Trial Run For A Purge?

March 29, 2018 1:27 p.m.

Yesterday morning, we published a scoop by Alice Ollstein: Congressional Democrats, she reported, are demanding an investigation into Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s order last summer to reassign dozens of top-level DOI career employees. His choice of who to reassign, Democrats allege, may have been racially discriminatory, in addition to being politically motivated. Government investigators are also currently looking into whether these reassignments may have broken laws protecting civil servants.

Alice’s reporting is part of TPM’s longterm focus on how the Trump administration treats civil servants, and whether the administration is choosing who to fire and reassign with political objectives in mind. That would be illegal.

Thinking big picture, why does this story matter? In a Prime post, Alice digs into one reason: If investigators uphold Zinke’s decision to reassign and marginalize DOI employees, one whistleblower told her, it could give the green light for a government-wide purge.

“The concern is that if you let this one fly, they won’t hold back,” Joel Clement, a DOI climate scientist who was reassigned to the accounting office, told Alice. “They’ll exercise their authority to move people around however they want.”

That could have serious consequences. If experts can be tossed aside and political flunkies put in their place, it would corrupt a class of experts that is charged with making decisions based on facts, not politics. That, in turn, could have wide-ranging implications for Americans’ lives.

You can find all of TPM’s reporting on this story here, and Alice’s big-picture post at TPM Prime.

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