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Trump Team Denies Obama Envoys Extensions Past Inauguration Day


When the administration changes in Washington, U.S. ambassadors typically offer their resignations. For career diplomats, it's mostly symbolic while political appointees usually leave. Now the incoming Trump administration wants them to know there will be no extensions beyond Inauguration Day. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Some ambassadors with children are scrambling to rent houses so their kids can finish out the school year now that they've gotten word of the no-exceptions policy.

RONALD NEUMANN: This is a little harsher. But it's an administration with a very different outlook, so it's not that surprising.

KELEMEN: That's former diplomat Ronald Neumann, who says in the past couple of transitions, incoming administrations have allowed some political ambassadors to stay in place for a bit.

NEUMANN: Some administrations have left people a little longer if they didn't have a successor right away or the kids were in school or something for sort of family and human reasons, but there's no requirement that they do so.

KELEMEN: Once political ambassadors do leave, there's always a deputy ready to step in, says Barbara Stephenson, president of the State Department's professional association.

BARBARA STEPHENSON: That person is invariably a career diplomat with at least a decade and very often two decades or more of experience. So our best people get these positions.

KELEMEN: So it's not like the embassies will be empty. About 70 percent of the current ambassadors are career diplomats, and they usually get to stay. That was not Kurt Volker's experience as ambassador to NATO before President Obama came to office.

KURT VOLKER: I was notified right around the time of the inauguration - just before, actually - that there was going to be a political appointee to come in and replace me and I should prepare to leave.

KELEMEN: His wife found a job so they could at least stay in Brussels until their children finished the school year. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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