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Another Witch Hunt? Trump Team Demands Info on State Dept's Gender Equality Programs

Latest request from transition team disturbs State Department officials 

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Catherine Russell meets with members of the U.S.-Pakistan Women's Council.

U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Catherine Russell meets with members of the U.S.-Pakistan Women's Council. (Photo: U.S. Department of State/flickr/cc)

President-elect Donald Trump's transition team sent shockwaves through the U.S. State Department this week with an unusual memo seeking details and the positions of those working on programs that advocate for women and promote gender equality.

The memo was leaked to the New York Times on Thursday, and the newspaper reported that it disturbed even senior officials. The memo followed a similar request to the Department of Energy, which sought the names of those working on climate change. Fearing a "climate purge," the agency refused to provide any names.

The New York Times described the latest memo:

The one-page memo, a copy of which was provided to The New York Times on Thursday, directed employees to outline "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."

It also requested a list of positions "whose primary functions are to promote such issues"—though not the names of people in those positions—as well as how much funding was directed to gender-related programs in 2016. The United States Agency for International Development also received the request, according to a senior official there.

The Los Angeles Times noted that the memo also sought information on "gender-related staffing, programming, and funding." State Department employees told the New York Times that the language "could also refer to programs focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues, though the memo did not refer specifically to them."

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"People are freaked out," a State Department official told the LA Times.

Trump's rival for the presidency, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, championed many gender equality programs during her tenure as secretary of state, and observers speculated that Clinton's connection to those programs could be the reason behind the transition team's request.

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who will be the highest ranking women on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sharply condemned the contents of the memo.

"In light of previous requests made by the Trump transition team, today's report that the incoming administration is requesting all information related to State Department programs that promote gender equality is concerning and the transition team should clarify their intent," said Shaheen in a statement Thursday.

"I pledge to work with the incoming Administration to advance policies that support and protect women and girls worldwide, but I can promise 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," Shaheen said.

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