Saturday, March 11, 2017

The astonishing dysfunction of Trump's State Department, in one quote

Zack Beauchamp · Friday, March 10, 2017, 12:53 pm

The Trump administration has failed to staff key positions in vital federal agencies. It isn’t clear who is responsible for what, and the White House’s relationship with the federal bureaucracy is rocky.

All of this screws up the US government in ways that are often hard to notice from the outside. But sometimes that dysfunction goes public in really revealing ways. Thursday’s State Department briefing was one of those examples.

Mexico’s foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, was in Washington. The Los Angeles Times’s Tracy Wilkinson asked State spokesperson Mark Toner what the plans were for his visit. Toner, a highly regarded career foreign service officer, apparently had no idea that a key foreign dignitary was even in the city:

Wowwowwow. State Dep't Acting Spox Mark Toner had zero idea the Mexican foreign minister was in Washington. DoS totally cut out. (!!!)
— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) March 10, 2017
Wilkinson did some follow-up reporting, and found out that Videgaray had called Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to tell him he was visiting. However, the visit had been planned entirely through the White House, and Videgary did not schedule any meetings with Tillerson personally. This, as Wilkinson notes, is highly unusual.

“It is customary for foreign secretaries from all nations to be received by their US counterpart when in Washington,” she writes. “But Videgaray said the thrust of his mission meant he needed to speak directly to the White House.”

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