Trump looking to purge Obama political appointees if he wins
Reuters is reporting that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told Trump donors in a closed door meeting that the nominee would seek to reform the Civil Service Act to make it easier to fire Obama political appointees.
Christie, who is governor of New Jersey and leads Trump's White House transition team, said the campaign was drawing up a list of federal government employees to fire if Trump defeats Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election.
“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” Christie told a closed-door meeting with dozens of donors at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to an audio recording obtained by Reuters and two participants in the meeting.
Christie was referring to Trump's starring role in the long-running television show "The Apprentice," where his catch-phrase was "You're fired!"
The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Trump's transition advisers fear that Obama may convert these appointees to civil servants, who have more job security than officials who have been politically appointed. This would allow officials to keep their jobs in a new, possibly Republican, administration, Christie said.
“It’s called burrowing," Christie said. "You take them from the political appointee side into the civil service side, in order to try to set up ... roadblocks for your successor, kind of like when all the Clinton people took all the Ws off the keyboard when George Bush was coming into the White House.”
Christie was referring to pranks committed during the presidential transition from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush in 2001. During that period, some White House staffers removed the W key on computer keyboards and left derogatory signs and stickers in offices, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, an investigative arm of Congress.
"One of the things I have suggested to Donald is that we have to immediately ask the Republican Congress to change the civil service laws. Because if they do, it will make it a lot easier to fire those people," Christie said.
He said firing civil servants was "cumbersome" and "time-consuming."
There was no immediate comment from the American Federation of Government Employees, which is the largest federal employee union in the United States.
Christie also told the gathering that changing the leadership of the Environmental Protection Agency, long a target of Republicans concerned about over regulation, would be a top priority for Trump should he win in November.
There's no doubt the Civil Service Act needs a major overhaul. Passed in 1883, the act sought to professionalize the bureaucracy by protecting most jobs in the federal government from the efforts of a new administration to award positions based on political loyalty and not merit.
I doubt very much if the originators of the Act could have envisioned the bureacracy becoming virtually a one party dictatorship where incompetent or crooked government employees were assured of going unpunished.
But care should be taken in reforming the law. The concept of the Act is sound and shouldn't be discarded along with unnecessary roadblocks to firing a government employee.
By tradition, and as a courtesy, political appointees tender their resignations when a new president is inaugurated. But Trump and Christie have good reason to fear sabotage from Obama, given his angry partisanship and vindictive nature. As long as care is taken to keep some protections for the permanent government workers, civil service reform would improve the transparency and competence of government.