A newly released Department of State inspector general's report praised the performance of U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson, despite extensive complaints from Democrats concerning Johnson's conduct.
Reviewing the operations of the U.S. embassy in London, the IG report gave Johnson high marks for his implementation and understanding of the administration's policy toward the United Kingdom, which includes protecting American influence and shared national security through the two countries' "special relationship" as the United Kingdom separates from the European Union.
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"At the time of the inspection, OIG interviews indicated that both the Ambassador and the DCM modeled … attributes of strategic planning and decisiveness," the report reads. "The Ambassador effectively engaged with the U.K. Government, from small, focused meetings with British officials to public remarks made to large groups."
While the report offers praise for Johnson's work moving toward these ends, it also notes the ongoing and inconclusive nature of concerns lodged against Johnson's conduct. Multiple complaints have been made about "inappropriate or insensitive comments" made by Johnson. The report did not cite specific instances of said comments.
The report, however, does emphasize an improved workplace culture in the embassy after Johnson brought on a new deputy chief of mission (DCM). "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," the report reads.
Previous DCM Lew Lukens had a difficult working relationship with Johnson and was ultimately fired after praising President Barack Obama in a speech. Lukens was a close associate of former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and as of late July was the sole publicly identified source of conduct complaints surrounding Ambassador Johnson, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
The complaints against Johnson were featured in a report from Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) in late July, which one defense expert told the Free Beacon misrepresented claims about the current state of personnel within Mike Pompeo's Department of State.
The IG report concluded that an additional audit of Johnson's behavior is warranted to close the case on the allegations. Johnson responded forcefully to the motion to extend the investigation.
"During my tenure as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom and indeed for the entirety of my professional life, I have respected both the law and the spirit of EEO principles and have ensured that all employees under my direction do the same," Johnson wrote.
"If I have unintentionally offended anyone in the execution of my duties, I deeply regret that, but I do not accept that I have treated employees with disrespect or discriminated in any way. My objective is to lead the highly talented team at Mission UK to execute the President’s policies and to do so in a way that is respectful of our differences, with zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind," he added.
In recent months, the Anglo-American relationship has become all the more important to American grand strategy as Washington assembles a coalition of democracies to counter China.
The United Kingdom has been one of the most responsive nations to Washington’s foreign policy vision. Following the United States' lead, the United Kingdom closed off its 5G networks to Huawei. In Parliament, the newly formed China Research Group has emerged as an ascendant conservative movement aimed toward countering Beijing’s global influence.
The relationship also stands to offer economic ends. As Washington considers reducing its economic dependence on China, Johnson and others are spearheading an effort to organize a new free trade agreement with London.