Trump personnel office weighs asking appointees to offer their resignations
The White House President's Human Resources Office is considering asking almost every political representative in the Trump administration to write and submit tentative resignation letters immediately prior to the election, according to two senior government officials.
The HR office would then decide which to accept and which to reject. This gives President Donald Trump maximum flexibility in choosing his team for a possible second term.
The potential maneuver angered some officials as the appointed individuals calculate their next career moves - by balancing their loyalty to the president and his agenda against the risk he might lose in November, and making them seek employment.
"It's a bad way of treating people who risked their own reputations and careers to enter the administration and worked tirelessly to get the president across the finish line," said one of the officials behind the The White House did not publicly antagonize the condition of anonymity.
The human resources office is headed by Johnny McEntee, a 30-year-old former Trump Body man who has tried to replace political candidates who are considered unreliable allies of the president with undoubtedly loyal supporters of Trump.
McEntee, who traveled extensively with Trump before the White House was hit by a coronavirus outbreak, has argued with some senior officials at the agency over his efforts to install loyalists across the executive branch. In some cases, the new candidates hadn't even graduated from college by the time they arrived.
A senior White House official, asked for comment, said it was "standard practice to screen staff entering a potential second term" but stressed that "there are no definitive plans." McEntee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
However, Human Resources veterans say it would be highly unusual to ask for tentative letters of resignation before an election, rather than in January before the inauguration day.
"None of the Republican administrations have done this before," said a former official who worked in the human resources office in previous GOP administrations. A former senior Obama White House PPO official also said the office did not ask for letters of resignation from all political officials in 2012, criticizing the move as "incredible".
The two current senior administrators said the pending order from the PPO on these resignations was not yet well known in the administration - nor was it clear that the president knew or approved the plans of the human resources office. Trump said in August he was considering "firing everyone".
If Trump loses, it is unclear whether any of the resignation letters will be accepted or whether the appointed individuals will be allowed to leave the administration on their own terms. But government officials expect some insane mess to find post-Trump employment, further diminishing the prospect of an already undermined federal government in recent months.
Officials familiar with PPO's plans said they would instill fear and uncertainty in political officials and complained that the potential arrangement would make their ability to find new jobs more difficult. It is easier to find a new job from a safe place, they said.
With Democrats in power, Trump candidates who had well-established careers and reputations prior to the current administration are much more likely to be able to plan their next appearances than those who owe their current jobs entirely to Trump.
And even if Trump wins re-election, one of the officials said, "This could create some fear because people have lives and have to prepare for all kinds of circumstances." This person added, "So if you have to cut them before they are prepared, it will create some havoc in their life."
In the past few weeks there have been further signs of friction between McEntee and other administrative power centers.
In mid-September, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows announced internally that many of the White House's ties to the agencies would be replaced. The memo sparked speculation among some officials that Meadows had to ship it because McEntee couldn't do it on his own, perhaps because officials below him were being pushed back by the agencies and needed high-level support.
And Ben Carson, the Minister for Housing and Urban Development, also publicly embarrassed the powerful hiring manager by accidentally showing reporters his notes during a speech a few weeks ago. The notes indicated that Carson was "not happy" with how PPO was handling his department.
"I am very loyal to you and after your victory I hope to remain in your administration," read the typed notes that appear to speak for a conversation Carson would have with Trump. "I'm not happy with the way PPO deals with my agency."
PPO conducted interviews with almost all political figures earlier in the summer, which were widely viewed as tests of loyalty. During the interviews, the nominees were also asked if they intended to stay for a possible second term and what job they would like in that case.
The officials said that once such a request for a resignation letter becomes common knowledge in the administration, it will certainly undermine morale. The human resources office move would backfire at the White House, causing disgruntled officials to divulge harmful information about the president or his top aides.
"It seems like taking a loyalty test before an election isn't the smartest way to get a positive outlook on work," said one of the senior administrators.
"People are moody," added the person. "They are working hard to get the president re-elected and at the same time they are being told that they are not loyal enough. It's kind of insane."
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