No announcement yet.

State department

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • State department

    The State of Trump's State Department
    Anxiety and listless days as a foreign-policy bureaucracy confronts the possibility of radical change

    U.S. State Department
    Win McNamee / Getty
    MAR 1, 2017 GLOBAL
    Share Tweet

    Like ​The Atlantic? Subscribe to ​The Atlantic Daily​, our free weekday email newsletter.

    The flags in the lobby of the State Department stood bathed in sunlight and silence on a recent afternoon. “It’s normally so busy here,” marveled a State Department staffer as we stood watching the emptiness. “People are usually coming in for meetings, there’s lots of people, and now it’s so quiet.” The action at Foggy Bottom has instead moved to the State Department cafeteria where, in the absence of work, people linger over countless coffees with colleagues. (“The cafeteria is so crowded all day,” a mid-level State Department officer said, adding that it was a very unusual sight. “No one’s doing anything.”) As the staffer and I walked among the tables and chairs, people with badges chatted over coffee; one was reading his Kindle.

    “It just feels empty,” a recently departed senior State official told me.

    This week began with reports that President Donald Trump’s budget proposal will drastically slash the State Department’s funding, and last week ended with White House adviser and former Breitbart head Stephen Bannon telling the attendees of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference that what he and the new president were after was a “deconstruction of the administrative state.” At the State Department, which employs nearly 70,000 people around the world, that deconstruction is already well underway.


    Trump's Hollowed-Out State Department

    In the last week, I’ve spoken with a dozen current and recently departed State Department employees, all of whom asked for anonymity either because they were not authorized to speak to the press and feared retribution by an administration on the prowl for leakers, or did not want to burn their former colleagues. None of these sources were political appointees. Rather, they were career foreign service officers or career civil servants, most of whom have served both Republican and Democratic administrations—and many of whom do not know each other. They painted a picture of a State Department adrift and listless.

    Sometimes, the deconstruction of the administrative state is quite literal. After about two dozen career staff on the seventh floor—the State Department’s equivalent of a C suite—were told to find other jobs, some with just 12 hours’ notice, construction teams came in over President’s Day weekend and began rebuilding the office space for a new team and a new concept of how State’s nerve center would function. (This concept hasn’t been shared with most of the people who are still there.) The space on Mahogany Row, the line of wood-paneled offices including that of the secretary of state, is now a mysterious construction zone behind blue tarp.

    With the State Department demonstratively shut out of meetings with foreign leaders, key State posts left unfilled, and the White House not soliciting many department staffers for their policy advice, there is little left to do. “If I left before 10 p.m., that was a good day,” said the State staffer of the old days, which used to start at 6:30 in the morning. “Now, I come in at 9, 9:15, and leave by 5:30.” The seeming hostility from the White House, the decades of American foreign-policy tradition being turned on its head, and the days of listlessness are taking a toll on people who are used to channeling their ambition and idealism into the detail-oriented, highly regimented busywork that greases the infinite wheels of a massive bureaucracy. Without it, anxiety has spiked. People aren’t sleeping well. Over a long impromptu lunch one afternoon—“I can meet tomorrow or today, whenever! Do you want to meet right now?”—the staffer told me she too has trouble sleeping now, kept awake by her worries about her job and America’s fading role in the world.

    “I used to love my job,” she said. “Now, it feels like coming to the hospital to take care of a terminally ill family member. You come in every day, you bring flowers, you brush their hair, paint their nails, even though you know there’s no point. But you do it out of love.”

    Some try to conduct policy meetings just to retain the muscle memory and focus, but, said another department employee, “in the last couple months, it’s been a lot more sitting around and going home earlier than usual.” Some wander around the streets of Foggy Bottom, going for long, aimless lunches. “I’m used to going to three or four interagency policy meetings a week,” the employee added, referring to the meetings in which policy is developed in coordination with other government departments. “I’ve had exactly one of those meetings in the last five weeks.” Even the torrent of inter-department email has slowed to a trickle. The State Department staffer told me that where she once used to get two hundred emails a day, it’s down to two dozen now. “Not since I began at the department a decade ago has it been so quiet,” she said. “Colleagues tell me it’s the same for them.”

    A lot of this, the employee said, is because there is now a “much smaller decision circle.” And many State staffers are surprised to find themselves on the outside. “They really want to blow this place up,” said the mid-level State Department officer. “I don’t think this administration thinks the State Department needs to exist. They think Jared [Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law] can do everything. It’s reminiscent of the developing countries where I’ve served. The family rules everything, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows nothing.”

    Right now, those I’ve spoken to in the department seem to know very little about what’s going on. The staffer told me that she finds out what’s going on at State from the news—which she spends all day reading because, after years of having her day scheduled down to 15 minute blocks, she has nothing else to do. And even the news itself isn’t coming from official sources. There hasn’t been a State Department press briefing, once a daily ritual, since the new administration took over five weeks ago—though they’re scheduled to resume March 6. These briefings weren’t just for journalists. They also served as a crucial set of cues for U.S. diplomats all over the world about policy priorities, and how to talk about them. With no daily messaging, and almost no guidance from Washington, people in far-flung posts are flying blind even as the pace of their diplomacy hasn’t abated.

    “Meetings are happening,” said one American diplomat stationed abroad, “but it is noticeable that we’re not having press briefings, which makes it hard for ambassadors waiting to take cues. We’re able to echo what Mattis, Tillerson, Pence say. But we’re still not there in aggressively promoting president’s agenda.” Other American diplomats, especially those in geopolitically sensitive posts, find themselves going on old, Obama-era guidance because no new guidance has been issued. But “the diplomacy goes on,” said another American diplomat abroad. “People notice every little change in our position,” the diplomat said. “And we don’t always know where the administration is or is going to be, so you operate on old guidance until Washington takes a new position. We’re largely taking our cues from the president, vice president, and Secretary Tillerson’s remarks and from reading the Spicer briefings,” referring to the daily briefings of White House press secretary Sean Spicer. “We are watching the news and seeing how quickly we can get our fingers on the [Spicer] transcripts,” the diplomat said.

    When Rex Tillerson finally arrived in the building, members of the department I spoke to had very high hopes for him. People wanted to like him. But his remarks to the staff left many cold, and confused. “He only spoke of reform and accountability,” said the State Department staffer. “He offered no vision of America and its place in the world.” He also spoke of protecting missions abroad, which some read as a gratuitous reference to Benghazi. “It landed like a thud,” said the staffer. “There are all these people whose sole focus is protecting missions abroad. What do you think we’ve been doing for all these years?”

    The fact that there hasn’t been a deputy secretary of state nominated, and that many undersecretary slots sit empty, is also unnerving to a bureaucracy used to relying on a strict hierarchy to get things done. “Not having a deputy ... is going to become a problem real soon,” the staffer said. “The world has been pretty quiet but it won’t stay that way.” She and others I spoke to worry about the optics of Tillerson flanked by empty seats during his meeting in Bonn, Germany, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who was accompanied by a dozen aides. All these details send signals that other countries’ leaders and diplomats pore over for indications of potential policy changes. “With the Chinese, protocol is policy,” said the mid-level State officer. “We’re sending signals that are potentially damaging the relationship in ways we can’t anticipate.”

    It also worries some State employees that Tillerson was unable to name his own deputy. His choice of the neocon Elliott Abrams was vetoed by the White House because Abrams had criticized Trump, and many in Foggy Bottom saw it as yet another signal that they and their secretary were being downgraded. “It’s troubling that his first battle with the president, he lost,” said the State employee. “If he couldn’t even bring in his own staff member, it’s concerning for future issues.”

    On Tuesday, Trump confirmed their fears, telling Fox and Friends that there was a reason he wasn’t filling certain government posts: “in many cases, I don’t want to fill those posts. … They’re unnecessary.”

    But while senior State appointees have yet to be appointed, other staff has been showing up. The Office of Policy Planning, created by George Kennan after World War II, is now filled not just with Ph.D.s, as it once was, but with fresh college graduates and a malpractice attorney from New Jersey whose sole foreign-policy credential seems to be that she was born in Hungary. Tillerson’s chief of staff is not his own, but is, according to the Washington Post, a Trump transition alum named Margaret Peterlin. “Tillerson is surrounded by a bunch of rather mysterious Trumpistas,” said the senior State official who recently left. “How the hell is he supposed to do his job when even his right hand is not his own person?” One State Department employee told me that Peterlin has instructed staff that all communications with Tillerson have to go through her, and even scolded someone for answering a question Tillerson asked directly, in a meeting.

    Peterlin did not respond to request for comment, but former Newt Gingrich aide and State public affairs senior advisor R.C. Hammond clarified that the malpractice attorney was the White House liaison to State, and denied that Peterlin had issued such instructions or admonishments, or that the State Department was slow and listless. “The place is humming,” he said.

    He and his staff pointed me to, among other people, Christiaan James, who is the Arabic-language spokesperson for State’s bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. He is busy; he spends a lot of time fielding questions from the Arabic-language press. “Even though we haven’t had a press briefing since January, we still get a lot of inquiries,” he said. “There’s still a lot going on, and we have to respond.” In the absence of a press briefing, staffers are now winging it, trying to interpret for their questioners what the American president meant when he seemed to toss overboard the idea of a two-state solution. “This actually came up yesterday,” James said. “An Egyptian channel wanted me to go on air and talk about this.” So, using the “two pages of guidance” put out by the press officer on the Israel-Palestine desk, James told them that, whatever the two sides agree on, “the United States is committed to finding a solution to this, that we’re going to be involved in the process. It’s about telegraphing that the U.S. is committed and not getting into the nitty gritty, and talking in more general terms until something more specific gets developed.”

    Michelle Bernier-Toth, who runs overseas services for American citizens abroad, meanwhile continues to monitor the world for crises that might affect U.S. citizens and make consular services for them even more efficient, but she told me that she didn’t need guidance from the White House or even the Secretary of State. “What we do, we just keep on doing it,” she told me. “We’re very much a heart that keeps going. The consular side is law-based, so that’s our guidance.”

    A State Department public-affairs officer was on the line with us when we talked. Another public-affairs officer was also on the line when I spoke to Paco Palmieri, a career foreign service officer and the acting assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Palmieri has had plenty to keep him busy, from Tillerson’s meeting with the Brazilian foreign minister in Bonn, Germany to his trip to Mexico, but he is an acting assistant secretary and he doesn’t know how long it will take for a political appointee to take his place. “Sometimes as an administration gets started, it takes some time to get a definitive answer but that just means you work harder to get to it,” he told me. “Every transition is unique.” Then the public affairs officer hustled him off to his next meeting.

    According to the other people I spoke to, though, Tillerson seems cut off not just from the White House, but from the State Department. “The guidance from Tillerson has been, the less paper the better,” said the State Department staffer. “Voluntary papers are not exactly encouraged, so not much information is coming up to him. And nothing is flowing down from him to us. That, plus the absence of undersecretaries and assistant secretaries means there’s no guidance to the troops so we’re just marking time and responding.”

    Many in the State Department openly acknowledge that the department is bloated, that it is at times inefficient and redundant. But they don’t understand why the culling is being done in such a crass and indiscriminate manner. “They didn’t talk to anyone, they didn’t ask them what they did, they just told them to look for other jobs,” said the mid-level officer of the seventh floor dismissals. “Nothing will make you a libertarian faster than working in the federal government,” said the State staffer. “There are inefficiencies, there needs to be reform. They certainly have a right to staffing, or lack of staffing,” the staffer said of the new administration. “But doing it without an analysis of where the inefficiencies are, the cutting just won’t be rational or effective. It just creates ill will.” The last month, the staffer said, “has been a very deliberate stress test.” “There seems to be no effort to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of people who are here, who just want to help,” said the mid-level officer. Instead, they see the White House vilifying them as bureaucrats no one elected, and it all seems, the mid-level officer said, “symbolic of wanting to neuter the organization.”

    “This is probably what it felt like to be a British foreign service officer after World War II, when you realize, no, the sun actually does set on your empire,” said the mid-level officer. “America is over. And being part of that, when it’s happening for no reason, is traumatic
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

  • #2

    Officials: Tillerson eyes State Dept budget cut over 3 years
    Mar 3, 2017 04:12 PM
    AP Diplomatic Writer
    WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has agreed in principle to a White House proposal to slash foreign aid and diplomatic spending by 37 percent, but wants to spread it out over three years rather than in one dramatic cut.

    Officials familiar with Tillerson's response to the proposal from the Office of Management and Budget said Friday that Tillerson suggested the reductions to the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development begin with a 20-percent cut in the next budget year. Tillerson sent his response to OMB director Mick Mulvaney on Thursday, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the budget publicly until it is presented to Congress.

    Tillerson likened his approach to that of landing an airplane safely: a gradual descent rather than a precipitous one-time drop that would have far-reaching consequences for policy as well as political and human costs, according to the officials. The officials cautioned that Tillerson's response was the beginning of a discussion with the OMB that could lead to a different figure, which would then go to Congress, where more changes could emerge. Some lawmakers, including senior Republicans, as well as current and former military commanders strongly object to steep cuts in foreign aid and diplomacy.

    The combined State Department/USAID budget this year was $50.1 billion, a little more than 1 percent of the total federal budget. The White House is looking for massive savings across the non-defense portions of the total budget to offset a proposed $54 billion increase in military spending.

    One official said Tillerson agreed with "an aggressive scrubbing of the budget" with an eye toward prioritizing programs based on specific achievable results rather than theoretical goals. The official said Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, was seeking a budget that outlines "a clearer vision of what of the end product is."

    Even carried out over three years, a 37-percent cut to the foreign affairs budget would be felt deeply across the State Department and foreign development assistance, which is largely overseen by USAID. It would likely require the wholesale elimination of some programs as well as staffing cuts.

    One suggestion, which was not contained in Tillerson's response but is under consideration, would be to bring USAID, now a semi-autonomous operation, entirely under the auspices of the State Department to eliminate redundancies between the two agencies. This would reduce USAID's front and administrative offices by combining those functions with those of regional assistant secretaries of state.

    The OMB proposal, which was sent Monday to the State Department, raised concerns about America's ability to promote its values around the world and avert wars, rather than fight them. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., were among several Republicans voicing objections.

    David Petraeus, who headed the CIA after commanding U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a group of more than 100 national security experts echoed that sentiment, calling diplomacy "critical to keeping America safe."

    However, Trump advisers and top aides to Tillerson believe there is fat to cut from the State Department and USAID budgets and the OMB outline suggested ways to achieve savings.

    The officials wouldn't discuss those details but some noted a 37-percent cut would eliminate programs and likely cause staff reductions, including security contractors at diplomatic missions, a matter that became only more sensitive after the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. They said some overseas facilities and offices might have to be closed.

    The State Department had already been bracing for budget cuts under the Trump administration. Many of its bureaus went through exercises to see how they could function with 20 percent or 25 percent less money, officials said. Buyouts could help reduce the size of the diplomatic corps along with early retirements and layoffs, they found. Eliminating special envoy and special representative positions could also yield savings. Only 11 of 32 special envoy or representative posts that existed during the Obama administration are currently filled.

    USAID's operations may be even more precarious. Numerous agency initiatives, including those dealing with global health, climate change and women's issues, could be cut if the proposal is adopted, the officials said. They said they expected most USAID funding to be cut
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


    • #3
      The combined State Department/USAID budget this year was $50.1 billion, a little more than 1 percent of the total federal budget. The White House is looking for massive savings across the non-defense portions of the total budget to offset a proposed $54 billion increase in military spending.
      Why not just incorporate the State Department into the military? Imagine the joy of State Department employees going on 10k hikes each morning.
      Councilor to the Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, Management and Resources Zedekiah Smith, you had best square your ass away and start shitting me Tiffany cufflinks or I will definitely fuck you up!
      In the realm of spirit, seek clarity; in the material world, seek utility.



      • #4
        So let's eviscerate State and while we are at it let's eviscerate the Coast Guard at the same time. That is truly making America Great again and safe.


        • #5
          Bureau chiefs ‘deeply concerned’ that Rex Tillerson is ditching the press on Asia trip

          By Benjamin Mullin • March 9, 2017

          D.C. bureau chiefs from major news organizations, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, the wire services, Fox News and CNN sent a letter to the State Department earlier this week protesting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's decision to ditch reporters on his upcoming trip to Asia.

          "We were deeply concerned to hear that Secretary Tillerson plans to travel to Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo to hold key meetings about some of the most important foreign policy issues for the United States without any traveling press," reads the letter, which was also signed by NPR, the BBC, Voice of America, the Los Angeles Times, Foreign Policy and the Agence France-Presse.

          "Not only does this situation leave the public narrative of the meetings up to the Chinese foreign ministry as well as Korea’s and Japan’s, but it gives the American people no window whatsoever into the views and actions of the nation’s leaders."

          The letter, which was sent on Tuesday, also notes that the State Department's offer "to help those reporters who want to travel unilaterally is wholly unrealistic, given the commercial flight schedules, visa issues and no guarantee of access once they are there."

          The letter also requested a meeting with State Department officials to discuss access to Secretary Tillerson and press availability on trips abroad with the State Department.

          Tillerson's decision to spurn reporters is unusual, especially in light of North Korea's recent nuclear missile test that violated sanctions and raised alarms in the international community. CNN's Jake Tapper called the trip "insulting to any American who is looking for anything but a state-run version of events."

          Secretary Tillerson's trip, which begins next week, will take him to several countries, including Japan, South Korea and China. The State Department recently resumed press briefings after a weeks-long dry spell.

          Here's the letter:

          Dear Mr. Hammond and Ms. Peterlin,

          We are the Washington bureau chiefs and editors of major print, wire, television and radio news organizations. We are writing to request a meeting with both of you as soon as possible to discuss press access to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and coverage of American foreign policy going forward.

          We were deeply concerned to hear that Secretary Tillerson plans to travel to Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo to hold key meetings about some of the most important foreign policy issues for the United States without any traveling press. Not only does this situation leave the public narrative of the meetings up to the Chinese foreign ministry as well as Korea’s and Japan’s, but it gives the American people no window whatsoever into the views and actions of the nation’s leaders. And the offer to help those reporters who want to travel unilaterally is wholly unrealistic, given the commercial flight schedules, visa issues and no guarantee of access once they are there.

          But the issues go beyond just the March 14-19 trip and affect the day-to-day coverage of the nation’s top diplomat and U.S. relations with the rest of the world.

          Please let us know when a small group of us could come by to see if we can work out an arrangement that suits all of us.

          Thank you,

          Wendy Benjaminson
          Acting Washington Bureau Chief
          The Associated Press

          Bryan Boughton
          Fox News Channel
          Washington Bureau Chief

          Elisabeth Bumiller
          Washington Bureau Chief
          New York Times

          Edith Chapin
          Executive Editor

          Paul Danahar
          BBC Americas Bureaux Chief

          Sam Feist
          CNN Washington Bureau Chief

          Peter Finn
          National Security Editor
          The Washington Post

          Keith Johnson
          Acting Managing Editor, News
          Foreign Policy

          Weston Kosova
          Washington Bureau Chief

          David Lauter
          Washington Bureau Chief
          Los Angeles Times/Chicago Tribune

          Yolanda Lopez
          Central News Director

          David Millikin
          North America bureau chief

          To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


          • #6

            American Diplomats’ Comfort With Tillerson Gives Way to Unease

            Nick Wadhams

            U.S. diplomats breathed a sigh of relief three months ago when Rex Tillerson was nominated as secretary of state, welcoming the oilman as a seasoned manager who would shield them from ideologues ready to gut America’s foreign policy machinery.

            Yet that comfort is now giving way to unease, as the former Exxon Mobil Corp. chief embraces President Donald Trump’s vision.

            Tillerson supports the president’s goal to cut the State Department budget and shift its mission away from existing initiatives such as climate change, global health and development assistance beyond key allies, according to half a dozen people familiar with his thinking who requested anonymity to discuss internal matters.

            “The issue isn’t a lack of resources, it’s how do we refocus the department on its core priorities, and this is a way of getting at that,” said Brett Schaefer, a senior research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation who has advocated a restructuring of the department but says he isn’t advising Tillerson. “It’s sort of a pressure exercise to force the people inside State and at USAID to rethink how budgets have been allocated and focus on critical priorities.”

            Slimmed-Down Department

            That doesn’t mean Tillerson will rubber stamp the Office of Management and Budget’s proposal to slash 37 percent of the combined $50 billion budget for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to free up money for the military, but he supports the sentiment behind it, the people said.

            Tillerson, according to the people interviewed, wants a slimmed-down department that serves Trump’s goal -- a national security strategy more narrowly focused on backing U.S. allies in the Middle East and Europe to advance his “America First” theme. That means largely doing away with the global promotion of democracy and other “soft power” initiatives.

            It marks a sharp departure from the era of President Barack Obama, who oversaw an expansion of the State Department’s mandate, staff and budget.

            Swings of Sentiment

            The swings of sentiment inside the State Department were described by several current and former officials who said staffers were initially encouraged that Trump chose Tillerson and not former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or other candidates they saw as hostile to the department’s goals. Their concerns crystallized later after career diplomats were let go without protest from Tillerson and appointees seen as loyal to Trump but lacking foreign policy experience were installed, according to the officials, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters.

            Unlike his predecessors -- from Republican Henry Kissinger to Democrat Hillary Clinton -- Tillerson has cultivated a low public profile. He hasn’t held a single press conference and isn’t taking reporters with him on a trip to Japan, South Korea and China next week.

            “He has gone very slowly in developing a public profile in part because he’s smart enough to know that he has to win Trump’s confidence and the confidence of the White House,” said James Jeffrey, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Studies who was previously ambassador to Iraq and went on to work under Tillerson at Exxon. “That’s job one of any secretary.”

            Paying Off

            There are signs that Tillerson’s strategy is paying off, at least at the White House.

            Early media reports painted him as out of the loop after his pick for deputy secretary of state was rejected and he didn’t participate in meetings Trump held with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. However, he has been given more face time with the president since then.

            Rex Tillerson
            Rex Tillerson.
            Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

            Read more: Has Trump Already Sidelined His Secretary of State?

            The two spoke by phone on Feb. 14 and then met on Feb. 22, Feb. 27, March 1 and March 6, according to the White House schedule. Tillerson was scheduled to meet with Trump at the White House on Friday for lunch in the presidential dining room.

            Tillerson also was center stage when the administration rolled out a revised executive order outlining immigration limits -- one of Trump’s top priorities -- and he will chair a ministerial meeting of the 68-nation coalition to combat Islamic State later this month.

            But in a change troubling to some in the foreign policy community, Tillerson hasn’t offered an overarching vision for the U.S. role in the world -- and may never do so. Instead, he sees himself as a manager with an eye toward corporate-style reform, an outgrowth of his four decades in the private sector, according to those familiar with his thinking.

            At Exxon, the 64-year-old Tillerson surrounded himself with a small group of aides with whom he met daily to steer the company. He’s done the same at State. While he has been briefed by many career diplomats, he relies on Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin; Matt Mowers, a former aide to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who is his main conduit to the White House; and Christine Ciccone, formerly the chief operating officer of Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign.

            Surprising Senators

            Tillerson’s management style is surprising would-be supporters. When the budget office’s proposals were revealed last week, senators on both sides of the political aisle condemned the idea, saying it would cripple the department he oversees and undermine U.S. influence. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina proclaimed the plan “dead on arrival.”

            Keep up with the best of Bloomberg Politics.

            Get our newsletter daily.

            Sign Up

            Those same senators are finding that the one person they expected to champion their cause -- Tillerson -- isn’t necessarily on their side. A memo sent to top staff at the State Department and USAID last week by a senior official highlights the divisions and the conflicting messages. While it says Tillerson is “deeply concerned” about the timing and size of the reductions, it also says he is “committed to pursuing” Trump’s agenda of making government leaner and more accountable.

            Democrats say Tillerson’s approach is misguided. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont wrote him Thursday to say the department increasingly “appears unable to respond to the myriad foreign policy challenges facing our nation.”

            Asked about the potential State Department budget cuts, acting spokesman Mark Toner said at a briefing Tuesday that the senior staff’s goal was to study “where can we possibly move resources to, re-evaluate resources, reassess, perhaps make cuts if we feel that’s necessary, but in no way trying to limit the function or the efficacy, efficiency of this State Department.”

            Tension over the State Department and its role is hardly new. David Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest,” a book that Trump adviser Steve Bannon demanded that others on the presidential transition team read, is replete with tales of President John F. Kennedy’s frustration with the slow pace of work at State.

            And whether or not his employees agree, Tillerson’s made clear that change is coming. In an otherwise conciliatory speech to State Department staff on his first day there, he warned that they “cannot sustain ineffective traditions over optimal outcomes.”

            ‘More Boxes’

            He was even more explicit in his confirmation hearing, citing his time as an engineer and later chief executive officer at Exxon, the world’s largest energy company by market value, when asked whether he planned to eliminate redundancies.

            “I’ve looked at organization charts from a few years ago to organization charts today and I’ve noticed there are a few more boxes,” he said. “Now, some of those may be for very good and valid reasons, but also, it appears to me that new issues which have been added may rightfully need to be placed back into the mission and integrated into the mission itself.”

            Analysts agree there is room for change at the department, if only to reduce confusion. Cybersecurity matters, for example, are split between the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Bureau of Information Resources Management. Plus there’s a coordinator for Cyber Issues.

            Still, the hollowing out of entire levels of the diplomatic corps with the departure -- voluntary or forced -- of political appointees has alarmed groups that work with the State Department on issues around the globe.

            “There are whole layers there that are empty at the political level -- the ones who can make decisions and drive resources to solve these kinds of problems,” said Bill O’Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy at Catholic Relief Services. “That’s really the critical need.”

            ‘Condo Fees’

            The department is slowly staffing up, with Trump deciding on choices for a NATO ambassador, State Department spokesman and ambassador to Russia in recent days.

            But the question remains what Tillerson’s State Department will look like and whether it can do its job with its reach -- and its budget -- reduced.

            “These are the condo fees of global leadership,” said Daniel Runde, a Republican who’s a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “We have a Republican Congress and a Republican executive branch, and we’re overdue for a strategic conversation for how we use our soft power in the world.”
            To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


            • #7

              Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

              Quote Unquote

              Rex Tillerson vs. The Enemy of The People: Inside The Media War At The State Department

              NBC’s Andrea Mitchell being shut down for asking questions is just the most visible of a media shutdown at the State Department. Why is Rex Tillerson so scared of the spotlight?

              Lloyd Grove
              Lloyd Grove
              03.10.17 12:38 PM ET

              Twice during the past week at the U.S. State Department, NBC’s chief foreign affairs correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, was ejected from photo ops when she had the unmitigated gall to ask questions of Rex Tillerson.

              The 70-year-old journalism workhorse, a skillful creator of viral video moments during her long network television career, failed to get answers as frantic aides firmly ushered her out of the secretary of state’s ceremonial seventh-floor office.

              But the confrontations produced some gripping optics that MSNBC, where Mitchell hosts a weekday show, deftly deployed in a promo touting her intrepid reporting style.

              Mitchell’s encounters—which exploded on social media this week after Fox News’s resident troglodyte, Bill O’Reilly, called her “unruly” on Twitter—also highlighted a more serious issue: a secretary of state who refuses to engage or even acknowledge the press corps assigned to cover him.

              It was only this week—nearly 50 days into Donald Trump’s administration—that deputy state department spokesman Mark Toner, a career foreign service officer, starting holding a regular on-camera briefing for correspondents, an event that occurred daily during past administrations. The new plan is to hold two televised briefings and two conference calls a week for beat reporters.

              But after six weeks on the job since being confirmed by the Senate, Tillerson—who as chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil for a decade met the media only in highly controlled and orchestrated circumstances—has yet to answer a single question from the press corps at Foggy Bottom.

              And when he leaves next Wednesday for a critical four-day trip to Japan, South Korea and China—a series of crucial consultations overshadowed by North Korea’s nuclear saber-rattling—Tillerson will not even be taking a single pool reporter with him on the secretary of state’s plane.

              P.J. Crowley, Barack Obama’s former assistant secretary for public affairs in charge of the state department’s media relations, drew a sharp intake of breath when informed of Secretary Tillerson’s travel arrangements.

              “That,” he said after a lengthy pause, “is a very significant break with tradition.”

              “It’s actually totally bizarre,” said the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, the newspaper’s state department correspondent during the tenures of Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. “Watching this beginning by Tillerson, I’m actually pretty appalled by it.”

              New York Times White House correspondent Mark Landler, who covered the state department under comparatively press-friendly Secretary Hillary Clinton, speculated that Tillerson might be staying out of the spotlight so as not to risk eclipsing a president who needs to be the center of attention.

              “You have to wonder if there isn’t an element of worry that too high a profile, working for a president named Donald Trump, is a hazardous place to be,” Landler said. “Maybe he’s concluded that being low-profile is a wiser move. Don’t compete with the boss.”

              Get The Beast In Your Inbox!

              Daily Digest

              Start and finish your day with the top stories from The Daily Beast.

              Cheat Sheet

              A speedy, smart summary of all the news you need to know (and nothing you don't).

              By clicking "Subscribe," you agree to have read the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy


              Former Time managing editor Richard Stengel, who served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs during the Obama administration, cautioned that beyond risking negative media coverage—of which Tillerson has had plenty in recent weeks portraying him as a marginal foreign-policy player compared with presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon—the secretary of state’s press-averse M.O. is sending a dangerous signal to the world at large.

              “It’s unfortunate for American policy, and it’s not just an American audience that’s looking at this,” Stengel told The Daily Beast. “It emboldens autocrats and dictators who don’t believe they ever have to talk to the press. ‘See? The Secretary of State of the United States doesn’t need to talk to the press, so why do I have to?’ It’s an unfortunate image that projects something that we don’t want to project around the world.”

              In an embarrassing illustration of Stengel’s warning, Tillerson found himself being lectured on press freedoms during a visit to Bonn, Germany, last month by none other than Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, the foreign policy czar of journalist-snuffing strong man Vladimir Putin.

              “Why did you shush them out?” Lavrov demanded after Tillerson’s handlers ejected reporters from a bilateral meeting as the Secretary of State began to speak; Lavrov, who frequently travels with a full complement of journalists on his official plane, had already taken a press question. (Due to lack of witnesses from the Fourth Estate, Tillerson’s reply, if any, went unrecorded.)

              “Seasoned diplomats like Lavrov are more likely to get the best of a diplomatic encounter with Rex Tillerson, and to sandbag him in some way, if there is no American press present or within earshot,” said Anne Gearan, the Washington Post’s current state department correspondent. “That means the first account of some of those meetings is going to be presented to the press of another country, and that might not go the way the U.S. wants it to go.”

              Crowley, meanwhile, told The Daily Beast that a Secretary of State’s public engagement with journalists “is a very important dimension of American diplomacy, so that we are seen as practicing what we preach, that we value the First Amendment, and that the relationship between the United States Government and a free and vibrant media is essential to government accountability and transparency.

              “But when we have a president who calls the media ‘enemies of the people,’” Crowley continued, “that is damaging to America’s standing in the world. And when we have a senior leader in government who appears to be retreating from this relationship, that gets noticed and it will have an impact.”

              State Department Senior Adviser R.C. Hammond, a veteran Republican operative who describes his job as “chief cat-herder,” rejects the notion that Tillerson has confused his priorities by keeping the press at arm’s length.

              Hammond said, however, that Tillerson intends to take questions from the press for his first time as secretary during next week’s Tokyo stop, and added many state department correspondents are arranging to fly commercial to be on hand for Tillerson’s visits to Japan, South Korea and China.

              He added that U.S. reporters on the ground will be traveling in the secretary’s motorcade, with access to the department’s briefers, within the security bubble.

              But why no pool reporter on the secretary’s plane?

              “He’s traveling on a smaller plane this time, which won’t accommodate a pool,” Hammond said. “The pool can be accommodated as long as the plane is large enough; we cannot put them in luggage.”

              But doesn’t the secretary of state normally fly in a government Boeing 757 that would have seated several journalists in the back—and wouldn’t such an aircraft have been available if requested?

              “Not necessarily,” Hammond replied, adding that he isn’t sure what sort of plane the secretary is using.

              Tillerson had a very brief off the record meet-and-greet with State Department correspondents last month, when he dropped by the “Bullpen,” as their cramped office space is nicknamed, and departed after around 10 minutes.

              “Zero reporters asked him any significant questions about foreign policy,” Hammond said about that encounter. “They took their first opportunity to introduce themselves by making sure not to ask him anything about his job.”

              Hammond, who displayed a taste for combat and a saturnine sense of humor when he was Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign press secretary during the 2012 primary race, denied making a quip after Tillerson left that a witness confirmed to The Daily Beast.

              “All you guys seem to care about is getting a lift on a government plane,” Hammond is alleged to have retorted to journalists who were pressing him for more access.

              “Every reporter is entitled to his gripes,” Hammond told The Daily Beast. “Some reporters are more interested in reporting about themselves than the issues that people care about. That’s true for Washington.”

              Hammond went on: “In the long run, what you’ll see is a state department that is making an adjustment to increase broader access; more reporters will have access to the department than they had before. Relying on a D.C-centric system that only answers questions from a briefing is not serving the needs of the entire media.”

              Hammond said that instead of focusing mainly on members of the State Department Correspondents Association—many of whom have been covering U.S. diplomacy through several administrations and bring institutional memory and historical perspective to their reporting—the department will be reaching out especially to media outlets that serve the 14 million people who live within 100 miles of the southern border with Mexico.

              “The department will be building a stronger border relationship with our neighbor, Mexico, and for a lot of people this is a local issue,” Hammond said. “The local news outlets that don’t usually have access to the state department will be getting new opportunities, and we will have information to help them on their local reporting.”

              Ironically, at the same moment that Hammond was talking about Mexico, that country’s foreign minister was reportedly meeting at the White House with Kushner, Bannon and others, but apparently saw no need to see his American counterpart. It was yet another indication that Tillerson’s low profile is damaging at least the perception of his influence.

              As for Andrea Mitchell, who declined to comment for this story, she was kicked out of Tillerson’s meeting with Yukiya Amano, director of International Atomic Energy Agency, when she pressed the Secretary on the department’s staffing problems--"Do you think you'll have a deputy anytime soon, sir?"—and the draconian 30 percent budget cuts President Trump wants to impose on American diplomacy.

              The scene was replayed on Tuesday when Tillerson and his guest, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, pretended not to hear her as she shouted questions about threats from China and the Trump administration’s ambiguous stance concerning Ukraine’s arch adversary, Putin.

              “Do you think this gets better?” Brian Williams asked Mitchell Thursday night on his MSNBC program.

              “I worry that it doesn’t,” she answered. “And I don’t think it’s good for the country.”
              To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


              • #8
                Fri Mar 10, 2017 | 1:33 AM EST
                Commentary: Trump wants to gut the State Department. Not everyone thinks that’s a bad idea

                By Peter Van Buren
                Concerns around the State Department that President Donald Trump's transition was in chaos seem mistaken. What if it’s by design? What if Trump decided America doesn't need State and if he can't get away with closing it down, he can disable, deconstruct and defund it?

                The question is not theoretical. Trump wants to cut government, shift money to infrastructure and other proposed programs, and views military force, or its threat, as a primary tool of global problem-solving. Never a favorite of conservatives, State seems an easy target for Trump. But he will quickly find out he'll need State to keep the lights on at embassies and consulates, and find some way to process visas. After that, there is a lot to cut few will miss.

                While we can’t see into Trump’s mind, we may be able to gauge his intentions. Things do not look good at State. The department didn’t hold a regular press briefing in January or February, nor has Secretary of State Rex Tillerson answered questions in public. There may be little to talk about – a bad sign in these first 100 days. The briefings are also a tool to get America's broader foreign policy message out to the globe, and for now that message is that no one is home at State.

                Commentary: North Korea's Kim knows exactly what he's doing
                Commentary: The futility of a Mexico-United States wall
                Commentary: When the FBI confronts the White House

                Tillerson wasn't present, as is typical, at several White House meetings with foreign leaders, and has taken only two short trips abroad. (By March 6 of her term, Hillary Clinton had already visited nine countries, John Kerry, 10.) Of the 17 sets of official remarks Tillerson delivered, 12 were substance-free messages to countries on their national days.

                Sources inside State say he is nowhere to be seen around the building, either in person or virtually via demands for information. State’s long hallways, which should be abuzz as new faces arrive with policy initiatives, and career staff work to bring them up to date on existing issues, are instead pretty quiet places.

                Meanwhile, Trump has proposed devastating cuts to State's budget, already only about 1 percent of federal spending. The administration has left many of the 64 special representative and other ambassador-level domestic positions empty, with no sign anyone will fill them soon. Many of the jobs were already under scrutiny by Congress during Obama’s time, and the current administration is unlikely to defend them.

                Tillerson also laid off a number of his own staff, some of whom were Obama-era holdovers, and has not rushed to replace them. These vacancies may show Trump’s intent to not rely on State for foreign policy opinion.

                Already seen by many inside the Trump administration as too closely tied to the Hillary Clinton campaign (some senior State officials associated with Clinton were purged in late January), the State Department has done little to help itself via the leaked dissent memo aimed at Trump's first so-called Muslim ban, and the subsequent leaked memo admonishing State staffers to stop leaking.

                Add in a Federal-wide hiring freeze, and the only good news at Foggy Bottom is that it's no longer hard to find a seat in the cafeteria.

                So is this it? The end of the Department of State, founded alongside the republic in 1789, with Thomas Jefferson as its first leader? Is anyone going to miss most of it?

                Maybe not. The actions described above refer to the “political” State Department, the traditional organ of diplomacy that once negotiated treaties and ended wars, but more and more since 9/11 (perhaps earlier) has been supplemented if not left behind by modern communications that allow Washington policymakers to deal directly with counterparts abroad.

                There is also a lot of bloat in State, mostly via overlap with other government agencies. State does trade promotion, as do other parts of the government, specifically the U.S. Commercial Service. State’s economic and political reporting exist alongside that of the intelligence community. (The WikiLeaks cables, years of State Department effort, contained as much filler and gossip as they did cogent policy advice.)

                Even within State, overlap grows like wild mushrooms. Large swaths of bureaucracy exist only to support other swaths of bureaucracy. And no one can really be sure what the Department’s Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region of Africa does.

                Throw in the growing role of the military in international relations, and Trump’s opinion that nobody negotiates better than he does on his own, and you end up with far too much State Department.

                So what will Trump need to hold on to?

                Those 294 embassies and consulates State operates serve a function as America's concierge that cannot be easily replaced.

                Dozens of U.S. government agencies rely on State's international real estate for office space and support to keep their costs down. Traveling American government VIPs need someone to arrange their security and get their hotels and receptions booked. Supporting CODELS (Congressional Delegations’ visits to foreign lands) is a right of passage for State Department employees. While stationed in London, I escorted so many Important Somebodies shopping I was named “Ambassador to Harrods Department Store” by my colleagues.

                Never mind handling the logistics for a full-on presidential visit to a foreign country. Trump will need this side of State to stay.

                Trump will also need to keep the function of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs somewhere inside government. Consular performs the traditional jobs of assisting Americans overseas when they're arrested, caught up in a natural disaster, or just need help with a new passport.

                The big swinging bat of consular work, however, is visa issuance. Visas are what fills the American economy with tourists, Silicon Valley with engineers and universities with foreign students. Visas are the State Department's cash cow: in FY2015 Consular issued close to 11 million tourist, worker and student visas at a typical fee of $160. That's well over $1.7 billion in revenue in addition to the budget Congress allots State. Consular holds a cash surplus whose dollar amount is one of the most closely held non-national security secrets inside government.

                Yet in a Trumpian calculus, what looks like a strength at Foggy Bottom might turn out to be a weakness. State fought viciously after 9/11 to hold on to consular work, even as the Bush administration sought to consolidate the function into the then-new Department of Homeland Security.

                State won that bureaucratic fight in 2001, but if the Trump administration really wanted to wipe away most of the State Department proper, it could simply kick out the most profitable leg holding up the whole edifice, and it’s unclear Congress would even need to be involved. Like a Jenga tower, Trump can pick away at the top positions for media and political points, but if he really wants to see it all fall down, he'll attack the bottom.

                Watch for it; it'll help tell you how serious this fight really is.

                For more Reuters Commentary coverage of Trump’s first 100 days, click here.

                (Peter Van Buren is the author of "We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.” His next book is “Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan.” @WeMeantWell The views presented here are the author’s own and do not represent those of the Department of State
                To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


                • #9
                  I thought the media/HRC lakies came up with "fake news" post election...

                  Bringing some clown from wapo will bring down the PRC...

                  From ‘fake news’ to no news: Tillerson leaving press behind on Asia trip could send message to China


                  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is heading to Asia this week. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

                  By David Nakamura and Carol Morello

                  March 15 at 10:00 AM 

                  As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Asia on Wednesday for his first major trip, one of his loudest messages could be one that goes unspoken.

                  State Department officials said Tillerson’s focus during meetings in Japan, South Korea and China will be on North Korea’s nuclear threat, as well as trade and economics. But his aversion to dealing with U.S. journalists — and his decision to initially bar them from his traveling party before granting a seat to a reporter for a conservative website at the last minute — have added to growing questions about the Trump administration’s commitment to a free press and transparent government.

                  For the nation’s top diplomat, the approach cuts sharply against the practice of his predecessors in both Republican and Democratic administrations who have allowed reporters on their planes as an expression of American values — and as a tool to help pressure authoritarian regimes toward political reforms and greater openness.

                  Tillerson’s abrupt change of direction comes at a time when his boss, President Trump, and other senior White House officials have referred to mainstream media outlets as “fake news,” “the opposition party” and “the enemy of the people,” and the White House has restricted access to some news briefings.

                  Foreign capitals have taken notice. Tamaki Tsukada, spokesman for the Japanese embassy in Washington, said “there is an elevated concern in the Japanese media about that level of control” that Trump is trying to exert on the U.S. news media.

                  The Trump administration’s posture also has been noted in Beijing, where Communist Party leaders have appropriated Trump’s own rhetoric as they continue a years-long effort to tighten government control of news and information. That effort has included restricting public access to the Internet, jailing Chinese journalists and denying visas to American reporters.

                  This month, Xinhua, a state-run news agency, attacked foreign news outlets for writing “fake news” full of “cleverly orchestrated lies” in their reports of the torture of a human rights lawyer by government agents.

                  “We’re in a period where Chinese government pressure on journalists is as great as it’s been since the 1980s, so having a secretary who raises the importance of a free press and the treatment of journalists is important,” said Rebecca MacKinnon, a former journalist based in Beijing who oversees a project at the New America think tank that examines digital privacy rights and free expression.

                  “It’s been a key part of our foreign policy for decades for Republicans and Democrats,” MacKinnon said. “If that changes or if the message is not conveyed … that sends a message not just to the world and the Chinese government, but also to Chinese journalists, human rights lawyers and activists.”

                  Tillerson, who regularly traveled with a single aide while serving as chief executive of ExxonMobil, is said to be uncomfortable with the large entourage of U.S. officials, reporters and security personnel that typically accompanies the secretary of state. This is his third trip abroad on a small plane, with less space for staff and for reporters. State Department officials have characterized it as a cost-cutting measure, though news organizations pay for their own expenses.

                  Tillerson’s aides emphasized that they have made arrangements to permit American reporters, who travel on their own or are based abroad, to cover his stops in each capital. And they said he will participate in his first news conference during a joint appearance with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo on Thursday.

                  The only journalist on the plane is Erin McPike, a reporter for the Independent Journal Review, an Alexandria-based website founded by two former Republican operatives. “We take this responsibility seriously,” the publication’s founder, Alex Skatell, said in a statement, expressing confidence in her coverage. McPike, who is listed on the website as a White House correspondent, was invited by the State Department to cover the trip, Skatell said.

                  Trump administration officials rejected the suggestion that the Chinese would view Tillerson’s exclusion of other reporters as a signal that the administration would tacitly endorse — or choose to overlook — their intimidation tactics against journalists.

                  “Taking the American press corps to Beijing has not over the course of 40 years, to my knowledge, particularly changed the conditions for Chinese media,” said Victoria Coates, a senior director for strategic communications at the National Security Council. “It demonstrates solidarity, but it does not achieve anything.”

                  Nevertheless, Tillerson is being watched closely at home and abroad for signals of how the Trump administration, which has proposed slashing the budget of the State Department, intends to engage the world. His early approach represents a sharp departure from his predecessor, John F. Kerry, who served as secretary of state during former president Barack Obama’s second term.

                  In private meetings and in public, Kerry often spoke out about the values of a free and independent press. During a visit to Beijing in 2014, he met with Chinese bloggers in a roundtable arranged by the U.S. Embassy and photographed by American reporters traveling with him.

                  It came at a time when Beijing was clamping down on political dissent, and the bloggers asked Kerry to help “tear down” the Great Firewall of censorship blocking what citizens can read online. Kerry told them he had raised the matter with Chinese officials, prompting the foreign ministry to label his views “naive.”

                  Kerry wasn’t the only Obama administration official to pressure the Chinese. Former Vice President Joseph Biden met with a group of Beijing-based reporters from the New York Times and Bloomberg News during a trip to China in Dec. 2013.

                  Those organizations were being threatened by the government after stories that exposed a network of secret wealth of relatives of Chinese President Xi Jinping and other Communist leaders. Biden said he raised their concerns in a private meeting with Xi.

                  “Media organizations that were having difficulties with visas sought assistance, and we were open to that because we always seek fair treatment for U.S. journalists working abroad,” said Jeff Prescott, a former Obama and Biden aide who helped arrange the vice president’s Asia trip. “In-depth reporting is critical to how Americans understand developments in a place like China. The fact that journalists faced visa challenges at the time of a high-level visit presented an opportunity to highlight the issue and provided leverage to help address it.”

                  A year later, during Obama’s state visit to Beijing, the U.S. delegation negotiated with the Chinese to ensure that Xi took a question from an American reporter at a news conference. Obama used the opportunity to call on a New York Times correspondent, who promptly asked the Chinese leader about his efforts to deny visas to foreign reporters.

                  Former Obama aides acknowledged that their efforts paid limited dividends in China. But they emphasized that the messaging resonated throughout the region, including in Southeast Asia, where the United States had positioned itself as a democratic alternative to China’s growing influence.

                  It is not known if Tillerson will raise human rights, including press freedoms, during his stop in Beijing. A State Department official who briefed reporters before the trip did not mention it being on the agenda.

                  “I’m just always wary of predicting exactly what will be on the agenda of any meeting, but I can guarantee that it is a concern,” said Mark Toner, the agency’s acting spokesman. “We recognize there are challenges there. Human rights is one of those challenges and freedom of the press is an essential part of that.”
                  Last edited by troung; 15 Mar 17,, 17:54.
                  To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by tbm3fan View Post
                    So let's eviscerate State and while we are at it let's eviscerate the Coast Guard at the same time. That is truly making America Great again and safe.
                    We must keep America safe!

                    But not from environmental disasters, disease outbreaks or epidemics.

                    The terrorists manage to kill an average of 74 Americans per year! With some years spiking as high as ~3000 deaths! Influenza and Pneumonia only kill around 55,000 Americans per year so that's no big deal. CDC clearly doesn't need this funding...

                    Those Americans who risked or sacrificed their lives working in horrible conditions to contain Ebola in Africa? Fuck em, they're on their own.

                    Last edited by SteveDaPirate; 16 Mar 17,, 16:35.


                    • #11
                      Notice how all these budget cuts are of items that affect the lives of many Americans except one for sure. None of these programs affect the life of Trump in any shape, manner or form. I continually say that Trump has always and will always only care about himself first. No normal person says I am the only one who knows all the answers. Frankly, if I had to place a bet on the chance that Trump would decide in favor of the country or sell it down the river to protect his position, when push came to shove, I would have to place it on selling out.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by tbm3fan View Post
                        Frankly, if I had to place a bet on the chance that Trump would decide in favor of the country or sell it down the river to protect his position, when push came to shove, I would have to place it on selling out.
                        Missed the chance to bet on it. He already did.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by tbm3fan View Post
                          I continually say that Trump has always and will always only care about himself first.
                          I get the feeling that in his worldview there are winners and losers, and his narcissism precludes him from understanding the idea of sacrifice for the greater good.

                          This kind of explains his disdain for John McCain as a POW, the Gold Star family, and CDC workers fighting Ebola. According to Trump, if they suffered or died, it was because they made a bad decision and "lost", therefore they deserve ridicule.


                          • #14
                            In days past, like my father's generation growing up in NYC during the 30's and 40's, the term used by his like would be "suckers".

                            His disdain for McCain also shows him to be a paper patriot.


                            • #15
                              Rex Tillerson threatens to withdraw from UN Human Rights Council to improve human rights

                              Secretary of State is deciding where and how to cut $10 billion of US funding to the UN
                              Rachael Revesz |
                              @RachaelRevesz |

                              Click to follow
                              The Independent US

                              Mr Tillerson has reportedly been given flexibility to decide how the cuts are implemented Reuters

                              Donald Trump’s administration has threatened to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council, arguing that the US wants to improve global human rights and defend Israel.

                              Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote in a letter to nine UN advocates and human rights groups that the council must undergo “considerable reform for us [the US] to participate” and that the US “continues to evaluate” the council's effectiveness.

                              Mr Tillerson, who has been given authority as to how and when the US executes its funding cuts to the UN, said he was concerned about the human rights record of other countries in the 47-member council, such as China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

                              He said the US will remain a member for the time being to “reiterate our strong principled objection to the Human Rights Council’s biased agenda against Israel.”

                              “We may not share a common view on this, given the makeup of the membership,” he added.

                              State Department spokesman Mark Toner told journalists this week that he would not get into details about the letter, first obtained by Foreign Policy.

                              “It’s fair to say we’re having discussions about — and that’s internal discussions, meaning within the State Department, but also with some of our partners — about how to increase transparency and accountability in human rights,” Mr Toner said.

                              Former President George W Bush refused to join the council in 2006 due to its treatment of Israel, but the decision was reversed by President Barack Obama in 2009, who said it would be better to have a seat at the table.

                              Congress was reportedly preparing legislation last month to defund the UN after the organisation voted to condemn Israeli settlement building in the Occupied Territories.

                              President Donald Trump has long expressed his view that the US paid too much towards the UN, which amounts to about $10 billion currently.

                              He also compared the UN to a "country club" where people were having "a good time".

                              In January he was reportedly preparing to sign an executive order which would reduce US funding of the UN by 40 per cent, as well as repeal certain multilateral treaties and scrap the landmark Paris climate change agreement.

                              Trump Compares United Nations to 'Country Club'

                              The order says that funding will be taken away from any organisation that is "controlled or substantially influenced by any state that sponsors terrorism" or is behind the persecution of marginalised groups or systematic violation of human rights.

                              Read more

                              US Republicans consider ending American funding of United Nations
                              There will only be one loser after Obama's attack on Israel
                              Trump: UN is just a 'good time' club and I've brought hope to world

                              Foreign Policy reported this week that State Department officials were ordered to cut US funding to the UN by up to 50 per cent.

                              Peacekeeping operations and the United Nations Population Fund, which fights violence against women and gender inequality, are set to be hit the hardest.

                              First details of the billion-dollar cuts to the UN could be revealed this week in the US budget for the year ahead, as the President explains how he will expand the military without raising taxes


                              Press corps blasts Tillerson for cherry-picking reporters

                              State Department invites right-wing outlet on trip to Asia, snubbing the regular pool.

                              By Hadas Gold
                              | 03/15/17 07:09 PM EDT
                              | Updated 03/15/17 10:30 PM EDT

                               Share on Facebook  Share on Twitter

                              The Trump administration’s efforts to rewrite the rules for media coverage reached a furious peak on Wednesday as veteran State Department reporters expressed outrage over Secretary Rex Tillerson’s decision to take only a reporter from a conservative website on his first trip to Asia.

                              “The State Department is the beacon of press freedom around the world. The message now to China in particular when he gets to Beijing is that press freedom doesn’t matter,” MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who is following Tillerson’s trip and broadcasting from Tokyo, said in a recent appearance on air. "Up until now, secretaries of state have made it a key demand that our press corps gets into meetings … that there be access for the media … A key component of foreign policy is being undercut by this.”

                              Tillerson’s move caught most of the media off guard, in part because he has more to gain than lose by courting the diplomatic press corps, which has enjoyed generally good relations with all secretaries of state going back to the Reagan administration. Indeed, of all the branches of the Washington press corps, the State Department's is widely considered the most staid and serious, the type who actually care about policy versus palace intrigue.

                              But those same reporters are now furious, frustrated and, in some cases, disgusted by what’s been deemed a violation of tradition and a public trust, with Tillerson’s decision to bring only Erin McPike of Independent Journal Review, a conservative news outlet which made its name with lighthearted videos featuring politicians and viral stories.

                              McPike has been with IJR for only a few weeks and doesn’t even cover the State Department: She’s its White House reporter and is often in the briefings. McPike won’t be acting as a pool reporter for the rest of the diplomatic press corps, meaning she won’t be sharing information about the trip with other reporters, which is what would normally happen if there were limited space for reporters and only a few were chosen.

                              "Is this really the message they want to send to the public, as well as other nations? Really? They must, on some level, realize that no one is fooled by the explanations,” said CNN’s senior diplomatic correspondent, Michelle Kosinski.

                              Mitchell and Kosinski are just two of many reporters who have strongly protested the decision, which also drew the ire of many Washington bureau chiefs and the State Department Correspondents’ Association.

                              "The State Department Correspondents' Association is disappointed that Secretary Tillerson chose to travel this week to North Asia without a full contingent of the diplomatic press corps or even a pool reporter,” the association said in a statement.

                              In the past when the State Department invited a particular reporter on the secretary’s plane, there was always a pool report to keep other reporters aware of what transpired.

                              This time, however, the State Department initially said it would not be letting any reporters on the trip, meaning that anyone covering the trip would have to make their own travel arrangements and would have no assurance of access to the secretary. The reason, the State Department said, was to save money by using a smaller plane with fewer staff — though reporters noted that past secretaries and officials have traveled on the same plane and brought media along.

                              But then on Tuesday it was revealed — not initially by the State Department — that McPike had been invited. The decision, State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement, was made “as part of an effort to include a broader representation of U.S. media.”



                              5 things we just learned about the Trump-Russia probe

                              By Austin Wright

                              But at the daily news briefing on Wednesday, reporters hammered Toner for the department’s handling of the situation. Toner, a career State Department official, deflected some of the blame, saying he wasn’t involved in the decision- making and wouldn’t go on the trip.

                              “With respect to this decision, I wouldn’t extrapolate that there’s some intent to ostracize the media in this room,” Toner said, adding that the media will have some access to Tillerson during the trip and that this was an effort to “look at outside-the-box approaches” to how they handle coverage of the secretary. “I can say going forward that every effort will be made to accommodate the press contingent on board the plane.”

                              But many in the State Department press corps remained aghast at the decision to invite a reporter with little foreign policy experience from news outlet with a clear ideological bent.

                              IJR was founded in 2012 by Alex Skatell, a former Republican operative, and is owned by Media Group of America, which is co-owned by Phil Musser, a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association who has ties to Vice President Mike Pence.

                              IJR’s goal has been to fill a void it believes exists in social and mobile-first news, aimed at a young, millennial conservative audience. The site has picked up steam in the past few years, gaining traffic with funny videos of presidential candidates and other viral content. The rising profile paid off with the site co-sponsoring one of the Republican primary debates last year.

                              The site has made investments in original journalism, though a dozen of its staffers, several of them reporters, have left the site in the past year. IJR says they’ve hired replacements, but former staffers said those who left were more traditional journalists — including Justin Green, Michelle Jaconi, Hunter Schwartz and Kate Glassman Bennett.

                              Some former employees of the site, speaking on background, said it’s become “more right wing” and the change in tone made it difficult for them to do their jobs.

                              In response, Skatell, IJR's founder, said in a statement: "We take our responsibility as a news organization on the board of News Media Alliance, Digital Content Next and the Trust Project seriously. I'm proud of our reporting team, past and present, and just as we've done since we were one writer and a handful of readers, we will continue to invest time and energy into strengthening our team and process."

                              Recently, IJR scored a major scoop, reporting hours before it was officially announced that Neil Gorsuch would be Trump’s nominee for the open Supreme Court spot. But few other media organizations picked it up or cited IJR — a reflection, perhaps, of the media establishment not yet taking the site seriously.

                              Morning Media

                              Your guide to the media circus

                               Email Sign Up

                              By signing up you agree to receive email newsletters or alerts from POLITICO. You can unsubscribe at any time.

                              In another coup of sorts, IJR was tipped off about a dinner Trump was going to have at his D.C. hotel, while the presidential press pool — the group of reporters who travel with the president at all times — was not told of his destination.

                              But there was Independent Journal Review’s Benny Johnson, camped out a table prepared to provide an exhaustive nearly minute-by-minute account of the dinner.

                              Both scoops were based on informed sources, something that both reports made clear. But some former staffers said they were uncomfortable with the site waving its banner about scoring scoops and making its journalistic mark while they said its tone has become too pro-administration.

                              One of the site’s current reporters, Joe Perticone, rejected this notion, noting on Twitter in response to a tweet calling IJR “state-run media” by saying that his most recent sit-down was with a Democrat who was very critical of Trump.

                              Skatell defended the decision to send McPike, saying in a statement, "We don’t take this opportunity lightly and recognize the controversy surrounding press access for the trip,” while defending McPike as a “tenacious” reporter who has spent “over a decade of reporting for some of the largest, most respected outlets in Washington” such as CNN, RealClearPolitics and National Journal.

                              But Skatell has made clear in the past that he and his newsroom are different from the mainstream media. Speaking at a POLITICO panel in January, Skatell wouldn’t say whether IJR would defend other news sites if they were banned by the incoming president. Instead, he said, the onus should be on television news to stand up and make an impact.

                              “I think it depends how you [the banned outlet] reacted, what the community thought,” Skatell said.

                              Now, many eyes will be watching for McPike’s report from the trip, and some reporters suggested IJR’s credibility is at stake.

                              "Remarkable. Huge responsibility if anything goes sideways,” Yahoo White House correspondent Olivier Knox wrote on Twitter.
                              Last edited by troung; 19 Mar 17,, 04:06.
                              To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway