U.S. politicians debate whether to force Trump’s interpreter to divulge contents of the private meeting.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump meet in Helsinki, on July 16. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Behind every major diplomatic feat and failure are the interpreters: the anonymous public servants who play a pivotal role in some of history’s most sensitive discussions.

An interpreter’s job is, by design, strictly in the shadows. They stay out of the limelight and translate for world leaders in real time, in high-stakes negotiations where success or failure can hinge on a single word, verb tense, or inflection. Now, the relatively obscure role has been thrust into the spotlight amid the political firestorm of U.S. President Donald Trump’s Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

For a 90-minute one-on-one meeting with…


Kay Bailey Hutchison will have to clean up whatever mess the president leaves behind in Brussels

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison talks with U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (right) and Gen. Denis Mercier, NATO’s supreme commander for transformation, during a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 8. Photo: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

Kay Bailey Hutchison might have the toughest job in Brussels.

As the U.S. ambassador to NATO, she has tried to curry favor with its member states, praising the nearly 70-year-old alliance ahead of a key summit this week.

But as the representative of President Donald Trump, she has been tarred by his caustic denunciations of NATO and the overtures he has made to the alliance’s main adversary, Russia.

The president began his trip to Brussels on Wednesday by hurling diplomatic bombshells at allies for laggard defense spending, previewing what most officials expect to be a fiery and contentious summit.

At…


Some German lawmakers are calling for Ambassador Grenell’s expulsion

New U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell stands in front of a military honor guard during an accreditation ceremony for new ambassadors in Berlin on May 8. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images

The State Department rallied to the defense on Tuesday of its recently appointed ambassador to Berlin, Richard Grenell, who infuriated Germans this week by telling the far-right website Breitbart that he wanted to encourage conservatives throughout Europe to rebel against the “failed policies of the left.”

But behind the scenes at Foggy Bottom, Grenell’s comments quietly drew ire from some seasoned diplomats, according to three State Department officials, with one senior official describing them as inappropriate and even arrogant.

The interview appeared on Breitbart Sunday and quickly prompted calls from German lawmakers on the left for Grenell’s ouster. It added…


Diplomatic families are in the middle of a bureaucratic battle over children with special needs and mental health issues

Illustrations: Melissa McFeeters for Foreign Policy

Christie Peterson’s life changed when her youngest daughter attempted suicide. Based in Europe, where her husband is a U.S. diplomat, she and her daughter were medically evacuated to the United States, while her husband and oldest daughter stayed behind.

She thought it was temporary. After weeks of intensive therapy, she and her daughter’s doctors sent formal notice to the State Department’s Bureau of Medical Services saying her daughter had recovered and they were ready to return home.

But the medical bureau had other ideas.

What followed, Peterson says, was a yearlong battle with a dense thicket of bureaucracy, deceit, and…


New leadership at Millennium Challenge Corporation comes under scrutiny after “disturbing” comments by a senior official and concerns over Trump’s pick to head the agency

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Feb. 3, 2015, in Washington, D.C. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

By Robbie Gramer

A Trump administration nominee to a small U.S. foreign aid agency is expected to face tough questions this week by a top Democratic lawmaker over questions of workplace diversity.

Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to the acting head of the Millennium Challenge Corporation questioning the agency’s workplace culture and leadership based on comments from MCC Vice President of Compact Operations Robert Blau.

The charges come as Sean Cairncross, a White House senior advisor, has a hearing to become the new head of MCC before the Senate Foreign…

Robbie Gramer

Diplomacy and National Security Reporter @ForeignPolicy

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