There is no clean way, short of constitutional overhaul, to resolve the tension between serving the president and serving the people, which is built into the American system. At its best, it protects both the Constitution and the president. Ashcroft, Goldsmith, and Comey acted not out of disloyalty to Bush but because they sought to protect his administration from an act that would be illegal. (You might call it, um, a higher loyalty.) Trump has often harmed himself when he doesn’t listen to advisers who are giving him good-faith advice. Perhaps the greatest political error of his administration was firing Comey, the FBI director, because he would neither pledge loyalty nor act on Trump’s notion of it. (Trump may be paranoid about accepting advice, since there are self-professed saboteurs in the administration—though that is itself a reaction to his erratic judgment.)
Like many of Trump’s abuses of the system, his approach to appointments is worrisome because it is likely to persist after he leaves office. Imagine that Trump loses the 2020 election and a Democrat wins, but that Republicans maintain control of the Senate. A future President Harris or President Booker may lament Trump’s violations of norms now, but what happens when she or he faces the prospect of trying to get nominees past the intransigent Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell? The temptation to resort to acting appointees will be strong—particularly because Trump has done it so extensively, and with so little pushback from McConnell.