Michele Kelemen

A former NPR Moscow bureau chief, Michele Kelemen now covers 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.

In her latest beat, Kelemen has been traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry and Hillary Clinton before him, tracking the Obama administration's broad foreign policy agenda from Asia to the Middle East. She also followed President Bush's Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell and 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.

At the State Department on Wednesday, officials from 68 countries and organizations gathered for a two-day summit to coordinate plans to fight ISIS. This was the first full meeting of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS since 2014, and a chance for the Trump administration to flesh out what it wants to do differently.

So far, it is mainly stepping up a fight that the Obama administration put in motion.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is calling for a new approach to North Korea. He's in Asia now consulting with Japan, South Korea and China over how to deal with Pyongyang. The options, though, are limited, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

The Trump administration has cleared out the top echelons at the State Department. The latest departures include the assistant secretaries of state for Asia and Africa, who left this week.

Foreign governments are noticing all the vacancies — and so is Congress.

"We've had a lot of hearings and we've not had any Trump presentations at any of those hearings," said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "There's no one to speak on behalf of the Trump administration."

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Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, is not known to seek the limelight. He's a mild-mannered diplomat and an arms control expert who came to Washington as ambassador in 2008. But he has been in the news a lot of late, as Trump administration contacts with him come under scrutiny.

One of the very first bills President Trump signed into law this month killed a Securities and Exchange Commission rule meant to promote transparency in countries riddled with corruption. Trump said getting rid of the rule, which required oil, gas and mining companies to disclose overseas royalties and other payments, would bring back jobs and save extraction companies many hours of paperwork and, potentially, hundreds of millions of dollars.

Rex Tillerson is heading on his second foreign trip as secretary of state later this week. But as in his visit last week to Germany, Tillerson is expected to try to keep a low profile when he travels to Mexico on Wednesday.

Tillerson has said very little in public since taking office. There has been no State Department briefing since the Trump administration began a month ago.

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This is a new era for U.S. relations with the European Union.

Gone are the days when the U.S. was more supportive of European integration than some Europeans are. The European Union's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, is expecting a more businesslike, "transactional" approach with President Donald Trump, who has been skeptical of the EU and backs the British exit plan.

"We do not interfere in U.S. politics ... and Europeans expect that America does not interfere in European politics," Mogherini told reporters at the end of her trip to Washington.

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President Trump is encouraging Israel to hold off on new settlement construction. The surprising statement came after the Israeli prime minister vowed to build the first new settlement in the West Bank in many years.

The White House says while it doesn't see settlements as an obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the construction of new settlements and the expansion of those beyond their current borders may not be helpful.

When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived at the State Department for his first day on the job, he made a point of visiting two walls in the entryway that pay tribute to fallen foreign service personnel.

"They died in service of causes far greater than themselves," Tillerson told the hundreds of employees who packed the C Street lobby at Foggy Bottom. "As we move forward in a new era, it is important to honor the sacrifices of those who have come before us, and reflect on the legacy that we inherit."

At the State Department, there is an easy — and usually private — way for employees to register their concerns about U.S. policy. It's called the "Dissent Channel." And today, an unusually large number of foreign service officers are using it.

A dissent cable says Donald Trump's temporary visa and refugee ban "runs counter to American values" and could be "counterproductive."

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Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for U.S. secretary of state, is severing his ties with Exxon Mobil. The former chairman and CEO is in line to receive a $180 million retirement package.

As U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon prepares to hand the baton to his successor, Portugal's Antonio Guterres, on New Year's Day, he is lamenting "unfinished business" in a key U.N. doctrine meant to stop genocidal acts.

Ban has described Syria as a "gaping hole in the global conscience." The U.N. fears that South Sudan is on the brink of genocide and that "fires are still burning" in Yemen, Mali and the Central African Republic.

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President Obama held his final news conference of 2016 and painted a rosy picture of his tenure as president — from economic growth to foreign policy. So how did he hold up on the facts and what context did he leave out?

We look at five different quotes:


1. "The Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are trying to obfuscate the truth. The world should not be fooled, and the world will not forget."

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Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, President-elect Trump's nominee for secretary of state, will have his Senate confirmation hearing in January. Before then, experts say, he'll have to think hard about how to divest from a company where he has spent his entire career.

Tillerson reportedly owns 2.6 million shares of Exxon Mobil stock, which would be worth about $240 million, as of the Wall Street close on Tuesday.

When President Obama began opening up to Cuba two years ago, reversing U.S. policy that dated back more than a half-century, he relied on executive orders that did not require the blessing of Congress.

That means President-elect Donald Trump could easily undo Obama's actions. And on the campaign trail, Trump said he would "terminate" Obama's orders that opened the way for travel and trade with Cuba, unless the U.S. could negotiate better terms.

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Updated at 7:33 p.m. ET

Since this story was written, the State Department said it was contacted by the president-elect's transition representatives. The phone call was apparently limited to a discussion about logistics.

The State Department's transition office has been quiet, as Trump and his top advisers remain in New York. State Department spokesman John Kirby says officials stand ready and willing to offer any briefing materials to the Trump team, but so far, there just haven't been any calls.

One of the promises Donald Trump made on the campaign trail was to dismantle or renegotiate the U.S. deal with Iran that limits its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. If he makes good on that promise, it won't be the first time a Republican administration has walked away from an arms deal negotiated by Democrats.

On this Election Day, Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling just about as far from Washington, D.C., as he can go. He's on his way to Antarctica, becoming the first secretary of state to visit all seven continents after logging well over a million miles while in office.

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Russia and Syria have temporarily halted airstrikes on the beleaguered eastern part of Aleppo, the part of the city controlled by the rebels. Instead, Aleppo has been showered with leaflets that urge rebel fighters and civilians to flee.

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday his country's air force was extending for another day a "humanitarian pause" so civilians in need of medical care can get out of the city.

"We are appealing [to] countries that have influence on armed groups in eastern Aleppo to convince them to stop fighting and leave," Shoigu said.

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