There’s a new report claiming a growing number of federal employees are displaying insubordination and defiance toward White House officials since Trump took office.
The report alleges that a number of past and present career staffers in the Interior Department and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are exhibiting a disturbing behavior of outright defiance and opposition to Trump’s presidential agenda.
Many of President Trump’s supporters speculate that the deep state has infiltrated federal agencies, such as the EPA, and embedded individuals within the organizations that want nothing more than to thwart Trump’s every move or damage his reputation through leaks or other tactics, in an effort to prevent him from effectively “draining the swamp.”
An example of this occurred early this week when former Speaker Newt Gingrich accused special counsel Robert Mueller, who was appointed to investigate Russia’s alleged meddling in the election, as being someone who represents the “deep state at its worse.”
“From our point of view, it’s kind of obvious,” said Jeff Ruch, the executive director of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) group, when asked about staffers’ growing pushback. “You have Donald Trump, who ran and said he would drain the swamp, meaning them.”
Matt Mackowiak, a contributor to The Hill, weighed in on the topic, saying there is a “real industry now behind recruiting whistleblowers inside the resistance movement.” He added, “It’s not enough just to be a government employee and resign because of the direction your agency is going,” he said. “Now you have to do it in a highly public way, out of social pressure and personal motivation.”
It only serves to fuel disgruntled federal employees’ battle cries when they are deemed heroes for speaking out against the administration or otherwise celebrated among Trump critics.
“I think career staff don’t typically speak out publicly unless they feel like there are serious issues and problems going on within the agency,” said Liz Purchia, a former Obama administration EPA spokeswoman. “It takes a lot of guts for someone to make the decision to end their government service and to put themselves out there for public scrutiny and comment. … You wouldn’t see that if they didn’t feel like there was a considerable threat to the agency and its missions.”
Just this week, an open letter revealed that Elizabeth Southerland, a former top water official at the EPA, retired from her post, cited her opposition to the agency’s proposed cuts and deregulatory directives set forth by Administrator Scott Pruitt. However, a spokesman called her reason for leaving into question, suggesting that her decision to retire had less to do with a budget proposal and more to do with being “eligible for her six-figure government pension.”
As for the week before Southerland’s departure, David Schnare, a former EPA veteran and Trump transition official, announced his sudden resignation because of Pruitt’s leadership.
Meanwhile, a handful of former staffers rallied together to form a group called “Save EPA” to defend the agency, planning “free-speech brown bag presentations” to discuss how to legally fight back against the Trump administration.
Another example of direct defiance occurred within the military when Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft declared that the service “will not break faith” with its transgender military members after Trump announced he would reverse Obama’s transgender policies.
Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics, resigned in July after publicly clashing with Trump on ethical issues. And the president was forced to fire Sally Yates, his acting attorney general, in January, 11 days into her term, when she refused to defend an immigration order.
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