Trump v Diplomacy
President Trump has no love for the State Department, proposing to cut its budget by almost 30 percent while boosting the Pentagon's funding, and the feeling is apparently mutual.
While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is reportedly isolated from his cadre of career diplomats by his chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, Trump has not nominated replacements for virtually any of the Obama-appointed ambassadors he ordered to resign in January, or filled a growing number of vacancies at the upper levels of the department. About 1,000 staff members signed a cable signaling their dissent from Trump's first travel ban for seven majority-Muslim countries, and Tillerson and Trump apparently view State Department employees as loyal to Hillary Clinton, who was once secretary of state.
Now, "the tensions between the White House and the diplomatic corps are now flaring up more publicly, and at a more senior level," albeit fairly diplomatically, The New York Times reports. On Monday, the acting U.S. ambassador to China, David Rank, resigned after telling embassy staff he could not justify Trump's decision to quit the Paris climate accord to Beijing, as ordered. Rank, a 27-year Foreign Service veteran who speaks Mandarin fluently, "was a complete pro, extremely well-regarded," said Daniel F. Feldman, Rank's boss when he served in Afghanistan. "In all his years working for me, I never even knew his politics."
Last month, another career diplomat, Dana Shell Smith, the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, tweeted after Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey that it is "increasingly difficult to wake up overseas to news from home, knowing I will spend today explaining our democracy and institutions." Last weekend, Smith retweeted a message of support for London Mayor Sadiq Khan from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat. Trump had criticized Khan on Twitter over his handling of Saturday night's London Bridge terrorist attack.
And perhaps most publicly, acting U.S. ambassador to Britain, Lewis Lukens, a 28-year veteran of the Foreign Service, commended Khan on Twitter for his "strong leadership" as he "leads the city forward after this heinous attack." This was also after Trump's first tweet assailing Khan, The New York Times reports, and "Lukens, 53, said in an email that he did not obtain clearance from the State Department for the tweets he posted on Sunday on the embassy's Twitter account because it was standard practice to express support and condolences to a host country after a terrorist attack."