TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Jeff Hauser and Eleanor Eagan, Revolving Door Project
DATE: January 8, 2021
If there is one thing that Wednesday’s events made excruciatingly clear, it is that every additional day that Trump is in office is a dangerous one for our country. The risk is such that, even with only 12 days remaining in the President’s term, many are desperately seeking to remove him from office.
Sadly, no matter whether Trump leaves the Oval Office tomorrow or on January 20, we know that many of his associates will remain behind (although just how many is a mystery). These figures will have, at best, sat silently during this President’s most egregious abuses and, at worst, actively advanced his horrifying project. Under an administration that was unabashedly subjecting its members to loyalty tests, any figure that could have been fired but was not must go.
Joe Biden and the Democratic majorities in Congress must make a priority of identifying and removing all political appointees who can legally be fired and all of those who were improperly installed in their roles.
Who Will Remain?
A critical, powerful minority of political appointees will stay in their seats until they are asked to leave. This includes the Director of the FBI, the Commissioner of the IRS, Inspectors General, and United States Attorneys. All of these figures survived President Trump’s unabashed loyalty tests, rendering them unfit for office.
Thanks to President Trump’s Schedule F Executive Order and more routine “burrowing in,” there will be other holdovers scattered throughout the federal government who can wreak havoc for the incoming administration. There are likely even more who have made their way in through corrupted hiring processes and other illicit pathways. (Why, for example, is John McEntee, the architect of Trump’s loyalty tests and assaults on the civil service, reportedly under consideration for a presidential pardon?)
Upon assuming the Oval Office, Biden should ask for resignations from all of those Trump appointees who are legally subject to removal. After Wednesday’s attempted coup it is clear that whatever norms-related argument there supposedly is in favor of leaving Chris Wray in place, for example, does not outweigh the harm his continued service will cause.
The Biden administration and Congress must also seek out the loyalists that Trump and his associates have installed more surreptitiously. Schedule F is bad enough on its face — what else have Trump, McEntee, and the rest done from the the Department of Homeland Security to the FBI, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and beyond? Nothing short of a full audit of hiring practices and personnel actions will do.
Joe Biden and congressional leaders cannot count on Trumpism to disappear when the man himself leaves office. They must resolve to actively fight his legacy wherever it remains.
Header image: “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0