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Archive for October 14, 2019

Newsline: Impeachment fight deepens rift among US ambassadors

President Donald Trump’s politically appointed ambassadors have long drawn skepticism, even resentment, from career U.S. diplomats. Now, as an impeachment inquiry exposes some of their more questionable activities and threatens the career of a traditional envoy, the anger toward them is rising. Current and former career U.S. diplomats say Trump has handed far too many ambassadorial posts to unqualified candidates, many of whom were political donors with thin diplomatic resumes and little respect for the U.S. Foreign Service. Some say it’s time to rethink, if not cap or outright bar, political appointments for ambassadorships. “It is out of whack under Trump,” said Dana Shell Smith, a former career Foreign Service officer who served as the U.S. ambassador to Qatar. “These ambassadorships are being seen as the spoils, as opposed to being very serious jobs that act in the interest of the country.” (https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/13/trump-ambassadors-impeachment-044039) Most modern presidents have given roughly 30 percent of U.S. ambassador postings to political appointees, with the rest drawn from career government ranks. Under Trump, the proportions appear to have changed significantly. As of now, nearly 45 percent of his ambassador picks — people who have been confirmed or are awaiting confirmation — are political appointees, one database shows. The statistics have deeply frustrated the diplomats’ union, the American Foreign Service Association, which is calling on Trump to reevaluate his approach. The group’s president, Eric Rubin, said in a statement to POLITICO that the Foreign Service Act of 1980 specifies ambassadorships should “normally be accorded to career members of the Service,” with only occasional exceptions for qualified outsiders. “AFSA does not believe that asking to follow the law is a radical position,” Rubin said, adding that the Trump-era numbers are “dismaying.” Current and former U.S. diplomats, including those who’ve been ambassadors, stress there have been some excellent political appointees in the past, and that not all career appointees are perfect. But they’re alarmed by the implications of the impeachment inquiry’s findings so far.