President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has issued a blanket order asking politically appointed ambassadors installed by President Barack Obama to leave their posts by Inauguration Day on January 20, a move that will impact the US envoy to India, Rich Verma.
“I will be departing on January 20th,” ambassador Mark Gilbert said in a Twitter message to Reuters.
The mandate was issued “without exceptions” through an order sent in a state department cable on December 23, Gilbert said.
Gilbert confirmed a report in The New York Times, which quoted diplomatic sources as saying previous US administrations, from the Republican or Democratic parties, had traditionally granted extensions to allow a few envoys, particularly those with school-age children, to remain in place for weeks or months.
Verma – the first Indian American to be named envoy to India – was picked by Obama for the job in 2014 and arrived in India days before the US president’s visit the following year.
Soon after Trump won the presidential election, reports had suggested that Verma – who traces his roots to Jalandhar and the Pakistani part of Punjab – intended to put in his papers.
Verma had appeared grim at an event organised at the US embassy to mark the counting of votes after the elections and had told reporters at the time that the victor has to “bring the country together”. He had also said that the US was divided by the “impassioned” campaign.
He had also worked with Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state.
The Trump team’s order threatens to leave the US without Senate-confirmed envoys for months in critical countries such as Germany, Canada and Britain, The New York Times reported.
A senior Trump transition official told the newspaper there was no ill will in the move, describing it as a simple matter of ensuring Obama’s overseas envoys leave the government on schedule, just as thousands of political aides at the White House and in federal agencies must do.
Trump has taken a strict stance against leaving any of Obama’s political appointees in place as he prepares to take office on January 20, aiming to break up many of his predecessor’s signature foreign and domestic policy achievements, the Times reported.
Diplomats told New York Times the order has thrown their personal lives into a tailspin, leaving them scrambling to secure living arrangements and acquire visas allowing them to stay in their countries so their children can remain in school.
(With inputs from agencies)