Since Donald Trump took office, the State Department has been marginalized and ignored in ways without modern precedent, and many prominent officials have parted ways with the diplomatic agency. Foreign Policy, however, reported the other day on an especially notable departure.
One of the State Department’s top experts on nuclear proliferation resigned this week after President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, in what officials and analysts say is part of a worrying brain drain from public service generally over the past 18 months.
Richard Johnson, a career civil servant who served as acting assistant coordinator in State’s Office of Iran Nuclear Implementation, had been involved in talks with countries that sought to salvage the deal in recent weeks, including Britain, France, and Germany – an effort that ultimately failed.
The article didn’t explicitly say that Johnson resigned in protest, but there doesn’t appear to be much of a mystery about what happened here. The acting assistant coordinator in State’s Office of Iran Nuclear Implementation intended to continue his service in the Trump administration, right up until the president withdrew from an international agreement Johnson knew was working effectively.
At which point, he stepped down. The timing was not coincidental.
And while Richard Johnson is not a household name or even a high-profile figure in D.C., his resignation is emblematic of a larger issue. While the talent drain from Team Trump has been well documented, the Foreign Policy article added that his departure leaves “a growing void” in the State Department, which is suddenly lacking in experts on Iran’s nuclear program.
The piece went on to note, “The office Johnson led has gone from seven full-time staffers to none since Trump’s inauguration.”
Anne Applebaum, a historian and Washington Post columnist, published a tweet that added, “Guess how many people are working on Iranian nuclear proliferation at the State Department? As of today … zero.”
So to recap, Trump rejected an international agreement that was working, despite not fully understanding what the policy was or what it did. He replaced the deal with nothing, And in case that weren’t quite enough, the president has no plan for what comes next, and a hollowed out team responsible for working on the underlying issue.
This, according to the White House and its allies, is evidence of a great Trump accomplishment.