THE CONSERVATIVE REVIEW - January 10, 2017
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*-- Trump won't give grace period to Obama ambassadors, breaking with precedent --*
WASHINGTON - Breaking with decades of precedent by incoming Republican and Democratic administrations, President-elect Donald Trump has issued a blanket edict that all politically appointed ambassadors serving the Obama administration must be out of their jobs on Inauguration Day.
The decision could leave some U.S. embassies without an appointed diplomat for months as the new administration fills out the dozens of posts and waits for the Senate to hold confirmation hearings.
Past incoming administrations have issued similar orders, but made exceptions for ambassadors' personal lives, granting extensions for holdover ambassadors to remain in place while their replacements are awaiting confirmation, particularly if there are pressing diplomatic matters unfolding or family concerns played a role in an ambassador's request for an extension.
The New York Times reported Trump's decision has left Obama-appointed ambassadors in several countries attempting to obtain visas and make living arrangements before Jan. 20, or face pulling their children out of school mid-year to transfer them back stateside.
"Some of the ambassadors really thought they could stay, so there's a little bit of a scramble now," a State Department official told Politico. "They're mostly resigned to it now."
There are 188 ambassadorships the United States must fill abroad, according to the Foreign Services Administration. About 30 percent are filled by political appointments that require Senate confirmation. Those plum assignments -- generally posts with U.S. allies in developed nations across Europe, Asia and South America -- are filled by men and women with close political ties to the administration. Frequently, presidents have used those ambassadorships to reward wealthy campaign contributors even though they are not especially well-versed in international diplomacy.
The remainder of the less cozy posts across the developing world, as well as in politically sensitive countries like Iraq or Afghanistan that require an ambassador's broad understanding of foreign and military affairs, are held by career members of the foreign service who do not require Senate confirmation. None of the career diplomats are subject to Trump's Jan. 20 deadline and many, if not all, will serve in Trump's State Department for at least some time, Politico reported.
As for the nations where a political appointee serves as ambassador, those U.S. embassies will be run temporarily by the highest ranking career diplomat stationed in the country.
A Trump transition official speaking to the Times on condition of anonymity, said the decision was not made out of ill will, but the desire to remake U.S. diplomacy under Trump as quickly as possible.
The Times reported some of the Obama appointees were weighing a direct appeal to Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson to grant them extensions to serve past Jan. 20.
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