Trump’s Un-Civil Service Plan
Terry H. Schwadron
July 27, 2022
We got a healthy dose of what another Donald Trump administration might involve from a investigative report from Axios news.
A group led by reporter Jonathan Swan has been working sources among those who already are planning a 2025 administration. Central to the plan is a now-dismissed Trump executive order that would remake the federal civil service system, allowing appointment of thousands of Trump loyalists into jobs high and low involved in U.S. policymaking and regulation — the opposite of what we saw in the earlier term.
The plan relies on an executive order known as “Schedule F,” developed and refined in secret over most of the second half of Trump’s term and launched 13 days before the 2020 election. It reclassifies thousands who now work as protected non-partisan civil service jobs into a those who buy into a MAGA “America First” ideology.
That executive order was reversed by Joe Biden in his first days, but, upon a return of Trump to the White House, clearly the reversal can be undone in turn. That’s what makes executive orders so terrible about a way to run government.
It is described as a top priority to “go after the national security apparatus,” “clean house” in the intelligence community and the State Department, target the “woke generals” at the Defense Department, and remove the top layers of the Justice Department and FBI. The key measure would be personal loyalty to Trump, not experience in the military or law enforcement or the spy trade.
In effect, they represent the constant Trump target of a “deep state” within elected government.
A Shadow Campaign
As Trump talks around entering the next presidential campaign, his minions are quietly going about compiling possible Cabinet choices, policy changes and this attack on civil service employees, say the journalists. Apparently, Trump has given a go-ahead to the thinking, but not to the specifics of a first 100 days.
The policies include preparation of legal arguments against the inevitable court challenges from unions, Democrats and consumers.
According to the report, well-funded groups are already developing lists of candidates “selected often for their animus against the system” to carry out a deep seating of Trump loyalists in management layers well below the top secretary level. Whether this represents a “draining the swamp” mentality or replacing it with a new swamp obviously depends on individual viewpoints.
New presidents typically replace about 4,000 political appointees. This plan would open that process to tens of thousands of civil service reclassified with “Schedule F” duties. Early estimates are that 50,000 mid-managers of the total 2 million federal workforce could be affected. The journalists noted even if Trump did not deploy Schedule F to this extent, the very fact of such power exists could create a significant chilling effect on government employees.
Among other things, the changes could roil whether federal agencies work, whether they would provide any check on White House wishes and dreams and would set practical policy. It takes little imagination to see these powers as an extension of culture-laden campaigns to favor white, Christian, right-leaning America and a formidable pro-business agenda.
Just look at what happened to policies when he appointed such people as Cabinet secretaries in departments like Health, Environment, Education and Interior that, as individuals, they had battled for decades.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who chairs the subcommittee that oversees the federal civil service, has attached an amendment to this year’s defense bill to prevent a future president from resurrecting Schedule F. The House passed Connolly’s amendment, but Republicans hope to block it in the Senate.
The Groups at Work
In the background, the journalists report, are a coordinated set of right-leaning organizations that have earned Trump trust. One such group is the Center for Renewing America, led by Russ Vought. Vought hired Jeffrey Clark, the former Justice Department subordinate whom Trump had wanted to name acting attorney general to carry out a beheading of 2020 election results. Clark has been among the coordinators in this shadow thinking.
Other organizations include the America First Policy Institute (AFPI), and the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI, America First Legal started by Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller The Heritage Foundation and the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), an organization whose nonprofit status under the tax code allows it to conceal its donors’ identities. CPI, run by former Rep. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) is a who’s-who of Trump’s former administration and the “America First” movement, the report said.
Trump reportedly has reduced his circle of advisers and expunged nearly every former aide who refused to embrace his view that the 2020 election was “stolen.” Daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are no longer involved in Trump’s political operation, and the congressional advisers have centered on Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio rather than the leadership. Obviously, former Vice President Mike Pence is on the outs.
The report lists several familiar names from Trump’s White House as involved in the effort, and it speculates on who among the group itself could be destined for significant appointments.
Apparently, that close-knit group has met to review “mistakes” in the Trump administration. Unlike the rest of us, who might be able to list any number of “mistakes,” starting with strategies leading to the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection attempt, this group repeatedly suggested the heart of “mistakes” arose from a lack of were sufficient testing of Trump loyalty among appointees at all levels.
Many of Trump’s personnel choices for agency deputy positions were rejected even by his own former White House or Cabinet advisors for lack of suitability.
Now, the shadow effort is to function as a series of task forced for a possible Trump administration starting in 2025.
At least, we know what to expect.