Many of the 2.7 million bureaucrats employed by the federal government oppose President Donald Trump’s policies and are actively attempting to sabotage his agenda.
That sabotage comes in several forms, from secretly circulating emails among fellow ideologically committed members of the federal bureaucracy plotting strategy, to working behind the scenes with Democratic legislators to create out-of-the ordinary bureaucratic actions, to leaking confidential documents to the press.
Philip K. Howard, chairman of Common Good, “a nonpartisan reform coalition that believes individual responsibility, not rote bureaucracy, must be the organizing principle of government” is recommending President Trump beat these efforts to sabotage his agenda through an executive order to “replace the current system.”
Howard “argues that the civil service system, as currently structured, deprives the President of his executive power under Article II of the Constitution,” Common Good said in a statement released on Monday.
President Trump has already used executive orders to begin the implementation of the agenda which American voters supported in the November elections. While an executive order specifically aimed at the federal bureaucracy would be controversial, even Politico recognizes that many bureaucrats are actively seeking to undermine Trump’s political agenda.
“On Trump’s first full day in office, he called National Park Service Director Michael Reynolds and ordered him to produce photos that would buttress Trump’s claims that reporters had falsely described the magnitude of his inaugural crowds. Trump’s intervention quickly found its way into the media,” Politico reported:
A draft executive order directing the CIA to consider reviving interrogation techniques widely regarded as torture was quickly publicized without White House approval—as was the news that Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo were allegedly “blindsided” by the proposal.
More than 1,000 State Department officials signed and submitted a “Dissent Channel” memo criticizing Trump’s executive order halting refugees from several predominately Muslim countries from entering the country. A memo from acting Attorney General Sally Yates to Justice Department officials telling them not to defend the order was quickly publicized, leading to Yates’ firing by Trump a few hours later.
Extensive details of Trump’s combative phone calls with the leaders of Mexico and Australia—calls that ordinarily are private or are described in anodyne terms—were leaked shortly after the calls were over, from sources that likely included U.S. officials concerned by Trump’s unconventional brand of diplomacy.
“The examples are notable both for the speed in which they are coming and the obvious skepticism they convey from within the executive branch both about the merits of Trump’s agenda or the methods by which he is trying to impose it,” Politico added.
In a city known for leaking, bureaucrats opposed to Trump’s agenda have been relying upon that ignoble technique to undermine many of his actions with a fervor rarely, if ever, seen before.
One such leak provided the entire basis for this recent story published in the left-leaning Nation.
“Leaked Draft of Trump’s Religious Freedom Order Reveals Sweeping Plans to Legalize Discrimination,” the headline screamed.
“If signed, the order would create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity,” the story claimed:
A leaked copy of a draft executive order titled “Establishing a Government-Wide Initiative to Respect Religious Freedom,” obtained by The Investigative Fund and The Nation, reveals sweeping plans by the Trump administration to legalize discrimination.
The four-page draft order, a copy of which is currently circulating among federal staff and advocacy organizations, construes religious organizations so broadly that it covers “any organization, including closely held for-profit corporations,” and protects “religious freedom” in every walk of life: “when providing social services, education, or healthcare; earning a living, seeking a job, or employing others; receiving government grants or contracts; or otherwise participating in the marketplace, the public square, or interfacing with Federal, State or local governments.”
The draft order seeks to create wholesale exemptions for people and organizations who claim religious or moral objections to same-sex marriage, premarital sex, abortion, and trans identity, and it seeks to curtail women’s access to contraception and abortion through the Affordable Care Act.
The Nation used the “leaked document” to drive its far left narrative:
The White House did not respond to requests for comment, but when asked Monday about whether a religious freedom executive order was in the works, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters, “I’m not getting ahead of the executive orders that we may or may not issue. There is a lot of executive orders, a lot of things that the president has talked about and will continue to fulfill, but we have nothing on that front now.”
Writing this week in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, “The President’s Right to Say ‘You’re Fired’,” Common Good’s Howard said:
President Trump wants to overhaul the civil service. Even ardent liberals agree it needs to be rebuilt, but past efforts at reform have withered in Congress under union power and public indifference. There’s a more direct path: Mr. Trump can repudiate civil service in its current form as a violation of the Constitution’s mandate that ‘the executive power shall be vested in a President.’… Because of civil-service laws passed by Congress…the president has direct authority over a mere 2% of the federal workforce. The question is whether those laws are constitutional.
Does Congress have the power to tell the president that he cannot terminate inept or insubordinate employees?
The answer, I believe, is self-evident. A determined president could replace the civil-service system on his own, by executive order. The move would doubtless be challenged in court, but it would likely be upheld, especially if the new framework advances legitimate goals, honors principles of neutral hiring and is designed to foster a culture of excellence.”
Last week, writing at The American Interest, Howard offered more details:
In 2014 the Partnership for Public Service issued a report describing civil service as ‘a relic of a bygone era,’ and called for ‘a new civil service framework,’ including ending the presumption of lifetime careers. Like other good government reports, however, it treated accountability with kid gloves. But once the power of accountability is restored, designing a new civil service system requires no genius.
The basic elements are: 1) neutral hiring, without the endless red tape of the current system; 2) a safety net to treat public employees fairly if they are let go; and 3) a neutral body (perhaps the current Merit System Protection Board) with responsibility to guard against unfairness.”
Howard, a distinguished attorney, is the author of several books, including The Rule of Nobody (W. W. Norton) and The Death of Common Sense (Random House).
In the face of continued active resistance to the implementation of his policies by the federal bureaucracy, President Trump is likely to consider the use of every legal option at his command. If Howard’s recommendation to sign an executive order to replace the current system of civil service is not on the radar of the President and his team of advisers, it may soon be.