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State Department insiders ask: What is Susan Pompeo really up to?

Veteran U.S. diplomats say they have a hard time remembering that husbands of former secretaries of state are as involved as Susan Pompeo in the affairs department – especially in the past few decades. But her defenders claim that all of those women and men have played a part in their husbands’ political careers at one time or another, even if it wasn’t time at the Foggy Bottom office.

“Susan is a huge boost to our diplomatic mission by meeting husbands of new Foreign Service officials, talking to families going abroad for the first time, and ensuring that foreign diplomats and their husbands are always treated with kindness and warmth, what the best tradition in America, “said Mike Pompeo in his statement. “She meets families of our foreign service officers abroad, visits schools and medical institutions; she talks to some foreign service officers around the world and defends the quality of life for all of them. She supports the private citizen groups that work to provide art in our embassies in all corners of the world and those who support the department’s diplomatic reception areas and makes herself available to the Museum of Diplomacy. ”

Several State Department employees said their biggest frustration with Susan Pompeo is that she does not hold an official position and still feels comfortable letting them do work. And there’s always a feeling that if they didn’t live up to her expectations, they’d get in trouble even though she wasn’t in their chain of command.

“She gave instructions. She gave people the assignment, ”said one employee. “It was unspoken that you would be held accountable.”

Also controversial within the department, and beyond that, is the continued effort Susan Pompeo has made, as some see it, to burn off her husband’s career and build his political network as he serves as America’s top diplomat.

She was the architect of a series of about two dozen ‘Madison Dinners’ held in the chic diplomatic chambers of the State Department. The intimate events, the details of which were first reported from NBC News, usually with a foreign dignitary and a mix of wealthy business leaders, conservative media stars and other diverse influential table mates. (Robert Allbritton, the publisher and owner of POLITICO, attended a Madison Dinner.) Susan Pompeo was deeply involved in organizing the dinners, selecting the guest lists, the food and the chairs, following RSVPs and following up regularly of employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who were responsible for organizing them. The chefs created a themed cocktail for the dinners, usually slightly seasonal and sometimes named after historical figures.

People involved in organizing the dinners were concerned about whether it was a legitimate use of the State Department because such funds would be used for business, not to reflect the Secretary’s political or partisan ambitions. promote. A former Secretary of State official described feeling “uncomfortable” with the events, which seemed to have a minimal link with US diplomacy. But the secretary’s legal advisers have always given them green light.

Pompeo assistants have defended the Madison Dinners as a way for the State Department to explain its mission to influential figures. “Foreign policy-oriented social gatherings are exactly as they are in the best tradition of diplomatic and American hospitality and grace,” said Morgan Ortagus Department spokeswoman.

Events involving Susan Pompeo often required careful orchestration, apparently aimed at complying with U.S. rules and regulations, and proper use of resources.

For example, she held a coffee event for the spouses of foreign diplomats at the UN General Assembly last year. An invitation to the event, a copy of which had been obtained by POLITICO, officially came from the chief of the protocol, although it became clear that the invitees would see Susan Pompeo.

The invitation had to be structured in this way, so that the costs were covered by the Protocol Office, according to two officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to the United States Department of State, there is no pot of money directly intended to cover the costs of the secretary’s spouse. The September 27 event cost at least $ 1,028.28 for the food alone, according to the bill. On the bill, it was listed as a gathering for the spouses of foreign officials from the Pacific islands, but another document indicates spouses of officials from other parts of the world were there, including Egypt, Algeria, and Azerbaijan.

But while some department employees may shudder at this use of resources, others in the diplomatic world see nothing wrong with it. “It’s kind of a courtesy,” said Patrick Kennedy, a former Secretary of State for Management. “That’s what diplomacy is about: there are pleasantries involved.”

According to interviews and various emails and other documents obtained by POLITICO, Susan Pompeo is closely involved in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gift-giving and receiving procedures, which are overseen by the Protocol Office; The office follows gifts sent by foreign dignitaries to the Pompeos, as well as gifts that the Pompeos send their counterparts.

According to a series of meeting notes dated February 1, 2019, Susan Pompeo reviewed a litany of specific gift options offered to her by State Department employees and gave advice on what types of gifts she and her husband liked to give. Attendees at the meeting were told that the secretary “likes to gift ties” and “loves cards too, which may be an option.” Susan Pompeo also pointed out that her husband wanted to give gifts that reflect his personal history and that he “would rather show sellers from all over the US than not just the East Coast area.”

Susan Pompeo also sometimes orders the office to use gifts from a Kansas seller. Seems to be a favorite Karg Art Glass, which produces colorful glass sculptures. According to the minutes of the meeting, she had very specific instructions about the types of Karg Art options she preferred. “She is interested in seeing their necklace pieces that can be paired with a leather cord as a wedding gift necklace,” the notes read.

Two State Department officials said state secretaries and their past spouses showed little or no direct interest in the details of the gifts, but the Pompeos – Susan in particular – were so involved that it took a lot of time for servants . It also adds to the department’s expenses because Susan Pompeo often wants to present her own gifts.