Trump’s Tool To Fire Thousands Of ‘Deep State’ Civil Servants Is Back With A Vengeance

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 06: Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought presses the button that starts the machine that will print copies of US President Donald Trump's proposed budget for th... WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 06: Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russ Vought presses the button that starts the machine that will print copies of US President Donald Trump's proposed budget for the U.S. Government for the 2021 Fiscal Year are printed at the Government Publishing Office ahead of its release next week on February 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. Once released, the budget will be debated in Congress before it becomes official. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images) MORE LESS

Star Axios reporter Jonathan Swan published a long report (summary here) this morning focused on “Schedule F,” a little-covered Trumpian effort to make it way easier to fire tens of thousands of federal government workers without any cause whatsoever — and, crucially, to easily replace them with ideological foot soldiers. That’s in addition to the thousands of political appointees that presidents typically are allowed to hire and fire.

Or as Trump said at a rally this year, “We will pass critical reforms making every executive branch employee fire-able by the president of the United States. The deep state must and will be brought to heel.”

In short, Schedule F — which Trump announced in an October 2020 executive order — would create a new classification of federal government workers who are deemed to have an effect on policy making. They would, consequently, be stripped of employment protections. Federal workers were spared the prospect of being summarily dismissed by Trump’s executive branch minions because of the timing: Trump pursued the policy in earnest just a few weeks before the end of his first term, and he wasn’t able to steal a second one. 

Aside from specialty civil servant-focused news outlets like the excellent Government Executive, TPM probably did as much reporting on Schedule F as anyone during the short time the Trump administration was attempting to implement it. Here’s some of my reporting from the time, including an early exclusive: 

So Axios’ reporting caught my attention. Clearly, Donald Trump’s circle of “deconstruct the administrative state” advisors still care about this, and they’d like to institute it if and when he gets back to the White House. Indeed, Axios’ story is based on “people involved in the discussions” and “sources close to the former president.” (We might assume that the proposals they come up with would be offered to a non-Trump Republican candidate, should one win, too.)

According to the story, Trump-allied ideologues are currently, among other things, “building extensive databases of people vetted as being committed to Trump and his agenda.” The idea would be to reclassify tens of thousands of current federal workers under “Schedule F,” fire them if they put up any resistance to a wave of blood red administrative actions, and then stock the government with vetted replacements.

Allied groups, Axios reports, are currently “shaping policies, identifying top lieutenants, curating an alternative labor force of unprecedented scale, and preparing for legal challenges and defenses that might go before Trump-friendly judges, all the way to a 6-3 Supreme Court.” Those allies include Russ Vought — the driving force behind Schedule F’s near-implementation in 2020 as Trump’s budget director — and Jeffrey Clark, the coup-friendly Trump-era DOJ official who, as we know, has a thing for workplace drama

The hive of right-wing organizations and political operatives eager to rip out the federal workforce from the root is, as you can imagine, positively buzzing about the idea, as Axios explains at great length. 

The Conservative Partnership Institute in particular — home to Mark Meadows, Cleta Mitchell and a $1 million donation from Trump’s political action committee — “has been adding personnel to a database that now contains thousands of names,” per the report. Vought’s Center for Renewing America is also chomping at the bit and stocked with Trump alumni. The young Texan right-winger Saurabh Sharma, behind a group called “American Moment” that’s apparently making its own list of Trump prospects, summed it up: “Reagan hired young, he hired ideological, and he hired underqualified.” 

In fact, the only Schedule F-obsessed person I’m aware of who I didn’t see referenced in Swan’s piece is Jeffrey Tucker, the libertarian writer who has a long history with the racist right, and who you may remember as a recent Fox News guest. Tucker complained bitterly that the staff at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s historic home and plantation, was teaching the public about… the slavery part. Tucker seems to post to Twitter enthusiastically about Schedule F basically every other week

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) has an amendment, recently passed in the House as part of this year’s must-pass defense authorization bill, to inoculate the federal workforce against a Schedule F attack. As Swan notes, Republicans are looking to block it in the Senate. That legislation — the “Preventing a Patronage System Act” — could be a crucial check in the event of Trump’s potential return to the Oval Office.

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest Prime
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Reporters:
Newswriters:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: