By Josh Lederman and Matthew Lee, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — A handful of senior U.S. diplomats are resigning their posts during President Donald Trump’s first week on the job, creating more high-level openings that the new president must fill.
State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick F. Kennedy, a career foreign service officer, planned to retire effective Friday, the State Department said. He was joined by two assistant secretaries, Joyce Barr and Michele Bond, who both resigned Wednesday. Gentry Smith, who directs the Office of Foreign Missions, was also departing.
The four join a growing list of long-serving diplomats declining to stay on into the Trump administration. That list includes Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, and Gregory Starr, the assistant secretary for diplomatic security. Starr retired on Inauguration Day.
Although none of the officials has linked his or her departure explicitly to Trump, many diplomats have privately expressed concern about serving in his administration, given the unorthodox positions he’s taken on many foreign policy issues.
Trump has yet to fill many top diplomatic jobs, including the deputy secretary roles. His nominee to be secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate next week.
Kennedy, relied upon by both Democrats and Republicans, was tapped for the undersecretary post in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Kennedy stayed on throughout President Barack Obama’s term. His position oversees the department’s budget and finances, security, global facilities and consular services.
Kennedy, a diplomat since 1973, was criticized for the department’s insufficient security at the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans were killed in 2012. In testy congressional hearings, Kennedy defended then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s handling of the situation and insisted there was no “stand down” order to the U.S. military during the attack,
Bureau records also showed Kennedy asked for the FBI’s help in 2015 to change the classification level of an email from Clinton’s private server. The FBI ultimately rejected the request.