Report: Trump UK ambassador fired deputy for mentioning Obama in speech

A former U.S. ambassador to the U.K. claims that he was prematurely fired from his post in 2018 because he cited former President Obama in a speech, GQ magazine reports.

Lewis Lukens was the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in London until November 2018 when he was fired by the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Woody Johnson, seven months before he was scheduled to depart for a new assignment.

According to GQ, Lukens asserts the reason he was fired was because he had told an anecdote about Obama in a speech he gave to a pair of British universities right before Halloween.

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In the speech, Lukens briefly depicted Obama’s 2013 trip to Senegal, in which he was met with large cheering crowds with shirts that read “WE LOVE OBAMA.” But what impressed him the most, Lukens said, was disagreement Obama and Senegalese President Macky Sall had “as friends.”
 
Obama had been pressed by the media about his conversations with Sall on LGBTQ rights: a particularly sensitive topic in Senegal, where members of the LGBTQ community face widespread discrimination and criminalization. Lukens lauded Obama for his handling of the question and situation.
 
Lukens’s anecdote came at a time when relations between the U.S. and Britain were tense, as President Trump had publicly gone after then-Prime Minister Theresa May and London Mayor Sadiq Khan a few months before.
 
Regarding Trump’s relationship with his diplomats, Lukens told GQ: “There’s a higher level of mistrust from political ambassadors of career FSOs than I’ve ever seen in my life.

“Many of Trump’s political ambassadors have an unfounded belief that government bureaucrats are overwhelmingly Democrats and liberals and working against Trump’s agenda, and that’s just not the case.”

Lukens’s career in the State Department spanned nearly 30 years and featured presidents from both parties.

His claims highlight the shift in the State Department, since President Trump’s presidency began in 2017.

Rex Tillerson, who served as Trump’s first secretary of State, brought about budget cuts and hiring freezes. The magazine says that many veteran diplomats left during Tillerson’s yearlong tenure, either because they were unwilling to work under Trump or because they were left little choice.

Per State Department regulations, a foreign service officer returning from a post has 90 days to be appointed to a new post or is forced to retire.

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“Several of our members who were finishing their assignments as ambassadors overseas were told that the only job available when they came back was reviewing documents for declassification,” Eric Rubin, senior foreign service officer and president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), told GQ. “If they refused that assignment, they would have to retire under a rule that says returning ambassadors have only 90 days to be reassigned or they have to retire.”

America’s diplomatic corps has also taken a hit when it comes to recruiting new talent.

In 2009, approximately 21,000 people took the American foreign service exam. This year, according to AFSA, that number is just over 9,000.

Currently, a third of all foreign service jobs in U.S. embassies and consulates remain unfilled and the process of remedying the vacancies has become immobilized by impeachment proceedings, GQ reports.

A new report from the Australia-based Lowy Institute, which annually issues a Diplomacy Index, shows that China leapfrogged the U.S. for the most diplomatic power in the world. 

The State Department didn’t immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

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Written by Alan Smith

Alan Smith

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