Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been sustaining his silence for the duration of his initially weeks on the job, as has the division he heads. But some of that veil of silence will be lifting early subsequent month.
The each day State Department briefing -- a fixture at Foggy Bottom since the Eisenhower administration and watched closely in Washington and in capitals around the planet -- has not resumed under Tillerson. But "normal" briefings are set to resume on March 6, acting spokesperson Mark Toner mentioned today, even though it is unclear if they will nevertheless be each day or televised.
Tillerson concluded his second overseas trip final evening, this time with Secretary of Homeland Safety John Kelly, and he was only spotted in public three instances -- finding off his plane Wednesday evening, finding on his plane Thursday afternoon, and a 3-and-a-half minute public statement that he study in between.
He was heard even much less. In Mexico, as in Germany last week, he took no questions. And unlike Germany, there had been no photo ops and no "pool sprays" -- opportunities for a modest group of reporters or photographers to meet with an official. There wasn't even a study-out -- the official version of the discussion -- of his dinner with the Mexican foreign secretary Wednesday evening, let alone of all his meetings Thursday.
Tillerson’s reticence on the trip comes just after a wave of unfavorable headlines asking where he is and if he’s becoming silent, sidelined, or is in more than his head.
The bad press lastly sparked one thing else the news media has not gotten a lot of lately -- an official State Division statement. It was a strongly worded comment that came Wednesday evening and pushes back hard on these reports, sent on behalf of Toner, a career foreign service officer who assumed the role under President Obama and has so far stayed on for the Trump administration:
“The Department of State continues to offer members of the media a complete suite of services. The Department has answered 174 concerns from reporters in the United States and about the globe in the previous 24 hours alone. The Secretary continues to travel with representatives of the media, the Department continues to provide readouts from the Secretary’s calls and meetings, the Department continues to release statements with regards to planet events and reporters continue to be briefed about upcoming trips and initiatives,” the statement stated.
“In addition to common press briefings performed by a Division spokesperson, reporters will quickly have access to more possibilities every week to interact with State Department officials. The Division is also exploring the possibility of opening the briefing to reporters outside of Washington, DC through remote video capabilities," Toner's statement added.
Amid the reticence, here’s what we do know:
As Toner’s Wednesday statement said, “regular” press briefings will be back “soon,” possibly with reporters Skyping in, like the White Residence briefing now has. Toner stated right now that these briefing will resume on March 6, but no word yet on no matter whether they will still be televised or occur everyday.
Right after much more than three weeks on the job, Tillerson has created only 3 public statements: His address to the division on his initial day here his 30-second prepared remarks soon after meeting the Russian foreign minister, and that statement he study Thursday in Mexico.
He has not taken any inquiries, and he has not granted any interviews. The most the press has heard from him was in response to shouted concerns throughout a marathon day of meetings in Germany final week -- all a single-sentence (or half-sentence) responses.
It’s not just that Tillerson has been quiet the State Division has been unusually silent, as well.
It hasn't been delivering readouts of the secretary’s calls to globe leaders. Without the need of them, the public does not even know that they’re happening. As an alternative, America is now relying on the Russians or the Iraqis to say when they occur and what they discussed -- even on the most benign subjects.
For example, the Russians stated Tillerson called to express condolences right after the death of their ambassador to the United Nations, and the Iraqis mentioned he known as to praise the Iraqi army’s efficiency in the fight against ISIS. All the State Department would tell the press is that the calls took place. Not even who known as whom.
Turnover between administrations is of course typical, but a month after inauguration, a number of top roles at the State Division have yet to be filled -- from the secretary’s two deputies, to 4 out of the six undersecretaries, numerous assistant secretaries, and several crucial ambassadorships, including to main allies like Canada, France and Germany.
Conservatives have celebrated the “blood bath," but these positions enable preserve U.S. foreign policy operating. And the lack of personnel has left a lot of at the State Division stretched thin or feeling unsure about what’s to come, sources told ABC News.
Of the two undersecretary positions at the moment filled, one is also the acting deputy secretary and the other is in an “acting” capacity himself. And on Tillerson’s initially trip abroad, 5 of eight senior officials had been in acting roles.
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