‘Cleaning House’: Trump Sends Clear Message to State Dept. With Unheard of Move — Heads Are Rolling

The entire senior level of management officials at the State Department reportedly resigned on Wednesday, just days after Rex Tillerson was confirmed as secretary of state.

The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin has the scoop:

Tillerson was actually inside the State Department’s headquarters in Foggy Bottom on Wednesday, taking meetings and getting the lay of the land. I reported Wednesday morning that the Trump team was narrowing its search for his No. 2, and that it was looking to replace the State Department’s long-serving undersecretary for management, Patrick Kennedy. Kennedy, who has been in that job for nine years, was actively involved in the transition and was angling to keep that job under Tillerson, three State Department officials told me.

Then suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, Kennedy and three of his top officials resigned unexpectedly, four State Department officials confirmed. Assistant Secretary of State for Administration Joyce Anne Barr, Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond and Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, director of the Office of Foreign Missions, followed him out the door. All are career foreign service officers who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Image Credit: Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images

The development was being framed as possibly a stunning repudiation of President Donald Trump in the press.

David Wade, who served as former Secretary of State John Kerry’s chief of staff, told The Washington Post that the resignations represent the “single biggest simultaneous departure of institutional memory that anyone can remember.”

However, CNN reported that the Trump administration told all four of the State Department officials that their services were no longer needed, contradicting the idea that the resignations were an act of protest.

A senior State Department official told CNN that the White House is merely “cleaning house.”

“Any implication that that these four people quit is wrong. These people are loyal to the secretary, the President and to the State Department. There is just not any attempt here to diss the President. People are not quitting and running away in disgust. This is the White House cleaning house.”

Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake also pointed out that it was highly unlikely that Patrick Kennedy would have been asked by the Trump administration to stay on board.

Secretary of State Tillerson will now have the opportunity to hand-select his State Department management team, something some Trump supporters will likely see as a good thing.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional information.

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