Though the watchdog discovered that the State Division had acted inside its “broad discretion” to rescind the award from Jessikka Aro, it additionally discovered that the division lied to Congress and the press to elucidate why it had achieved so.
Aro, a Finnish investigative journalist with a historical past of breaking tales on Russian propaganda efforts, had been slated to obtain an Worldwide Ladies of Braveness (IWOC) Award in March 2019 when abruptly and with out clarification the dignity was rescinded.
Nevertheless, the 16-page OIG report discovered that Aro’s social media posts have been the one motive her award was rescinded.
“Certainly, each particular person OIG interviewed in reference to this matter acknowledged that had (the Secretary’s Workplace of International Ladies’s Points) not highlighted her social media posts as problematic, Ms. Aro would have acquired the IWOC Award,” it states.
Requested in regards to the findings of the report, Aro instructed CNN Friday, “In my coronary heart I really feel like a world girl of braveness. That the Trump administration cannot take away from me.”
The discharge of the report comes greater than a yr after a bunch of Democratic senators on the Senate International Relations Committee requested an OIG probe into the circumstances of Aro’s award being revoked.
Sen. Bob Menendez, the rating member on the committee, mentioned in an announcement Friday that the “State Division owes Ms. Aro an apology.”
The report launched Friday particulars conversations between State Division officers on the revocation of the award after the Secretary’s Workplace of International Ladies’s Points “found dozens of Twitter and Fb posts by Ms. Aro that it thought of controversial, a few of which have been crucial of the present President.” Based on the exchanges documented within the report, sure officers feared that the posts may trigger a humiliation to the division. US Ambassador to Finland Robert Pence “said that, though he appreciated Ms. Aro’s work, the danger of embarrassment to the First Girl and the Division was too nice to have her seem on stage on the awards ceremony.”
After an trade between the appearing director of the Workplace of International Ladies’s Points and the deputy chief of mission, wherein the latter defended Aro, the workplace nonetheless drafted a memo stating that they have been “unable to maneuver ahead with presenting an IWOC Award to Ms. Aro as a result of she had not been ‘totally vetted’ and had a ‘historical past of inflammatory tweets, concentrating on US management and the Administration in a selected manner.’ It additional famous that the “recognized disconcerting social media content material may result in probably embarrassing media protection for the Division and the First Girl together with the opposite awardees.'”
‘Misled the general public and Congress’
Furthermore, the report discovered that the State Division had offered false info to the press and Congress to elucidate why the award had been rescinded.
Officers from the division’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs “instructed OIG that they disagreed with the language within the speaking factors and press statements suggesting that Ms. Aro was incorrectly notified and was not an awardee,” the report says.
In a briefing with the Senate International Relations Committee in March 2019, the appearing director of the Workplace of International Ladies’s Points mentioned “not likely” when requested if Aro’s social media posts performed a job within the division’s determination and the ambassador claimed he was not “fearful” about Aro’s social media posts.
The “Division’s statements throughout this briefing don’t align with the inner discussions that occurred on the time the choice was made to rescind Ms. Aro’s choice. OIG discovered no documentary proof to corroborate the Division’s claims through the briefing with congressional workers,” the report states. “Additionally, Division officers from (the Secretary’s Workplace of International Ladies’s Points), (the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs), and Embassy Helsinki all instructed OIG that, had Ms. Aro’s social media content material not come to gentle, she would have acquired the award.”
Menendez mentioned in his assertion Friday that the report “confirmed that Secretary Pompeo’s Division misled the general public and Congress about why it rescinded Ms. Aro’s award, protecting up that her social media posts have been the explanation the award was withdrawn. The Trump administration additionally drafted speaking factors that falsely said Ms. Aro had by no means been chosen as a recipient.”
“Secretary Pompeo ought to have honored a brave journalist keen to face as much as Kremlin propaganda. As an alternative, his division sought to stifle dissent to keep away from upsetting a President who, day after day, tries to take pages out of Putin’s playbook,” the New Jersey Democrat mentioned.