5, December 2016
US Secretary of State John Kerry says his department’s recommendations have no “value” in the eyes of President-elect Donald Trump, who has been making phone calls to world leaders since his election on November 8, a policy which the State Department considers as controversial. Speaking at the Saban Forum in Washington on Sunday, Kerry said neither Trump nor his transition team had contacted the State Department before speaking to leaders of other countries. “We have not been contacted before any of these conversations. We have not been requested to provide talking points,” Kerry said, in an attempt to distance President Barack Obama’s administration from some of Trump’s phone calls that may anger longtime allies. Trump risked China’s wrath on Friday, when he talked to Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, a move that made him the first US president or president-elect to hold a conversation with Taiwan’s leader since severing ties with the territory in 1979.
The Republican president-elect also called Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif an “amazing” leader during a phone conversation on Wednesday, a praise that was looked unfavorably by India, Pakistan’s arch-rival. “I do think there’s a value, obviously, on having at least the recommendations, whether you choose to follow them or not is a different issue, but I think it’s valuable to ask people, who’ve worked the desk and have worked it for a long period of time, their input on what’s the current state, is there some particular issue at the moment,” Kerry said. “I think that’s valuable and I would certainly recommend it, but obviously that hasn’t happened in a few cases.” Unlike Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence has been using the State Department’s recommendations regularly, Kerry said.
The outgoing secretary of state noted that he was trying to stay “a thousand miles away from the Trump transition process” and hoped that communications with the team would improve once Trump picked his secretary of state. “I think it’s important for me to be able to brief whoever the final nominee is going to be for secretary of state and I don’t want to come at it with any engagements, with any of the choices they are making publicly,” he added. According to Trump’s adviser Kellyanne Conway, the New York billionaire was considering at least four candidates for the job. Kerry’s comments underscore Trump’s reluctance to receive advice from the Obama administration.