Trump team defends questions to State on funding of overseas environmental groups

Story highlights

  • Several sources said the inquiry was part of a broader set of questions about State Department operations
  • Some officials are concerned it reflects Trump's campaign pledge to abolish climate change programs

(CNN)President-elect Donald Trump's transition team has asked the State Department about funding levels for international environmental groups, according to several sources familiar with the matter.

But some of the sources said the inquiry was part of a much broader set of questions about State Department operations, programs and funding.
The questions, first reported by The Washington Post, were posed to the department's Bureau of Oceans, Environment and Science.
    Under the Obama administration, the State Department has intensified efforts to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Secretary of State John Kerry has made climate change and ocean preservation a cornerstone of his tenure since taking office and was intimately involved in getting countries to sign on to the COP21 climate change deal reached in Paris last year.
    Some State Department officials have expressed concern that the the inquiries regarding environmental programs could reflect a desire to make good on Trump's campaign pledge to abolish climate change programs.
    But two senior officials said the transition was asking basic management, budgetary and program questions of various bureaus that were typical of previous transitions which, taken as a whole, do not necessarily suggest an ideological agenda.
    "There is a reasonable and legitimate interest in understanding how things work at Foggy Bottom and what the bureaus do," one of the officials said. "They are asking basic questions about what the structure is, what programs are and what the funding is. It's normal that they are thinking this through."
    Unlike the Department of Energy, where transition officials asked about which employees were working on climate change programs, multiple State Department officials say that nobody on the transition has asked for names of any officials working on any particular policy.
    However, concerned by the example at DOE, a majority of Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote Secretary of State John Kerry to warn him about any "witchhunts" to identify and possibly purge career officials who worked on particular policies under the Obama administration.
    "Individual civil servants, Foreign Service Officers, and other staff should not be singled out for their work in support of policy objectives that clash with the next administration's goals, leaving them vulnerable to retribution by the incoming administration," the letter said.