US science envoy to Middle East resigns over Trump's Charlottesville response

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Daniel Kammen cryptically writes 'IMPEACH' in resignation letter and says he stands with Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour

'It just was not possible to work with this administration,' Daniel Kammen wrote in resignation letter (Reuters)
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Thursday 24 August 2017 3:58 UTC
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One of the US State Department's science envoys for the Middle East and North Africa publicly resigned on Wednesday in the latest in a wave of defections over President Donald Trump's response to a deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Daniel Kammen, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a letter posted on his Twitter account that Trump had failed to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis, part of "a broader pattern of behavior that enables sexism and racism, and disregards the welfare of all Americans, the global community and the planet".

Kammen’s largely ceremonial State Department position focused on combating climate change in the MENA region. He worked with US ambassadors in Morocco and Jordan on environmental research, collaborating with scientists from those countries.

He was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2016 and specialised in alternative energy applications in Africa for more than 25 years.

“It just was not possible to work with this administration,” he said. “This is not a political climate that is raising up the US partnerships overseas, and so it’s time to step down.”

In his resignation letter, which he posted to Twitter, social media users quickly noted that the first letter in each paragraph spells out “impeach”.

He also wrote that he “stands with the unequivocal and authoritative statements” on Charlottesville, including “Linda Sarsour, the Palestinian-American activist and one of the organizers of the Women's March”.

Envoys serve as unpaid volunteers and engage with government and non-government science officials and convene meetings around foreign policy and science.

Kammen, the White House and the State Department did not respond to requests for comment.

The science envoy position is not particularly high-profile. The envoys - drawn from the ranks of American scientists and scholars - typically serve for one year, so Kammen was likely nearing the end of his term.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Kammen served as an envoy since August 2016.

Trump told reporters last week that "both sides" were to blame for the violence between white supremacists and counter protesters in Virginia on 12 August, and said there were "very fine people" among those who participated in the white nationalist rally.

At a rally in Arizona on Tuesday, Trump defended his response and said the news media had ignored his condemnation of white supremacists.

Two of the other six envoys listed on an archived State Department website as being in Kammen's cohort told Reuters their terms had ended prior to Trump taking office.

Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, served as envoy in 2015 and 2016 and said he has been in contact with the State Department about possibly returning. He would be willing to do so even after Trump's post-Charlottesville statements, he told Reuters on Wednesday.

"Despite those comments I think it's important to be willing to serve the United States," Hotez said.

Trump's comments in response to the protests sparked a wave of defections among American chief executives from White House advisory councils last week, leading to their disbanding, and earned condemnations from Republicans and Democrats alike.