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Meet the State Dept. Science Envoy Who Spelled Out "Impeach" in His Resignation Letter to Trump

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The science envoy for the U.S. State Department, Dan Kammen, has resigned in protest of President Trump’s refusal to quickly condemn the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month. In his resignation letter, Kammen, referring to Trump, wrote, "Your presence in the White House harms the United States domestically and abroad and threatens life on this planet." The first letter of each paragraph of his resignation letter spells out the word "impeach." We speak with Dan Kammen, professor of energy at University of California, Berkeley.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The science envoy for the U.S. State Department, Dan Kammen, has resigned in protest of President Trump’s refusal to quickly condemn the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this month. In his resignation letter, Kammen writes, quote, "Your presence in the White House harms the United States domestically and abroad and threatens life on this planet," unquote. The first letter of each paragraph of his resignation letter spells out the word "impeach."

This is now-resigned science envoy Dan Kammen speaking to Democracy Now! during the 2016 climate change summit in Marrakech, Morocco, just after President Trump was elected.

DANIEL KAMMEN: To be a climate denier in 2016 is to simply ignore science. A businessman is supposed to be flexible and thoughtful about opportunity. Clean energy is an economic boon, and it’s a boon for equity around the planet. And to turn your back on that is to put ideology over simple, good clean energy business and clean energy jobs.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to San Francisco, where we’re joined by Daniel Kammen. Just resigned as science envoy for the State Department, professor of energy at University of California, Berkeley.

Daniel Kammen, welcome back to Democracy Now! Talk about why, at this point, you have decided to resign as science envoy for the State Department.

DANIEL KAMMEN: Well, thanks for having me back on.

My decision was really a culmination. I was initially, of course, very concerned when the president pulled out of the Paris climate accord. I did want to give a chance to see if the statement he made—he wanted to engage with the process and see if there was a, quote-unquote, "better deal" for the United States, although I actually think that the deal was very well done as is. We, in fact, designed quite a bit of it. But the larger feature was that I never saw that re-engagement to discuss the deal in detail. And as we moved further into this presidency, we have seen the events in Charlottesville, that clearly were a big step away from positive engagement, finding opportunities to defuse hatred. And those features are, sadly, in my view, very consistent with this stepping away from international partnerships in the Paris climate accord. Those events, then the speech the president gave in Arizona, were simply too much of a pattern, in my view, of not looking for opportunities to build these partnerships, to recognize the opportunities of clean jobs, of equity and chances to move away from divisiveness. And that’s why I did not feel that I could fulfill the position of science envoy, focused on energy and climate in Africa and the Middle East, under this administration.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you see Charlottesville connected to the issues that, well, you’re in the State Department for, or you were—science envoy?

DANIEL KAMMEN: Well, I think they’re actually very closely connected. The goal of the State Department is diplomacy, building bridges, finding opportunities to identify points of tension, and rise above, whether that’s through additional mediation, whether that’s through finding the challenges that both sides are facing. But I think what we saw with the president’s comments after Charlottesville was, in fact, fanning the flames, if you will, of that divisiveness, of not calling out the alt-right, the neo-Nazis for what they were, and to try to spread the blame around, when it was very clearly how this particular event was exacerbated. And that pattern is very much like not taking the Paris climate accord and seeing it is a way to build bridges overseas, whether they’re on the political level of negotiations or whether they’re business-to-business interactions. And that’s what really connects these types of events, in my view.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you join a number of people and organizations that are quitting. The entire President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities has resigned. They resigned last week, becoming the first entire presidential committee to resign in protest. In their resignation letter, the artists spoke out against Trump’s failure to quickly condemn the deadly white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, writing, quote, "The administration’s refusal to quickly and unequivocally condemn the cancer of hatred only further emboldens those who wish America ill." They also called on Trump to step down. The first letter of each paragraph of their letter spells out the word "resist."

And then there is the Trump advisory councils. President Trump grew increasingly isolated when—well, he says he disbanded a pair of business advisory councils as more CEOs exited the groups in protest of Trump’s failure to fully condemn white nationalists. After the heads of 3M and the Campbell’s Soup Company became the latest to resign, Trump tweeted, "Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I’m ending both. Thank you all!" That’s what he tweeted. But the story behind the scenes is that members of the council called Jared Kushner at the White House to say they were going to resign en masse, and it was at that point, when he was notified, the son-in-law and senior adviser to President Trump, that Trump tweeted out that he was banning the two councils. So, Daniel Kammen, are you hearing about more people like yourself, or whole councils or committees or entities, that are weighing this right now?

DANIEL KAMMEN: I haven’t heard of others that are considering it, but I do think the ones that you highlighted really speak for themselves, in terms—this is a diverse range of issues, from the role of science to business leaderships actually appointed by the White House to the events of the arts council. In fact, it was the arts council statement that inspired me to construct mine in the way that I did, because I thought that they eloquently and very clearly laid down a line that we expect a level of behavior from the White House that looks for opportunities to build bridges, not to divide. And that’s really what Charlottesville brought into clarity for many of us.

AMY GOODMAN: So can you talk about your letter and the fact that the first letter of each of the paragraphs, your resignation letter, spells out the word "impeach"?

DANIEL KAMMEN: Absolutely. I mean, I write that as a private citizen. I’m not a member of the U.S. House of Representatives or the Senate. So I do it from perhaps not a legal perspective. But, in my view, the goal of the White House is really to build opportunities, to build bridges. And when you’re not doing that, when you’re, in my view, harming the status of the United States internationally, in terms of the Paris climate accord, which was a very large success and a success that the U.S. played a big role in bringing nations together, and then the events we’ve seen in Virginia, these are, to my mind, statements that really do speak to a leadership which is not putting the U.S. in the right light or moving in the right direction. And that’s why I made the statement that I did.

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