Ambassador Bell among Trumpʼs purge of diplomats


U.S. Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bell will be leaving Hungary at the end of her assignment in the country on January 20, the diplomat announced on the official Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy Budapest. In a break with precedent, Bell is one of many political appointees whom President-elect Donald Trump will remove immediately on taking office.

“Today I want to share with you some important news. I will be departing Budapest on January 20 after completing my assignment here as the U.S. Ambassador to Hungary,” Bell writes in the post. “Thank you, Hungary, for the kindness and friendship you have shown me and my family. I will miss serving in this position, but will continue my commitment to building stronger ties between our two countries. I look forward to saying my farewells, both formally and informally, over the next couple of weeks,” she adds in the entry.

In mid-September, Bell denied a report in Hungarian daily newspaper Magyar Nemzet that she was planning to step down from her position in the foreseeable future, according to a press statement sent to the BBJ earlier. However, after the victory of President-elect Donald Trump in November, speculation increased that Bell could be leaving the position as her mandate expires.

Previously a television producer, Bell was first nominated by U.S. President Barack Obama on November 6, 2013, but her approval by the Senate was delayed until December 2, 2014, as she became one of a number of ambassadors whose appointments were put on hold by the ongoing impasse between Republicans and Democrats.

Bell arrived in Budapest on January 19, 2015 – ending the 18-month absence of an American ambassador – and presented her credentials to Hungary’s President János Áder a few days later.

Bell is one political ambassadorial appointee among many who will be obliged to leave their posts immediately as Trump is sworn in as president on January 20, noted a report in The New York Times Thursday.  According to the report, Trump’s transition staff has issued an edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their posts by Inauguration Day, breaking with decades of precedent by declining to provide even the briefest of grace periods. The mandate - issued “without exceptions,” according to a State Department cable sent on December 23 - threatens to leave the U.S. without Senate-confirmed envoys for months in critical nations like Germany, Canada and the U.K., notes the report.

In the past, administrations of both parties have often granted extensions to allow some ambassadors, particularly those with school-age children, to remain in place for weeks or months. Trump, by contrast, has taken a hard line against leaving any of President Obama’s political appointees in place as he prepares to take office on January 20.

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