Michele Kelemen

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

As Diplomatic Correspondent, Kelemen has traveled with Secretaries of State from Colin Powell to Mike Pompeo and everyone in between. She reports on the Trump administration's "America First" foreign policy and before that the Obama and Bush administration's diplomatic agendas. She was part of the NPR team that won the 2007 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for coverage of the war in Iraq.

As NPR's Moscow bureau chief, Kelemen chronicled the end of the Yeltsin era and Vladimir Putin's consolidation of power. She recounted the terrible toll of the latest war in Chechnya, while also reporting on a lighter side of Russia, with stories about modern day Russian literature and sports.

Kelemen came to NPR in September 1998, after eight years working for the Voice of America. There, she learned the ropes as a news writer, newscaster and show host.

Michele earned her Bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Russian and East European Affairs and International Economics.

Yelena Leuchanka was lying on a cold, hard bed in a detention center in Minsk in late September when she heard other detainees singing.

"I just laid there because I was still in shock," she recalled. "And the next thing I hear are women singing Kupalinka. It's a Belarus song that women, when they go on their marches, they sing this song."

She joined in. "I have never experienced that type of energy or anything like that," she said, "this greatness, this unity."

President-elect Joe Biden's promise of a firm response to the latest hacking attack attributed to Russia signals a much tougher assessment of Vladimir Putin than President Trump's deferential attitude.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo launched another broadside against China this week, warning of Chinese threats to U.S. research universities.

"Americans must know how the Chinese Communist Party is poisoning the well of our higher education institutions for its own ends, and how those actions degrade our freedoms and American national security," he said in a speech Wednesday at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

The Trump administration is imposing sharply tighter restrictions on travel to the United States by Chinese Communist Party members and their families, a move Beijing describes as part of a "deep-rooted Cold War mentality."

The restrictions target holders of business (B-1) and tourist (B-2) visas, reducing the travel documents' maximum validity to one month, down from the current maximum of 10 years.

The Trump administration abruptly dumped the leaders of three agencies that oversee the nuclear weapons stockpile, electricity and natural gas regulation, and overseas aid during the past two days, drawing a rebuke from a prominent Republican senator for one of the decisions.

The sudden departures included:

  • Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, the first woman to oversee the agency in charge of the nuclear stockpile. She was required to resign on Friday.

U.S. presidents have a long history of rewarding wealthy political donors with ambassadorships. Many appointees ably take on the work of diplomacy. Some others cause controversy.

The Trump administration on Monday labeled four more Chinese news organizations as "foreign missions," expanding its restrictions on what it calls Chinese propaganda outlets in a move that's likely to anger Beijing.

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The State Department's ousted inspector general has told congressional Democrats he was given "no valid reason" for his removal and that one of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's aides tried to bully him.

Democrats are investigating whether Steve Linick was removed in retaliation for carrying out his duties. In an interview with Democratic leaders of the House and Senate last week, Linick confirmed he was looking into the alleged misuse of State Department resources by Pompeo and his wife.

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Updated at 5:36 p.m. ET

President Trump is ousting State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, extending a string of administration firings of government watchdogs.

The president sent notice of Linick's removal, effective in 30 days, to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday. A State Department spokesperson offered no reason for the change but issued a statement confirming that Linick will be replaced by Ambassador Stephen Akard, who currently directs the department's Office of Foreign Missions.

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As countries close borders and flights are canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic, the State Department says as many as 50,000 Americans are seeking help to return home.

Peru has been particularly complicated, according to Ian Brownlee, who runs the State Department's repatriation task force. "There were some [COVID-19] infections in the civil aviation authority and on the civilian side of the airport, and they're trying to run it on a bit of a shoestring from the military side of the airport," he said.

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Just before President Trump hosted Russia's foreign minister at the White House today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a warning.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

When the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine was abruptly removed from her post this year, some Democratic lawmakers called it "a political hit job." Now the congressman in charge of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is making the case that Marie Yovanovitch's ouster is part of the story of a president abusing his power in relations with Ukraine.

Yovanovitch will be the sole witness Friday, the second day of the inquiry's public hearings over whether Trump used military aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine into investigations that would benefit him politically.

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Updated at 7:10 p.m. ET

Longtime U.S. diplomat William Taylor told lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Tuesday that President Trump orchestrated a parallel foreign policy for Ukraine that made U.S. aid to the country contingent on investigations to help himself politically.

In a written statement to three House committees tasked with Democrats' impeachment inquiry, Taylor said he "became increasingly concerned" as "irregular, informal channels" of policymaking diverged from official U.S. goals — led by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

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On paper, Kurt Volker's job in the Trump administration was to support Ukraine and help end a war started by Russia in the east of the former Soviet Republic. Volker is now caught up in a political battle at home over President Trump's efforts to get Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Volker will be deposed Thursday behind closed doors as part of the House of Representatives' impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

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Kelly Craft is expected to take up her job as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. on Thursday. She's a Republican donor and is married to a billionaire coal executive. Craft is likely to take a much lower profile than her predecessor, Nikki Haley.

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