Posted: 12:06 pm ET
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Foreign policy veterans may be in especially high demand at the State Department, where career foreign service officers have talked for months about whether they could serve under a President Donald Trump—a debate many considered academic but which now presents them with a grueling choice between their values and their country.
The prospect of mass resignations “is a real thing,” according to one career diplomat who has had several such conversations with State Department colleagues.
Eliot Cohen, an influential Republican who served as counsellor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and who vehemently opposed Trump, urged longtime diplomatic and national security professionals not to quit in disgust.
“Career people, I think, have an obligation to serve faithfully, and not least to ensure that the principles and letter of our Constitutional system of government are respected,” Cohen said.
QUESTION: — I mean, do you expect an exodus from this building over the next few weeks? I mean, there’s a lot of people that feel that Trump’s – that what he said he was going to do going forward doesn’t gel with how they believe. So is there any evidence of it yet? Have you got notices or do you expect —
MR TONER: Sure. Well, it’s a valid question. I wouldn’t attempt to speak for my colleagues in the State Department. I’m a career diplomat. I’m a public servant. And with that, frankly, comes an awareness that you’re there to serve the U.S. Government regardless of whether they – that’s a Republican or a Democratic administration. Obviously, there are political appointees in the State Department, but I can tell you that what I’ve seen firsthand this morning is very serious professionalism and commitment, as I said, to making sure that this incoming administration, whether these people agree with their policies or not, are given every opportunity for a smooth transition and are as informed as possible before that transition takes place.
QUESTION: — as has been mentioned here today, the president-elect differs so greatly on so many issues: Iran, trade, climate, Cuba, Syria, NATO alliances, nuclear proliferation – just basic tenets of the things that – and assumptions that this Administration has been working under. What about – if you haven’t seen people saying, “I’m leaving today,” career diplomats, which is what I gather you’re saying, are you and is the Secretary worried about morale in these last days? He – the first thing in his statement basically tells people, his staff, to continue focus moving ahead. So given the disparity between the president-elect and this Administration, what do you see the morale here being in the coming days and weeks?
MR TONER: Look, I think – again, it’s a fair question. I think when you choose a path of public service, you do so with the recognition that – and again, I’m not speaking to the incoming administration or the present Administration – you have to compartmentalize your own political beliefs from your professional duties. That is something that is incumbent on any public servant, whether it’s at the State Department or any other federal agency, or the military for that matter. That’s what, frankly, provides continuity and institutional knowledge for our government. So I wouldn’t predict any mass exodus, far from it.
I think that under Secretary Kerry and under President Obama and under Secretary Clinton as well, this State Department has achieved great things. I think they’re focused on continuing to work on the priorities. Some of the urgent ones, like getting a ceasefire or a cessation of hostilities in Syria that is attainable in two months, or next week, if we can get there through our multilateral efforts. I don’t think any – there’s any kind of attitude that – of resignation or of – or any other attitude other than that, focused on the priorities of this Administration and ensuring that the new administration, incoming administration, has a smooth transition.
Video below, transcript of the DPB here: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2016/11/264198.htm.
We are aware that some folks are considering whether to stay or to leave, below are some clips that might be helpful: