Donald Trump Fires All Ambassadors, Special Envoys-Mostly Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

President-elect Donald Trump has fired all U.S. ambassadors and special envoys, ordering them to leave overseas posts by inauguration day.

The Truth:

President-elect Donald Trump didn’t fire all U.S. ambassadors and special envoys — but Trump’s transition team indicated that no extensions would be approved for politically appointed ambassadors to remain in their posts beyond inauguration day.

Claims that Donald Trump fired all ambassadors and special envoys in a break with tradition are misleading because it’s not uncommon for all political appointees to leave their overseas posts by inauguration day while career diplomats are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

The United States has 170 embassies and 11 missions around the world headed by ambassadors. There are 188 U.S. ambassadors; non-career, “politically appointed” diplomats fill about 30 percent of those positions, and career diplomats fill about 70 percent.

It’s been reported that Donald Trump’s transition team had issued a directive in December 2016 for all politically appointed diplomats to leave their overseas posts by inauguration day “without exception.” In the past, some political appointees with special circumstances like children in school were given brief extensions — and the Times was reporting that Trump’s transition team wouldn’t be approving any extensions. That’s been misconstrued into rumors that Donald Trump has fired all ambassadors and envoys.

In reality, Donald Trump’s  transition team’s order only applies to the 30 percent or so of ambassadors who are politically appointees — those appointed because of a special relationship with the president, campaign contributions, or other personal reasons. The website Diplopundit reports that it’s actually “tradition” for these politically-appointed diplomats to leave their posts by January 20th:

All political appointees, including ambassadors “serve at the pleasure of the president.” All appointees of the outgoing administration are expected to leave by the time a new president is sworn into office on January 20. We’ve heard that some chiefs of mission have made requests for extensions to their tenure overseas but until this week, no one reportedly received an official response. We understand that some folks were looking for the cable directive but could not locate it.  We’ve asked State about the cable requesting the COM resignations and the nonresponse to these requests last week but we were later directed to the Transition Team. To-date we have not received a response to our inquiry.

So, it’s not unusual for politically appointed ambassadors commonly step down before a new president is sworn-in. In fact, we found reports from 2009 about President George W. Bush’s political appointees stepping down before President Obama took office — it didn’t mean that Obama fired all ambassadors and envoys then, and it doesn’t mean that Donald Trump fired all diplomats and envoys now.

Digging even deeper into historical records, we found that President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the resignation of all politically appointed and career diplomats in November 1940 — so even if Trump fired all ambassadors, the move wouldn’t be completely unprecedented:

FDR Fires Diplomats Letter
FDR fired all ambassadors and envoys when he took office — though he acknowledged most career diplomats would be re-hired.

For all those reasons, we’re classifying reports that Donald Trump fired all ambassadors and envoys “mostly fiction.”

A copy of the email submitted to

did Trump fire all U.S. ambassadors and envoys?