Top officials at the White House and State department may have worked with conservative activists to purge career civil servants and diplomats who seemed “insufficiently loyal” to Donald Trump, House Democrats said today.
The accusation is based on documents leaked by an unnamed whistleblower, which appear to show high-ranking officials and advisors discussing a politically-motivated “cleaning.” “Over the year we have heard many reports of political attacks on career employees at the State Department, but we had not seen evidence of how extensive, blunt, and inappropriate these attacks were until now,” write congressmen Elijah Cummings and Eliot Engel write in a March 15 letter. Their letter is addressed to White House chief of staff John Kelly and State Department deputy secretary John J. Sullivan.
The letter contains excerpts of alleged emails between the White House, State Department officials, and outside advisors, including former house speaker Newt Gingrich and David Wurmser, a former adviser to vice president Dick Cheney. The excerpts characterize targeted State Department employees as “a leaker and a troublemaker,” a “Turncoat,” and “Obama/Clinton loyalists.”
Cummings and Engel are the ranking members on the Oversight and Government Reform and Foreign Affairs committees, respectively, which have responsibility for ensuring the State Department functions properly. Their letter comes two days after secretary of state Rex Tillerson was abruptly fired on Twitter by the president.
Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a 12-year civil servant who started in the George W. Bush administration and worked on the Iran nuclear deal, was particularly targeted, the letter alleges. Nowrouzzadeh is a US-born citizen of Iranian descent; but according to the letter, she was described by White House liaison Julia Haller as having been “born in Iran, and on my understanding cried when the president won.” She was moved out of a top advisory role last April.
The letter demands documents and communications between a list of White House officials and the State department, for a further investigation. The State department “routinely responds to requests by members of Congress. We always work closely and cooperatively with Congress and seek to be as timely and responsive as possible to their requests for information,” a State department official told Quartz.