December 3, 2019

It's no secret that President Trump isn't a huge fan of Washington's more traditional foreign diplomatic institutions, and the United States Foreign Service is no exception.

The Trump administration has done extensive damage to the State Department, several people told GQ, and it might be a long time before it can recover. Per GQ, previously unpublished data from the American Foreign Service Association shows the foreign service losing people at an alarming clip — in the first two years of Trump's presidency nearly half of the State Department's Career Ministers retired or were pushed out during the transition, while about 20 percent of its Minister Counselors (the next level down) also walked out the door. There aren't numbers for this year yet, but one ex-foreign service officer mentioned a rapidly-growing Facebook page geared toward helping diplomats transition to the private sector.

And it's not just veterans who left. A lot of earlier-career officers slated to take over leadership positions have headed elsewhere, as well, and they can't be replaced at the rate they're leaving. "What's striking is both the decapitation of the State Department and the loss of people who should have been the next leadership of the department," said a foreign service officer who was reportedly forced out. "It's a hollowing out of the foreign service. You can't replace those mid-level people easily at the numbers at which they're losing them. That will take a generation to rebuild." Read more at GQ. Tim O'Donnell

February 16, 2017

On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held hearings on legislation to "modernize" the Endangered Species Act, part of a push by Republicans to roll back environmental regulations and protections. The Republicans on the committee, led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and three of the five witnesses at the hearing argued that the 1973 law to keep animal species from extinction impedes oil drilling, mining, and farming, and infringes on the rights of states and private landowners. The proposed legislation would make it harder to list animals on the endangered species list and limit legal action under the 1973 law, among other changes.

Barrassso painted the bill as a way to cut "red tape," while Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the Endangered Species Act makes it too hard to take animals off the list, arguing that only 50 of the 1,600 species listed as endangered or threatened have been removed. Jamie Rappaport Clark, head of the conservation nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, testified that the Obama administration removed 29 species from the endangered list in eight years, in a sign that the law is working. "For more than 40 years, the ESA has been successful, bringing the bald eagle, the American alligator, the Stellar sea lion, the peregrine falcon, and numerous other species back from the brink of extinction," she said. "Based on data from the (Fish and Wildlife Service), the ESA has saved 99 percent of listed species from extinction."

There's a parallel push to scale back the Endangered Species Act in the House — House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wants to repeal it entirely, arguing that "it has never been used for the rehabilitation of species" but instead has "been used to control the land." On Wednesday night's Full Frontal, Samantha Bee was puzzled at the constituency for killing the Endangered Species Act. "The vast majority of Americans support wildlife protection," she said, citing a Defenders of Wildlife poll showing 84 percent support for the law (an American Farm Bureau Federation poll was more nuanced.) "'Animals are awesome' is the only safe topic of conversation most American families have left. Left-right, old-young, black-white, Americans agree: Four legs, good."

President Trump, who has already delayed adding an endangered bumblebee to the endangered species list, is expected to sign any legislation that comes to his desk. Peter Weber

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