White House moving to purge anti-Trump officials

By on 25/02/2020
The Trump administration is working to oust officials who are perceived to be working against the president. (Photo by Gage Skidmore/flickr).

The US government is planning to expel federal employees who are “actively working against” president Trump, a White House spokesperson has confirmed.

“It’s not a secret that we want people in positions that work with this president and not against him… the federal government is massive, with millions of people, and there are a lot of folks out there working against this president. If we find them, we’ll take appropriate action,” Hogan Gidley told Fox News. 

Gidley was responding to reports that the Trump administration is compiling lists of officials perceived to be disloyal to the president.

A report by American news website Axios, published on 23 February, claims that over the last 18 months the White House and its allies have compiled lists of disloyal government officials to oust, along with trusted pro-Trump people to replace them. The report draws on information from more than a dozen sources familiar with the effort.  

While Gidley said he had not seen any such lists, he did not deny that efforts are being made to rid federal government departments and agencies of anti-Trump officials. “The president’s been pretty clear about the fact he wants people in this administration who want to forward his agenda. Donald Trump was the only one elected. He was the only one that the American people voted for. They didn’t vote for someone at any of these other agencies, any of these other departments.”

“Time and time again we see, in the media, reports about people in the bowels of the federal government working against this president. They’re pushing their own selfish political agenda and not the agenda of the duly elected president,” he added.  

He said every president had the right to have people in positions who “forward and execute his agenda” and that the White House would “continue to move forward” and make sure that was the case.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway defended Trump’s right to hire and fire officials. “We should not have people in government who are undermining the president’s agenda. The president got elected because his… ideas prevailed,” she told Fox News. “You want your views to become policy, you need to put your name on the ballot and become president of the United States.”

Not sufficiently pro-Trump

The development comes after Axios reported that the new head of the Office of Presidential Personnel, Johnny McEntee, asked White House aides to identify officials who might be anti-Trump.

One memo spelled out why Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes nominee, Jessie Liu, was not sufficiently pro-Trump in her previous post as US attorney for the District of Columbia. Reasons included Liu not pursuing criminal referrals that came from the Senate Judiciary Committee on the heels of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing; asking for jail time for ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn; and not indicting former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe. Trump later withdrew Liu’s nomination to the Treasury Department post.

Other memos sent to Trump named several State Department officers, according to Axios. Meanwhile, actions have also been taken against officials who testified to the House of Representatives in its impeachment inquiry into Trump.

“Trump appears to be launching the biggest assault on the nation’s civil service system since the 1883 Pendleton Act ended the spoils system,” Paul C. Light, a New York University professor who has studied presidential personnel, told The New York Times.  

In an opinion piece, Washington Post journalist Greg Sargent wrote that “Trump is not merely purging officials to sate his anger at those who crossed him — that is, as backward-looking retribution against disloyalty. Rather, the real driver here is that Trump is removing officials who committed the sin of trying to defend the rule of law from his efforts to corrupt it.

“This is forward-looking: It clears the way for more such corruption of the rule of law and sends a message to others about what awaits them if they stand in the way of this.”

About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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