Sec. Kerry says Trump did not contact State Dept. prior to calls
Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday he’s trying to stay “a thousand miles away from the (Donald) Trump transition process” while acknowledging neither the President-elect nor his transition team have consulted with the State Department prior to Trump’s calls with foreign leaders.
President-elect Trump broke with decades’ worth of US diplomatic protocol last week when he spoke with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen by phone. China views Taiwan as a renegade province and, accordingly, the US doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a country.
The call risks damaging US-China relations and indeed, China’s foreign ministry lodged a formal complaint with the US on Saturday.
But questions remain as to whether the call signaled a foreign policy shift in a new administration or a blunder by an inexperienced politician and transition staff.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence has utilized State Department briefings ahead of calls with foreign leaders but, according to Kerry, Trump himself has not.
“We have not been contacted before any of these conversations. We have not been requested to provide talking points,” Kerry said at the Saban Forum in Washington.
“I do think there’s a value, obviously, on having at least the recommendations, whether you choose to follow them or not is a different issue, but I think it’s valuable to ask people who’ve worked the desk and have worked it for a long period of time their input on what’s the current state, is there some particular issue at the moment. I think that’s valuable and I would certainly recommend it, but obviously that hasn’t happened in a few cases.”
But Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway did say last week that Trump does consult with briefing materials provided by the State Department.
“He reads everything. He’s the busiest guy on the planet. Pretty much has been for a while now,” Conway told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
“He avails himself of any number of different information sources, including those that come from the State Department and including those that come from intelligence briefings.”
Kerry did say he was hopeful communication between the State Department and the transition team would increase once they name a nominee for secretary of state. In the meantime, Kerry said he didn’t want to get into the politics.
“I’m really consciously working to stay a thousand miles away from the Trump transition process. I think it’s important for me to be able to brief whoever the final nominee is going to be for secretary of state and I don’t want to come at it with any engagements with any of the choices they are making publicly — I really think it’s better for me to stay out of the politics which I stayed out of for the four years,” Kerry said.
But without mentioning Trump by name last week, Kerry, a former Naval officer and vocal critic of the Vietnam War, said complex international issues boil down to more than just “little pithy tweets.”
“We’re going to have one hell of a debate over the next few years, I can assure you,” Kerry said. “And I can promise you this, after coming back in the 1960’s and being involved in that period of time, I am not going to go quietly into the night.”