With foreign policy, is Trump playing a classic game of good cop, bad cop?

February 24, 2017

* “In a White House laden with competing power centers, a trio of military men has emerged as a force to be reckoned with. All three are notable for their independence from Trump... None had a prior relationship with him but all have long histories with each other.”

* “The U.S. national security team – traditionalist lieutenants, disruptive boss – might be trying to reproduce the old Nixonian ‘madman theory.’ That’s when adversaries tread carefully because they suspect the U.S. president of being unpredictable, occasionally reckless and potentially crazy dangerous [and it may already be having benefits as China and others start to fall into line].”

* “The U.S. military is contemplating a long-term presence in Iraq to stabilize the country after the anticipated defeat of ISIS…The longer-term approach to stabilizing Iraq stands in stark contrast to policies pursued by President Obama, who ran on a platform of getting U.S. troops out of Iraq and campaigned for reelection based on having withdrawn all U.S. troops in 2011 [leading to ISIS stepping into fill the gap the following year, as the defense and intelligence establishment had warned Obama would happen by prematurely withdrawing].”

* Sidelining the State Department old guard: those who have been obsessed on being hard on Israel, soft on Islamic radicalism, are being pushed out of the way. Trump and Tillerson bring in outsiders such as Nikki Haley, to take a different line.

***

I attach six articles concerning Donald Trump’s foreign policy. If you have limited time, I suggest only reading the first two pieces.

-- Tom Gross

 

* You can also find other items that are not in these dispatches if you “like” this page on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia

 

CONTENTS

1. “Trump and the ‘madman theory’” (By Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, Feb. 24, 2017)
2. “Trio of military men gain growing influence with Trump” (By Vivian Salam and Julie Pace, Associated Press / Military Times, Feb. 23, 2017)
3. “Top general: US mulling ‘long-term commitment’ in Iraq” (By Ryan Browne, CNN, Feb. 23, 2017)
4. “More U.S. troops may be needed against ISIS in Syria, a top general says” (By Michael Gordon, NY Times, Feb. 23, 2017)
5. “In first month of Trump presidency, State Department has been sidelined” (By Carol Morello and Anne Gearan, Washington Post, Feb. 22, 2017)
6. “It’s a bloodbath at the State Department” (By Daniel Halper, NY Post, Feb. 17, 2017)

 

ADOPTING THE “MADMAN THEORY” TO PRESSURE ADVERSARIES?

Trump and the ‘madman theory’
By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
February 24, 2017

At the heart of President Trump’s foreign policy team lies a glaring contradiction. On the one hand, it is composed of men of experience, judgment and traditionalism. Meaning, they are all very much within the parameters of mainstream American internationalism as practiced since 1945. Practically every member of the team – the heads of State, Homeland Security, the CIA, and most especially Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser H.R. McMaster – could fit in a Cabinet put together by, say, Hillary Clinton.

The commander in chief, on the other hand, is quite the opposite – inexperienced, untraditional, unbounded. His pronouncements on everything from the one-China policy to the two-state (Arab-Israeli) solution, from NATO obsolescence to the ravages of free trade, continue to confound and, as we say today, disrupt.

The obvious question is: Can this arrangement possibly work? The answer thus far, surprisingly, is: perhaps.

The sample size is tiny but take, for example, the German excursion. Trump dispatched his grown-ups – Vice President Pence, Defense Secretary Mattis, Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – to various international confabs in Germany to reassure allies with the usual pieties about America’s commitment to European security. They did drop a few hints to Trump’s loud complaints about allied parasitism, in particular shirking their share of the defense burden.

Within days, Germany announced a 20,000-troop expansion of its military. Smaller European countries are likely to take note of the new setup. It’s classic good-cop, bad-cop: The secretaries represent foreign policy continuity but their boss preaches America First. Message: Shape up.

John Hannah of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies suggests that the push-pull effect might work on foes as well as friends. On Saturday, China announced a cutoff of all coal imports from North Korea for the rest of 2017. Constituting more than one-third of all North Korean exports, this is a major blow to its economy.

True, part of the reason could be Chinese ire at the brazen assassination of Kim Jong Un’s half brother, who had been under Chinese protection. Nonetheless, the boycott was declared just days after a provocative North Korean missile launch – and shortly into the term of a new American president who has shown that he can be erratic and quite disdainful of Chinese sensibilities.

His wavering on the one-China policy took Beijing by surprise. Trump also strongly denounced Chinese expansion in the South China Sea and conducted an ostentatious love-in with Japan’s prime minister, something guaranteed to rankle the Chinese. Beijing’s boycott of Pyongyang is many things, among them a nod to Washington.

This suggests that the peculiar and discordant makeup of the U.S. national security team – traditionalist lieutenants, disruptive boss – might reproduce the old Nixonian “madman theory.” That’s when adversaries tread carefully because they suspect the U.S. president of being unpredictable, occasionally reckless and potentially crazy dangerous. Henry Kissinger, with Nixon’s collaboration, tried more than once to exploit this perception to pressure adversaries.

Trump’s people have already shown a delicate touch in dealing with his bouts of loopiness. Trump has gone on for years about how we should have taken Iraq’s oil for ourselves. Sunday in Baghdad, Mattis wryly backed off, telling his hosts that “All of us in America have generally paid for our gas and oil all along, and I am sure we will continue to do so in the future.”

Yet sometimes an off-center comment can have its uses. Take Trump’s casual dismissal of a U.S. commitment to a two-state solution in the Middle East. The next day, U.S. policy was brought back in line by his own U.N. ambassador. But this diversion might prove salutary. It’s a message to the Palestinians that their decades of rejectionism may not continue to pay off with an inexorable march toward statehood – that there may actually be a price to pay for making no concessions and simply waiting for the U.S. to deliver them a Palestinian state.

To be sure, a two-track, two-policy, two-reality foreign policy is risky, unsettling and has the potential to go totally off the rails. This is not how you would draw it up in advance. It’s unstable and confusing. But the experience of the first month suggests that, with prudence and luck, it can yield the occasional benefit – that the combination of radical rhetoric and conventional policy may induce better behavior both in friend and foe.

Alas, there is also a worst-case scenario. It needs no elaboration.

 

TRIO OF MILITARY MEN GAIN GROWING INFLUENCE WITH TRUMP

Trio of military men gain growing influence with Trump
By Vivian Salam and Julie Pace
The Associated Press
February 23, 2017

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/trio-of-military-men-gain-growing-influence-with-trump

WASHINGTON – In a White House laden with competing power centers, a trio of military men has emerged as a force to be reckoned with.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford have quickly formed a stabilizing alliance in an administration whose earliest days have been marked by turmoil. At working dinners and meetings with President Donald Trump, the men – all retired or current generals – have sought to guide the new leader and foreign policy novice.

And they have increasingly represented Trump around the world, seeking to allay concerns about the new president and his nascent foreign policy.

Their fingerprints can increasingly be seen on the president’s early national security moves, from the reworking of his controversial refugee and immigration order to the walking back of his talk of a “military operation” for deportations to his search for a national security adviser after the first was ousted.

All three are notable for their independence from Trump. None had a prior relationship with him but all have long histories with each other.

When Kelly’s son was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, it was Dunford who arrived at his house in uniform to inform him. Mattis and Kelly recommended each other for defense secretary. All three served in Iraq around the same time.

In Washington and in foreign capitals, their long resumes have been a welcome addition to an administration led by a president and several advisers with no experience in government.

“It should be reassuring that they are visible with Trump and cementing their influence,” said Christine Wormuth, a former undersecretary of defense for policy and a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

The rising power of Mattis, Kelly and Dunford also could assuage some fears among Republicans that national security decision-making is becoming too concentrated in the White House West Wing. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has been deeply involved in discussions with foreign officials. And chief strategist Steve Bannon, a media executive with no foreign policy experience, now has a seat on Trump’s Principals Committee, which weighs pressing national security issues.

Of the three military men, Mattis has emerged as a dominant figure in Trump’s orbit.

A 66-year-old retired Marine, Mattis is credited by some National Security Council staff with blocking an executive order that would have reopened CIA “black sites.” Trump has said the Pentagon chief convinced him it wasn’t necessary to bring back banned torture techniques like waterboarding.

On his way to Baghdad this week, Mattis bluntly rebuffed Trump’s assertion that America may have a second chance to take Iraqi oil as compensation for U.S. efforts in the war-torn country.

“We’re not in Iraq to seize anybody’s oil,” Mattis told reporters.

Kelly, too, has tried to moderate some of the president’s hard-line positions. Hours after Trump said deportations of people in the U.S. illegally were being carried out as a “military operation,” Kelly said Thursday in Mexico that the U.S. would not enlist the military to enforce immigration laws.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer later said Trump was describing the “precision” of the operations and not referring to the military actually being involved.

Mattis and Kelly are said to have been deeply frustrated with the rollout of Trump’s refugee and immigration ban and made clear to associates that they were not involved in crafting the directive. Both moved swiftly to address gaps in the measure, with Mattis asking that Iraqis who helped U.S. troops be exempt and Kelly clarifying that green card holders would not be affected.

For the first few weeks after the inauguration, Mattis and Kelly agreed that one of them should remain in the United States to keep tabs on the orders rapidly firing out of the White House, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Despite their concerns about Trump’s travel order, neither has spoken out against it. In fact, Kelly launched a particularly robust defense of it, which was welcomed by the White House, an administration official said.

The official and others with knowledge of the emerging dynamic insisted on anonymity in order to discuss the administration’s internal dynamics.

While Trump tapped Mattis and Kelly for his Cabinet, he inherited Dunford, whose term as Joint Chiefs chairman runs through the end of the year. But the president, who has stocked his national security team with military leaders, is said to see Dunford as a “general’s general,” according to another person with knowledge of Trump’s team.

Earlier this week, Trump tapped another military man, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, as his national security adviser after firing Michael Flynn for misleading the White House about his dealings with Russia. Mattis, Kelly and Dunford all praised the pick, the administration official said.

Loren Schulman, a national security and defense expert at the Center for a New American Security, said the generals “speak similar language, in terms of how to assess risk or what military options are possible or relationships overseas – those are the good things they bring to the table.”

What’s bad, Schulman said, is that “military tools are not the only tools in the foreign policy tool kit.”

Thus far, the military leaders have overshadowed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former head of Exxon Mobil. Tillerson has taken a low-key approach during his first several weeks on the job, leading to concern among some diplomats that he is not a major player in Trump’s national security team.

Some officials worry that diplomacy has been relegated to a back seat or been taken over by the White House. In response to such concerns, acting department spokesman Mark Toner, a career foreign service officer who served as deputy spokesman under John Kerry, said late Wednesday that press briefings would resume soon.

 

U.S. MULLING “LONG-TERM COMMITMENT” IN IRAQ

Top general: US mulling ‘long-term commitment’ in Iraq
By Ryan Browne
CNN
February 23, 2017

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/02/23/politics/dunford-us-iraq-commitment/index.html

The US military is contemplating a long-term presence in Iraq to stabilize the country after the anticipated defeat ISIS, America’s top military officer said Thursday.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford said that both the US and NATO have begun discussions with Iraq about the possibility.

“We have, as has NATO, begun a dialogue about a long term commitment to grow the capacity, maintain the capacity of Iraqi Security Forces, but no decisions have been made yet,” Dunford told an audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington, his first time fielding questions since the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

“Iraq has begun to speak, and you’ve heard Prime Minister (Haider) Abadi speak, about the international community continuing to support defense capacity building,” he added.
A NATO official told CNN Friday that, at Abadi’s request, the alliance had already begun training Iraqi troops this month and that NATO’s presence there “has no fixed end date.”

Dunford’s comments come days after Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the commander of the US-led counter-ISIS coalition, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, suggested in Baghdad that there would be continued US-Iraqi military collaboration even after the terror group is ejected from Mosul. Forces are currently advancing on the terror group there, the last major city it controls.

“The Iraqi people, the Iraqi military and the Iraqi political leadership recognizes what they’re up against and the value of the coalition and the partnership in particular with the United States, Mattis told reporters Monday on a trip to Baghdad. “I imagine we’ll be in this fight for a while and we’ll stand by each other.”

The longer-term approach to stabilizing Iraq stands in stark contrast to policies pursued by President Barack Obama, who ran on a platform of getting US troops out of Iraq and campaigned for reelection based on having withdrawn all US troops in 2011.

Obama later had to recommit American forces upon the rise of ISIS, but kept their involvement limited. A longer assignment could trigger political pushback.

Dunford seemed to take a subtle swipe at Obama as well as offer a warning to his current commander in chief when he stressed Thursday that “we can’t be paralyzed” with the difficult decision in the fight against ISIS. Many in the military had pushed the Obama White House to take more forceful action to confront the terror group, something Trump has pledged to do.

Before deciding on a specific course, however, Trump directed the Pentagon, with input from the State Department and Treasury, to draw up a plan to be delivered Monday or Tuesday to the White House for consideration.

“It’s fair to say we’ll provide him a full range of options,” Dunford said, refusing to rule anything out.

A US defense official told CNN this week that the document would include strategies, goals and resources needed to accelerate the fight, potentially proposing an increase in resources for Syria. The plan is also expected to address ISIS franchises outside of Syria and Iraq, including in Yemen, Libya and Afghanistan.

At Brookings, Dunford mentioned the need to weigh the views of regional players, such as key American ally Turkey, which opposes US-backed Kurdish groups currently carrying out some of the most effective fighting against ISIS in Syria.

“We are wrestling with all those issues, but at the end of the day we can’t be paralyzed by tough choices,” Dunford said.

 

MORE U.S. TROOPS MAY BE NEEDED AGAINST ISIS IN SYRIA

More U.S. Troops May Be Needed Against ISIS in Syria, a Top General Says
By Michael Gordon
New York Times
Feb. 23, 2017

AMMAN, Jordan – More American troops may be needed in Syria to speed the campaign against the Islamic State, the top United States commander for the Middle East said on Wednesday.

“I am very concerned about maintaining momentum,” Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of the United States Central Command, told reporters accompanying him on a trip to the region.

“It could be that we take on a larger burden ourselves,” he added. “That’s an option.”

The current American strategy is to press the Islamic State from multiple directions by moving ahead with the offensive to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa even as Iraqi forces carry on their operation to take western Mosul.

Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters backed by the United States are to play the principal role in seizing Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State’s professed caliphate.

But one option being considered is for American troops to step up their support of the fighters by firing artillery, shooting mortars, helping with logistics and significantly expanding efforts to advise them, much as the United States is doing for Iraqi forces in the battle for Mosul.

In late January, President Trump gave the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, 30 days to develop a “preliminary plan” to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. That deadline is fast approaching.

Mr. Trump has not said what steps he is prepared to take to make good on his campaign vow to hasten the defeat of the Islamic State. But he has a high regard for American generals and for Mr. Mattis, and he is likely to be receptive to their recommendations.

General Votel’s trip to the region and a visit Mr. Mattis recently made to Iraq are intended to help the Pentagon refine the plan that is presented to the White House.

The United States has about 500 Special Operations troops in Syria. If the American military presence were to be expanded, additional personnel could come from conventional combat units, though General Votel stressed that he would not recommend deploying large combat formations.

“We want to bring the right capabilities forward,” he said. “Not all of those are necessarily resident in the Special Operations community. If we need additional artillery or things like that, I want to be able to bring those forward to augment our operations.”

Raqqa has long been an objective for the American-led campaign. In addition to serving as the Islamic State’s capital, it has been a sanctuary for militants who have plotted to carry out terrorist attacks in Europe.

But the mission to seize Raqqa has been seriously complicated by Turkey’s vociferous objections to any effort by the United States to arm the People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish militia in northern Syria known by its Kurdish initials, Y.P.G.

American military officers have said that the Y.P.G. is the most capable Syrian fighting force and the best hope for mounting an attack to capture Raqqa in the coming weeks. To conduct urban warfare, however, the group needs to be equipped with armored vehicles, heavy machine guns and other arms.

Turkey, however, has denounced the Y.P.G. as a terrorist group. The United States ambassador in Ankara, American officials say, has cautioned that proceeding with the plan to arm the Kurdish group could prompt a major Turkish backlash, which could ultimately undermine American military efforts in Syria.

After months of sharp debate within his administration, President Barack Obama concluded during his final week in office that the United States should arm the Y.P.G., former administration officials said. But Mr. Obama left the ultimate decision to the Trump administration, which had informed his national security adviser that it wanted to conduct its own review of military strategy.

Many observers say that if arming the Y.P.G. is ruled out, it could take a long time to cobble together an alternative force that could draw on Turkish-backed Syrian militias and other fighters. How effective that force might be is unclear. The Turkish military and the Syrian fighters it backs have had a difficult time trying to seize the northern town of Al Bab from the Islamic State even though American teams have been inserted with Turkish units to call in American airstrikes.

General Votel did not detail how the United States might proceed if the White House ruled out equipping the Y.P.G. in deference to Turkish concerns. But he asserted there were several ways to keep up the pressure against Raqqa, including making greater use of American troops.

“We might bring potentially more of our assets to bear if we need to, as opposed to relying on our partners,” he said. “That’s an option.”

“There could be other forces that we potentially bring in to do this,” General Votel added. “It could be a different approach to how we go after the city in terms of changing our tactics.”

Toward the end of his administration, Mr. Obama approved the use of three Apache attack helicopters to support the Raqqa offensive. Expanding the use of Apaches, which have yet to be deployed in Syria, could be an option as well, observers say.

What has been successful “for us in the campaign thus far, I think, has been simultaneous pressure on the Islamic State and continuing to present them with lots of dilemmas,” General Votel said.

 

SIDELINING THE STATE DEPARTMENT OLD GUARD

In first month of Trump presidency, State Department has been sidelined
By Carol Morello and Anne Gearan,
Washington Post
February 22

The Trump administration in its first month has largely benched the State Department from its long-standing role as the pre­eminent voice of U.S. foreign policy, curtailing public engagement and official travel and relegating Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to a mostly offstage role.

Decisions on hiring, policy and scheduling are being driven by a White House often wary of the foreign policy establishment and struggling to set priorities and write policy on the fly.

The most visible change at the State Department is the month-long lack of daily press briefings, a fixture since John Foster Dulles was secretary of state in the 1950s. The televised question-and-answer session is watched closely around the world, and past administrations have pointed proudly to the accountability of having a government spokesman available to domestic and foreign press almost every day without fail.

Tillerson has also been notably absent from White House meetings with foreign leaders. The State Department was represented by the acting deputy, Tom Shannon, at the president’s discussions with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Because he was en route to Bonn for a Group of 20 meeting, Tillerson did not join Trump’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, although the two had a working dinner the night before.

It is still early in Tillerson’s tenure, and former State Department officials, from Republican and Democratic administrations alike, say his performance reflects the disarray in the White House. The administration had sent mixed signals on key issues such as U.S. policy toward China and commitment to the NATO alliance even before Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign last week.

Some of the State Department’s lack of public diplomacy is probably due to the learning curve of the former oil executive turned diplomat. Other factors appear to be at play, including an aversion to freewheeling questions from reporters and the many department vacancies.

But the biggest factor is the confusing lines of communication and authority to the White House, and Trump’s inclination to farm out elements of foreign policy to a kitchen Cabinet of close advisers.

Chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon attends national security meetings and recently spoke with the German ambassador, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been given a major role in getting Israeli-Palestinian talks on track, a job usually the preserve of the State Department. When asked about foreign policy developments, State Department officials often have referred reporters to the White House.

“Tillerson isn’t being purposefully sidelined; he’s just caught up in an administration with too many competing power centers and a president who’s unwilling or unable to decide who he wants to play the lead role in implementing his foreign policy,” said Aaron David Miller, a former diplomat who advised Republican and Democratic presidents about the Middle East. “The problem is letting a thousand flowers and tweets bloom isn’t the best way to run the foreign policy of the world’s most consequential power.”

So far, most of Tillerson’s diplomacy has been conducted out of sight. He has met with several visiting foreign ministers, spoken on the phone with dozens of other diplomats and met more at the G-20 meeting last week in Bonn.

Unlike in previous administrations, the State Department has not always made brief accounts of those conversations public. After Tillerson met with European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini this month, the State Department said nothing, while Mogherini held a detailed on-the-record briefing for reporters.

“I think it’s hard to go out and talk to the press if you don’t know what to say,” said Richard Boucher, a retired career diplomat and former spokesman for Republican and Democratic administrations.

“I think they’re struggling to get back to square one and reassure people they aren’t undercutting the foundations of what America stood for,” he added. “So they don’t have a lot to say and don’t know how to use the press to influence getting there.”

In some cases, governments of countries that are not democracies have been more transparent than the State Department. Phone conversations Tillerson had with the foreign ministers of Russia and Egypt as well as a phone conversation with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman came to light only when the officials told their local press about them.

“It behooves the administration to give our side of any conversation,” said Richard Stengel, the undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs from 2014 through 2016 in the Obama administration. “Having someone put points on the scoreboard and not taking the shot yourself seems peculiar to me.”

Tillerson speaks frequently with Trump and met with him before leaving Washington on Wednesday for meetings in Mexico that will include Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly. A senior State Department official said Tillerson has also had several working meals with the president and provided Trump a debriefing on the meetings in Bonn.

Still, the new secretary of state has maintained an extremely low profile since taking office Feb. 1. His influence appears muted, at least for now, and he suffered a public embarrassment just a week into the job when Trump rejected his choice of a deputy, Republican foreign policy veteran Elliott Abrams, as insufficiently loyal to Trump.

“Tillerson is pretty clearly a decent character and would be a perfectly normal Republican secretary of state, but he’s clearly hampered in all kinds of ways, including in making his own appointments,” said Eliot Cohen, who was a top aide to former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. “The Elliott Abrams example is pretty horrifying.”

Tillerson has a small group of aides clustered around him, including chief of staff Margaret Peterlin, a former deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; R.C. Hammond, who was press secretary in Newt Gingrich’s 2012 presidential campaign; Matt Mowers, a former aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who worked on the Trump campaign; and Jennifer Hazelton, who worked at CNN and Fox News before joining the Trump campaign.

Asked whether the absence of top officials at State – Tillerson and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley are the only Trump-selected officials on the job – is hampering the work of diplomacy, the department referred to earlier comments from White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

“The secretary is having an ongoing and productive exchange with the president and his team that is identifying very talented individuals to serve and help the department execute its mission,” Spicer said.

Though the president always sets foreign policy, often it is considered better for tactical reasons to have policies explained by the State Department and the secretary of state instead of the president.

Former secretaries of state were viewed as the primary public face of U.S. foreign policy, a role Tillerson has yet to fill.

“I support Secretary Tillerson and believe everyone should be patient while he defines his operating style,” said Jim Wilkinson, who was a senior adviser to Rice.

Tillerson has not taken the usual complement of beat reporters with him on either of his foreign trips so far, opting instead for small “pools” that send reports to others. Other recent secretaries of state have made a point of orchestrating a long, symbolic first trip, showcasing their own agendas with news conferences and interviews.

State Department officials have said the daily press briefings are only temporarily shelved while the new administration gets its footing, but there has been no announcement about when they will resume or whether they will still be held every day.

“The Department of State continues to provide members of the media a full suite of services,” acting department spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday. “In addition to regular press briefings conducted by a department spokesperson, reporters will soon have access to additional opportunities each week to interact with State Department officials.”

Other incoming administrations have called a hiatus of a few days at most before the briefings resumed. In 2001, the last time a Republican took over after a Democratic administration, there was no break at all. Boucher briefed on Monday, Jan. 22, answering questions about the Philippines, Iraq and Colin L. Powell’s first day on the job as secretary of state.

The silence from the State Department is all the more notable for the combative and sometimes adversarial stance Spicer has adopted and Trump’s own denunciations of major news organizations as biased. Last week, Trump used his favorite bypass, Twitter, to call the news media “the enemy of the American People.”

The former ExxonMobil chief executive has made no speeches beyond a well-received address to State Department employees on his arrival and has held no news conferences. He made only one brief, substantive remark on policy within reporters’ earshot during an intensive round of meetings in Bonn last week and ignored shouted questions that other foreign ministers attending the G-20 session gladly answered.

 

CLEANING HOUSE (OF THE LEFT-WING ESTABLISHMENT) AT THE STATE DEPARTMENT

It’s a bloodbath at the State Department
By Daniel Halper
New York Post
February 17, 2017

http://nypost.com/2017/02/17/rex-tillerson-fires-top-officials-at-state-department/

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is cleaning house at the State Department, according to a report.

Staffers in the offices of deputy secretary of state for management and resources as well as counselor were shown the door Thursday, according to CBS News.

Many of those let go were on the building’s seventh floor – top-floor bigs – a symbolically important sign to the rest of the diplomatic corps that their new boss has different priorities than the last one.

The staffing changes came as Tillerson was on his first foreign trip – attending a G-20 meeting in Bonn, Germany.

“As part of the transition from one administration to the next, we continue to build out our team. The State Department is supported by a very talented group of individuals, both Republicans and Democrats,” State Department spokesman RC Hammond told CBS.

“We are appreciative to any American who dedicates their talents to public,” he added.

This week’s round of firings marks the second time State Department personnel have been cleared out since President Trump took office last month.

Four top officials were cleared out of the building at the end of January.

“As is standard with every transition, the outgoing administration, in coordination with the incoming one, requested all politically appointed officers submit letters of resignation,” a State Department spokesman said at the time.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.