Career State Department staff are leaking to friends in the press and House Democrats to undermine a Trump appointee who is a staunch supporter of the president and his agenda, according to two sources familiar with the situation.
Mari Stull was appointed in April as senior adviser at the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, a key bureau that oversees U.S. diplomatic relations with international organizations like the United Nations and the World Food Programme.
Recently, Foreign Policy published a hit piece on Stull, citing “nearly a dozen current and former U.S. officials,” who accused her of putting together a “loyalty list” of State Department employees and searching their social media accounts to see if they are loyal to the president.
The piece, in an apparent attempt to discredit her, called her a “former food and beverage lobbyist-turned-wine blogger under the name ‘Vino Vixen.'”
Shortly after the article published, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing the article and saying they were “alarmed” and that it matched “many reports” they have received alleging political attacks on career employees.
The sources tell Breitbart News the exact opposite is going on — career employees who are resisting Trump’s agenda are trying to attack Stull because she is a Trump supporter who wants to implement his policies.
They said the accusation she is putting together a “loyalty list” is “baseless” and a defamation of her character.
They said Stull, as part of her job, has been reviewing what positions at the UN and at international organizations need to be filled and can be appointed by the president — a normal occurrence for every new administration.
They said Stull has committed to making sure those organizations have enough U.S. representatives — something that members of Congress have expressed concern about and have required a report on for years.
The last report to Congress on U.S. Citizens in the UN System and International Organizations showed that in 2016, all five international organizations studied — including the UN Secretariat — failed to fill all the slots allotted for Americans, and only two of them “took sufficient good faith steps” to increase U.S. citizen staffing.
And contrary to the accusation she is vetting employees based on loyalty to Trump, shortly after Stull was appointed in April, she recommended a female human rights lawyer for a senior position at the UN who is a registered Democrat.
The woman was also under consideration for a post in the Obama administration and was recommended by Democratic congressman Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC). In fact, she is the only American Stull has recommended so far for any position at the UN.
Brett Schaefer, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, said it is normal that Stull would be researching what positions need to be filled at the UN and other international organizations.
“This is not a Trump administration thing, this is a U.S.-policy going back to multiple administrations and also something that Congress is very concerned about, to make sure that U.S. persons are represented proportionately throughout the UN system and also in key positions to make sure that U.S. influence is exerted in those organizations,” he said.
The sources say the attack on Stull is part of a broader fight that has been brewing for months between career staff who are essentially running the department and resisting Trump’s agenda.
The Trump administration has appointed so few political appointees to top positions at the State Department that those positions are currently being filled by senior career staff who have been at the department for years.
A career staffer who supports Trump described the situation at the State Department as one in which career staff are simply ignoring the president and his policies, and even violating employee policy by posting their opposition on social media.
“If you see the social media accounts of State Department folks, especially foreign service officers, you will be shocked how open some are, sometimes barely disguising their objections,” the staffer said.
“If erstwhile wine blogger #vinovixen and administratoin sycophant #maristull is truly — as reported — compiling a list of Tr-mp disloyalists @StateDept from their social media posts, then she better add my name to the list.”
The sources said Stull is also being targeted because she is effective.
For example, she has been working to translate the Trump administration’s reinstatement of the “Mexico City Policy” — which prohibits using U.S. taxpayer funds on overseas abortions — into policy.
She also has a good relationship with the head of the bureau, fellow Trump appointee Amb. Kevin Moley, which has prompted fear and resentment.
Those who spoke to Foreign Policy complained that Stull’s “highly secretive management style” has grown so “uncomfortable” that at least three career officials are “poised” to leave the bureau and move to other ones at the State Department. The three officials are identified as Molly Phee, Erin Barclay, and Nerissa Cook.
Phee served as a former ambassador to South Sudan, nominated by former President Obama in 2014. Barclay has served as deputy assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs since 2015. Cook has served as deputy assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs since 2010.
Stull has strong support from the White House, according to a source close to officials serving there. And on Wednesday, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan blasting the attack.
In the letter, obtained by Breitbart News, he wrote:
I would like to request a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss the unwarranted attacks in the media, and leaks from career State Department officials, seeking to undermine the International Organization Bureau’s Senior Advisor, Mari Stull.
Ms. Stull has been a stellar addition to the State Department and remains faithful to the Trump Administration’s reform agenda. It is precisely because she is both loyal and effective that she is subject to such partisan attacks.
The Foreign Policy piece acknowledged that despite the accusations, “there’s no evidence that administration officials have purged American diplomats at the United Nations.” But, it added, “they do seem to be more interested than previous ones in the political sympathies of lower-ranking U.S. employees there.”
And although Foreign Policy described Stull as a “wine blogger,” according to Heavy.com, Stull is a syndicated wine columnist, a correspondent for Wine Taste TV, and a member of the Society of Wine Educators.
She is also “an expert in global regulatory, trade, and market access issues,” according to a 2000 press release issued when she became director of international regulatory policy at Grocery Manufacturers of America, the world’s largest association of food, beverage, and consumer product companies.
She also worked for five years at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture as coordinator for Caribbean Agribusiness Development, Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies, and was also the founder and executive director of the Caribbean Agribusiness Association: Trinidad and Tobago.
She also served as acting director of Regulatory and Procedural Development at the Federal Crop Insurance Corp., U.S. Department of Agriculture, from 1992-1994. Stull speaks Spanish and French, and earned a Bachelor of Science in agribusiness from Arizona State University.
Stull contacted Heavy.com after it published its article to add that she also volunteers for the USO. She told the website the Foreign Policy piece was “factually inaccurate and the author even admits to no evidence.”
“But, that doesn’t matter – it wasn’t supposed to be real news or factual. It’s a hit piece written in consort with leakers who want to malign this President and anyone associated with the Administration. And if they can destroy a woman’s reputation, so much the better,” she said.