State Dept. Workers Targeted for Lack of Loyalty, Democrats Say (1)

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By Louis C. LaBrecque

A pair of House Democrats say White House and State Department officials conducted a “cleaning” of career federal workers at State who weren’t deemed sufficiently supportive of the president’s agenda.

The officials worked with “conservative activists” to identify career employees who were characterized, among other things, as being “Obama/Clinton loyalists not at all supportive of President Trump’s foreign policy agenda,” the two Democrats say. A whistleblower provided documents to back up the allegations, they say.

“We are particularly concerned by documents relating to Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career civil servant at the State Department,” a March 15 letter from Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said. Nowrouzzadeh was removed from a work detail “three months early” in a manner not in keeping with a memorandum of understanding with the department, the letter said.

Nowrouzzadeh previously informed her supervisor that “a conservative news outlet” had “targeted” her, the letter said. Her email was forwarded to other officials at State and was “the basis for a wide-ranging internal discussion” questioning her loyalty to President Donald Trump, Cummings and Engel wrote.

The White House told Bloomberg Law March 15 it doesn’t respond to oversight requests from Congress unless they come from committee chairs. “This is consistent with previous administrations,” a White House spokesperson said.

The State Department told Bloomberg Law it generally doesn’t comment publicly on oversight requests. “We always work closely and cooperatively with Congress and seek to be as timely and responsive as possible to their requests for information,” a department spokesperson said.

Call for Documents by March 29

John Kelly, White House chief of staff, and John Sullivan, deputy secretary of state, were asked to provide by March 29 all documents related to “proposed or actual” reassignments or removals of career employees at the State Department since Jan. 20, 2017, “based on alleged personal political beliefs, prior service with previous Administrations, or work on prior Administrations’ foreign policy priorities.”

Cummings and Engel also asked Kelly and Sullivan for all documents related to actual or proposed reassignments of department employees for all reasons since Jan. 20, 2017.

In addition, the Democrats asked for documents related to “proposed or actual personnel actions” since that date against Nowrouzzadeh, including the “curtailment of her detail.”

Cummings is the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Engel is the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Staffers for the committees’ leaders didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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