Bob Woodward’s ‘Fear: Trump in the White House’ (Excerpt)

Via Amazon: Bob Woodward is an associate editor at The Washington Post, where he has worked for forty-seven years. He has shared in two Pulitzer Prizes, first for the Post’s coverage of the Watergate scandal with Carl Bernstein, and second in 2003 as the lead reporter for coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He has authored or coauthored eighteen books, all of which have been national nonfiction bestsellers. Twelve of those have been #1 national bestsellers.

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.

Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.

“I think you’ve always been fair.”President Donald J. Trump, in a call to Bob Woodward, August 14, 2018

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Senate Passes 98-0 Resolution Against Making Available Current/Ex-Diplomats For Russia Questioning

 

A follow-up to Trump-Putin Summit Fallout: POTUS Entertains Proposal For Russia to Question Ex-US Amb Mike McFaul. The Senate has just passed a 98-0 resolution against making available for Russian questioning  current or former diplomats as well as other officials of the United States Government. The White House has now released a statement about Putin’s proposal that the President of the United States purportedly disagreed with but had previously called “an incredible offer.”

See July 19 update below via VOA with Secretary Pompeo saying “It’s not going to happen,” then added that “”President Trump was very clear – we’re not gonna force Americans to go to Russia to be interrogated by the Russians.”  

The notion that this proposal was made in “sincerity” by President Putin, and that President Trump disagreed with it is actually laughable. Were that true, the Press Secretary could have said immediately that the president pushed back hard against that proposal. This White House must really think we’re all dumb as rocks.

This was a no brainer. Ambassador McFaul, and the other officials that Russia wanted to question may not have been employees of this president, but they were employees and representatives of the United States of America, not of the Democratic Party (despite what this president might think or believe). The fact that this was even offered as a proposal tells us just what Putin think of this President. And the fact this President Trump did not push back and even appeared to consider it is horrifying.

So instead, the Press Secretary announced from the podium that the president “would work with his team” — excuse me, to do what exactly? And now the Press Secretary is saying that while President Trump disagreed with Putin’s proposal, “hopefully President Putin will have the 12 identified Russians come to the United States to prove their innocence or guilt.”  That proposal was supposedly in exchange for the questioning of USG individuals. And now all they have left is “hoping” that Putin will go ahead with the proposal anyway?

Holy caramba! No wonder Putin is laughing his head off; he’s playing chess against our White House playing find the shortest toothpick.

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UPDATE:

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All Promotions Into/Within the Senior Foreign Service Must be Vetted by White House?

Posted: 1:23 am  ET

 

State/HR recently sent a Frequently Asked Questions to newly promoted OCs concerning the differences between being an FS-01, the highest rank in the regular Foreign Service, and as OC, the starter rank in the Senior Foreign Service. The FAQ talks about pay, bidding, EERs, benefits, and of course, promotions. And then there’s this question, and apparent answer:

Q: When are promotions from FS-01 to OC effective?
Answer: Promotion boards issue a list in the fall of officers “recommended” for promotion from FS-01 to OC, OC to MC and MC to CM. However, all promotions into and within the Senior Foreign Service must be vetted by the White House, confirmed by the Senate and attested by the President. This process can take several months. Promotions into and within the SFS are effective the first pay period following Presidential attestation. However, you may start bidding as an OC as soon as the promotion list is released by the board.

Yo! You know this is nuts, right? The White House can barely vet its own staffers, and it will now vet all promotions of FSOs into and within the Senior Foreign Service? With one exception that we are aware of (and we’ll write about that case separately), this WH vetting requirement is new, and yes, we remember the “improved” vetting required by the SFRC back in 2015 (SFRC Bullies Diplomats Up For Promotion to Self-Certify They Have Not Been Convicted of Any Crime).  Is the WH also vetting all senior promotions out of the Pentagon? Who’s going to be doing this and what does this vetting includes? Also whose great idea was this, pray tell?  Will State/HR and A/DGHR soon say that this vetting has always been done by the White House since the beginning of whatevs?

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With Trump Assist, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury Book Becomes Overnight Sensation (Updated w/ Preview)

Posted: 4:18  am ET

 

President Trump’s law firm issued a cease-and-desist letter over the publication of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House In response, the publisher, Henry Holt moved the sale of the book by four days. The book was listed available for sale (originally January 9) starting today, January 5 at 9 am EST on Amazon but as of this writing the book is already marked “Temporarily Out of Stock.”  The Kindle edition may not be available until next week, but we’ll be in the lookout in case it pops up earlier. The book is available again and the Kindle edition is also available. See below for preview.

At Kramer Books in DC where they started selling at midnight, the book was sold out in 20 minutes! EW reports that the book moved 48,448 positions up on Amazon’s best-seller list to reach the no. 1 spot in just one day. Wow! That’s gotta be a record.

Michael Wolff should send a fruit basket to the White House. Can we please get Mr. Wolff to visit Foggy Bottom next?

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Preview courtesy of Amazon Kindle:

Senate Requires the Renomination of @StateDept Nominees Stalled in 2017

Posted: 11:12 am PT
Updated: Dec 4, 2017 | 12:57 pm PT
Updated: Jan 8, 2018 | 7:50 PT -we missed the Poblete nomination in our original post.

 

Last month, we blogged about the nominations that were listed on the Executive Calendar but received no action from the Senate when the Senators left town for the holidays (see Confirmations: McClenny, Braithwaite, Ford, Newstead, Waters, Brock). It now looks like the Senate requires the renomination of almost two about a hundred nominees including the State Department nominees who were not confirmed last year (military nominees remain in status quo and need not have to be renominated).  We should know very soon which of these nominations will get a new life, and which ones are dead.

CNN has additional reporting on this, with a quote below from the White House on the renomination. As of Jan 4, the WH has yet to make any public statement on the renominations:

Nominees who are not confirmed by the end of the Senate session must receive unanimous approval from the chamber to be carried over for consideration in the next session. Any one senator can object to carrying them forward. Nominations not approved are returned to the White House and those nominees must then be re-nominated if they are to proceed.  Murray’s nomination was not held over to the next session, according to a full list of nominees sent back to the White House released by the Senate on Tuesday. Hogan Gidley, a White House spokesperson, declined to say specifically if Murray would be re-nominated.  “This is a standard paperwork practice due to long-established Senate rules, and we will proceed as necessary with re-nominations in January,” Gidley wrote in an email.

Per Senate Executive Calendar dated January 2, 2018:

Suspension of Rule XXXI

Ordered, That all nominations received by the Senate during the 115th Congress, first session, remain in status quo notwithstanding the provisions of Rule XXXI, paragraph 6 (pdf), of the Standing Rules of the Senate, with the exception of the following nominations:

AMBASSADORS

Doug Manchester, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas;

Kathleen Troia McFarland, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Singapore;

Samuel Dale Brownback, of Kansas, to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom;

Richard Grenell, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Federal Republic of Germany;

James Randolph Evans, of Georgia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Luxembourg;

STATE DEPARTMENT

Eric M. Ueland, of Oregon, to be an Under Secretary of State (Management);

Stephen Akard, of Indiana, to be Director General of the Foreign Service;

Yleem D. S. Poblete, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance);

Susan A. Thornton, of Maine, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister- Counselor, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (East Asian and Pacific Affairs). (Dec. 21, 2017.)

Yleem D. S. Poblete, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Verification and Compliance). 

FOREIGN SERVICE

Kenneth W. MacLean, Foreign Service;

Tanya S. Urquieta, Foreign Service;

David A. Ashford, Foreign Service;

David Charles Miller, Foreign Service;

Five nominations, beginning with Michael Ashkouri, and ending with Omar Robles, Foreign Service;

UNITED NATIONS

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations;

Jay Patrick Murray, of Virginia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations, during his tenure of service as Alternate Representative of the United States of America for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations;

 

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NSC’s Christopher Ford to be Asst Secretary For International Security and Non-Proliferation

Posted: 4:16 am ET
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On October 31, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Christopher A. Ford, currently with the National Security Council to be the next Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Non-Proliferation (ISN). The WH released the following brief bio:

Christopher Ashley Ford of Maryland to be an Assistant Secretary of State, International Security and Non-Proliferation.  Dr. Ford currently serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Counterproliferation at the National Security Council.  Dr. Ford served on several different committees in the U.S. Senate, served as a State Department official, and worked as a senior fellow at Hudson Institute.  Dr. Ford is the author of three books – China Looks at the West: Identity, Global Ambitions, and the Future of Sino-American Relations (2015), The Mind of Empire: China’s History and Modern Foreign Relations (2010), and The Admirals’ Advantage: U.S. Navy Operational Intelligence in World War II and the Cold War (2005) – and scores of articles and monographs.  He also served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, receiving an Honorable Discharge at the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  Dr. Ford earned an A.B., summa cum laude, at Harvard University, a D.Phil. at Oxford University in the United Kingdom (as a Rhodes Scholar), and a J.D. at Yale Law School.  A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, he lives with his family in Bethesda, Maryland.

Back in January, in a piece about the NSC, WaPo notes the following:

Longtime senate staffer Christopher Ford has joined the NSC staff to work on non-proliferation and nuclear issues. Ford has served as chief council for the Senate Appropriations Committee, the Senate Banking Committee and most recently the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. During the George W. Bush administration, Ford was a deputy assistant secretary of state in the bureau of arms control and international security, then led by John Bolton.

His Wikipedia page is here.

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Avoidable Mess: U.S. to Help Chad After “Important Partner” Withdraws Troops From Niger Following Visa Sanctions

Posted: 3:33 am ET
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On September 24, President Trump announced new security measures that establish minimum requirements for international cooperation to support U.S. visa and immigration vetting and new visa restrictions for eight countries, including Chad. See Trump Announces New Visa Restrictions For Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, Somalia:.

Chad – Although it is an important partner, especially in the fight against terrorists, the government in Chad does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information, and several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region, including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Chad, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is suspended.

Via BuzzFeed: Experts from the State Department to humanitarian organizations were stunned when the Chad was added to the travel ban in late September. The country is home to a US military facility and just hosted an annual 20-nation military exercise with the US military’s Africa Command to strengthen local forces to fight extremist insurgents. Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, is the headquarters of the five-country Multinational Joint Task Force battling Boko Haram.

What kind of visa numbers do we have for Chad? For temporary nonimmigrant visas the last five fiscal years, see below via travel.state.gov:

FY2016: 1,355 | FY2015: 1,352 | FY2014: 1,294 |  FY2013: 731 |  FY2012: 624

So given Chad’s counterterrorism cooperation, and the carved out already given to Iraq in the September 24 order, why was Chad included in the visa restrictions?  FP proposes this:

One possible explanation for this discrepancy, which would be preposterous in any administration except this one, is that the architects of the ban, having repeatedly heard the phrases “Boko Haram” and “Lake Chad” in the same sentence, assumed that Chad must be the epicenter of Boko Haram. (Lake Chad in fact lies on the border of Chad and three other countries, and Boko Haram is mostly confined to northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and southeastern Niger.)
[…]
In the wake of the new travel ban announcement on Sept. 24, Chad has withdrawn hundreds of troops from neighboring Niger, where up to 2,000 of its soldiers were part of a coalition battling Boko Haram. The Chadian government has not yet offered an official explanation for the pullout, but Communications Minister Madeleine Alingué condemned Chad’s inclusion on the travel ban, saying that it “seriously undermines” the “good relations between the two countries, notably in the fight against terrorism.”
[…]
The Chadian president is likely betting that with his forces withdrawn from Niger, the Trump administration will quickly come to appreciate his country’s security contributions and remove it from the list.

But it turns out — Chad had simply run out of passport paper!

AP’s Josh Lederman writes that Chad lacked the passport paper and offered to furnish the U.S. with a pre-existing sample of the same type of passport, but it was not enough to persuade DHS.  A congressional official told the AP that DHS working with the White House “pushed Chad onto the list without significant input from the State Department or the Defense Department.” 

Without significant input from agencies with people on the ground in Chad. If we were in Chad’s shoes, wouldn’t we do exactly the same? Obviously, being called an “important partner” does not make up for having your citizens banned from traveling to the other country. The action telegraphed careless disregard of the relationship, and Chad most likely, will not forget this easily. “Remember that time when the U.S. put Chad on the visa sanctions list while we have 2,000 soldiers fighting in Niger?” Yep, they’ll remember. We actually would like to know who among the local contacts showed up for the new embassy dedication, by the way (see @StateDept Dedicates New $225M U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena, Chad).

The DHS/WH architects of these visa bans/sanctions really are the best people with the best brains, hey?

Federal court has now issued a TRO for the latest travel restrictions that includes Chad. So basically, a carefully constructed bilateral relationship ends up in a mess, and it was all for nothing.

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VPOTUS Swears-In “Canadian Ambassador Craft” at the White House. No Kidding.

Posted: 2:06 am ET
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On September 26, Vice president Pence sworn-in Kelly Craft as the new U.S. Ambassador to Canada. The ceremony held at the Indian Treat Room was a well attended event with EPA’s Scott Pruitt, NORAD’s General Lori Robinson, and a huge contingent from Kentucky.

Over at whitehouse.gov, this is the headline:

Can somebody please tell the White House’s comm people that the U.S. Ambassador to Canada is not/not the “Canadian Ambassador”?

Any “Canadian Ambassador” is a Canadian who represents Canada.

In the United States, that is Canadian Ambassador David MacNaughton whose office is at 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C., U.S.A., 20001.

To make this easier to remember, the “Canadian Ambassador’s” big boss is Canada’s “dreamboat” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Ambassador Craft’s big boss resides in the White House, but her immediate boss will be the WHA Assistant Secretary, unless they’ve demolished all the bureaucratic bridges as we knew them.

In related news, did you hear about the 220% duty slapped on Canadian company, Bombardier?  One reader sent us this note, “I do not understand how the Trump Administration could impose a significant tariff hike on Canadian company Bombardier one day before swearing in the new “Canadian (sic) Ambassador” at the White House.”

There’s nothing to understand. Fragmentation is now the rule not the exception.

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Top White House Aide Kenneth I. Juster to be U.S. Ambassador to India

Posted: 2:28 am ET
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On September 2, President Trump announced his intent to nominate Kenneth Juster to be the next U.S. Ambassador to India. The WH released a brief bio:

Kenneth I. Juster of New York to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of India. Mr. Juster most recently served as the Deputy Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs and Deputy Director of the National Economic Council. Mr. Juster has previously served as Under Secretary of Commerce from 2001-2005, Counselor (acting) of the State Department from 1992-1993, and deputy and senior adviser to the Deputy Secretary of State from 1989-1992. In the private sector, he has been a partner at the investment firm Warburg Pincus LLC, Executive Vice President at Salesforce.com, and senior partner at the law firm Arnold & Porter. He has also served as Chairman of Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, and as Vice Chairman of The Asia Foundation. Mr. Juster holds an A.B. in Government (Phi Beta Kappa) from Harvard College, an M.P.P. from the Harvard Kennedy School, and a J.D. from the Harvard Law School.

According to his Asia Foundation bio, Mr. Juster previously served as Acting Counselor of the U.S. Department of State from 1992 to 1993, and Deputy and Senior Adviser to Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger from 1989 to 1992. Juster received the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award and Medal, the State Department’s highest honor, in 1993.

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American values? Tillerson: “The president speaks for himself.” Uh-oh!

Posted: 4:51 am  ET
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Axios writes: “We’ve been hearing for weeks, from sources who’ve spoken to the president, that Trump is getting more and more fed up with Tillerson, who has still yet to staff his agency.” The report enumerates multiple criticisms directed at Tillerson:
1) why he still doesn’t have political appointees in the top roles at the State Department;
2) Tillerson hasn’t put in the time to build goodwill with Washington’s foreign policy community or with the media;
3) reports that Tillerson has destroyed morale at State, empowering only the tiniest inner circle;
4) Qatar;
5) Venezuela and Tom Shannon;
6) Iran;
7) Tillerson’s Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin

AND NOW THIS —

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