President Donald Trump has complained about “deep state” government employees working against his administration’s goals since the earliest days of his presidency, and his administration appears to be using its final weeks in power to do something about it.
Trump laid the groundwork for a purge of federal employees with an Oct. 21 executive order aimed at creating a new classification of federal employee. Traditionally, civil servants enjoy protections from being fired for political reasons and must be hired based on merit, not appointed by the administration.
Trump’s executive order would remove those protections for any executive branch position that has “a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character.” Those roles — which number in the hundreds — would be reclassified under a new “Schedule F.” As a result, Trump would be able to fire the employees at will, regardless of their performance, and appoint replacements. (RELATED: Trump Claims He’ll ‘Be Intervening’ In Texas’ Supreme Court Election Lawsuit)
Critics argue Trump’s order will gut the federal government’s current emphasis on maintaining neutrality in civil servants, replacing careerists with political partisans. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Ben Carson Touts Financial Turnaround At HUD, Urges Next Admin To Maintain Course)
Trump’s push for more control over federal agencies is just one of the many irregularities of his lame duck period, when outgoing presidents typically hold off on major policy decisions. While Trump has not formally conceded to President-elect Joe Biden, he has authorized the Biden administration to begin the transition process, which is now well underway.
Trump and his campaign have a number of legal challenges seeking to overturn election results, but they are dwindling. Trump has withdrawn or lost lawsuits in Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan in recent weeks. The U.S. Supreme Court also rejected a lawsuit aimed at overturning Biden’s win in the Electoral College. (RELATED: Wisconsin Supreme Court Won’t Hear Trump’s Election Lawsuit Until It Goes Through The Lower Courts)
Trump’s move to lock conservatives into the administrative state at the last minute echoes the push to place Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court just prior to a presidential election, a move that enraged many Democrats.
Trump’s cabinet members have also been trimming down their agencies and curbing wasteful spending in recent weeks. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie has introduced new policies that would enlist the private sector in providing care for veterans, de-emphasizing the current government healthcare system, according to the Washington Post.
The Trump administration’s moves have gained the attention of Democrats on Capitol Hill. Democratic Sens. John Tester of Montana and Brian Schatz of Hawaii even wrote a letter to Wilkie last week warning against his actions. (RELATED: China Continues To Boom As Rest Of The World Struggles With COVID-19)
“We are deeply troubled by previously announced and ongoing efforts to rush potentially harmful policies through the Department in the last days of the Trump Administration,” the pair wrote. “We are also concerned by what appear to be accelerated efforts by the Executive Branch, including your Department, to hire and ‘burrow-in’ political appointees as career employees and otherwise undermine the federal merit system. Not only is this illegal, but it involves expending taxpayer dollars on the salaries of individuals whose foremost qualifications appear that they were loyal to President Trump.”
Trump’s executive order has yet to be challenged in court, however. The president himself has remained relatively silent on the push, focusing most of his energy on his election challenges. (RELATED: REPORT: Dominion Voting Systems Didn’t Cause Voter Fraud In Michigan Or Georgia)
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appears to be leading the effort instead. Meadows held a phone call with White House staff days after Election Day to discuss what the administration could accomplish before Biden takes office. While at the time the call was seen as a tacit admission that Trump has lost the election, the result of that conversation appears to now be playing out across the federal government.
The Biden administration doesn’t plan on taking the new rules lying down, however, drafting their own suite of day-one orders to curb Trump’s last minute efforts on Jan. 20, according to Politico.