Just a few days after agencies scrambled to enforce President Donald Trump’s executive order that barred refugees and citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from coming to the United States, State Department employees are reportedly coming out against the travel ban en masse.
At least 200 State Department employees have signed onto internal memos harshly criticizing Trump’s order. According to Foreign Policy, there are a few different versions of the memo but all share a similar theme — that contrary to the White House’s assertion that the new rules are about protecting the United States, this ban “will increase anti-American sentiment” and “not achieve its stated aim of to [sic] protect the American people from terrorist attacks by foreign nations.” The memo added that the policy “runs counter to core American values of nondiscrimination, fair play and extending a warm welcome to foreign visitors and immigrants.” (A full draft of at least one of the reported memos is available here.)
Right now, this document is just floating around Foggy Bottom, but it will likely become a “dissent” cable, a formal process — begun during the Vietnam War — that State Department employees use to register opposition to a White House policy, which gets turned over to the secretary of State. This particular memo is a big deal for a few reasons, starting with the number of people who are registering their opposition. It’s also taken Trump less than two weeks to rile his cadre of diplomats — so early into his term that the secretary of State isn’t yet in place to receive the “dissent” cable once it’s filed. Rex Tillerson, likely to be confirmed by the Senate this week, will have to start his post with a restless agency, and figure out how to respond. (Last year, more than 50 State Department diplomats and bureaucrats caused a stir when they gave top diplomat John Kerry a “dissent” cable over former President Barack Obama’s Syria policies.)
The State Department confirmed that such a memo existed, and that it will “respect it,” according to the Washington Post. Acting secretary of State Thomas Shannon will probably end up receiving the cable. But it doesn’t appear, right now, that the dissent cable will do much to change the minds within Trumpworld — especially since world leaders, former high-ranking intelligence officials, and our allies on the front lines fighting ISIS don’t seem to be getting through to the administration. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, conceding that such a memo existed, told reporters those in disagreement needed to “either get with the program or they can go.”
“He’s been clear on it since taking office, that he’s going to put this safety of this country first. He is going to implement things that are in the best interest of the safety of this country prospectively, not re-actively,” Spicer continued. “And if somebody has a problem with that agenda then that does call into question whether or not they should continue in that post or not.”