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Secretary Pompeo. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

In the wake of revelations about President Trump's shadow Ukraine diplomacy, the State Department has found itself in arguably its worst internal crisis since the Red Scare purges of the McCarthy era.

Why it matters: Like the military, the U.S. diplomatic corps is meant to do its work apart from the partisan political fray of Washington. But evidence suggests the Trump administration has interfered with that mission, circumventing career officials in the process, to pursue personal business interests and political aims.

Where it stands: The State Department has been rocked by concerns that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo furthered Trump's political goals to pressure Ukraine, a U.S. ally, by withholding a White House meeting and vital security funds.

  • Pompeo adviser Michael McKinley, whose career ambassador rank is equivalent to that of a general in the armed forces, resigned last week, attributing his departure to the politically motivated recall and reputational smearing of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
  • George Kent, the senior official responsible for Ukraine policy in Washington, testified that he was sidelined by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and special Envoy Kurt Volker.
  • As both officials have explained, these politicized decisions undercut policy objectives, engendering new forms of corruption rather than rooting it out.

The impact: The State Department has begun to hollow out. Applications to join the Foreign Service dropped by 22% in the first two years of the Trump administration, diminishing the talent pool the department will depend on years down the line.

Between the lines: It's especially difficult for department morale that many problems come from the top.

  • Pompeo told House committees that to protect personnel the State Department would not cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. But the treatment of Yovanovitch and the testimony of other officials make clear that their interests were not the highest priority.
  • Many State Department officials still recall Pompeo's attacks on diplomatic personnel during the Benghazi hearings (in the name of congressional oversight, ironically).

The bottom line: Undermining the work of the State Department — which is America’s global representative — risks reducing American standing and influence in an ever more complex and chaotic world.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - World

Biden will move U.S. troops to Eastern Europe "in the near term"

President Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews on Jan. 28. Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said on Friday he plans to move U.S. troops to Eastern European and NATO countries “in the near term.”

Driving the news: “Not too many” U.S. troops, Biden added in remarks to reporters at Joint Base Andrew upon returning from a trip to Pennsylvania. 

Updated 2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring hazards ranging from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow, to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Swastikas found outside Union Station in D.C.

People walk through Union Station on Jan. 16 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Drawings of swastikas appeared etched around the entrance to Union Station in Washington, D.C., on Friday morning.

Driving the news: "An investigation is underway with Amtrak Police and the Metropolitan Police Department after swastikas were reported on the exterior of Washington Union Station on Friday," Amtrak spokesperson Kimberly Woods said in a statement to Axios.