Senior state department officials who would normally be called to the White House for their views on key policy issues, are not being asked their opinion. They have resorted to asking foreign diplomats, who now have better access to President Trump’s immediate circle of advisers, what new decisions are imminent.
The public voice of the state department has fallen silent. There has not been a daily press briefing, the customary channel for voicing US views and policy on world events, since January.
When he flew to Germany, Tillerson took a small press pool with him but did not give it the opportunity to ask questions. At his first meeting on Thursday with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, journalists were hustled out of the room before Tillerson opened his mouth, according to the Bloomberg news agency, rather than be allowed to stay to record the routine exchange of introductory platitudes. When Tillerson emerged, he delivered a very short statement, but refused to take questions…
When Trump decided over a dinner to approve a special forces counter-terrorist raid in Yemen, there was no one from the state department present who would normally have highlighted the dangers of civilian casualties from such operations for wider US interests in the region. The raid on 29 January went badly wrong and 25 civilians were killed, including nine children under the age of 13.