WASHINGTON – The man responsible for handling the diplomatic formalities and nuances of presidential meetings with foreign leaders is stepping down – and will not go with President Donald Trump to the G-20 summit in Japan – amid a probe into allegations that he harassed and intimidated staff, according to multiple media reports.
Sean Lawler, who holds the rank of ambassador within the State Department, has been Trump’s chief of protocol since December 2017. He was suspended indefinitely pending an investigation into his alleged harassment and discrimination of staff, NBC News reported.
One of the complaints against Lawler was that he would carry a whip around the office in an apparent attempt to intimidate co-workers, unnamed officials told NBC and Bloomberg.
The investigation is being conducted by the State Department and Lawler was told on Monday that he would not to leave pending the outcome, CNN reported. The network also reported that State Department officials told the office of protocol staff that Lawler had to leave over personnel issues.
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The chief of protocol is responsible for overseeing details such as the proper order of receiving lines, seating placements, the formalities of joint press conferences, the proper titles of foreign dignitaries, ensuring that those dignitaries’ names are spelled correctly and supplying interpreters.
“As the first hand that welcomes kings, queens, presidents, and prime ministers to the United States, Ambassador Lawler serves on the front lines of diplomatic engagement, building bridges and fostering understanding between peoples and governments,” reads Lawler’s biography on the State Department’s website.
The assistant chief of protocol, Mary-Kate Fisher, will take Lawler’s place on Trump’s trip to Japan, NBC and Bloomberg reported. Lawler will submit his resignation when Trump returns, according to NBC.
Lawler is a native of Chicago who served more than 20 years in the Navy and previously worked as the National Security Council’s director of diplomatic affairs, and as chief of protocol for the U.S. Cyber Command in Fort Meade, Maryland, his profile says.
Contributing: The Associated Press