No one said draining the swamp in Washington would be easy, but the Trump Administration is beginning to discover just how difficult that can be. Executive Branch personnel problems fall into one of three general areas: first, identifying Trump’s people and getting them confirmed; second, identifying Trump’s enemies and getting rid of them; and third, how to get those the president can’t get rid of to at least do no harm. Trump will need to display a single-minded ruthlessness in all three areas, if he is to be successful.
Democrats have launched an effort to obstruct the Trump Administration confirmation process that is unprecedented in scope and obstinacy. Indeed, in Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s words, “this is the slowest time for a new cabinet to be up and running since George Washington.” These tactics include baseless charges, forced all night sessions, failure to provide a quorum necessary to conduct hearings, and so forth. Given the Democrat’s strategy, there is no point in negotiating, or in humoring their objections. Committee hearings should be pro forma, and floor votes must come swiftly. If Democrats are unwilling to conduct themselves in good faith, then their opportunity to participate should be minimized.
Trump must provide a full pipeline of nominees to the Senate, and at the same time, avoid nominating the wrong people. Under consideration for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights is Harmeet Dhillon, a former board member of the San Francisco ACLU, who believes in citizenship for illegals, and civil rights for Guantanamo Bay detainees. The DOJ Office for Civil Rights is overflowing with Obama social justice warriors. Trump needs to find a way to dismiss them – relocating their offices to Barrow, Alaska would be a good start – not add to their number.
At the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense James Mattis wanted Anne Patterson as undersecretary of defense for policy. As former ambassador to Egypt, Patterson implemented Obama’s policy of promoting the Muslim Brotherhood as the legitimate government of Egypt, discouraging protests against its increasingly authoritarian policies. Mattis wanted another liberal for his deputy, Michele Flournoy, who was widely seen to be the next Sec Def under Clinton. While Mattis should have a say in the selection of his deputies, if he keeps demanding progressives, Trump should consider having him replaced.
The real outrage is the continuing presence of Obama’s IRS commissioner John Koskinen. Seriously, was Lois Lerner unavailable? Koskinen presided over the widespread destruction of evidence related to the IRS’ assault on tea party groups, failed to inform Congress of the destruction and instead claimed the related emails were mysteriously “unrecoverable”. The fact that he still sits in the commissioner’s office is an insult to the many lawmakers who worked long hours to get him impeached. A semblance of justice must be done for conservative groups unlawfully harassed under Obama.
Only at the EPA has Trump gotten truly serious about swinging a wrecking ball in the form of Administrator Scott Pruitt. The White House’s proposed budget cuts would reduce funding by $2.1 billion or 25%, and eliminate 3,000 jobs out of 15,000. They are zeroing out the radon program, climate change initiatives, and funding for Alaskan native villages – don’t worry Inuits, we’re sending the DOJ Office of Civil Rights to help!
Getting a single person fired from the EPA takes perseverance. Consider the case of an EPA employee making $120,000 who had download 7,000 pornographic videos on a government server, and spent most of his days either watching them, or cataloguing them in various folders. During the investigation the employee received several performance bonus awards – for acts one shudders to guess. The inspectors showing up to a scheduled interview found him…watching porn. EPA administrator Gina McCarthy was asked why she hadn’t fired the employee at a congressional hearing, and she replied, “I actually have to work through the administrative process, as you know.”
Scott Pruitt could also try to locate the $6.3 billion that EPA stashed away in 1,300 different slush fund accounts. The Justice Department also operated slush funds, diverting nearly $1 billion to activist groups by strong arming financial institutions into “contributing” to such esteemed non-partisan entities as La Raza, The National Urban League, and a host of Acorn successor groups. The DOJ also managed to turn a modest judgement of $120 million against the Agriculture Department, from 91 African-Americans in the Pigford case, into a $4.4 billion fraud-ridden boondoggle that gave $50,000 to nearly every minority willing to sign their name.
This is the swamp that President Trump inherited and draining it is going to involve first and foremost cutting off the water supply, i.e. the money. Every leftist organization that has feasted on taxpayer money for the last eight years needs to be systematically starved – and audited – but Trump needs to go further than that. Only by instilling genuine fear will he gain the respect he needs to govern the vast army of men and women, who would sooner join the zombie apocalypse than further a conservative agenda.
President Trump needs to deploy randomized collective punishment against agencies which fail to perform or otherwise flout White House authority. The upper echelons of the intelligence communities should be first on the list to be fired by lottery. For example, dismiss every analyst at the CIA with a SIS level of one, whose Social Security number ends in ‘6’. Since there is no effective way to track down individual leakers, saboteurs and foot-draggers, simply launch a random salvo of termination charges that detonate at various depths within the bureaucracy. Recognize that you will lose qualified people, but those who remain will work in fear of the president’s displeasure, which is as it should be.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) are pushing various bills to strip federal workers of the civil service protections that make them nearly impossible to fire or even punish. Trump must actively prioritize their legislation if he is to bring the bureaucracies to heel. Much of the objection towards treating bureaucrats in an adversarial manner stems from their supposedly non-partisan nature, but anyone with experience in Washington knows that they are mostly a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Left. If Trump is serious about “deconstructing the administrative state,” in the words of advisor Steve Bannon, he cannot decimate the Democrat Party and leave their allies in the bureaucracy untouched.
The author is a former Republican campaign operative. His work has appeared in USA Today, Real Clear Politics, The Federalist, and the Daily Caller. He has also appeared on Dan Caplis show on KNUS710. He currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area. Follow him on Twitter @PHGuthrie