By Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood and Nicole Gaouette, CNN
(CNN) — The billionaire NFL proprietor who serves as President Donald Trump‘s ambassador to the UK was investigated by the State Division watchdog after allegations that he made racist and sexist feedback to employees and sought to make use of his authorities place to learn the President’s private enterprise within the UK, a number of sources informed CNN.
Robert Wooden “Woody” Johnson, the highest envoy since August 2017 to one of many United States’ most vital allies, made racist generalizations about Black males and questioned why the Black group celebrates Black Historical past Month, based on unique new info shared with CNN by three sources and a diplomat accustomed to the complaints to the State Division inspector basic.
His feedback about ladies’s seems have been “cringeworthy,” a supply with data of the state of affairs mentioned, and two sources mentioned it was a wrestle to get him on board for an occasion for Worldwide Girls’s Day.
“He’s mentioned some fairly sexist, racist,” issues, the diplomat with data of the complaints made to the IG mentioned of Johnson, an inheritor to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and one of many homeowners of the New York Jets.
Requested concerning the particular allegations reported by CNN, Johnson didn’t deny them. He referred to as it an “honor of a lifetime” to function ambassador and “to guide the proficient, various workforce of the U.S. Mission to the UK.” Johnson referred to as the workforce “the most effective in diplomacy” including, “I drastically worth the extraordinary work that every member of the workforce does to strengthen and deepen our very important alliance.”
The White Home had no touch upon the allegations in opposition to Johnson and referred CNN to the State Division.
A State Division spokesperson referred to as Johnson “a valued member of the workforce who has led Mission UK honorably and professionally.”
“We stand by Ambassador Johnson and sit up for him persevering with to make sure our particular relationship with the UK is powerful,” that spokesperson informed CNN.
A spokesperson for the US Embassy in London mentioned that they had no touch upon a possible IG investigation and didn’t deny the allegations, as an alternative stressing that the ambassador was “absolutely targeted” on US international coverage priorities.
The Trump Group didn’t reply to a request for remark.
The allegations about Johnson’s remarks come as establishments throughout the USA — together with these within the worlds of politics and sports activities — are dealing with a reckoning over the legacy of systemic racism.
It’s unclear how a lot the investigators targeted on Johnson’s inappropriate feedback. Of explicit curiosity to them have been allegations that, after being requested by the President, the ambassador pushed to have the Open — the distinguished British golf championship — happen at one in every of Trump’s golf properties, two sources with data of the investigation informed CNN.
A UK authorities spokesperson disputes that Johnson raised the matter in a gathering with a British official recounted by a supply. Notably, any determination concerning the location of the event wouldn’t be made by a politician. Nevertheless, that alleged effort on behalf of the President’s household enterprise is a spotlight of the yet-to-be launched report from the Workplace of the Inspector Common, sources mentioned.
State Division investigators started wanting into the embassy and its chief within the fall of 2019, 5 sources with data of the state of affairs mentioned, with employees from the Workplace of Inspector Common touring to London greater than as soon as over the previous yr to interview embassy staff after which Johnson himself. The OIG’s web site says it began an inspection of Embassy London in September. OIG studies are typically reviewed by the State Division previous to being finalized and launched. State Division inspector basic Steve Linick was fired in mid-Might.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in London for conferences Tuesday. He attended a dinner hosted by Johnson on Tuesday night time.
Racism and sexism allegations
Diplomats informed investigators that Johnson made remarks — typically casually bandied about — that they discovered deeply offensive and demoralizing, sources mentioned.
In 2018, forward of an occasion for Black Historical past Month — generally marked at US embassies world wide — Johnson appeared agitated and requested if the viewers can be “an entire bunch of Black individuals,” based on one supply.
Three sources mentioned Johnson questioned why the Black group would desire a separate month to have a good time Black historical past and argued that Black fathers didn’t stay with their households and that was the “actual problem.” One supply mentioned an official who heard the remarks was “surprised” and that the incident was documented and made identified to each the OIG inspectors and a supervisor.
There have been different cases when Johnson’s conduct triggered extra direct pushback from embassy officers.
4 sources accustomed to Johnson’s conferences informed CNN the ambassador hosted official gatherings at a fancy males’s-only membership in London, the centuries-old, unique White’s. Finally Johnson was informed by one other diplomat on the embassy in late 2018 that he needed to cease holding these conferences, three of the sources mentioned. Not one of the embassy’s feminine diplomats would have been in a position to attend.
Three sources mentioned Johnson has described ladies in offensive and diminishing methods.
In response to one supply, at sure public occasions, Johnson would begin his remarks by quipping about what number of fairly ladies have been current — lowering them to ornamental objects in a approach a supply described as “simply form of cringeworthy.”
Two sources mentioned the ambassador indicated he most well-liked working with ladies, however he prompt that was as a result of ladies have been cheaper and labored more durable than males.
He would additionally touch upon the best way that the ladies within the embassy have been dressed, two sources informed CNN.
These sources mentioned that it was a wrestle to get Johnson on board with an occasion for Worldwide Girls’s Day, which can also be extensively commemorated at embassies worldwide. One supply mentioned he requested why he needed to do “a feminist occasion.” Nevertheless, that occasion did find yourself happening.
A workforce on the embassy tried to get Johnson to do an occasion round gender-based violence in November 2017, this supply mentioned, to which the ambassador replied that he was not as a result of he’s “not a girl.”
Talking at a reception just a few days after an occasion on breast most cancers analysis the embassy held in collaboration with Estee Lauder in October 2017, Johnson opened his remarks by saying, “There was a prettier crowd right here just a few days in the past with the women in pink and the breast most cancers individuals,” based on that supply.
Former Deputy Chief of Mission Lewis Lukens informed CNN, “I’m conscious of these allegations, however perceive they’re the topic of a pending OIG report, so I had finest not remark.”
The ‘Deep State’
Johnson’s approach of working and the language he used mirrored the President’s deep mistrust of the forms that helps the chief department and serves administrations of each events.
Johnson would say the embassy wanted extra Republicans in senior positions and described employees there as members of a so-called “Deep State,” one of many sources mentioned.
Lukens, a profession diplomat who served because the ambassador’s deputy chief of mission, informed GQ Journal in 2019 that after he praised former President Barack Obama for managing a fragile concern within the US relationship with Senegal in remarks to British college students within the fall of 2018, Johnson summarily dismissed him.
Johnson accused Lukens of being “a traitor” due to the speech, two sources mentioned, and his ouster was successful on embassy morale.
“(Lukens) commanded the respect of all the embassy, everybody cherished him,” one supply mentioned.
It’s unclear if the precise allegations of offensive remarks are included within the inspector basic’s report.
In a remark to CNN, the embassy spokesperson didn’t tackle these allegations, saying, “Johnson is absolutely targeted on the vital international coverage priorities that signify our Particular Relationship with the UK, together with negotiating an unprecedented free commerce settlement, serving to our economies emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than ever, and securing our international locations in opposition to the complete vary of threats we face.”
Final week, a “Pledge for a Extra Various and Inclusive Office” was circulated within the State Division’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Amongst its steps, the bureau mentioned it was dedicated to holding “poisonous leaders accountable by way of counseling and training, in addition to refer for formal self-discipline, when warranted,” based on the interior memo seen by CNN.
Allegations of a push to carry main golf event at Trump course
A supply accustomed to the report mentioned investigators targeted on Johnson’s potential efforts to make use of his authorities place to steer enterprise to Trump’s private property.
One other supply recounted that after Johnson returned from a visit to Washington the place he met with the President in early 2018, the ambassador informed Lukens, who was nonetheless deputy chief of mission at the moment, that Trump needed to host The Open at his Turnberry resort in Scotland. Johnson requested which British authorities officers he might converse to about making that occur, the supply mentioned. Johnson introduced it up once more with Lukens on one other event not lengthy after, the supply famous, and in each instances Lukens informed Johnson to not point out the subject to authorities officers, as doing so can be unethical.
The New York Instances was the primary to report on Johnson’s push to carry The Open at Turnberry.
In a gathering with David Mundell, the UK cupboard minister who at the moment was essentially the most senior British authorities official liable for Scotland, Johnson introduced up the matter, based on the supply, who was informed concerning the assembly. A UK authorities spokesperson mentioned Johnson “made no request” relating to any sporting occasion throughout that introductory assembly.
“The earlier Secretary of State for Scotland had an introductory assembly with the US Ambassador in early 2018. Numerous points have been mentioned, reflecting the shut cultural and financial ties between Scotland and the USA. Mr. Johnson made no request of Mr. Mundell relating to the British Open or every other sporting occasion,” the spokesperson mentioned.
Requested if Johnson ever raised the prospect of internet hosting any sports activities occasions at a Trump property throughout every other dialog with Mundell, the spokesperson mentioned that based on their information, he had not.
It’s unclear if Johnson raised the problem of internet hosting The Open at Trump Turnberry with different officers or in different cases.
Mike Woodcock, the Director for Company Communications on the Royal and Historical Golf Membership, or The R&A — which organizes The Open — informed CNN that Turnberry stays within the pool of programs to host the event. The course in northwestern Scotland final hosted The Open in 2009 — years earlier than Trump bought the resort in 2014.
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