Pointing out that the US routinely denounces “foreign leaders who use violence and intimidation to interfere in peaceful democratic processes and override the will of their voters,” the State Department employees have drafted a memo that says, “the Department of State should explicitly denounce President Trump’s role in this violent attack on the US government” and “should also mention President Trump by name.”
“It is critical that we communicate to the world that in our system, no one — not even the President — is above the law or immune from public criticism,” the memo states.
CNN obtained a copy of the dissent memo which was first reported by Foreign Policy. It began circulating within the foreign service after the violent assault on the Capitol that has left five dead and triggered a slew of resignations from Trump’s Cabinet and within the White House.
The memo, which will soon be sent to Pompeo, was sent through the State Department’s well-established “dissent channel,” a mechanism for State Department officials to offer alternative views on foreign policy without fear of retaliation. It was established in the 1960s during the Vietnam War to ensure that senior leadership in the department would have access to alternative policy views on the war.
About 100 US diplomats have signed on to the document, which was spurred by frustration over the lack of a forceful response to the violence from the secretary and other State Department leaders. Earlier in the week the State Department provided guidance to embassies about how to discuss the violent mob attack on the capitol, but it did not mention Trump’s role in triggering the events, which angered diplomats who saw the direct connection.
“After months of promoting baseless claims of voter fraud, which were rejected by the judiciary in dozens of cases, President Donald Trump encouraged supporters, some armed, to storm the US Capitol while Congress was certifying the results of a free and fair presidential election,” the memo reads.
“His incitement led to a violent riot in the US Capitol, five deaths, untold injuries, destruction and vandalism of government property, and incalculable damage to our democratic system and our image abroad,” the memo continues. “He played an integral role in breaking the 220-year streak of peaceful transfer of power between political parties during US elections.”
The memo recommends language to describe the violent rioting, including the line that, “President Donald Trump’s incitement of violence against the certification of the United States’ free and fair elections is unacceptable and incompatible with our laws, the democratic values and protected fundamental freedoms enshrined in our founding documents, and our long tradition of a peaceful and orderly transfer of power.”
It goes on to say that guidance sent to press bureaus at the State Department and to US embassies and consulates worldwide, should not include any quotes from Trump about the episode, “as he is not a credible voice on this matter.’
The memo implicitly criticizes Pompeo’s approach to the chaos, saying that “this change in our guidance would be a first step towards repairing the damage these events have inflicted on our international credibility.”
Some State Department officials — both career officials and political officials — do not agree with the dissent memo, or what they see as the intention behind it. One official called it “political posturing” before the Biden administration comes into office and argued that Pompeo and the department would never lay blame on the President publicly — even if they feel that way privately — because it would undermine the entire US government.
Yet other State Department officials felt that the memo is sending a clear message to Pompeo and was an action that the diplomats needed to take.
CNN’s Nicole Gaouette contributed to this report.