The State Department found no records of any so-called “loyalty list,” despite anonymous State Department officials claiming to media that a senior President Trump appointee had made them.
On October 29, 2018, the State Department’s Bureau of Human Resources on October 29, 2018, sent a letter to MuckRock, an agency that assists journalists with filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, that stated:
“Please be advised that a search has been conducted in the Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Records and Information Management and no responsive records subject to the FOIA were located,” it said.
The response was available on MuckRock’s website, but until now, has not been reported. MuckRock does not appear to have appealed the finding.
Despite the finding in October, media outlets have continued to repeat the allegation that the Trump appointee, Mari Stull, had created the lists.
A Foreign Policy piece on January 15, 2019, said, “Trump Appointee Who Compiled Loyalty List at U.N. and State Steps Down.”
The claim that Stull was making loyalty lists originated last June with an anonymous “senior diplomat,” who told Foreign Policy that Stull was “actively making lists and gathering intel” on career diplomats and Americans working at the United Nations and other international organizations, using information from their social media accounts.
The piece called Stull as a “wine blogger” despite her decades of working in international regulatory policy, including for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The smear stemmed from Stull being a syndicated wine columnist.
MuckRock filed its FOIA request on June 13, 2018, the same day that Foreign Policy published its piece on Stull, alleging she had made such lists.
MuckRock requested “lists” and “notes” related to Stull’s “efforts described in various news reports on June 13, 2018,” according to the FOIA. It also requested “any e-mail messages” from Stull’s State Department e-mail account containing the words “loyal,” “loyalty,” “Facebook,” “Twitter,” or “Linkedin.”
The requester was Matthew Hoppock, an immigration lawyer who has filed dozens of FOIAs via MuckRock.
As part of the FOIA request, Stull’s computer, desk, and office were searched for three days, a source familiar with the situation said. The State Department’s technology specialists later found that “total remote access” had been set up on her work computer.
Stull was appointed in April 2018 as senior adviser at the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO). She was only one of two senior Trump appointees in the roughly 500-employee bureau. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson infamously hired so few Trump appointees during his tenure that senior career diplomats often filled appointee roles.
By mid-May, senior career diplomats within the IO bureau were plotting to get her out, according to one civil servant.
The career diplomats went as far as hosting a lunch with other employees in the IO Bureau while Stull was traveling overseas to solicit comments about her from other officials, as Breitbart News exclusively reported.
The lunch came just weeks before Foreign Policy’s first piece on Stull. The civil servant, who participated in the meeting, told Breitbart News the career diplomats who called the lunch were Erin Barclay and Molly Phee.
Both Barclay and Phee were mentioned in Foreign Policy’s first hit piece on Stull, in addition to another senior official, Nerissa Cook. Barclay and Phee have left the IO Bureau, but Cook is still there.
The allegation that Stull had created loyalty lists was just one of several anonymous accusations. She was also accused of making “homophobic” slurs and creating a “hostile” work environment.
Prompted by senior Democrats in Congress who cited the media reports, the State Department Office of Inspector General and the Office of General Counsel opened investigations into Stull.
The existence of the investigations was then leaked to the media despite long-standing policy not to confirm the existence of investigations into personnel.
At the same time, another group started by former Obama State Department lawyers and political appointees also began targeting Stull.
The group, called American Oversight, was founded by Austin Evers, the former senior counsel in the State Department for oversight and transparency matters. The group began investigating “loyalty tests and retaliation” at government agencies since February 2018 — before Stull was ever hired at State.
“From the very beginning of the presidency, it has been clear that President Trump values loyalty over qualifications and experience,” the group said on its website.
“Following reports that the administration is assessing the political views of career government employees and attempting to purge those perceived to be ‘disloyal,’ American Oversight is investigating how often this is occurring at federal agencies,” it said.
The group also made several FOIA requests on June 21, 2018, for Stull’s communications, calendars, emails, and Internet search history related to “her review of State employees’ social media pages for ideological deviation.”
The group also requested communications for United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Stull’s boss, Kevin Moley, assistant secretary of state for International Organization Affairs, as well as communications containing the words “loyal” and “loyalty.”
The group filed its first FOIA relating to “loyalty pledges” on February 6, 2018, seeking records from the Department of Health and Human Services. It also requested records from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
On November 7, the group sued the State Department for failing to respond to its FOIA requests. The lawsuit is part of its “Parallel Investigations Initiative,” which is meant to mirror requests that Democrats in Congress will likely make, as they investigate the administration.
Although Stull left the State Department on January 11 and accepted a new position outside of government, the hits in the media against her have not ceased.
On January 12, CNN reported that Phee’s nomination to become the ambassador of Qatar had expired and that former Rep. Scott Taylor (R-VA) would be nominated, instead, according to “multiple sources.”
“Phee was one of several career officials driven out of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs by Trump political appointee Mari Stull, who allegedly led a quiet campaign of vetting career diplomats for ‘disloyalty,’” CNN wrote.
On January 28, Foreign Policy ran another piece hitting Stull, titled “The U.S. Sought to Derail Michelle Bachelet’s Bid for Top U.N. Human Rights Job.”
On Tuesday, Stull was mentioned again in a Foreign Policy piece hitting the Trump administration and Republican senators’ opposition to a U.N. body in Guatemala they view as corrupt.
Stull supporters believe her real crime is that she was a Trump appointee who wanted to implement Trump’s agenda at an influential bureau tasked with making sure the administration’s agenda is represented at the many international organizations the U.S. participates in and mostly funds.
They believe that what particularly upset career officials was Stull’s advocacy for the Trump administration’s pro-life stance, given the amount of U.S. funding for abortions worldwide.
“Mari Stull was and is a warrior for the true Trump doctrine and fought to advance his agenda every day. For that she paid a price. She was targeted by deep state career [officials] and those who want to thwart Trump at every turn,” said Rob Wasinger, former White House liaison to the State Department.
Susan Yoshihara, senior vice president at the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-Fam) and director of the International Organizations Research Group in New York, said most career officials are good public servants who “know that with the election comes a new viewpoint on how to promote our interests.”
But, she said, there are “some bad actors” in the civil service who put their personal politics over the nation.
“This is part of the ‘resist’ movement. These are the darlings of the left who use their rank, influence, and sadly their access to sensitive information, to advance their own egos and agenda,” said Yoshihara, a retired U.S. Navy commander, who is well-connected within the international organization community and the State Department.
“It’s obvious that all that talk about the so-called secret loyalty list was pretense. If the leaks had really been about protecting people [at the State Department], it would have stopped when Ms. Stull left. Instead, the vicious attacks continue,” she said.
“This is a punitive campaign designed to intimidate other appointees. They’ve already named others in these stories as a shot across their bow. The leaks and reprisals are a warning: ‘If you try to enact the president’s agenda, you’re next. We’ll come after you and your family. We have no shame.’”