Is the State Department purging employees for political reasons?

On Behalf of | Mar 19, 2018 | Wrongful Termination

“I think a cleaning is in order here,” former Dick Cheney advisor David Wurmser allegedly wrote in a recent email chain. The chain, which was apparently between current White House and State Department political appointees and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, included messages from Wurmser.

“I hear Tillerson actually has been reasonably good on stuff like this and cleaning house, but there are so many that it boggles the mind,” Wurmser added.

The email chain was forwarded by a whistleblower to two leading House Democrats, Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Eliot Engel of New York. The two Democrats raised their concerns in a letter to the deputy secretary of state (replacing Rex Tillerson) and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

According to Cummings and Engel, the email chain characterizes career staff members variously as a “turncoat,” “a leaker and a troublemaker,” “associated with previous policy” and “Obama/Clinton loyalists not at all supportive of President Trump’s foreign policy agenda.”

The Democrats allege that high-level Trump appointees were working with conservative activists to purge whatever career employees they viewed as insufficiently supportive of Trump.

One of those targeted for purging was allegedly State Department foreign affairs officer Sahar Nowrouzzadeh. In March of last year, she was accused on a conservative website of having “burrowed into the government under President Trump.”

“I am and have been a career civil servant for nearly 12 years now,” she wrote to her supervisor in an effort to correct the record. “I began government service in the Bush administration at DoD/NSA … I’ve adapted my work to the policy of every administration I have worked for.”

According to the whistleblower, her email and the conservative article were then forwarded around to senior State Department an eventually to the White House. They questioned her work under the Obama administration and ultimately pulled her off a policy planning staff detail three months early and, she says, in violation of an official memorandum of understanding signed by the State Department.

“Over the last year,” the two Democrats said, “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.”

A spokesperson for the State Department said the agency takes allegations like these very seriously. She went on to add that she has never personally seen evidence of civil service personnel decisions being made for political reasons.

The civil service is supposed to be a non-political career opportunity. It should never be subject to political purges. If you are concerned your job may be on the line, we urge you to contact a federal employment law attorney.