The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019

200 Diplomats Warn That Trump Is Destroying State Department

Reprinted with permission from

More than 200 retired career diplomats have signed a letter sounding the alarm about the corrosion of the State Department, warning that the Trump administration’s neglect of the institution has “crippled” its capacity.

The letter is addressed to Sens. Bob Corker and Robert Menendez — the Republican chairman and top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — and comes just ahead of the confirmation hearing for Mike Pompeo, Trump’s new pick for Secretary of State.

Signed by more than 200 senior diplomats who served under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the letter urges lawmakers to “focus public attention on the urgent need to restore the power and influence of American diplomacy,” which has suffered under the Trump administration.

The letter’s signatories express alarm over the current state of diplomacy, which has been hampered by an understaffed and underfunded State Department. Morale among employees has also sunk to a new low, further hindering the State Department’s work.

Former diplomat William Burns, who served under 10 secretaries of state and five presidents, described the letter as “a product of profound concern about the broad attitude of dismissiveness to diplomacy, the marginalization of professional diplomats and the corrosion of the institution” under the current leadership.

The Trump administration’s disregard for diplomacy has resulted in a mass exodus of career diplomats, with 60 percent of the State Departments� top-ranking career diplomats leaving during Trump’s first year in office. And qualified applicants aren’t exactly lining up to replace them. New applications to join the foreign service have fallen by half since Trump took office.

Currently, eight of the nine senior leadership positions in the State Department are unfilled. Additionally, 50 ambassadorships are vacant, as are 16 of the 22 assistant secretary positions.

The list of vacant posts spans a slew of critical positions, including coordinators for cyber issues and sanctions policy, as well as the lead coordinator overseeing implementation of the Iran nuclear deal.

The top diplomatic post overseeing North Korea policy is also empty, as are senior positions involving nuclear nonproliferation, arms control, and conflict stabilization.

Other notable vacancies include the Special Envoy on climate change, the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, and the U.S. Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Perhaps most tellingly, the position of White House Liaison is currently listed as vacant.

While all of this would be alarming under normal circumstances, it is particularly concerning given the chaos and constant turnover in the Trump White House. In just the past month, Trump has fired three of his Cabinet secretaries — on Twitter.

The White House says Trump “came to Washington to drain the swamp” and “make America great.” Instead, he’s purging career officials, leaving key positions vacant, and making America weaker on the global stage.


Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

John Durham
John Durham

Special Xounsel John Durham, appointed by then-Attorney General Bill Barr, uncovered possible financial crimes by Donald Trump but made no attempt to prosecute them, The New York Timesrevealed in a massive, bombshell report published Thursday after a months-long investigation.

“Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it,” the Times’ Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner report.

Keep reading...Show less

A campaign poster for Rep. Cory Mills

Freshman Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL) on Thursday celebrated his appointment to two House committees by handing his colleagues inert, Florida-made 40mm grenades emblazoned with the logo of the Republican Party.

Keep reading...Show less
{{ }}