WASHINGTON — A growing discontent with the direction of the Trump administration has compelled some federal employees to leave their position. The Huffington Post published an interview with four such former bureaucrats on Oct. 25, illustrating the specifics, from personal to policy, as to why the Trump administration was not for them.
Sharon McGowan, a former principal deputy chief in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, stated that she felt a sense of “dread” as a result of Trump’s election, due to her being in a same-sex relationship and fearing that certain protections for LGBTQ individuals would be removed. It was the appointment of Jeff Sessions, one of the most conservative senators at the time, as attorney general that was the final, deciding factor for her resignation.
Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), was at first open to working with the Trump transition team, as he had collaborated with them months prior to the election and that the transition team stated they “were really looking forward” to working with the OGE.
However, Schaub took umbrage at the perceived incompetence of Trump transition counsel Don McGahn, in addition to the OGE‘s overall lack of communication with the Trump transition team itself. Shaub pointed to a particular incident when McGahn asked if Schaub would be the one to review FBI background checks and give out security clearances, with Schaub responding “No,” McGahn had those duties.
One former civil servant expressed his fear that a particular Trump appointee was there with the intention to dismantle and/or undermine the agency’s objectives. Mike Cox, a veteran Environmental Protection Agency climate change adviser, voiced his opinion on EPA Director Scott Pruit, stating that “it was very clear that he (Pruitt) was talking down to us. We were the EPA. We were the bad guys.”
Other issues included the Trump administration’s plan to cut the EPA workforce by 30 percent, the lack of emphasis on if not outright rejection of climate change policy, and the fact that Pruitt had brought in a former chief of staff of Senator James Inhofe, chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee and a noted climate-change denier, to help run the agency.
Tensions between the CIA and new presidential administrations tended to be relatively common. Candidate Trump’s antagonistic rhetoric on the intelligence community particularly unnerved former CIA agent and National Security Council (NSC) spokesman Ned Price.
Yet it was the naming of Steve Bannon to the NSC via memorandum that ultimately compelled Price to resign. The memorandum also removed the directors of national intelligence and the CIA, as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from the NSC’s principals committee. For Schaub, “that confirmed in my mind that this was an administration that would look to political advisers and ideologues.”
Many of the common issues for the federal employees leaving had to do with what they saw was an administration seeking to substantially neuter their respective agencies and/or install agency leadership that frequently refused to cooperative with experts that did not adhere to the administration’s dominant ideologies.
Schaub, in particular, outlined a “three-part checklist” for federal employees thinking of resigning: “Can I perform the mission effectively? Then: Can I perform my job ethically and morally? And three: Can I tell the truth?”