Trump aides plan federal staff purge in event of 2024 re-election

By on 25/07/2022 | Updated on 25/07/2022
Emails show that the HHS spokesperson and his team tried to prevent the release of a report which stated that the potential benefits of hydroxychloroquine - an anti-malaria drug touted by Trump - "do not outweigh" its risks. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr (Creative Commons License).

Aides of ex-US president Donald Trump are working on plans that would enable him to fire thousands of career civil servants and replace them with political appointees if he were to resume office after the next federal election.

An executive order signed by Trump in October 2020 sought to move federal workers in policy-orientated roles from the government’s main federal pay scale (known as the General Schedule) to ‘Schedule F’, a new category under which the usual civil service protections would not apply. This would allow the administration to rid federal government of anyone thought to be actively working against its agenda.

Trump was unable to move any workers to Schedule F before January 2021, when Biden took office and rescinded the directive. However, details of a plan reported to American news site Axios and confirmed by other sources, showed that former aides and pro-Trump organisations have complied a list of 50,000 people that could be purged if the former president were to be re-elected in 2024.

One of Trump’s former officials said there was “real value to issuing Schedule F” because it “turned it into a ‘flip the switch’ thing for the next administration that wants to do it”, according to Government Executive (GovExec).

On rescinding Trump’s executive order in his first days as president in January 2021, Joe Biden said it “undermined the foundations of the civil service and its merit system principle”. Biden also reversed several other orders signed by Trump, which were similarly criticised for seeking to politicise the federal civil service.

Deep state of distrust

At a rally in South Carolina earlier this year, Trump said that if re-elected, he would implement a “big and bold” plan to reform government, adding that what he termed ‘the deep state’ “must and will be brought to heel”.

The Axios report said: “What is happening now is an inversion of the slapdash and virtually non-existent infrastructure surrounding Trump ahead of his 2017 presidential transition.

“These groups are operating on multiple fronts: shaping policies, identifying top lieutenants, curating an alternative labour force of unprecedented scale, and preparing for legal challenges and defences that might go before Trump-friendly judges, all the way to a 6-3 Supreme Court.”

In mid-July however, the House of Representatives approved an amendment to the annual defence authorisation bill for 2023, which sought to prevent future administrations from reviving Schedule F and similar proposals.

Read more: Trump threatens to fire executive-branch employees if re-elected in 2024

Max Stier, president of Partnership for Public Service, said that Schedule F and other ideas geared towards reducing the influence of a professionalised federal workforce on administrations revealed a “fundamental misunderstanding” of its purpose.

He warned that such proposals would see federal employees forego their oath to the US Constitution, and that any employee whose loyalty to a president is baked into their role would pose a threat to “our democracy [and] to our ability to be a successful nation”. 

Former US leaders have had the power to fire executive-branch employees at will. The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883 changed this however, ending the ‘spoils system’ that gave presidents the ability to fire opponents and replace them with loyalists.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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