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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Trumpers have been purging the state department from the beginning

by digby

They barely even try to hide it. But they try just enough to show that they know very well that they are doing something wrong:

In a new report published Thursday, the IG found there was no evidence that "impermissible factors influenced the personnel decisions" in two cases. But they were blocked from "essential information from key decision makers" and couldn't make a determination in two other cases. In the last one, they found the individual was removed from her position because of "perceived political views, association with former administrations, and perceived national origin" -- all of which are against department rules.

The report recommends added training for all political appointees about prohibited personnel practices and suggests possible disciplinary action be taken against senior officials, such as Brian Hook, who now serves as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a special envoy to Iran.

Despite those findings and detailed evidence laid out in the report, the State Department told the IG it "disagrees with the finding in the report that improper considerations played a role in the early termination of Employee One's detail" and will not discipline Hook.

"Employee One" is Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, as confirmed by ABC News, a career civil servant removed early from her high-level position on the department's Policy Planning staff after officials said she was born in Iran and was an "Obama/Clinton loyalist" that "did not belong" in her position, according to the report. In particular, an article from the online outlet Conservative Review that maligned Nowrouzzadeh was sent around on four separate email chains, including one forwarded by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to Margaret Peterlin, chief of staff to then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Nowrouzzadeh was born in Connecticut and had worked for the U.S. since the George W. Bush administration in 2005. She started at the State Department in 2012, according to the IG, and was detailed to President Barack Obama's National Security Council, where she helped work on the negotiations and messaging around the Iran nuclear deal. After that, she returned to State and was spending a year on Policy Planning, the department's in-house think tank that develops foreign policy ideas, when her time was cut short by three months. 
Email chains with the Conservative Review article were forwarded by Julia Haller, the department's White House liaison, and Matthew Mowers, a senior adviser to the secretary. Hook, who was then the new head of Policy Planning (S/P) and called it "helpful" in two separate email chains, according to the report.

"As background, she worked on the Iran Deal, specifically works on Iran within S/P, was born in Iran and upon my understanding cried when the President won," Haller wrote to colleagues on March 14, 2017.

Nowrouzzadeh herself sent the article to Hook, identifying what she called "misinformation" in it and expressed concern for her physical safety. Hook never responded to the email, but they later met in person. Hook told the IG he told her it was a "fairly standard" attack and she should ignore it.

But, according to the report, it was at least partially the grounds for the administration's decision to remove Nowrouzzadeh, because conversations around terminating her "addressed only [her] perceived political beliefs and perceived place of birth."

Hook told the IG that Mowers and Tillerson's deputy chief of staff Christine Ciccone, who had also circulated the article, told him Nowrouzzadeh "did not belong" in her role, without specifying why. Ciccone denied that was true, while Mowers told the IG he couldn't recall a conversation.
(MORE: Government shutdown hits State Dept. with deep, lasting effects)

Hook's deputy Edward Lacey, a career employee who seemed like he was trying to ingratiate himself with Hook by blasting "Obama/Clinton loyalists" on the Policy Planning staff, emailed Hook on April 6, saying Mowers told him to begin the process of removing Nowrouzzadeh. "Yes I agree," Hook replied.

At least one Trump official defended the criticism of Nowrouzzadeh, as Haller told the IG that her perceived nationality could raise questions of "conflict of interest" or make her ineligible for a security clearance, even though she already had one.

I don't think you can assume that Trumpers haven't run dozens of people out of government for similar reasons but they just decided it was the better part of valor to stay quiet about it. Why wouldn't they be clearing out people who they see as "not their kind" in other ways?

This whole thing brings to mind an old scandal in which the Clinton administration garnered a special counsel investigation that lasted for six years because they fired members of the White House travel office due to an FBI investigation that suggested financial impropriety. Times have sure changed.