Trump Appointee Compiles Loyalty List of U.S. Employees at U.N., State
Mari Stull’s arrival at the State Department’s International Organization Bureau is triggering an exodus of top career staffers.
A senior advisor to the State Department appointed just two months ago has been quietly vetting career diplomats and American employees of international institutions to determine whether they are loyal to President Donald Trump and his political agenda, according to nearly a dozen current and former U.S. officials.
Mari Stull, a former food and beverage lobbyist-turned-wine blogger under the name “Vino Vixen,” has reviewed the social media pages of State Department staffers for signs of ideological deviation. She has researched the names of government officials to determine whether they signed off on Obama-era policies — though signing off does not mean officials personally endorsed them but merely cleared them through the bureaucratic chain. And she has inquired about Americans employed by international agencies, including the World Health Organization and the United Nations, asking their colleagues when they were hired and by whom, according the officials.
“She is actively making lists and gathering intel,” said one of the sources, a senior diplomat. Stull was named in April as a senior advisor to the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which manages U.S. diplomatic relations with the United Nations and other international institutions.
Her probing, along with a highly secretive management style, has become so uncomfortable that at least three senior officials are poised to leave the bureau, according to the sources. Officials there have warned some Americans employed by the U.N. to sidestep traditional meet-and-greet sessions with the department’s upper management to avoid drawing attention to themselves.
“She is gunning for American citizens in the U.N. to see if they are toeing the line,” the diplomatic source added.
Stull seems to have the support of her boss, Kevin Moley, who was appointed by the White House in January to head the bureau with the title of assistant secretary of state for international organizational affairs.
Stull cheered his appointment on Twitter at the time, proclaiming the “Global swamp will be drained.”
But over time, she has emerged as the most dominant force in the department. One diplomat said she seemed to outrank Moley in influence.
It remains unclear whether Stull’s activities have the backing of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and key policymakers in the White House, or whether she has taken the initiative on her own. But her brief tenure has alarmed colleagues at the State Department.
Three deputy assistant secretaries of state in the bureau, Molly Phee, the bureau’s principal deputy, Erin Barclay, and Nerissa Cook, are said to be on the way out — though some may simply move to other bureaus at State.
“Everyone is looking to bail,” said one State Department official.
Other officials said Moley and Stull have impeded the bureau’s day-to-day work by keeping career officials out of some meetings with foreign counterparts, a break from accepted practice, and refraining from briefing them on the outcomes.
Officials have resorted in some cases to asking foreign government officials about the results of the meetings with their own bosses.
Stull also requires that every directive issued by the office be reviewed by her first, causing a bureaucratic bottleneck and even stalling issues that appear to be priorities of the White House.
According to two officials, she has stripped all references to “international law” and “international order” from action items and memos coming from the international organization bureau.
“I don’t know if she thinks international law doesn’t exist if they just take out any reference to it, but that’s not really how things work,” one of the officials familiar with the matter said.
“I have in my entire federal career never experienced anything at this level of chaos and dysfunction.”
A State Department spokesperson did not respond to the specific claims in this article but said that Moley and Stull “are committed to President Trump’s vision of strong American leadership on the world stage, and the mission of of the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, which is charged with advancing U.S. national interest by engaging with the United Nations and other international agencies and organizations.”
“Secretary Pompeo has shown his full support for career staff at the State Department and at the Central Intelligence Agency,” the spokesperson added. “Political retribution of any kind will not be tolerated and we take these allegations very seriously.”
The Trump administration has nominated political appointees for top jobs at key U.N. agencies, including the World Food Programme and UNICEF. But previous administrations have also named loyalists to these organizations.
Two of the highest-profile new U.N. hires, Rosemary DiCarlo, the U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, and Shireen Dodson, a former State Department ombudsperson who was recently appointed to a similar job at the United Nations, are not considered Trump insiders.
But while there’s no evidence that administration officials have purged American diplomats at the United Nations, they do seem to be more interested than previous ones in the political sympathies of lower-ranking U.S. employees there.
The turmoil comes at a time when the secretary is trying boost morale at the State Department, which took a sharp plunge under his predecessor, Rex Tillerson. The exodus in the international organization bureau underscores the continuing struggles of career diplomats in an administration whose president has repeatedly shown disdain for traditional American diplomacy.
Stull was largely unknown in diplomatic circles in Washington until her appointment in April. Her bio cites her work as a lobbyist in the food and beverage industry, which included work for the Grocery Manufacturers of America. More recently, she served as a senior fellow at American Opportunity, a Virginia-based conservative group affiliated with former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore.
She also previously worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization as a partnerships and outreach advisor. But several diplomatic sources said that she left the organization on contentious terms.
Stull’s conservative politics can be gleaned from her decade-old wine blog, where one trip to the wine store for bottles of Veuve Clicquot champagne became a vehicle for knocking former President Jimmy Carter and promoting the expansion of oil drilling sites in the United States.
On her Twitter feed, Stull has criticized the U.N. as “bloated” and “biased,” dismissed the U.N. Human Rights Council as an “abject failure,” and derided UNESCO, the organization that supports international education, culture, and history, as the U.N.’s “seedy underbelly.”
She has also said the budget for special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election would be better spent on storm victims in Texas and Florida.
In response to a tweet by former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, a controversial law enforcement figure and high-profile Trump supporter, promising to poke the press “in the eye with a sharp stick and bitch slap these scum bags til they get it,” Stull replied: “@SheriffClarke has spoken. #StandDown #FakeNews #Fierce.”
Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. @columlynch