No grace period for US ambassadors appointed by Obama

No grace period for US ambassadors appointed by Obama

Breaking from the past tradition, President-elect Donald Trump's transition team has decided not to give any grace period beyond Inauguration Day to US envoys who are political appointees of President Barack Obama, leaving dozens of US ambassadors scrambling for new positions.

The unusual decision by the transition team could also mean that some of the top US embassies around the world will be left without an ambassador for months, as Trump replaces them with new appointments.

The Trump transition team has informed the US State Department that it was not making any exceptions for any of the US ambassadors who are political appointees of outgoing President Obama, the Politico reported.

The state department has begun sending cables at least as early as December 21, to individual ambassadors telling them that they would have to quit their posts on time, that is ahead of the Inauguration Day on January 20, it said.

A highly-placed source in the team confirmed the decision but did not specify as to how many envoys might be affected by the decision. During his two terms, Obama named hundreds of people to the posts, roughly 30 per cent of whom are political appointees, which generally require Senate confirmation.

Following precedent set by both parties, Obama also handed out many of the ambassadorships to his campaign donors and other supporters. The decision by the transition team has left dozens of US diplomats in countries like Britain, Saudi Arabia and Japan, scrambling to figure out new living arrangements, visa rules and what options they have for their kids and their schooling.

Politically appointed ambassadors have at times been allowed to stay on the job for weeks or even months after the new president has taken office, to show personal courtesy for their family situations, and allow for some continuity as new administration finds its footing.

Following tradition, President Obama has directed all political appointees in his administration to submit their resignations effective on Inauguration Day, it said.

Commenting on the development, a State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "Some of the ambassadors really thought they could stay, so there's a little bit of a scramble now."

"They are mostly resigned to it now," he added. Trump has already named Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his ambassador to China and bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman for the post in Israel, though it's highly unlikely that the Republican president-elect will have thought through all of his foreign envoys by now.

In the absence of the new appointments, the affected US embassies will likely be run by the highest-ranking career employee until Trump nominates someone new and that person is confirmed by the Senate.

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