Belfer Center of Harvard Kennedy School
President Trump often says that members of the "deep state" are anxious to sabotage his agenda.
And some of the career officials the president refers to said they opposed the following reports in conservative media that questioned their loyalty to Trump.
On Thursday, the State Department's internal watchdog confirmed that this had happened to a senior foreign affairs official who was falsely removed from her post by White House officials as part of an online smear campaign on alt-right websites.
The officer in question is Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a 36-year-old national security specialist who speaks fluent Persian and Arabic and helped draft the Iranian nuclear agreement in the Obama administration.
In 2017, she was referred to conservative websites as "trusted Obama adjutant" and as "Muslim spy".
According to the report of the Inspector General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, senior Trump officials shared some of these articles with White House staff, adding that they believe Nowrouzzadeh was crying in Trump's election.
The report says that questions about her loyalty to Trump have been raised. Another Trump official mistakenly noted that Nowrouzzadeh was born in Iran. In fact, she was born in Connecticut. Her parents emigrated from Iran to the US, but that did not stop the wave of derogatory articles.
"Shortly afterwards, my detail ended after high-ranking officials addressed a significant discussion in the report about my perceived national origin, my perceived political views, and my perceived relationships with previous administrations," Nowrouzzadeh told NPR Top position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, although she worked for almost 15 years in public service. It first entered the federal government in 2005 under President George W. Bush.
The IG recommended disciplining those responsible for their reassignment and training policy officers in the department on personnel practices.
Foreign Ministry officials.
The IG found the comments made by the White House staff on Nowrouzzadeh's perceived birthplace particularly worrying.
"They contradict the Ministry's guidelines, which require fair and equitable treatment of workers without regard to national origin," the report said. "They also conflict with the ministry's leadership beliefs that leaders need to value diversity in the workplace."
Nowrouzzadeh asked her then-chief Brian Hook, the US Special Representative for Iran, to help with the correction of misinformation in articles supporting Trump supporting websites such as Conservative Review and Breitbart.
She told IG investigators that Hook said "virtually nothing" in response to her concerns. Hook recalled that such stories were "fairly normal" for high-profile officials and told them to ignore the false stories.
Hook, in his own long reply attached to the report, said the decision to reassign Nowrouzzadeh had not been made taking into account their perceived political beliefs or place of birth. Instead, he had another candidate for her role in mind, someone whom Hook considered an "ideal choice."
"My personnel decision was legal, correct and in line with the administrative standards of the State Department," Hook wrote.
Nowrouzzadeh, now a research fellow for Iran at Harvard University, but still employed at the State Department, hopes that the results of the IG report will not prevent others from becoming foreign dues officers.
"I think steps must be taken to protect against such misconduct against this or a future government," Nowrouzzadeh told NPR. "I have always and will strongly encourage Americans of all backgrounds, including those with Iranian heritage, such as myself, to consider public service and not be discouraged by these findings."
Four other Career State Department employees said they had resisted an overly-sensitive political bias towards Trump, but the IG could not find enough evidence to support these allegations.
Norman Ornstein of the Washington-based, conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute fears that attacks by Trump loyalists and media reports that demonize government employees will have long-term effects.
"I think it will be a challenge for every president, every government and every future government to assure the people who go into government service that they will not be the subject of terrible attacks that are completely unjustified", said Ornstein.