President-elect Donald Trump's transition team
has told all ambassadors who are political appointees of
President Barack Obama to vacate their overseas posts
by Inauguration Day, refusing to provide even brief grace
periods for special cases, several senior State
Department officials and American diplomats said.
"Political" ambassadors often have close ties to the
president or are major donors and almost always leave
their post at the end of the term, while career
ambassadors frequently remain in their posts.
In keeping with standard practices, the White House
requested and received resignations from all politically-
appointed chiefs of mission shortly after Election Day,
several senior State Department officials told CNN.
But, in a break with precedent to consider grace periods
on a case-by-case basis, a subsequent State Department
cable sent last month to all non-career ambassadors
instructed them to finish their service by January 20
"without exceptions," the sources said.
The move, first reported by The New York Times, leaves
the US without top envoys at key posts such as Britain,
Germany, Canada, Japan and Saudi Arabia until
President-elect Donald Trump nominates successors and
they are confirmed, a process that could take months.
In the meantime, the posts will be run by the highest-
ranking career official until Trump nominates, and the
Senate confirms, someone new.
The decision has also left diplomats scrambling to
secure new visas, living arrangements and schools for
their children, including Ambassador to Costa Rica
Stafford Fitzgerald Haney, who diplomats say has four
school-age children and a wife battling breast cancer.
Mark Gilbert, the US ambassador to New Zealand told
CNN he was denied a one-week extension after January
20 to finish packing his residence.
Past incoming administrations from both parties have
granted exceptions on a case-by-case basis for
ambassadors requesting to remain at post for weeks or
The exceptions are generally granted as a courtesy to
ambassadors with school-age children or who have
unique family situations, but are also occasionally made
to help with continuity as the incoming administration
seeks to fill a large number of postings at home and
Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that
it is a "perfectly normal request" to political ambassadors
to leave their post, noting that "all political appointees
serve at the pleasure of the President of the United
But Kerry added, "Some people ask for an extension for
some reason or another. In some cases, it might make
sense to think sensitively about that."
In 2009, Obama granted several exceptions to Bush-era
political ambassadors for work or personal reasons.
The State Department estimates that roughly 70% of US
ambassadors are career appointees. Those ambassadors
were not asked to tender resignation letters.