President-elect Donald Trump's transition team issued a request on Dec. 21 to the State Department for information about its involvement in gender equality issues.
The request, as with the team’s previous request that the Energy Department name the names of its employees who have worked on climate change issues, is raising concerns that the new administration might be planning a purge of federal agencies, reports NPR.
In response to the earlier request, which was rebuffed by the Department of Energy, the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen warned, "This questionnaire is deeply disturbing, as it suggests the Trump administration plans a witch-hunt for civil servants who’ve simply been doing their jobs. Democrats and Republicans alike should unite to condemn any action that intimidates, threatens or retaliates against civil servants for lawfully doing their jobs."
This latest request, which was obtained and published by The New York Times, asked the State Department to list programs and activities that "promote gender equality, such as ending gender-based violence, promoting women's participation in economic and political spheres, entrepreneurship, etc." Unlike the previous request, it does not ask for employee names.
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Some officials reportedly interpret the request as an indication the incoming administration will be hostile towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues.
In an attempt to allay such fears, the Trump transition team issued the following statement:
President-elect Trump will ensure the rights of women across the world are valued and protected. To help fulfill this promise, the transition team inquired about existing programs at the State department that helps foster gender equality, ends gender-based violence, and promotes economic and political participation -- finding ways to improve them, along with hundreds of other requests.
State Department spokesman John Kirby also attempted to downplay the controversy in a press briefing.
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"To the degree that there is interest in the way that we have approached pursuing gender equality and human rights around the world by the transition team, we will certainly provide them the context, the information that is appropriate for them to make their own decisions going forward,” he said.
He noted that "if there were issue-specific names requested, obviously that would be of concern to us and it would not be the kind of information that we would deem to be appropriate to be passed along."