Deep state actors are again making moves against President Donald Trump, this time coming after the president through a line of attack against U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson.
Johnson’s former civil service deputy, Lewis Lukens, who served as the acting ambassador until Johnson was confirmed, has made a number of unsubstantiated allegations against Johnson — and Trump — that even the British government has denied. Nonetheless, expect Lukens — whose history at the State Department is riddled with a history of problems, including his role in helping create former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s email server setup — to be a new star to the Democrats as they move, sources familiar with the matter told Breitbart News, to bring Lukens in for a committee hearing on whatever grievances he has to air against the Trump administration. House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) has also called on Johnson to testify before his committee about media reports that Lukens has been at the center of in recent weeks.
The story really starts at the beginning of former President Barack Obama’s administration when Lukens was involved in the lead-up to Clinton’s confirmation as Secretary of State by helping set up her email server.
A May 2016 report from the Washington Examiner noted that Lukens was deposed by Judicial Watch — the first Clinton official to be deposed in the lawsuit over Clinton’s emails from the conservative group — on May 18, 2016.
“Lewis Lukens, former executive secretary at the State Department, was deposed by Judicial Watch on May 18 for his role in setting up office space and making other logistical arrangements ahead of Clinton’s transition to the agency in 2009,” Sarah Westwood wrote in the Examiner on May 26, 2016. “Lukens said he did not believe the State Department ever provided Clinton with a computer for her office, while the agency did assign former Secretary of State Colin Powell a computer. Clinton has often cited Powell’s occasional use of private email as evidence that her digital communications were similar to her predecessors’.”
Lukens had joined the foreign service in 1989 and served in a variety of roles in different places around the globe. His role from 2008 to 2011 as the Executive Secretariat at the State Department put him in direct proximity to Clinton, the woman who would later become the 2016 Democrat presidential nominee and who many on the left thought would be president.
After his time working directly in Clinton’s orbit for several years, Lukens was rewarded with the post of U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, small countries in West Africa. After serving as ambassador there for three years — from 2011 to 2014 — he was again rewarded with a plum post in London as Deputy Chief of Mission in the U.S. Embassy to the United Kingdom from August 2016 to early 2019. It would have been an easy move for Clinton, had she won the election, to elevate her former close aide from the State Department to be the full-time U.S. Ambassador to the U.K., but Clinton lost — and the broader international global left also lost in the U.K. in 2016 when British voters backed leaving the European Union. Both Brexit in the U.K. and Trump’s election in the U.S. upended those plans, allowing Trump to nominate his political ally Johnson to the coveted ambassadorship to one of America’s strongest and oldest allies.
In the meantime, after Trump won and before Johnson was confirmed to the role of ambassador by the U.S. Senate, Lukens served as acting U.S. Ambassador in the U.K. and regularly butted heads with Trump. Lukens, for instance, tweeted support — as acting ambassador — for London Mayor Sadiq Khan when Trump was criticizing his handling of a terrorist attack. Trump had been criticizing Khan’s handling of the attack on Twitter when Lukens decided to undercut the administration for which he was supposed to be serving as an acting ambassador and instead sent out a formal statement of support for Khan, saying, “I commend the strong leadership” of Khan.
Once Johnson, a billionaire Trump ally, co-owner of the New York Jets, and heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune, was confirmed by the Senate to be the full-time U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. in August 2017, Lukens did not leave the government but instead stayed in the embassy in London.
During the time in which he stayed — which is normal for most career foreign service officials but for someone as politically connected to Clinton as Lukens was seemed slightly odd — Lukens appears to have been attempting to undercut Trump and Johnson from the get-go.
He waited, gathered information, and then made a move in the past few months to come after Trump and Johnson with everything he could. It started with a New York Times story in July in which Lukens claimed that Johnson was told to try to pressure British government officials to secure the British Open at Trump’s Scotland golf course, Turnberry.
Maggie Hagerman, Lara Jakes, and Mark Landler wrote in the Times story in mid-July:
The American ambassador to Britain, Robert Wood Johnson IV, told multiple colleagues in February 2018 that President Trump had asked him to see if the British government could help steer the world-famous and lucrative British Open golf tournament to the Trump Turnberry resort in Scotland, according to three people with knowledge of the episode.
The ambassador’s deputy, Lewis A. Lukens, advised him not to do it, warning that it would be an unethical use of the presidency for private gain, these people said. But Mr. Johnson apparently felt pressured to try. A few weeks later, he raised the idea of Turnberry playing host to the Open with the secretary of state for Scotland, David Mundell.
In a brief interview last week, Mr. Mundell said it was “inappropriate” for him to discuss his dealings with Mr. Johnson and referred to a British government statement that said Mr. Johnson “made no request of Mr. Mundell regarding the British Open or any other sporting event.” The statement did not address whether the ambassador had broached the issue of Turnberry, which Mr. Trump bought in 2014, but none of the next four Opens are scheduled to be played there.
Still, the episode left Mr. Lukens and other diplomats deeply unsettled. Mr. Lukens, who served as the acting ambassador before Mr. Johnson arrived in November 2017, emailed officials at the State Department to tell them what had happened, colleagues said. A few months later, Mr. Johnson forced out Mr. Lukens, a career diplomat who had earlier served as ambassador to Senegal, shortly before his term was to end.
Both Trump himself and the British government have denied this all together. “No, I never spoke to Woody Johnson about that, about Turnberry,” Trump said at a press conference the next day in response to the Times story. “Turnberry is a highly respected course, as you know, one of the best in the world, and I read a story about it today. I never spoke to Woody Johnson about doing that, no.”
The British government’s Scotland Office said in a statement, too, that Johnson never made such a request. “Johnson made no request of [the official] regarding the British Open or any other sporting event,” the formal British government statement said.
Meanwhile, a CNN report released right around the time of that original New York Times story claimed that Johnson was under investigation by the State Department Inspector General for the alleged Turnberry incident that all sides deny and for alleged racist and sexist comments that he denies having made.
A couple of weeks later in early August, Lukens made an appearance on Rachel Maddow’s program on MSNBC for an interview she aggressively hyped as an “interview I’ve been looking forward to for a very long time.”
Here is Part 1 of Rachel Maddow's remarkable interview tonight with Lewis Lukens, former Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in London. pic.twitter.com/UXi7en2vcP
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) August 6, 2020
“I did not know that we were going to be able to get it, and when I found out we got it — I, anyway, I feel honored to have this interview tonight and I hope that you will watch it,” Maddow said as she brought on Lukens.
During the interview, he made basically the same claims that were made in the establishment media reports — even saying that the media reports were correct. In the second part of the interview, Maddow alleged there has been “a cover-up effort trying to keep this scandal from coming to light,” and asked Lukens if he knew for a fact if the Inspector General for the State Department was investigating it. He replied that the Inspector General’s team was there in London last October for several weeks. He said that while he did not speak with investigators, “this issue was raised with them as well as several other allegations as CNN and others have reported on.” Lukens claimed it was odd that a report from the Inspector General had not been released publicly yet, almost a year later, but that he was unsure if the delay was related to the termination of State Department Inspector General Steve Linick.
And here is Part 2 of Rachel Maddow's interview tonight with Amb. Lewis Lukens pic.twitter.com/oTFNO7rgdD
— Maddow Blog (@MaddowBlog) August 6, 2020
A week after Lukens’ appearance on Maddow, the State Department Inspector General published the report. It turns out the report was not a formal investigation but a routine inspection of the embassy. As is standard practice, every few years the Inspector General does a scheduled inspection of every embassy. The report makes no mention of the now-denied-by-everybody alleged Turnberry request incident, and as for allegations that Johnson made sexist or racist comments, the report is fairly dismissive of that allegation in general.
What the report does make clear is Lukens’ ineffectiveness and that his replacement as Deputy Chief of Mission — Yael Lempert — is much more effective.
“When the Ambassador arrived at Embassy London in late summer 2017, he assumed responsibility from the previous DCM who had served as Chargé d’Affaires for approximately 7 months,” the Inspector General wrote. “OIG learned that the relationship between the Ambassador and the former DCM deteriorated during the year that they worked together, affecting mission morale and ending in the DCM’s reassignment. Based on interviews with embassy staff, OIG concluded that the Ambassador did not always model the Department’s leadership and management principles as contained in 3 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 1214 and, in particular, 3 FAM 1214b(4) and (6) regarding communication and self-awareness. For example, some embassy staff told OIG that when the Ambassador was frustrated with what he interpreted to be excessive staff caution or resistance to suggestions about which he felt strongly, he sometimes questioned their intentions or implied that he might have them replaced. This caused staff to grow wary of providing him with their best judgment. With the arrival of the current DCM, chosen by the Ambassador, staff generally reported to OIG that they saw better communication from the Front Office and an increased confidence from the Ambassador in the mission’s staff.”
It did say, regarding the allegations, that CNN reported the Department of State should conduct a “more thorough review” but that nothing rose to the level of warranting immediate or decisive action.
“OIG also found that some staff were impacted by the Ambassador’s demanding, hard driving work style and it had a negative effect on morale in some embassy sections,” the Inspector General wrote. “In addition, OIG learned, through employee questionnaires and interviews, that the ambassador sometimes made inappropriate or insensitive comments on topics generally considered Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)-sensitive, such as religion, sex, or color. According to 3 FAM 1526.1, offensive or derogatory comments, based on an individual’s race, color, sex, or religion, can create an offensive working environment and could potentially rise to a violation of EEO laws. Based on the information that OIG learned during the inspection, and pursuant to the requirements in 3 FAM 1526.2, a more thorough review by the Department is warranted.”
All of these allegations against Johnson and Trump collapsing is why the most interesting part of Maddow’s interview with Lukens was perhaps not what Lukens said but the fact that Maddow identified his current position as a senior partner at Signum Global Advisers now that he has left the government.
In late July, the Washington Free Beacon’s Andrew Stiles wrote a piece about Lukens that exposed the fact that Signum is deeply connected to high levels of the Democrat Party.
“Following his dismissal from the U.S. Embassy in London, Lukens became a senior partner at Signum Global Advisors,” Stiles wrote. “The consulting firm’s founder, investment banker Charles Myers, is a longtime Democratic donor who advised Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign in 2016 and is currently a bundler for the Biden Victory Fund. Myers recently expressed confidence that Biden’s efforts to court Bernie Sanders supporters would not stop a Biden administration from nominating Wall Street executives to senior cabinet positions. Last month, Lukens and Myers coauthored a note to Signum’s clients predicting that Democrats would regain control of the Senate in 2021.”