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Top Europe Diplomat Snatches Hill Aide as Senior Advisor

Victoria Nuland, America’s top diplomat for Europe, has tapped an experienced Capitol Hill staffer as her new senior adviser, officials tell Foreign Policy.

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 12:  A sign stand outside the U.S. State Department September 12, 2012 in Washington, DC. U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 12: A sign stand outside the U.S. State Department September 12, 2012 in Washington, DC. U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 12: A sign stand outside the U.S. State Department September 12, 2012 in Washington, DC. U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Victoria Nuland, America’s top diplomat for Europe, has tapped an experienced Capitol Hill staffer as her new senior adviser, officials tell Foreign Policy.

Naz Durakoglu, a Turkish-American who previously served as legislative director for Rep. William Keating (D-Mass.), will put in her last day on the Hill on Friday before assuming her job under Nuland. She replaces Nuland’s aide Tyson Barker, an extremely well-liked Europe hand who is said to have left the job for personal reasons.

Plenty of Hill staffers would relish the chance to escape the staid halls of Congress for a front-row seat to the diplomatic hot zones in Europe, especially given the protracted crisis in Ukraine. But during her seven years as a congressional aide, Durakoglu saw her share of adventure as well.

Victoria Nuland, America’s top diplomat for Europe, has tapped an experienced Capitol Hill staffer as her new senior adviser, officials tell Foreign Policy.

Naz Durakoglu, a Turkish-American who previously served as legislative director for Rep. William Keating (D-Mass.), will put in her last day on the Hill on Friday before assuming her job under Nuland. She replaces Nuland’s aide Tyson Barker, an extremely well-liked Europe hand who is said to have left the job for personal reasons.

Plenty of Hill staffers would relish the chance to escape the staid halls of Congress for a front-row seat to the diplomatic hot zones in Europe, especially given the protracted crisis in Ukraine. But during her seven years as a congressional aide, Durakoglu saw her share of adventure as well.

In her duties as staff director for the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade, she traveled to Russia three times, including two trips investigating the roots of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.

One of those trips, a now-infamous excursion in 2013, relied on washed-up action movie star Steven Seagal as a fixer, thanks to his friendship with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who organized the excursion..

Seagal is well-connected in Russia and, as his film career has waned, has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials on multiple occasions. According to a detailed investigation by BuzzFeed, Seagal sat in on a number of delegation meetings with senior Federal Security Service (FSB) officials, to the dismay the Hill staffers on the 2013 trip. He also attended a “weird, emotional dinner” with Dimitry Rogozin, Russia’s deputy prime minister. Other unusual incidents reportedly occurred on the codel, including a request by Iowa conservative Rep. Steve King to have someone arrange for a “Chinese masseuse” to visit his room.

The State Department may be a welcome change for Durakoglu.

In her new role as senior advisor to the assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, Durakoglu is expected to assist Nuland with speech-writing and other day-to-day issues.

“We are delighted we were able to lure her into the executive branch,” Nuland told Foreign Policy in an e-mail on Friday. “I had calls from members on both sides of the aisle singing her praises. Luckily, we can’t call this congressional pressure because I had already decided to hire her!”

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