Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has eliminated an office in the State Department that oversees sanctions policy amid criticism that the Trump administration has been slow to enforce sanctions against Russia.
The move to shutter the Coordinator for Sanctions Policy office, which had been led by a veteran ambassador-rank diplomat with at least five staff, is part of a broader overhaul of the department, according to Foreign Policy.
One mid-level official—David Tessler, deputy director of the Policy Planning Office—will now take on the role of coordinating U.S. sanctions policy across the State Department.
While the sanctions office was disbanded, the Trump administration missed a key Oct. 1 deadline to implement new sanctions against Russia that were signed into law in August.
Sean Bartlett, spokesman for Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the "elimination of the sanctions coordinator appears to be part of the larger reorganization debacle underway at the State Department."
Both and Cardin and Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, castigated the administration over its failure to implement new sanctions against Russia enacted by Congress. After missing the Oct. 1 deadline, the State Department issued guidance for the sanctions, identifying entities and officials linked to Russia's defense and intelligence sectors, Foreign Policy noted.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday that the department issued belated guidance on the sanctions after a call between Corker and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.
"A lot of you had had questions about why the delay, why it's taken a bit of time for the State Department to deliver this information to Congress, and that is because it's complex, complicated, and industry needs to know what will happen if they engage in certain activities," Nauert said at a press briefing.