Trump White House Worked with Newt Gingrich on Political Purge at State Department, Lawmakers Say

Trump officials called civil servants “turncoat” and “Obama/Clinton loyalists.”

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich on March 16, 2017.Melanie Rodgers/Cox/Planet Pix via ZUMA Wire

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White House and State Department officials conspired with prominent conservatives, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump, two top House Democrats allege in a letter released Thursday.

The letter states that an unidentified whistleblower shared documents with Democrats on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees showing that a group of White House officials pressed political appointees at the State Department to oust career civil service employees they described with terms like “Turncoat,” “leaker and a troublemaker,” and “Obama/Clinton loyalists not at all supportive of President Trump’s foreign policy agenda.”

As described in the letter, those actions would likely violate federal laws protecting federal civil servants from undue political influence.

In the letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and State Department Deputy Secretary John Sullivan, Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrats on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, cite an email forwarded by Gingrich to Trump appointees in the State Department (the Democrats released a summary of the leaked documents, rather than the original emails). In an undated email, David Wurmser, who advised former Vice President Dick Cheney and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, wrote, “Newt: I think a cleaning is in order here. I hear [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson has actually been reasonably good on stuff like this and cleaning house, but there are so many that it boggles the mind.” (Trump fired Tillerson earlier this week.)

Cummings and Engel say they are “particularly concerned” about documents showing an effort to drive out Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career civil servant at the State Department assigned to the policy planning staff. The letter notes that Brian Hook, the director of that division, forwarded an email from Nowrouzzadeh in which she defended herself against an attack that had been published in a conservative publication. The officials then discussed whether she was too supportive of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by President Barack Obama. Several of the officials discussed ousting Nowrouzzadeh. Julia Haller, a White House liaison to the State Department, wrote that Nowrouzzadeh “was born in Iran and upon my understanding cried when the President won.” Nowrouzzadeh was born in Connecticut. Haller did not cite the basis of her claim about Nowrouzzadeh’s election reaction.

Nowrouzadeh was removed from her post on the Policy Planning Staff three months earlier than scheduled in a manner she said violated a memorandum of understanding governing her assignment.



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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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