Congress blasts Trump officials for retaliating against civil servants


Top-ranking members of Congress accuse the State Department of stonewalling their investigation into the alleged political targeting.

In March of 2018, Trump officials were busted for using their authority to exact political vengeance by rooting out employees at the State Department for not being "supportive" of the Trump agenda.

Since then, the State Department has ignored a total of three letters from Congress asking for documents and interviews related to "extensive, blunt, and inappropriate" attacks on career employees.

Now, Democrats are demanding cooperation with a letter reiterating their request for documents and interviews with 11 current and former State Department employees.

The letter blasts top State Department officials for "stonewalling a legitimate congressional request for information" and states that Democrats are prepared to "use appropriate tools at our disposal to prompt a substantive response."

Signed by House Foreign Affairs Chair Elliot Engel and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the letter gives the State Department until the end of this month to hand over appropriate documents.

Engel and Menendez criticized State leadership for not only ignoring the problem of politically based retaliation but also for promoting one of the key figures accused of contemplating such vengeance.

"Ignoring reports of political litmus tests and retaliation at the Department of State has not made the problem go away," the pair wrote. "Rather, continuing reports of retaliation suggest it has exacerbated it," they added.

Politico obtained emails in March of 2018 showing a concerted effort by Trump's political team to clean house of career employees suspected of being "Obama/Clinton loyalists." In one case, Trump political appointee Brian Hook was part of a group considering whether or not a career employee who started working at State during the George W. Bush administration "could be purged," according to Politico's reporting.

The controversy grew in June 2018 when a senior advisor, Mari Stull, was accused of snooping around the social media accounts of State Department employees "for signs of ideological deviation," and root out people disloyal to Trump.

The issue escalated in August 2018 when Hook received a promotion at State, triggering another letter from Congress demanding information.

Trump may want to demand loyalty from everyone in his orbit, but the government's career employees work for the American people. Democrats are looking to make sure political zealots can't abuse their power by punish them for a lack of unquestioning allegiance to Trump.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.