Garcetti pushes hard to win confirmation as Biden’s U.S. ambassador to India.


With lower than a month to go before he leaves office, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti is pressing his effort to get the U.S. Senate to substantiate his appointment as ambassador to India, a fraught campaign complicated by a Republican senator whose office is attempting to renew doubts about whether the mayor and his staff mishandled sexual harassment allegations against a top aide.

It has been greater than 16 months since President Biden nominated Garcetti because the U.S. representative to the world’s largest democracy. A vote on the appointment has never been scheduled, as Garcetti and his allies strain to achieve the 50 votes needed for approval.

L.A.’s mayor has waited far longer for confirmation — nearly 500 days — than all others whom Biden has designated to be ambassadors, based on the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service.

“Sooner or later, they should get this resolved, because our effectiveness on the world stage is being harmed,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “It’s a foul signal to India in that it diminishes the sense of recognition of their importance.”

The White House has continued to specific support for Garcetti, who backed the previous vice chairman when he appeared a protracted shot for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Garcetti and his team have focused on winning some Republican votes, after a minimum of a couple of Democratic senators, including Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, indicated concerns concerning the harassment allegations. In an interview last week, Garcetti said his nomination has bipartisan support, though he declined to debate the senators he has spoken to.

“This India-U.S. relationship is critical,” Garcetti said as he rode in a Veterans Day parade in Pacoima. “So I’m optimistic because plenty of people said, ‘Wait till after the election.’ We are able to deal with it now and I’m optimistic we’ll get it scheduled and get it done. I’m able to serve.”

The White House and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will determine whether and when to call a vote on the India nomination. With a crush of more pressing business facing Congress — including raising the debt ceiling to maintain the federal government functioning — the Garcetti vote may very well be delay until next yr.

A Senate runoff election in Georgia could give the Democrats a 51st senator, potentially providing yet another pro-Garcetti vote.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has placed a hold on Garcetti’s nomination. In a transient interview this week, she expressed doubt that the mayor would get confirmed within the lame-duck session. Asked if she believed that he would ever get confirmed, Ernst said, “Perhaps not.”

A staffer for one Democratic senator agreed that Garcetti’s path to approval appears murky, together with his boss remaining on the fence concerning the Garcetti nomination and never anxious for the matter to come back to a vote.

“It’s very analogous to when a house has been available on the market for 2 years. You say to yourself, ‘There should be something flawed with this house,’ ” said the staffer, who asked to stay anonymous due to the sensitivity of the nomination process. “I just don’t see an upside for anyone, pushing this vote ahead.”

But White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters in early November that the Biden administration would “proceed to hunt the expeditious confirmation of Mayor Garcetti,” adding: “That is very important to this president, a priority to this president.”

Garcetti has been stymied, a minimum of partly, by Ernst’s fellow Iowa Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley, whose staff has focused on allegations that the mayor ignored allegations that a former top aide, Rick Jacobs, sexually harassed others within the mayor’s office.

In a report it issued in May, Grassley’s office contended that allegations of sexual harassment against Jacobs, a former deputy mayor, were “pervasive, widespread and notorious.” It also concluded that it was “more likely than not that Mayor Garcetti either had personal knowledge of the sexual harassment or must have been aware of it.”

Grassley’s staff has continued to pursue information concerning the controversy. A spokesman for Grassley confirmed that the senator’s investigators obtained information last week about two recent individuals who alleged inappropriate behavior by Jacobs.

One among the lads, a longtime civic activist in L.A., said in an interview with The Times that he spoke last week to 2 Grassley staffers, telling them that Jacobs greeted him on a minimum of eight occasions in an inappropriate way — forcibly kissing him on the mouth while also often grabbing his buttocks.

The activist said the behavior occurred when he met with Jacobs on municipal business and at holiday parties that Jacobs held at his home. Within the last of the instances, Jacobs “squeezed” his buttocks when he met the Garcetti aide at his City Hall office.

All the opposite unwelcome greetings happened before Jacobs joined the mayor’s office, the person said. He said he didn’t recall an instance when Garcetti witnessed the conduct. He said he told his wife concerning the encounters, and he or she confirmed in a separate interview with The Times that her husband had complained about Jacobs.

The person, who can be a Democratic Party operative, said he didn’t need to be identified because he feared Garcetti or his allies might disparage him in L.A.’s insular political circles. He said he never complained to Garcetti or his aides for a similar reason, and since he frightened that he would seem homophobic.

When Grassley’s office contacted him last week, the person said he agreed to inform his story because he believed that Jacobs’ behavior seemed so brazen and routine that he thought Garcetti will need to have known about it.

Grassley’s staffers also confirmed that they’re reviewing the deposition of one other man who complained about Jacobs. In testimony given last month and reviewed by The Times, Paul Kadzielski, a former member of the mayor’s communications team, said Jacobs hugged him and infrequently touched or massaged his shoulders over a period of several years.

The deposition was taken as a part of a lawsuit brought against town by Matt Garza, an LAPD officer who alleges that Jacobs touched him and made crude remarks, sometimes in front of Garcetti.

Kadzielski complained that Jacobs told him he looked “strong” or “handsome.” He also testified that Jacobs also made racially inappropriate and sexually inappropriate comments — behavior so common that it was a daily topic of conversation amongst Garcetti’s communications team.

Kadzielski, who worked in Garcetti’s office from 2015 to 2020, testified that Jacobs stopped usually touching him after Kadzielski told him that his behavior made him feel uncomfortable.

Asked if Jacobs ever hugged or massaged him in front of Garcetti, Kadzielski testified, “I can’t recall a selected instance.”

Kadzielski didn’t reply to a request for comment from The Times.

Much like some others who’ve testified, Kadzielski said he had passed on his concerns about Jacobs to superiors within the mayor’s office, but that nothing happened. Garcetti’s representatives have used the brand new testimony to argue the mayor couldn’t have fixed what he was not told about. Others have rejected that notion, saying Jacobs’ misbehavior was so routine the mayor needed to know.

Jacobs has denied harassing anyone but said in deposition testimony that he could have hugged the officer. He also has said he could have made sexual jokes in front of the mayor’s security detail.

An attorney for Jacobs didn’t reply to requests for comment concerning the two recent claims of inappropriate behavior.

Garcetti said the topic of the sexual harassment allegations has not dominated his many Zoom, phone and in-person meetings with senators.

“I’ve been clear, I feel, and I feel that the evidence is crystal clear too,” Garcetti said, that he didn’t find out about Jacobs’ purported misbehavior. “The conversations [with senators] really revolve around India and the strategic moment that we’re living through and my qualifications. I haven’t had a single conversation that hasn’t ended positively.”

Garcetti owed his optimism partly to Biden’s continuing loyalty. “The president spoke to me personally,” Garcetti said. “He said, ‘Let’s get this done. Let’s get you over there.’ ”

Taylor Foy, a representative for Grassley, said this week that the 2 additional accounts of Jacobs’ behavior “raise more questions” concerning the accuracy of a report — commissioned by town attorney’s office and accomplished by attorney Leslie Ellis — that found Garcetti, Jacobs and others had done nothing flawed.

Grassley intends to vote against Garcetti’s nomination if it involves a vote in the complete Senate, Foy said.

The White House has portrayed Grassley’s report on Jacobs as a “hit job” and stated that the claims “have already been conclusively debunked” by the Ellis report and other information.

Garcetti’s parents, Gil and Sukey Garcetti, proceed to pay a lobbying firm to push their son’s nomination. The firm, McGuireWoods, has reported receiving $60,000 for the work, which the mayor said he accepts, perceiving it as an indication of his parents’ love.

Asked if he has a backup plan in case the Senate doesn’t approve his move to Delhi, Garcetti smiled and replied: “No. I plan on getting confirmed.”

Times staff author Nolan McCaskill, in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

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