President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team has requested the Department of State provide a list of employees working in the area of gender equality, prompting panic that Trump is planning to purge progressives.
In a one-page memo leaked to The New York Times, the Trump team asked State to list “existing programs and activities to promote gender equality, such as ending gender-based violence, promoting women’s participation in economic and political spheres, entrepreneurship, etc.”
The memo neither asks for employee names nor hinted at any planned policy changes. The memo did, however, request the titles of positions “whose primary functions are to promote such issues.”
Still, officials at the State Department told The New York Times the request spooked them.
“People are freaked out,” a senior State Department official also told The Los Angeles Times.
Employees, too, were also rattled, and once the memo was reported on by the press, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen pledged that “if the next administration intends to roll back programs designed to lift women up, it will very quickly meet stiff opposition in the Senate.”
Not only was the memo leaked to the press, but shortly after its existence became public, the State Department’s Political-Military-Affairs bureau wrote on Twitter in support of the National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security.
State Department Press Secretary John Kirby also stated Thursday that gender equality is a priority to the agency.
“Obviously, gender equality issues here at the Department of State are a priority,” Kirby said. “Secretary Kerry has made them a priority; Secretary Clinton before him made it a priority, and it remains one for us here.”
In response to the panic, the Trump transition issued a statement Friday morning affirming that Trump intends to protect women’s rights around the world.
“President-elect Trump will ensure the rights of women across the world are valued and protected,” the statement read. “To help fulfill this promise, the transition team inquired about existing programs at the State department that helps foster gender equality, ends gender-based violence, and promotes economic and political participation—finding ways to improve them, along with hundreds of other requests.”
The Trump transition team sent a similar memo to the Department of Energy requesting the names of employees working on climate change. The team later withdrew the request after heated criticism.
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