Kellyanne Conway isn’t going quietly. On Wednesday the White House attempted to purge eighteen Trump appointees from their three-year terms on military service academy advisory boards. Most are fairly well-known to people who follow politics, all are successful professionals. This looks to be little more than a political hit job. Out with Trump appointees, in with Biden people.
This may appear at first glance to be the standard operating procedure, especially in today’s hyper-partisan political atmosphere. It really isn’t as simple as that, though. Remember back as recently as the Trump administration. One of the criticisms he received on his managerial style was that he didn’t get rid of Obama people quickly from some top spots in the administration. He dragged his feet, likely focusing on other things, and many Obama people continued to serve. Look no further than James Comey, former director of the FBI. He was sworn-in in 2013 and served until 2017. He openly supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, despite being a longtime registered Republican. We all know what happened. Director of the FBI is a big position. These appointments to military service academy advisory boards, however, serve a purpose but are small potatoes compared to other appointments. They are mostly honorary appointments. It is traditional that the appointees serve out their three-year terms, regardless of a change of president. Early dismissals do happen and Trump did some of that, too.
The dismissal of Trump officials from the military advisory boards comes after the Pentagon has recently restarted its other advisory boards after removing hundreds of appointees from other boards in February. In November, just months ahead of when he was set to leave office, Trump dismissed several longstanding members of the Defense Policy Board ahead of their terms being up.
The military academy advisory boards, according to the Air Force Academy website, were established to oversee the “morale, discipline, social climate, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters” relating to the nation’s military academies. The board for each academy meets several times a year and its members provide independent advice and recommendations to the President.
When Joe Biden ran for president, he pledged to be a unifier. Now President Unity looks like he’s as partisan as any other politician.
Joe Biden, 1/20/21: "We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, conservative versus liberal."
Joe Biden today: strips former Trump officials of nonpartisan appointments, breaking w/years of tradition https://t.co/435VliZa3L
— Alyssa Farah (@Alyssafarah) September 8, 2021
Letters were sent out Wednesday requesting resignations by 6:00 p.m. that night. Otherwise, their positions on the boards would be terminated by the Biden administration.
On Wednesday, Cathy Russell, the director of the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office, sent letters to 18 individuals on three different boards, asking for them to resign. The list includes the Board of Visitors to the Air Force Academy, Military Academy and the Naval Academy, the White House said.
In one letter to Russell Vought, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Trump administration, Russell advised him that he’d be fired from his post on the Naval Academy’s board of visitors unless he chose to resign.
“On behalf of President Biden, I am writing to request your resignation as a Member of the Board of Visitors to the U.S. Naval Academy,” Russell wrote, according to the letter that Vought subsequently posted on Twitter. “Please submit your resignation to me by the close of business today. Should we not receive your resignation, your position with the Board will be terminated effective 6:00 p.m. tonight.”
Vought, who earlier this year founded the Center for Renewing America, tweeted out his refusal to comply. “No,” he responded. “It’s a three year term.”
John Coale, a top Washington lawyer, who was also appointed to the Naval Academy board by Trump on Jan. 5, was also removed and said in a text message he was “pissed off” he was fired, adding that he never even got to go to a meeting.
Other former Trump officials appointed to similar boards were also threatened with firing on Wednesday, such as former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, lobbyist David Urban and retired Gen. Jack Keane, according to one of the fired board members. Later this week McMaster is getting honored by West Point’s Association of Graduates as a Distinguished Graduate of the academy.
Keane said in a text message that it was “very disappointing that President Biden is not upholding the previous president’s appointments which has been pretty much the tradition.”
Meaghan Mobbs, an Afghanistan veteran who was also asked to resign from the West Point board, tweeted her reply to the White House: “I find this whole act unconscionable and not all in the spirit by which this Administration promised to govern. President Biden ran on a supposed platform of unity but his actions speak directly to the contrary. Apparently, unity is only for those who conform.”
You get the picture. These are all professionals, most with some type of military or government service on their resumes.
— Russ Vought (@russvought) September 8, 2021
Kellyanne Conway’s response was no, she won’t resign. She’ll have to be fired. There’s no doubt the Biden administration will relish carrying through on that but it’s interesting that she is making it difficult for them and calling attention to their purge of Trump appointees. She calls it petty and partisan. She said she has been told that it is outside of the norms. She’s not wrong. Kellyanne said it should be Biden who is resigning.
President Biden, I'm not resigning, but you should. pic.twitter.com/HuRYM4bLYP
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) September 8, 2021
Those with military backgrounds will be the most embarrassing for Biden to purge, though there is no indication that Biden is able to be embarrassed by his actions. He is without shame. Sean Spicer announced on his Newsmax show that he’ll take legal action
Spicer hit back at Psaki, citing his service in the US Navy Reserve, where he is a commander.
“For 22 years I have had the honor of serving alongside some of the most talented, patriotic and brave individuals this country has to offer,” he said. “I’ve done multiple tours and politics has never entered into my service.”
At the @WhiteHouse press briefing today @PressSec @jrpsaki questioned my qualifications to serve on the Board of Visitors to the US Naval Academy. I responded tonight @newsmax Watch below https://t.co/cz7Ap96Ijc
— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) September 8, 2021
General McMaster will likely have something to say about this. He’s been critical of both Democrat and Republican presidents. He served as Trump’s national security adviser. Since the horrendous withdrawal from Afghanistan, he said that Biden surrendered to a terrorist organization. The others being purged will likely have things to say, too. None of them look like they are easily intimidated. John Coale is the husband of Greta Van Susteren.
— Greta Van Susteren (@greta) September 8, 2021