What Trump’s Been Doing In The Shadows—Halloween Edition!

Veiled by election hubbub, the President’s set the stage for carnage among civil servants, should he be re-elected. Among other things…

In any kind of normal time, our first item today would be a huge gigantic story. Now, it’s been totally overshadowed and engulfed by an unprecedentedly insane campaign, and COVID-19.

• And that’s President Trump signing an Executive Order making it far, far easier for him to fire career civil servants. What he’s talking about is people who work for various federal agencies who don’t tend to change even when the President does, and instead stay through all kinds of administrations and faithfully execute their duties, which in most cases are not very political anyway. Because it would be very damaging to the operation of the federal government if new people got plopped into every single job potentially every 4 years. As even Trump puts it in his EO: “The Federal Government benefits from career professionals in positions that are not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition”.

But in that same EO Trump talks about how “Separating employees who cannot or will not meet required performance standards is important”. Which sounds reasonable, maybe, as long as you don’t define “required performance standards”. And we don’t think it’s unreasonable, under Trump, for that definition to include unwavering loyalty to Trump, even if that’s not really central to the execution of your job.

Trump unloads with several major revisions to civil service that could be interpreted in a lot of ways depending on your objective and inclination. For instance, he asserts that agency heads “need…additional flexibility to assess” potential hires. (Loyalty test?) And he throws around phrases like:

Conditions of good administration make necessary an exception to the competitive hiring rules.”

And of course firing too. The President saying agency heads (who he would be appointing) should have more freedom to take:

Adverse action procedures.”

That’s a fancy way for saying giving someone the axe.

Also, why would Trump be issuing such an EO, at this particular point in time, if he wasn’t planning on a figurative massacre of many of these long-serving civil servants?

Trump goes to great pains of making it seem like his real objective is to make it easier to get rid of federal government employees who are just coasting: underperformers.

But that’s not fooling anybody. The move was too much for at least one person who Trump himself appointed to stomach. Ronald Sanders’ work involved determining appropriate salaries for civil servants. He resigned in protest, explaining Trump’s EO:

[I]s nothing more than a smoke screen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President, or failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process….I simply cannot be part of an Administration that seeks…to replace apolitical expertise with political obeisance.”

This happened a little over a week ago.

• Over at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, Trump recently installed a White House policy advisor as Chief of Staff, who promptly fired the agency’s chief scientist, and replaced him with someone who’s consistently pushed back against warnings by climate scientists. The NOAA bio page for its former chief scientist has been completely wiped clean: “Access denied”.

This happened Tuesday.

• And just to put a cherry on top: Trump rolling back protections and allowing the launch of widespread logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. That’s the world’s biggest non-Tropical rain forest. One thing to remember about private companies securing rights to exploit natural resources on federal land is they usually pay pennies for those rights compared to what it would cost them to buy or lease privately held land. So if you’re going to argue this is an example of Trump being a good businessman: no. Just no. Because the President’s attached no conditions to any of these federal land deals to get corporations to pay a fair price for projects out of which they stand to make millions. So even if you believe private businesses should be able to tap into valuable resources on public lands—as many Conservatives do—what Trump’s doing here is about as far from “draining the swamp” as you can get.

This happened Thursday.

• And one final thing that may be the most important of dastardly moves by Trump and Republicans in the short term: oodles of Republican lawyers making very last minute challenges to voting rules by states that have been in place in most instances for at least months.

This is happening right now.

So ask yourself this. What are you actually witnessing right now?

  1. Legitimate concern about voter fraud?
  2. Republican lawyers scrambling to make fewer votes count?

Base your answer on your own experience as someone who’s likely to have already been involved in the voting process, or is about to be.

Here’s our answer: Republicans are bringing challenge after challenge to federal courts in an attempt to force states to throw away piles of perfectly legal on-time votes, just because a hobbled US Postal Service might be a day or two late getting them delivered. And federal courts—all the way up to the Supreme Court—have made it clear they’re willing to consider throwing those ballots out after everyone’s voted, because it would be too disruptive a thing to do before at this late date, this close to Election Day. But doesn’t the looming possibility of completely changing rules after Election Day make it even more confusing to voters? And court cases are always meant to provide relief to an injured party. So if the decision comes later, what could the injury be then? Losing the election?

So who are really the nefarious actors out there? We’ll answer that question with another: Why would Republicans be fighting so hard not to let legit votes get counted?

This means because of all the action by Trump’s army of lawyers all over the place, Joe Biden will likely need tons more votes than the actual number he needs to win, in order to win. Because at least some of the votes that Trump and Republicans know will skew to him, have a high percentage chance of getting thrown out. So it’s important to mobilize and get first time voters and others out there to made sure Biden has a pad; a cushion of votes: totals that will so far outpace Trump’s. So even if those nakedly disenfranchising, hypocritical legal challenges by the President and Republicans currently dragging this country through so much muck do work out for them, they won’t even leave a stain on Biden’s margin of victory.

Which means getting out there and voting. And if you haven’t early voted, in-person voting does not seem as dangerous a prospect to us as it did during the primaries, based on what we now now about transmission of the disease. Sure you might have to wait in a longer line than usual. But in a lot of cases it’ll be outside. And we all know by now how to wear masks and socially distance. One last thing: if you’ve got a mail-in ballot but are deciding to vote in person after all, (which you absolutely should if you haven’t mailed it yet), please don’t forget to bring that mail-in ballot with you when you go vote. And the whole thing: not just the voting part; all the envelopes they came in—everything. That way you can surrender than ballot to a poll worker, and then vote on the spot. Saves a lot of extra work for everyone.

And as always, the ultimate answer for overcoming any of these Trump schemes—whether they have to do with voting, or polluting, or possibly firing thousands of career civil servants—including according to Axios, FBI Director Christopher Wray, who Trump picked himself, CIA Director Gina Haspel, another Trump pick, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper, apparently because he pushed back against the President’s inclination to deploy regular duty U.S. troops in the streets of America; and of course there’s Dr. Fauci–just because they’re judged by the President and his lackeys as not passing some kind of extreme loyalty test—is the same as it’s always been: Trump must be trounced.