Posted: 2:21 am EDT
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Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has placed a hold on the nomination of Ambassador Thomas Shannon as Foggy Bottom’s next “P.” Below is an excerpt in the Congressional Record with Mr. Grassley explaining his hold (see Senator Grassley Lifts Hold on 20 Foreign Service Nominations, Places New Hold on “P”). He stated that he is not questioning the credentials of Ambassador Shannon in any way; just pushing the State Department to “respond to congressional inquiries in a timely and reasonable manner.”
Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I intend to object to any unanimous consent request at the present time relating to the nomination of 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.
I will object because the Department of State has still not responded to almost a dozen investigative letters dating back to 2013. In addition, on August 20, 2015, my staff met with Department officials in an effort to prioritize material for production. The Department has failed to comply with its commitments, producing material late, failing to provide all requested material, and even failing to provide material to the Senate Judiciary Committee contemporaneously with providing the same documents to Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, requestors. These are the same complaints that I raised on September 30, 2015, when I placed a hold on Brian James Egan of Maryland to be legal advisor of the Department of State. Apparently, the Department simply does not understand its obligation to respond to congressional inquiries in a timely and reasonable manner.
Two and a half years ago I began a broad inquiry into the government’s use of special government employee programs. I did not single out the State Department on this issue. To the contrary, I wrote to 16 different government agencies. Two and a half years have passed since I began my inquiry, and the State Department has still not produced the materials I have requested or certified they do not exist.
In addition to the investigation of the Department’s special government employee program, I am also investigating the Department’s compliance with the FOIA as it pertains to Secretary Clinton’s private server that was used to transit and store government information. The Minority Leader has questioned whether the Judiciary Committee’s jurisdiction extends to these matters. I would note that the special government employee designation is an exception to Federal criminal conflict-of-interest laws. Those laws are within the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee, as is FOIA.
As a further example of the Department’s continued intransigence, I requested all SF-312 “Classified Non-Disclosure Agreements” for Secretary Clinton, Ms. Huma Abedin, and Ms. Cheryl Mills on August 5, 2015. My staff met with Department personnel three times since that letter and participated in dozens of emails and phone calls in an effort to acquire these documents. In addition, after the Department complained that it had received too many requests from me, my staff produced a prioritized list of requests to assist the Department in producing responses. At number three on that list were the SF-312 forms, and at number one are the official emails of Mr. Pagliano. Notably, during conversations with my staff on the subject, Department personnel stated that they could not locate those forms with the exception of only page 2 of Ms. Abedin’s SF-312 exit form. On November 5, 2015, the Department produced SF-312 entrance forms for Secretary Clinton, Ms. Abedin, and Ms. Mills to a FOIA requestor but failed to provide the same to the Committee. Clearly, the documents exist.
The continued intransigence and lack of cooperation make it clear that the Department did not care enough about their Foreign Service officer candidates to “get in gear” and begin to produce responses to my oversight letters. Accordingly, I have released my hold on these officer candidates and have escalated to Mr. Shannon. The Department of State’s refusal to fully cooperate with my investigations is unacceptable. As I have noted before on the floor of the Senate, the Department continues to promise results, but there has been very little or no follow-through. The Department’s good faith will be measured in documents delivered and witnesses provided.
My objection is not intended to question the credentials of Mr. Shannon in any way. However, the Department must recognize that it has an ongoing obligation to respond to congressional inquiries in a timely and reasonable manner.
Read the full entry in the Congressional Record here.