Washington – The Trump administration official in charge of diplomatic protocol plans to resign and isn’t going to Japan for this week’s Group of 20 meetings, where he would have played a sensitive behind-the-scenes role, according to people familiar with the matter.
Sean Lawler, a State Department official whose title is chief of protocol, is departing amid a possible inspector general’s probe into allegations of verbal altercations with staff members, according to one of the people.
The protocol chief assists the president on overseas trips, and when foreign leaders visit the White House, by making introductions and briefing the president on protocol. Lawler, a fixture in the Oval office during dignitaries’ visits, served as the president’s liaison to the diplomatic corps at the State Department.
Diplomatic fine points handled by the protocol chief include helping determine where to hold meetings and in what order participants should enter a room.
Lawler declined to comment, and the White House communications staff and the State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lawler, who is in a position confirmed by the Senate and has the rank of ambassador, was scheduled to accompany the president to the G-20 on Friday and Saturday. President Donald Trump will meet with China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Topping Trump’s agenda is restarting trade talks with China.
The assistant chief of protocol, Mary-Kate Fisher, has been asked to fill Lawler’s role for the G-20 trip, one of the people said.
Lawler has worked for the government for almost three decades, according to his State Department biography. He’s a U.S. Navy veteran who has served in diplomatic roles at the White House National Security Council and U.S. Cyber Command in Maryland.
Trump has little fondness for Lawler, and repeatedly asked why he still worked at the White House, according to the people.