Trump’s Real Opposition Party: Federal Employees
The Washington Times, by Kelly Riddell, February 14, 2017
President Trump underestimated the opposition he’d face among federal bureaucrats, civil servants who are supposed to be there to serve at his will.
One federal servant told The Washington Post he would resist Mr. Trump’s orders, depending how it “affected the world in general.”
According to a report in The New York Times on Sunday, a group of scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency strategized last week about how to slow-walk Mr. Trump’s executive orders without being fired.
“At the Treasury Department, civil servants are quietly gathering information about whistle-blower protections as they polish their resumes,” The Times reported.
At the United States Digital Service, an organization created by former President Barack Obama to overhaul the government’s digital services and databases, many of them are worried their “technical prowess” will be harnessed for a new, more diabolical purpose.
“This is a crisis moment,” Mickey Dickerson, the former boss of the unit told his former employees after Mr. Trump won, according to The Times. “The coalition that brought us all together for a while is broken, because the values we have all prioritized differently are now pointing in different directions.”
The Washington Post reports: “Federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives.”
It’s no secret that Mr. Trump’s White House has been plagued by leaks to the media — many of them from disgruntled civil servants.
Government staffers leaked to The New York Times and The Washington Post about conversations former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had with Russian contacts before the inauguration. Those leaks led to the resignation of Mr. Flynn.
“The only reason we’re finding out about it now is because a patriot did leak this to The Washington Post, did get this information out there, or else we wouldn’t even have known about it,” Joe Scarborough said on MSNBC on Tuesday morning.
Because of the anonymity of these sources, there’s no way for the public to ascertain the leakers’ motive. Is it to protect national security? Protect the White House from potential blackmail? Or is it to embarrass the new administration, or to angle for a new post either inside or outside of the federal government?
The Flynn resignation is the most successful get of these career staffers, but there’s been small victories as well.
Sally Q. Yates, the former acting attorney general, defied Mr. Trump’s immigration ban orders that had been cleared by her own Office of Legal Counsel and the White House. She was let go within hours but heralded by the left as a progressive warrior.
Politico reports that “federal employees worried that President Donald Trump will gut their agencies, are creating new email addresses, signing up for encrypted messaging apps and looking for other, protected ways to push back against the new administration’s agenda.”
The goal, Politico reports, is for these employees to get their anti-Trump message across without violating any federal rules covering workplace communications, which could get them fired.
The Interior Department has already sent out rogue tweets, after being told to shut down its Twitter account. The department was posting climate change warnings hours after Mr. Trump was sworn into office.
Then there was the debacle at the Education Department. Some staffer sent out misspelled tweets hours after Secretary Betsy DeVos was confirmed. Was it an honest mistake, or an intentional action made to make Ms. DeVos look bad after her controversial appointment?
Under current Merit Systems Protection board case law, civil servants must obey the president’s orders, and then challenge its validity if they disagree. The only way to defy such an order without this protocol would be in “extreme or unusual circumstances” in which the employee would be placed in clear danger, or cause irreparable harm to the safety of the public.
It looks as though many civil servants are taking it into their own hands in determining what exactly defines irreparable harm to the safety of the public. It seems every move Mr. Trump makes falls into this category for them.