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New documents raise questions over the State Dept. Move to lift the honor of the Trump critic



But internal communication reviewed by CNN shows that the state secretary and US embassy officials in Finland had been negotiating with Aro for several months and communicated with her about the prize, her travel documents, her travel plan in Washington and her bio, which had been approved of eight officials of the State Secretary.

So two weeks after an official asked her to list her social media accounts, the credit was suddenly abolished and the invitation to attend the event was canceled.

"That is the last step for us, so Washington wants everything they need," an ambassador in Helsinki said on February 8, email to Aro, asking for all your social media.

Democrats requesting a study

The documents were obtained by Democrats in the Senate's foreign relations, who have now written a letter to the state institute's inspector general to require an inquiry into allegations that the invitation was canceled due to Aros criticism of Trump, who calls the episode "disturbing".

"If the department lifted the prize due to statements made by a journalist exercising his right to freedom of expression, that would mean that the Department is using political fealty for the president as an eligibility criterion for receiving a state prize designed to accentuate , "said Bob Bobmenendez, top-panelist on the panel. "In addition, the misleading public and the congress on the true reasons behind its actions will damage the institution's reputation here in the United States and around the world and undermine the credibility of future press speech statements."

At a state department briefing on March 7, the prize for the prizes, Palladino was asked if Aros criticism of the president had cost her credit. He said he "would not be able to go further into weighing the benefits of who was selected, whether a person had more profit over the other."

  House lawmakers chide Pompeo for proposed budget cuts to the State Department

"But I can say we regret the mistake and we must do better in that respect, " he said.

In comments to CNN on Thursday, Palladino repeated that he would not "comment on the internal considerations behind the selection process", but acknowledged that "several errors were made leading to the wrong message."

Palladino said he was aware that some members of the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee had requested an inquiry from the inspector's office.

"As always, we will fully cooperate with any OIG study. We are already taking steps to ensure that this does not happen again, and we would like to offer further recommendations from OIG to improve our processes , "Palladino said.

The state OIG did not respond to a request for comment.

Aro told CNN on Thursday that she did not accept the Prime Minister's explanation that it was an "error".

"It was for me personally a totally surprising event to watch TV news in Finland and find the secretary of state's spreading false statements to the international press," she said in an email.

"In addition," the error "distinguishes the explanation from the US diplomats who had named and accepted me as an IWOC awardee, and who – in my knowledge – did not make mistakes in the process," she said.

Aro also suggested that the case be investigated to reveal whether her tweet's criticized Trump was the reason for the price being withdrawn.

  Diplomat turned the legislature press Pompeo:

"If a DC official used these or similar expressions of my freedom of speech as the main reason to lift my price, it unfortunately prevents the whole idea of ​​the International Women of Courage Award, which aims to promote human rights, such as freedom of expression, which was the basis of my appointment in the first place, "she told CNN.

Communications with Embassy officials in Helsinki began in October when an employee asked if she would accept a nomination for the prize. They continued in November followed by more than a dozen correspondents in January and February.

On February 8, an embassy authority requested all its social media handles, a request that Aro complied with. A spokesman for the state department said they asked all participants about their social media handles as part of their biographies.

On Twitter, Aro has repeatedly encountered fun and criticized Trump and even responded to a Trump tweet that attacked the media by saying: "The Kremlin does not need any troll factories as long as you troll on behalf of it! "

In the two weeks that followed February 8, email, the State Department continued to respond to Aro and prepare for her trip to the United States, according to the Senate Democrats' report. On February 20, the embassy informed Aro to arrange a meeting two days later. Meanwhile, the Embassy consular department confirmed that a visa interview would take place on 25 February.

Aro said without official explanation that she would not get the prize

But at her meeting on February 22, Aro was personally informed that she would not receive the award, the committee said Democrats report. The Embassy "gave no official or documented explanation."

Aro still went to the embassy the day the visa conversation was planned. She brought a letter from her lawyer seeking answers about the time of withdrawal, why it was not notified before, and who took the decision. According to the Democrats' report and Aro, the state department had not yet answered the letter. Aro had canceled "several previously booked talking engagements in Brussels and around Finland, including three lectures to address the security threats presented by Russian trolls and false news," the report said.

The Prime Minister had made extensive preparations for Aro to be honored at the event on March 7 in Washington, according to the Senate Committee report.

The US Embassy in Helsinki had given her visa paperwork and flight option, and a personal itinerary for her visit to the United States had been prepared, including a stop in Chicago with suggested visits to organizations such as the Medill Justice Project, The Association for Women's Journalists and the Chicago Tribune . It was planned to focus on her "specific work areas and themes of interest," according to the document.

The Prime Minister had extended an invitation – not transferable with an official letter manager – on behalf of Pompeo, who requested "The enjoyment of your company at the 2019 International Women of Courage Awards."

The bio-approved for her by eight government secretary officials said that Aro "has been a pioneer in this issue for several years and remains a will for efforts against Russian disinformation."

It was listed on a "proposed guards" page – all of them other women received their awards.

"This setback with the price in no way burdens me from my work of exposing Russian troll activities, techniques and influence to real people and real societies," Aro told CNN. "My work continues."


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