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Trump administration to quit UN Human Rights Council

By quitting the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Trump administration is further isolating the United States.
United Nations Headquarters' General Assembly Building and Secretariat Building in New York City, USA, Sept. 24, 2015. (Photo by Matt Campbell/EPA)
United Nations Headquarters' General Assembly Building and Secretariat Building in New York City, USA, Sept. 24, 2015.

For decades, the United Nations had something called the Human Rights Commission, which became something of a joke when nations with abysmal records on human rights were able to join. Twelve years ago, it was replaced by a new U.N. entity, called the Human Rights Council.

It was widely assumed the United States would take a leading role on the panel, but that didn't happen: the Bush/Cheney administration's ambassador to the United Nations, a guy by the name of John Bolton, said he didn't trust the new council, so there would be no American support for it.

Early on in the Obama administration, the United States' delegation reversed course and joined the Human Rights panel. Bloomberg News reports today that we're poised to reverse course again.

The Trump administration plans to announce its withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday, making good on a pledge to leave a body it has long accused of hypocrisy and criticized as biased against Israel, according to two people familiar with the matter.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley plan to announce the withdrawal at the State Department in Washington at 5 p.m., the people said.

NBC News has confirmed the news, citing two U.S. officials.

While Haley has criticized the council for its opposition to many Israeli policies, today's move will come less than a week after the United Nations' high commissioner for human rights described the Trump administration family-separation policy toward immigrants as "unconscionable."

Barring a sudden change of heart, the announcement won't be too surprising. Reuters reported last week that "it was not a question of if but of when" the United States would quit.

That said, while the practical implications of withdrawal are limited -- the Human Rights Council is not in the habit of making binding policy decisions -- this is poised to become the latest in a series of examples in which the Trump administration has declared it has no use for international coalitions.

This is, after all, the same White House that also rejected the Paris climate accords, the international nuclear agreement with Iran, and the Trans Pacific Partnership. It's also offered frequent criticisms of NATO and thumbed its nose at international rules-based order when it comes to trade.

The more the United States is isolated, the more it undermines our status as a global leader. By all appearances, Team Trump doesn't see this as a problem worth addressing.