A disgruntled employee at the State Department changed the biographies of President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to say their term was coming to an end on Monday — nine days before President-elect Joe Biden is to be sworn in — two current-serving diplomats with knowledge of the situation told BuzzFeed News.
The changes to the State Department’s website come days after Trump incited a deadly insurrection at the US Capitol that has led Democrats to begin the process of impeaching him for a second time and led to calls for Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office.
The president’s biography was changed to read, “Donald J. Trump’s term ended on 2021-01-11 19:49:00,” while the vice president’s biography was edited to “Michael R. Pence’s term ended on 2021-01-11 19:44:22.” The time stamp on Trump’s page changed multiple times, before both pages were removed around 3:50 p.m. and replaced with a 404 reading, “We’re sorry, this site is currently experiencing technical difficulties. Please try again in a few moments.”
One of the diplomats said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ordered an internal investigation into the matter, beginning with interns and employees leaving the State Department this week and next ahead of the transition to the Biden administration.
Both diplomats said that an investigation into the matter could be a challenge, considering how many people have administrative access to the content management system used for the State Department’s official website.
It’s a “closed system” that is “nearly impossible to hack,” said one of the diplomats.
“It’s 100% not a hack,” they said.
In recent days, dozens of career US diplomats signed two unprecedented dissent cables condemning Trump for inciting the deadly insurrection on the Capitol last week, Foreign Policy magazine and other outlets reported.
Those outlets said that the second, strongest-worded cable rebuked Pompeo for his “failure to issue a statement unequivocally acknowledging that President-Elect Biden won the 2020 election” and protested the “President’s incitement of insurrectionist violence against the United States.”
More than 100 State Department employees signed the cable, including three who told BuzzFeed News they would have preferred even stronger language in them.
Their frustration, they said, stemmed partly from Pompeo’s weak statement, published in a series of tweets on Wednesday, that called the storming of the Capitol “unacceptable,” but did not include any mention of Trump.
Reached for comment on the site changes Monday, the White House referred BuzzFeed News to the State Department, which did not immediately provide one.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.