I worked at the State Department for nearly four decades, in the later years as a four-time ambassador overseas and as a senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. I have watched as Pompeo and his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, have weaponized the institution for the Trump administration’s domestic political objectives. On October 9, just weeks away from the presidential election, Pompeo announced that he would authorize, apparently at President Donald Trump’s urging, the release of more of Hillary Clinton’s emails. In doing so, Pompeo will have all but completed the politicization of the State Department, arguably bringing it to its lowest point since the 1950s. The damage may be generational.
This transformation started with Tillerson, who came in with the goal of “redesigning” the State Department and with what appears to have been a political agenda to weed out anyone who had served in leadership positions during prior presidential administrations.
Tillerson used the State Department’s policy-planning staff, which offers the secretary strategic advice, to institute a top-down approach to policy, in effect muzzling the bureaus usually tasked with developing ideas independently. He marginalized senior career professionals, often excluding the officers from meetings of department leaders. And as an inspector general report has since shown, Tillerson’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs harassed “career employees premised on claims that they were ‘disloyal.’”