Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Possible Pay-to-Play Scheme for Ambassador Role in Trump Administration

A CBS News Investigation has Uncovered a Possible Pay-for-Play Scheme involving the Republican National Committee (RNC) and President Trump’s Nominee for Ambassador to the Bahamas.

Emails obtained by CBS News show the Nominee, San Diego Billionaire Doug Manchester, was asked by the RNC to Donate $500,000 as his Confirmation in the Senate Hung in the Balance. A Trump Supporter, Manchester Donated $1 Million to Trump’s Inauguration Fund. He was Offered the Bahamas Post the day after Trump was Sworn In. Manchester said Trump told him, “I should probably be the ambassador to the Bahamas and you should be president.”

Then, for Two and a half years, Manchester’s Nomination Stalled in the Senate. His Bahamas Relief Trip caught the Attention of the President. Trump tweeted, “I would also like to thank ‘Papa’ Doug Manchester, hopefully the next Ambassador to the Bahamas, for the incredible amount of time, money and passion he has spent on helping to bring safety to the Bahamas.”

Three days after the Tweet, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel Hit Up Manchester for another Donation. It was No Small Sum. In an Email, McDaniel asked Manchester, “Would you consider putting together $500,000 worth of contributions from your family to ensure we hit our ambitious fundraising goal?”.

The Senate Confirmation Process is exactly what Manchester quickly Addressed. He wrote back to McDaniel’s Request for $500,000, “As you know I am not supposed to do any, but my wife is sending a contribution for $100,000. Assuming I get voted out of the [Foreign Relations Committee] on Wednesday to the floor we need you to have the majority leader bring it to a majority vote … Once confirmed, I our [sic] family will respond!”.

Manchester’s Big Mistake was Copying Staffers of Two Senators who Controlled his Nomination, Rand Paul (R-KY) and Jim Risch (R-ID), Alerting them to his Willingness to Donate more after Confirmation. “I can only tell you that if I received an email like that, there would have been a five-bell alarm that went off,” Former Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said.

Other Ambassadors Under Federal Investigation

Iceland - A Well-Heeled Car Dealer. While Well-Traveled, he had Never been to that Nordic Country.

Slovenia - The Founder of an Evangelical Charity who frequently Reposted False Far-Right Social Media Posts on Melania Trump's Facebook Page.

United Arab Emirates — Trump picked a Wealthy Real Estate Developer with No Diplomatic Experience.

An NBC News Review found those who Donated to the Trump Inauguration found at least 14 Major Contributors to Trump's Inaugural Fund were later Nominees to become Ambassadors, Donating an Average of slightly over $350,000 apiece.

Though the Trump Administration says the Business Acumen of these Nominees Qualifies them to Represent the U.S. Abroad, Six of the 14 Nominations have Languished for Months in the Republican-controlled Senate. One Nomination has Stalled for about Two years.

While it is Not Unusual for a President to Offer Plum Posts to Wealthy Donors, the Trump Administration is Nominating a Greater Number of Political Appointees to Top-Level Slots, and is seeing a Larger Share Stall in the Senate, according to Two Diplomatic Experts and a Senior Senate Staffer.

Since the 1950s, roughly Two-Thirds of Confirmed Ambassadors have been Career Foreign Service Officials and One-Third have been Political Appointees.

Presidents Obama and George W. Bush kept within that Range, according to the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), which is Comprised of Current and Former Diplomats. The Trump Administration is Different. Of its Confirmed Appointees, around 50% are Career Foreign Service Diplomats, and 50% are Political Appointees, according to AFSA.

There are also 52 Vacant Ambassadorships out of about 250. Two years into their Presidencies, Obama had 11 and Bush had 15. There are also a Large Number of Vacancies in Critical Countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

The Rate of Confirmation is also quite Different for Trump Nominees. Two years into their Presidencies, Presidents Bill Clinton, Bush, and Obama had 96%, 84%, and 89% of their Nominees Confirmed. Trump is currently at 66%, according to a Senior Congressional Staffer.

Nicholas Burns, a Former Ambassador under Clinton and Bush and a Former Undersecretary of State under Bush, Points out that the Trump Administration was Unusually Slow to Submit Nominations. But he also said it was Possible "there may be questions about the qualifications of some of these people."

Burns, now a Professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, said the Senate has the Right to Hold-Up Confirmation if there are such Questions. "What I don't know is if some of these people are being held up by the Democrats," said Burns. "That sometimes happens."

Marquette University Law Professor Ryan Scoville, who is about to Publish a Study Analyzing the Qualifications of nearly 2,000 Ambassador Nominees from the Reagan era Onward, was less Equivocal. "Trump's picks are less qualified than prior presidents'," said Scoville, though Trump is continuing a Downward Trend in which "the level of qualification has eroded while the amount of contribution to candidates has risen."

Presidents have Long Appointed Deep-Pocketed Donors to Foreign Posts around the World. Obama's Ambassador to Singapore, Kirk W.B. Wagar, gave over $200,000 to Obama and Democrats during Obama's Re-Election Campaign. Bush's Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, Mercer Reynolds, gave over $100,000 to Bush and the GOP.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker

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