Trump Appointee Has Avoided Investigation And Should Face Discipline, New DHS Memo Says
Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform; and Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, today released a management alert from the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security.
The memorandum formally recommends that Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen discipline Christine Ciccone, a senior-level DHS political appointee who previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff at the State Department. For several months, Ms. Ciccone has refused to sit for an interview in an ongoing State Department Office of Inspector General review of allegations of politically-motivated retaliation against career State Department employees. The memorandum stated:
“Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to comply with State OIG’s request for an interview sets a dangerous precedent contrary to the fundamental tenants of the IG Act, with the potential to undermine our critical oversight function. Therefore, I recommend that you take appropriate disciplinary action against Ms. Ciccone.”
Chairman Engel, Chairman Cummings, and Ranking Member Menendez released the following statement:
“It is outrageous that a senior Department of Homeland Security official has not complied with requests of the Inspectors General of the Departments of State and Homeland Security. We strongly support the call for appropriate disciplinary action against the official, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Christine Ciccone.Targeting of career government employees at the State Department, US Agency for International Development or any federal agency is unacceptable, and it is imperative that this kind of behavior not be tolerated. We ask that Secretary Nielsen report back to our Committees by Friday to update us on how the Department is ensuring that Ms. Ciccone upholds her responsibility to cooperate with the Inspector General’s review.”
- Multiple whistleblowers have contacted our Committees to call attention to allegations of politically-motivated personnel actions during Ms. Ciccone’s tenure as Deputy Chief of Staff at the State Department. Chairman Cummings, Chairman Engel, and Ranking Member Menendez reported these practices to State OIG in multiple letters in 2018, as well as in letters to and hearings with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
- State OIG opened a review of politically-motivated personnel practices in response to congressional requests.
- During the pendency of the Inspector General’s review, Ms. Ciccone left the State Department to join the Department of Homeland Security as the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs. Though she left her position at the State Department, she remains in federal service and is obligated to cooperate with the Inspector General’s inquiry, per the terms of her home agency’s management directive requiring that all agency employees fully cooperate with OIG reviews.
- On February 11, 2019, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the House Oversight Committee, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee received a briefing from State OIG regarding Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to submit to State OIG’s interview requests. State OIG stated that it was in possession of documentary evidence demonstrating Ms. Ciccone’s involvement in personnel actions against at least three career employees, but was unable to complete its review without Ms. Ciccone’s interview. State OIG noted that given her senior position, Ms. Ciccone’s refusal to submit to an interview was “unprecedented.”