Career State Department officials are being relegated to menial jobs in what is increasingly seen as political retribution for their association with President Obama.
Donald Trump is well known for neglecting the diplomatic apparatus of his administration. He has left numerous positions vacant and often undercuts the work of the people he has hired, prompting former Secretaries of State to sound the alarm.
But even more disturbing is how Trump is managing the people he does have, many of whom are still career civil servants who served under President Barack Obama and who increasingly feel they are being punished for it.
According to a new CNN report, State Department employees are being relegated to desk jobs, and several officials tell CNN they have retained attorneys after repeatedly trying unsuccessfully to raise concerns about being assigned to low-level jobs in Foggy Bottom such as answering Freedom of Information Act requests.
The widespread assignment of State Department officials to FOIA duty under Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been going on for months, and has effectively been used as a fishing expedition against Hillary Clinton.
But the new report reveals that many of these officials are high-ranking diplomats with experience in solving global problems, and sheds new light on the suspicious pattern of reassigning officials who served under Obama:
[M]any of those assigned to the “FOIA Surge” effort resemble a band of misfit toys, including several ambassadors returning from overseas and senior career and civil service members who were detailed to other agencies. Others worked in offices created by Obama as policy priorities, which the Trump administration has announced it intends to close.
Assigning former ambassadors and senior officials to desk jobs makes little sense unless it’s being done as a form of political retribution.
But as Trump seeks to punish former Obama administration officials, it’s the government and the citizens it serves that will suffer the consequences.
“This administration has already done serious harm to American diplomacy by forcing seasoned officials out and ignoring the expertise of career State Department professionals,” said Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“If the allegations are true that the administration is punishing public servants as a form of political retribution, those responsible must face consequences,” Engel said. “I intend to get answers about this.”
Trump has spent most of his presidency railing against an imagined Deep State of long-serving government officials who are supposedly bent on pushing him out of office. But given the current conditions at the State Department, it seems to be the other way around.