothy Pickering initially served as Acting Secretary of State from August 20, 1795 to December 10, 1795 under President George WashingtonHe was appointed as ad interim Secretary of State on August 20, 1795, and elevated to the position of Secretary of State on December 10, 1795.  It was one of the longest stints in an acting capacity for the State Department.

Since then, several individuals have served as Acting Secretary of State ranging in tenure from a couple of days to a couple of months. Career diplomat Lawrence Eagleburger served in an acting capacity from August 23, 1992 to December 8, 1992 under President G.H.W. Bush.  Michael Armacost also served in an acting capacity for six days in 1989 under President G.H. W. Bush while Walter J. Stoessel Jr served from July 5-16, 1982 under President Reagan.  More recently, however, the appointment in an acting capacity spans no more than a few days.  Frank G. Wisner served one day as Acting Secretary of State in January 20, 1993 under President Clinton.  Before Warren Christopher was appointed 63rd Secretary of State, he was previously appointed Acting Secretary of State for five days in May 1980 under President Carter.  During the transition from Bush to Obama in 2009, career diplomat William Joseph Burns served as Acting Secretary of State from January 20-21, 2009.

Secretary Kerry and his two deputies (Tony Blinken and Heather Higginbottom) are all political appointees who are expected to depart their posts by January 20. Of the six under secretary positions, two have incumbent political appointees (Sarah Sewall, Catherine A. Novelli) who are also expected to step down on or before Inauguration Day, two have acting incumbents who are career diplomats (Thomas Countryman, D. Bruce Wharton) and the remaining two are career diplomats, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. and the Under Secretary for Management, Patrick F. Kennedy.

We’ve asked the State Department who will be designated as Acting Secretary of State in the event that Mr. Tillerson does not get confirmation immediately after inauguration day. The State Department directed us to Executive Order 13251 of December 28, 2001 which designates the order of succession for the agency. Based on this E.O., if the Senate drags the confirmation of Mr. Tillerson for months, the State Department will have the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. as Acting Secretary of State until such time when the Senate can confirm the 69th Secretary of State. In the event that Ambassador Shannon is not able to, the next in line is the Under Secretary for Management, Patrick F. Kennedy.

Sec. 2. Order of Succession.
(a) Deputy Secretary of State; (Blinken)

(b) Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources; (Higginbottom)

(c) Under Secretary of State designated for political affairs pursuant to section 2651a(b) of title 22, United States Code; (Shannon)

(d) Under Secretary of State designated for management affairs pursuant to section 2651a(b) of title 22, United States Code; (Kennedy)

(e) The remaining Under Secretaries of State, in the order in which they shall have taken the oath of office as such; (Thomas Countryman, D. Bruce Wharton)

(f) Assistant Secretaries of State designated for regional bureaus pursuant to section 2651a(c) of title 22, United States Code, in the order in which they shall have taken the oath of office as such

Executive Order 13251 rules out the appointment of anyone who are in an acting capacity saying that “No individual who has not been appointed by the President by and with the consent of the Senate shall act as Secretary pursuant to this order.” It also says that “Notwithstanding the provisions of this order, the President retains discretion, to the extent permitted by the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, 5 U.S.C. 3345 et seq., to depart from this order in designating an acting Secretary.”

 

Two clips to read on Rex Tillerson, one concerning his tax returns, and another from an individual who served on a jury duty with him in Texas.

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Ambassador Tom Shannon, New Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (P) Assumes Post @StateDept

Posted: 1:41 am ET
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Ambassador Shannon and Mrs. Shannon Watch as Secretary Kerry Signs the Appointment Papers for Ambassador Shannon to Become the New Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs With Ambassador Tom Shannon and his wife, Guisela Shannon, looking, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signs the appointment papers for Ambassador to Shannon to become the new Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on April 19, 2016. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Ambassador Shannon and Mrs. Shannon Watch as Secretary Kerry Signs the Appointment Papers for Ambassador Shannon to Become the New Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
With Ambassador Tom Shannon and his wife, Guisela Shannon, looking, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signs the appointment papers for Ambassador to Shannon to become the new Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on April 19, 2016. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Related posts:

 

Senate Confirmations: Shannon, Egan, Raji, Heins, Estrada, McKean, and Marciel

Posted: 2:55  pm EDT
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After a long wait, State Department nominees who were snared in a senate hold by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) were finally confirmed in a voice vote today before Congress left for the Presidents Day break. The Senate will next convene at 3:00pm on Monday, February 22nd.

Thomas A. Shannon, Jr., of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Ambassador, to be an Under Secretary of State (Political Affairs).

Brian Egan to be Legal Adviser of the Department of State

Azita Raji, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Sweden.

Samuel D. Heins, of Minnesota, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway.

John L. Estrada, of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

David McKean, of Massachusetts, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg.

Also confirmed is President Obama’s nominee Sunil Sabharwal to be U.S. Alternative Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Why did Senator Cruz relent and what did he get in exchange for lifting the hold?  Via Roll Call:

As the hold on the State Department nominees was lifted, Cruz managed to secure Senate passage, also by voice vote, of a measure to designate the area outside the new Chinese Embassy along Van Ness Street in Northwest D.C., as the “Liu Xiaobo Plaza.” That would honor the pro-democracy leader and longtime political prisoner.

On February 9, the U.S. Senate also confirmed  Scot Alan Marciel, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Union of Burma.

Meanwhile, another presidential candidate and sitting senator continue his hold on President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Mexico over, you know, the most perfect excuse, Cuba:

 

Other confirmations:

2016-02-11 PN1085 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Virginia Lynn Bennett, and ending Susan M. Cleary, which 193 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on January 19, 2016.

2016-02-11 PN830 Foreign Service | Nominations beginning Christopher Alexander, and ending Tipten Troidl, which 28 nominations were received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on September 10, 2015.

2016-02-11 PN573-5 Foreign Service | Nomination for Christopher Nairn Steel, which nomination was received by the Senate and appeared in the Congressional Record on June 10, 2015.

For the Millennium Challenge Corporation

2016-02-11 PN1039 Millennium Challenge Corporation | Morton H. Halperin, of the District of Columbia, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation for a term of two years.

2016-02-11 PN1040 Millennium Challenge Corporation | Michael O. Johanns, of Nebraska, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation for a term of three years.

 

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Secret Service Scandal Slides Over Embassy Gate, Creeps into US Embassy Brasilia, US Embassy San Salvador and the Where Else Bar

Even under a rock, we managed to hear about the 24 Secret Service and military personnel accused of misconduct in the prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia.

Then on April 25, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and told the panel that the incident involving as many as 20 women appeared to be an isolated case. She said the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility had never received previous complaints in the past 2 1/2 years. We don’t know why 2 1/2 year is significant.  But it’s good to know since apparently, according to the Secretary Napolitano, the Secret Service has provided protection on more than 900 foreign trips and 13,000 domestic trips.

In a closely watched developing news, Defense Secretary Panetta was in Brazil on April 24 and had a joint presscon with Brazilian Minister Amorim in Brasilia.  They entertained three questions and the first one was about U.S. Marines from the US Embassy in Brasilia allegedly injuring a prostitute in December last year.

U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Thomas A. Shannon Jr. greets U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta upon his arrival in Brasilia, Brazil, April 24, 2012. Panetta is on a five-day trip to the region to meet with counterparts and military officials in Colombia, Brazil and Chile to discuss an expansion of defense and security cooperations (DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

A reporter from TV Global asks: “Is the U.S. government going to act to punish the Marines involved here in Brasilia with prostitutes?”

Here is Secretary Panettta’s response:

“With regards to what you mentioned, obviously this incident was fully investigated and those that were involved have been punished and held accountable.  They are no longer in this country.  They were reduced in rank and they were severely punished for that behavior.  I have no tolerance for that kind of conduct, not here or any place in the world.  And where it takes place, you can be assured that we will act to make sure that they are punished and that that kind of behavior is not acceptable.”

Brazil’s News G1 globo.com has a report of this incident (in Portuguese) and aired a video with an interview of Romilda Aparecida Ferreira, the alleged victim and the subject of the question posted to Secretary Panetta.

From best we could tell from translated text, the woman was allegedly assaulted by officers of the U.S. Embassy at the end of last year. The case occurred four months ago after she met four embassy staffers in a nightclub where she worked as a dancer. The woman reportedly had an argument with the driver and she got dumped off the car and she fell and was injured.

Globo.com also says that the U.S. embassy through a statement (which we have difficulty locating online) acknowledge the case, said it had cooperated with the investigation and that the Americans involved in the case are no longer in Brazil. No charges were reportedly filed by the Brazilian authorities. The Foreign Ministry said it was not notified about the case.

VOA reported here that Defense officials say three U.S. Marines stationed at the U.S. embassy in Brazil and an embassy staffer picked up two prostitutes at a nightclub last December. One of the prostitutes says the men pushed her out of the car, and when she tried to re-enter the vehicle, she fell to the ground and was injured.

According to Secretary Panetta the Marines were “were reduced in rank.” The VOA report says that the U.S. embassy staff member was removed from his post and that injured prostitute has filed a lawsuit against the embassy in the wake of the Cartegena scandal.

The Brasilia incident, of course, made it to the Daily Press Briefing of April 25.

QUESTION: — for what Americans might consider the ongoing soap opera involving the Secret Service, except this doesn’t involve the Secret Service. We’re talking about three U.S. Marines who apparently have been punished as well as an employee of the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia who apparently were implicated in tossing a prostitute out of a moving car sometime last year. And I wanted to find out, since we know that the Marines have been punished, who was the employee of the Embassy? Was this person an American? Was this person a local hire? What can you say about a pending lawsuit now, apparently, against the Embassy?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, your report of the incident in question is not accurate in terms of what actually happened. Second, this is something that happened back in December. There was a State Department employee involved. The – we did cooperate fully with the appropriate Brazilian authorities, including with the civil police. None of the Americans involved in the incident are still in Brazil. The civil police, as I understand it, are still working on their case, and no charges have been brought by the Brazilian authorities.

We’ll come back to the DPB later in a separate post because it is interesting all in itself.

This story has now taken on a life of its own like, well, like a fast-sprouting magic tree with many limbs.

Late Wednesday, Kirotv.com out of Seattle claims it has an exclusive about strippers and the Secret Service advance team (snipers, K-9 and explosives sweeps) in San Salvador prior to President Obama’s trip there in March of 2011.

The bar owner reportedly told kirotv’s investigative reporter Chris Halsne (oh, he got names) that his club routinely takes care of high-ranking employees of the U.S. embassy in San Salvador as well as visiting FBI and DEA agents. The owner says his reputation for “security” and “privacy” makes him a popular strip club owner with “those who want to be discreet.”  Kirotv.com says it is currently writing and editing-together a series of television stories for air beginning at 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 26.

Next stop, the Where Else Bar … but hey, there’s a mad cow in California!

Domani Spero

 

Update: 4/16@10:18 pm
We’ve now seen the KiroTV exclusive – hey, they’re squeezing the juice out of that San Salvador trip; it’s like a drip, drip, drip of the same story. It is rather annoying.  It blares “New evidence expands Secret Service scandal” here. In Chris Halsne Reveals More on Secret Service piece, we get to see an interview with a retired Secret Service agent who boils this down to terrorism, and of course, there has to be footage of half naked dancing girls because it is the Lips Strip Club, and you just gotta show them half naked people doing the boogie. Sorry, no pole dancing included.

The reporter is shown talking to the strip club’s Salvadoran guard in English, he responds in Spanish, and we’re left to imagine what he said to the reporter.  The source is reportedly a bilingual subcontractor of the U.S. Secret Service whose identity has been kept confidential. Obviously, if he was a subcontractor of the Secret Service, they know who he is, so what’s the motive for his anonymity?  His face is fuzzy, and he’s now called a whistleblower. The news report also cites multiple witnesses but we only hear from the sub-contractor. We’re told that the owner of the strip club is an American named, DJ Ertel, who gave an interview but did not allow video footage. Since the club has a reputation for “security” and “privacy” and prides itself for being discreet, the interview does seem like reverse public relation.  The report did not even include important details such as hours of operation: 12:00pm-2:30am, daytime cover: $3.50; nighttime cover: $7.00; dance prices: $9; drink prices: $3. So no free advertising there (we did note that all prices are under $28).

As for the strip club not being too far from the embassy — if I heard it right, Lips is located on Paseo General Escalon, one of the main areas in San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America. It’s so small that you can drive from end to end in a matter of hours! So yeah, the embassy and the club are practically neighbors. The end.