Trump Appointee Resigns Over Executive Order Stripping Civil Servants Protections

WASHINGTON, USA - MAY 15: White House sign and logo at the Press Room in White House is seen in Washington D.C., United States on May 15, 2019. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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October 26, 2020 2:55 p.m.

President Trump’s recent executive order removing protections for career federal employees deemed disloyal has triggered the resignation of one of his administration’s appointees, who had led a commission that looks at how salaries differ between the public and private sector, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

In his letter of resignation from the Federal Salary Council issued Sunday, Ronald Sanders decried the executive order that could impact tens of thousands or more employees in policy roles across the government.

Sander wrote that Trump’s executive order “is 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,” according to the Washington Post.

The Post also reported that Sanders argued in his resignation letter that he “simply cannot be part of an Administration that seeks . . . to replace apolitical expertise with political obeisance” and that career federal employees are “legally and duty-bound to be nonpartisan.”

“They take an oath to preserve and protect our Constitution and the rule of law . . . not to be loyal to a particular President or Administration,” Sanders wrote, according to the Post.

While Trump’s executive order is almost certain to be reversed under a Biden administration, if the President wins re-election the directive could potentially hand him more leverage to places his cronies at all levels of the government. Trump is known for valuing personal loyalty above all else. The news of Sanders’ resignation comes after Axios reported that Trump is expected to boot Defense Secretary Mark Esper, FBI Director Christopher Wray and CIA Director Gina Haspel right after Election Day if he emerges victorious on November 3.

Sanders was appointed by the Trump administration in 2018 to head the salary council. Sanders now serves as the director of the School of Public Affairs at the University of South Florida after working in federal personnel positions for four decades, including for the Office of Personnel Management.

According to the Post, Sanders issued his resignation letter just days after the Federal Salary Council’s annual meeting on Friday, where Sanders argued for what he called the management point of view on several issues such as granting higher pay to federal employees working in certain areas. Sanders also questioned the methods the council uses in determining the “pay gap” with the private sector, the Post reported.

Later Friday, the President issued an executive order to redesignate career employees in “confidential, policy-determining, policymaking, and policy-advocating positions” under rules that primarily apply to political appointees, which drew criticism from civil service experts and union leaders who view the order as an effort to force political loyalty tests on a nonpartisan workforce.

According to the Post, the White House praised Trump in a statement on Monday for “increasing accountability.” The statement did not directly respond to Sanders’ resignation letter.

“It should surprise no one that President Trump is increasing accountability in Washington,” the statement said, according to the Post. “This much-needed reform will improve the effectiveness of the federal government in essential policy-making positions.”

The White House did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment.

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