Shortly after Donald Trump was sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States, all foreign ambassadors were fired and with no concrete replacement ambassadors lined up.
Mr Trump had demanded that every ambassador in countries all over the world, who had been appointed by former President Barack Obama, were told to leave their offices by midday on 20 January and with no grace period.
His transition team had said on 23 December there would be “no exceptions” for ambassadors requesting to extend their postings past Inauguration day, in contrast with other Presidents, even for ambassadors with young children.
It is common policy, however, that politically appointed ambassadors resign at the start of a new administration. It is less common to have no replacements in line.
As many as 80 ambassadors for countries, agencies and issues – such as the ambassador for global women’s issues – have been discarded at once.
The move now threatens leaving many countries without Senate-confirmed envoys for months and cutting off a direct line to the President, and some in countries which have sensitive relations to the US.
This includes Germany, the UK and Canada, as well as other critical allies. Also, countries such as China, India, Japan and Saudi Arabia will also be looking for replacements.
The process of replacing politically-appointed ambassadors is a lengthy one carried out by Congress.
Few appointments have been made so far. South Carolina governor Nikki Hayley is ambassador to the United Nations, replacing Samantha Power.
Bankruptcy lawyer David Friedman is ambassador to Israel and Iowa Gov Terry Branstad is ambassador to China.
Mr Trump’s first wife, Ivana Trump, has reportedly expressed her interest in becoming ambassador for the Czech Republic. The President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, expressed his support, saying: “They could not send a better US ambassador to Prague”.
Mr Trump has been criticised for various other major staffing gaps, below cabinet level. The National Security Council and the state department of defence remain mostly unfilled.
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