Home/Daniel Larison/Hook’s Outrageous Mistreatment of Sahar Nowrouzzadeh

Hook’s Outrageous Mistreatment of Sahar Nowrouzzadeh

The State Department (Wikimedia Commons)

Nahal Toosi reports that the State Department’s Inspector General has concluded that Trump appointees engaged in political retaliation against Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career civil servant in the department:

President Donald Trump’s political appointees inappropriately retaliated against a career civil servant at the State Department in part because of her ethnic background, her perceived political views, and the fact that she was in government during prior administrations, a federal watchdog says.

In a report to be released publicly later this week, State Department Inspector General Steve Linick recommends that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo consider disciplining officials found to have violated policies that require they use merit-based factors in determining where to place career staffers.

Nowrouzzadeh was targeted for political retaliation because she is Iranian-American, supported the nuclear deal, and had served during the previous administration. It has been known for some time that Brian Hook, now the head of Trump’s Iran Action Group, was believed to be responsible for orchestrating the retaliation against her, and the final IG report confirms that.

Erin Banco and Spencer Ackerman also reported on the story yesterday:

The IG’s office picked up the investigation into Hook and other State Department officials for their perceived political retaliations after multiple whistleblowers approached lawmakers on the Hill about their experiences working on the policy planning team under Hook.

Nowrouzzadeh’s mistreatment is a troubling example of how Trump appointees go after career professionals in the civil service for reasons that have nothing to do with how they are doing their jobs. In this case, it was driven in part by overt prejudice against Nowrouzzadeh because of her Iranian heritage. The campaign against her was fueled by online smear attacks that were then amplified by Trump appointees in the government. Toosi’s report continues:

Nowrouzzadeh had worked on the Iran nuclear deal under former President Barack Obama. In early 2017, she was the target of several articles on conservative websites that claimed she’d “burrowed” into the Trump administration and questioned whether she was an agent of Iran’s Islamist regime.

As POLITICO has previously reported and as the inspector general documented, the articles were shared by several Trump administration political appointees as well as some career staffers.

Amid the many email exchanges, including some that included Hook, the various officials questioned whether they could remove Nowrouzzadeh from Policy Planning, where she dealt with Middle East issues.

One official, Julia Haller, claimed falsely in an email that Nowrouzzadeh was born in Iran; she also alleged that Nowrouzzadeh had cried when Trump won the presidency.

It would be bad enough to target a career civil servant for political reasons, but to use her ethnicity to question her loyalty to the country is an especially despicable and ugly tactic. All of the officials involved in this should be disciplined at the very least, and as the senior official involved Hook should be fired. This retaliation took place under the previous Secretary of State, but Pompeo has shown no willingness to defend the people in his department from these kinds of political attacks. It would be disgraceful if Hook didn’t pay some price for this outrageous behavior, but I expect Pompeo will do nothing.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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