US President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has issued a blanket mandate for politically appointed ambassadors installed by President Barack Obama to leave their posts by Inauguration Day, the US ambassador to New Zealand said on Friday. “I will be departing on January 20th,” Ambassador Mark Gilbert said in a Twitter message to Reuters.
The mandate was issued “without exceptions” through an order sent in a State Department cable on Dec. 23, Gilbert said. He was confirming a report in the New York Times, which quoted diplomatic sources as saying previous US administrations, from both major political parties, have traditionally granted extensions to allow a few such ambassadors, particularly those with school-age children, to remain in place for weeks or months.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said it was “common” procedure for all politically-appointed ambassadors to step down as a new U.S. administration comes in on Jan. 20. “All political appointees for the Obama administration were directed to submit their resignation and the due date was Dec. 7, and the resignations are to take effect on Jan. 20,” Kirby told reporters. “That is common, typical practice … that’s the way it works.”
Kirby said, as expected, no career diplomats serving as ambassadors had been asked to resign by the transition team. He acknowledged, however, that in the past there had been exceptions made for a small number of political appointees to stay on for a short time for personal reasons. “But that is totally in the prerogative of the incoming administration,” he added.
The order could leave the United States without Senate-confirmed envoys for months in critical nations like Germany, Canada and Britain, the New York Times reported. A senior Trump transition official told the newspaper there was no ill will in the move, describing it as a simple matter of ensuring Obama’s overseas envoys leave the government on schedule, just as thousands of political aides at the White House and in federal agencies must do.
Trump has taken a strict stance against leaving any of Obama’s political appointees in place as he prepares to take office on Jan. 20, aiming to break up many of his predecessor’s signature foreign and domestic policy achievements, the newspaper said. Diplomats told the New York Times that the order has thrown their personal lives into a tailspin, leaving them scrambling to secure living arrangements and acquire visas allowing them to stay in their countries so their children can remain in school.