Top House Democrat says Trump appointee accused of harassing diplomats should be fired

A watchdog report said Moley's senior adviser called some employees "Obama holdovers" or "traitors," and accused some of being part of the "Deep State."
Image: Eliot Engel
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, at a hearing on Feb. 13, 2019.Jose Luis Magana / AP file

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By Dan De Luce and Abigail Williams

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday demanded the Trump administration fire a political appointee at the State Department who is accused of harassing career diplomats that he and a colleague thought were not loyal to President Donald Trump.

The State Department's Inspector General concluded in a report last month that Kevin Moley, assistant secretary for international affairs, and his senior adviser, Mari Stull, mistreated and belittled career civil servants. Stull has since left the department but Moley remains in his post. Both are Trump appointees.

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., told NBC News that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified before the Foreign Affairs Committee that officials who targeted career personnel at the State Department "shouldn't be working there."

"He needs to live up to that commitment," said Engel.

On Tuesday, John Sullivan, deputy secretary of state, and David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, acknowledged at a town hall meeting of State Department employees that the department had failed to sufficiently protect career civil servants from the retaliation detailed in the inspector general's report, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Foreign Policy first reported on the meeting.

Kevin Edward Moley.U.S. Department of State

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But Sullivan also said that Secretary of State Pompeo lacked the legal authority to fire Moley.

Rep. Engel disagreed.

"Every day that Mr. Moley remains on the job is an affront to the department's career employees. Trump appointees at the State Department need to stop making excuses and show Mr. Moley the exit," Engel said.

The State Department has said it accepted the IG report's recommendations but declined to comment on the town hall meeting or the fate of Moley.

The IG report described numerous incidents in which Stull targeted employees who had held jobs under the Obama administration, and that Moley failed to take action after hearing complaints about her behavior.

Both Stull and Moley "frequently berated employees, raised their voices, and generally engaged in unprofessional behavior toward staff," according to the IG report.

Stull referred to some employees as "Obama holdovers," "traitors," or "disloyal," and accused some of being part of the "Deep State" and the "swamp," the report said.

Some employees, who had served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, said Moley accused them of "undermining the president's agenda," it said.

The IG report recommended that the State Department prepare a "corrective action plan to address the leadership and management deficiencies" raised by the inquiry and consider other action "including disciplinary action."

Moley has rejected the report's findings, and has said the description of his behavior with employees "does not represent the person I am or have ever been."

The Inspector General is preparing a second report on other allegations of political retaliation elsewhere in the State Department.