Yesterday Politico ran with a story on how scared senior Obama holdovers feel about facing criticism from conservative media and Breitbart.
Conservative news outlets, including one with links to a top White House official, are singling out individual career government employees for criticism, suggesting in articles that certain staffers will not be sufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump by virtue of their work under former President Barack Obama.
The articles — which have appeared in Breitbart News, the Conservative Review and other outlets — have alarmed veteran officials in both parties as well as current executive branch staffers. They say the stories are adding to tensions between career staffers and political appointees as they begin to implement Trump’s agenda, and they worry that the stories could inspire Trump to try purging federal agencies of perceived enemies.
The claims posted on the conservative sites include allegations of anti-Israel and pro-Iran bias against staffers at institutions such as the State Department and the National Security Council. Breitbart News, whose former executive chairman Steve Bannon is now Trump’s chief strategist, has even published lists of workers that the president should fire.
Washington veterans say they can’t recall similar targeting of government employees, who are required to stay apolitical and generally shun the spotlight.
“It’s deeply unfair to single people out and question their loyalty,” said William Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former longtime diplomat. “It’s demoralizing for institutions. It’s demoralizing for professionals, and it’s offensive.”
This is nuts.
Government employees are not required to stay “apolitical.” There is no law possible to change one’s heart and mind. The best you can say about the Hatch Act is that it makes overt political pressure a little more difficult to apply and a lot more difficult to prove in the office and it deprives federal employees of significant First Amendment rights in service of keeping the public fooled about the politics of civil servants. The people targeted are in senior policy billets in Defense, State, and the NSC and were put in those slots by the Obama regime, the most relentlessly political administration in the history of the republic. Take this, for instance:
“We have members of the former administration at the highest levels who through their actions after January 20 have demonstrated their refusal to recognize the results of the general election,” one senior administration official told the Free Beacon. “They have pursued, organized, and managed a comprehensive subversion of the new administration.”
In one instance, Trump administration officials found evidence that the administration’s executive order banning travel from certain Muslim-majority nations had been selectively altered to bring it more in line with Obama-era talking points.
Several hours before the orders were set to be signed by Trump, officials noticed that language concerning “radical Islamic terrorism” had been stripped from the order and replaced with Obama-era language about countering violent extremism.
West Wing staffers quickly scrambled to rewrite the order to bring it back in line with Trump’s rhetoric, sources told the Free Beacon. The alteration of these directives is said to have spooked some senior officials working on the issue.
And, of course, there are the leaks and the misused intelligence information.
When the shoe is on the other foot, though, the media is happy to go along with it.
There was not one word in the Politico article about the smears launched against Seb Gorka and Michael Anton. To the contrary, the media has happily carried even the most bizarre rumors. A coterie of Obama officials has announced its intention is to destroy staffers loyal to Trump:
Former Obama administration officials such as Ben Rhodes, the architect of Obama’s pro-Iran press operation, and Colin Kahl, a senior national security adviser to former Vice President Joe Biden, have engaged in public efforts to “purge” the current White House of officials they disagree with.
Earlier this month, Kahl admitted on Twitter that he is seeking to provoke the firings of Trump’s handpicked team “in the West Wing,” including senior advisers Steve Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, and NSC leaders Michael Anton and KT McFarland.
As part of this effort, Kahl, Rhodes, and others have leaked damaging stories about these officials to allies in the media.
The latest target, Gorka, has been falsely accused of being a Nazi sympathizer and an Islamophobe. The campaign against Flynn unfolded in a similar manner and sources who spoke to the Free Beacon about the matter speculated that these leaks will continue.
“They have a network of journalists for whom they have served as sources and they have fed stuff to these journalists,” one senior U.S. official told the Free Beacon. “That’s what pretty obviously is going on. I’ve never seen this happen before. I’ve never heard of it happening throughout history.”
The best you can say about the politico article is that it is selective outrage as they have spread the smears on Gorka themselves.
I don’t have a problem with what a lot of conservative outlets are doing. An incoming administration, Democrat or Republican, has the right and responsibility to place its loyalists in every key position. If they don’t do that there is no purpose and no momentum at the agency level because the senior civil service people, who are nearly all very political, fight administration policies. This is especially true in the current circumstances where a president who did not win the popular vote is trying to eradicate much of what the civil service tried to accomplish over the past eight years. Many civil service people can’t be moved (nearly all the NSC can, as they are on secondment from their agency, and why any senior staff are kept simply beggars the imagination) but naming and shaming is one way to let these folks know that they are being watched and reported on. It also gives people on the inside a place to leak their concerns.
This is a no-holds-barred fight and I’m all in favor of winning.