Trump Deploys 400 to Serve as his Eyes and Ears in Federal Agencies
Dubiously qualified Trump appointments included contributors to Breitbart, a former reality show contestant, and a recent high school graduate
Here are More than 400 Officials Trump has Quietly Deployed Across the Government
Propublica, by Al Shaw, Justin Elliott and Derek Kravitz, ProPublica, March 8, 2017
Updated March 9, 2017
While President Trump has not moved to fill many jobs that require Senate confirmation, he has quietly installed hundreds of officials to serve as his eyes and ears at every major federal agency.
ProPublica has obtained a list of many of them. They include dozens of former lobbyists, Trump campaign staffers and some affiliated with the online far-right.
President Donald Trump has quietly positioned hundreds of his supporters to take jobs across the executive branch, essentially taking a backdoor approach to placing "his eyes and ears at every major federal agency" even while senior jobs requiring congressional confirmation remain unfilled, ProPublica reported Wednesday.
ProPublica posted a list of more than 400 such dubiously qualified Trump appointments, which the site wrote included everything from "obscure campaign staffers" and contributors to far-right website Breitbart to a recent high school graduate and at least 36 former lobbyists.
The staffers are serving in so-called "beachhead teams," temporary units serving for four to eight months. The beachhead teams are intended to familiarize Trump's administration with the workings of various federal agencies as well as shape the early implementation of Trump's agenda, though as ProPublica wrote, many of the hires will likely transition into full-time roles.
As Trump has left hundreds of jobs requiring congressional confirmation across the federal government unfilled, the beachhead teams have likely assumed "considerable influence," ProPublica added.
Some of the most explicitly partisan hires include writers for far-right websites, including Curtis Ellis, a former WorldNetDaily contributor, who is now a special assistant to the secretary of the Labor Department; and survivalist and "self-declared guerrilla warfare expert" Jon Perdue, a onetime Make Me a Millionaire Investor contestant who now works as a Treasury Department special assistant.
Others are lobbyists. Health and Human Services picked up pharmaceutical lobbyist Timothy Clark, health services lobbyist Keagan Lenihan and insurance lobbyist Alexandra Campau. Former lobbyist for defense contractor Palantir found a role at the Pentagon, while one hire at the Transportation Security Administration, Chad Wolf, is a lobbyist whose employer Wexler Walker said he is on "unpaid leave."
Finally, "dozens of former Trump campaign staffers" including multiple 2016 college graduates and Danny Tiso, who graduated high school in 2015, have landed beachhead jobs at various agencies.
Trump may have failed to make much progress nominating the hundreds of top-level roles that require Senate sign-off — something the president insists is deliberate. But the hires indicate Trump's administration is still forging ahead on his muddled policy agenda, even as the president and the media remain publicly preoccupied with the numerous high-profile scandals and controversies that have become constant fixtures of the Trump era.
A full list of the 400+ individuals is available on ProPublica's website.
Meet the Hundreds of Officials Trump Has Quietly Installed Across the Government
by Justin Elliott, Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw
ProPublica, March 8, 2017
A Trump campaign aide who argues that Democrats committed “ethnic cleansing” in a plot to “liquidate” the white working class. A former reality show contestant whose study of societal collapse inspired him to invent a bow-and-arrow-cum-survivalist multi-tool. A pair of healthcare industry lobbyists. A lobbyist for defense contractors. An “evangelist” and lobbyist for Palantir, the Silicon Valley company with close ties to intelligence agencies. And a New Hampshire Trump supporter who has only recently graduated from high school.
These are some of the people the Trump administration has hired for positions across the federal government, according to documents received by ProPublica through public-records requests.
While President Trump has not moved to fill many jobs that require Senate confirmation, he has quietly installed hundreds of officials to serve as his eyes and ears at every major federal agency, from the Pentagon to the Department of Interior.
Unlike appointees exposed to the scrutiny of the Senate, members of these so-called “beachhead teams” have operated largely in the shadows, with the White House declining to publicly reveal their identities.
While some names have previously dribbled out in the press, we are publishing a list of more than 400 hires, providing the most complete accounting so far of who Trump has brought into the federal government.
The White House said in January that around 520 staffers were being hired for the beachhead teams.
The list we obtained includes obscure campaign staffers, contributors to Breitbart and others who have embraced conspiracy theories, as well as dozens of Washington insiders who could be reasonably characterized as part of the “swamp” Trump pledged to drain.
The list is striking for how many former lobbyists it contains: We found at least 36, spanning industries from health insurance and pharmaceuticals to construction, energy and finance. Many of them lobbied in the same areas that are regulated by the agencies they have now joined.
That figure is almost certainly an undercount since we only included those who formally registered as lobbyists, a process increasingly avoided by many in Washington.
During the campaign, Trump said he would have “no problem” banning lobbyists from his administration. But they have nonetheless ended up in senior roles, aided by Trump’s weakening of Obama-era ethics rules that modestly limited lobbyists’ role in government.
The White House didn’t respond to requests for comment.
There are many former congressional staffers, several top officials from the George W. Bush administration, and even a handful of holdovers from the Obama administration. The list also includes at least eight staffers drawn from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that forged close ties to the new administration during the transition.
Much about the role of the beachhead teams at various federal agencies is unclear. But close observers of the early weeks of the Trump administration believe they have taken on considerable influence in the absence of high-level political appointees.
“If the public and Senate is in the dark about a team created without a Senate confirmation process, no one will be permitted to shed light on who is hopelessly conflicted or who is obviously unqualified — and who is both,” said Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door Project at the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
The beachhead team members are temporary employees serving for stints of four to eight months, but many are expected to move into permanent jobs. The Trump administration’s model is based on plans developed but never used by the unsuccessful presidential campaign of Mitt Romney.
“The beachhead teams involve people with considerable authority over the federal government,” said Max Stier, the CEO of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group that advises presidential candidates on smooth transitions. “We need clarity about what they’re doing and what their role is going to be.”
The Obama administration also hired temporary staffers after the inauguration. But Trump has brought in many more, Stier said.
The new list of names was provided to us by the Office of Personnel Management, the government’s human resources agency. We received additional names from other federal agencies in response to Freedom of Information Act requests. At least a few people on the list have changed agencies or left the administration, including, for example, the young Department of Housing and Urban Development staffer who was fired after his anti-Trump writings during the campaign came to light.