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Inspector general finds politically motivated harassment at State Department

By KAREN DEYOUNG | The Washington Post | Published: August 16, 2019

WASHINGTON — A report by the State Department's inspector general concludes that leadership of a leading department bureau mistreated and harassed staffers, accused them of political disloyalty to the Trump administration, and retaliated against them.

In response to repeated counseling by more senior State Department officials that he address staff concerns, the report concluded, Kevin Moley, assistant secretary for international affairs, "did not take significant action."

The report, released Thursday, is a sweeping condemnation of Moley and more specifically of his former senior adviser, Mari Stull. A former lobbyist and consultant for international food and agriculture interests, Stull left the department in January following press reports that, among other things, she had compiled a list of staffers deemed insufficiently loyal to the Trump administration.

The 30-page report — based on what it said were interviews with dozens of current and former employees, as well as documents — chronicled numerous episodes of Stull berating and belittling employees, and Moley's repeated failure to deal with complaints reported to him.

Stull and Moley, it said, "frequently berated employees, raised their voices, and generally engaged in unprofessional behavior toward staff," and reportedly moved to retaliate against those who had held their jobs under the previous administration.

Stull, it said, referred to some employees as "Obama holdovers," "traitors," or "disloyal," and accused some of being part of the "Deep State" and the "swamp" — terms that President Donald Trump has used to refer to federal employees. All of those so accused, the report said, were career staffers and not political appointees.

Some staffers said Moley accused them of "undermining the President's agenda," the report said.

In a response appended to the report, Moley said he had no recollection of much of the counseling, and said the description of his behavior with employees "does not represent the person I am or have ever been." He said accounts of the departure of two senior bureau officials was inaccurate, and that he had not witnessed Stull's reported behavior.

Stull, the report said, declined to speak to investigators.

Recommendations included in the report advised Undersecretary of Political Affairs David Hale, who supervises the international affairs bureau, to develop a "corrective action plan to address the leadership and management deficiencies," and to consider other action, "including disciplinary action."

The State Department response, contained in the report and repeated Thursday by a Department spokesman, accepted the recommendations. Noting that Stull was "no longer with the Department," it said that "with regard to the second employee," Moley, it would submit a "corrective action plan" within 60 days.

Moley served in a number of government positions in previous administrations, including as permanent U.S. representative to the Geneva-based United Nations office working with international organizations under President George W. Bush.

The State Department's international organizations bureau is in charge of U.S. relations with international organizations. Although Moley was nominated for the position under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, he was unanimously confirmed by the Senate a week after Trump fired Tillerson in March 2018. Moley appointed Stull in April of that year, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took over the department; she left nine months later.

After Politico first published reports of personnel problems in the bureau in July 2018, congressional Democrats raised concerns with Pompeo. The secretary, the report said, referred the matter to the inspector general, which was already investigating what it said were "similar issues involving the Office of the Secretary."

Inspector General Steve Linick later told Congress that he had decided to separate the matter into two reports — one on the international organizations bureau, and the other on those portions of the department that reported directly to the secretary's office. The latter report has yet to be released.
 

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