The Joe Biden administration is purging the federal government’s constellation of advisory boards and commissions of Donald Trump appointees, even though such people are typically appointed to fixed terms and are not removed by new presidents.
Officials received curt letters, with one dated today saying, “Please submit your resignation to me by the close of business today. Should we not receive your resignation, your position with the Board will be terminated effective 6:00 pm tonight. Thank you.”
The removals range from military service academies to highly credentialed experts at obscure entities where politics are unlikely to be an issue.
Thomas Emanuel Dans, a member of the Arctic Research Commission whose term expires in 2023, told The Daily Wire that last Thursday, he received an abrupt email requesting he deliver his immediate resignation or be terminated later that afternoon.
“The argument from the White House is that I lack relevant expertise and an extensive knowledge of the Arctic. Well, I’m not sure what to say. I’ve only been doing finance and investment in the region for three decades… I speak fluent Russian, the language of the largest Arctic country in the world. In fact, I may be the only Commissioner in 37 years who ever has,” he said.
He said that the ARC is not a mere advisory board but an independent agency established by Congress, with Commissioners serving staggered terms in order to isolate its mission from politics.
In fact, he said, for most of the Trump administration, the ARC consisted entirely of Obama appointees. “The chairwoman traveled extensively around the world expressing the views that were more than once contrary to the Administration. It would have been President Trump’s prerogative to replace her as chair, but he respected the independence of the Commission,” he said.
He also said he has worked well with previous Democrats and has labored to advance several Biden priorities related to the Arctic. “I don’t think it mattered though here. Whether legal or not, I never even got a phone call,” he said. Dans did not resign and has not heard anything further.
But he said the unusual demands and breach of independence reminded him of his days studying in the Soviet Union.
In some cases, the Biden administration initially seemingly preferred that no work get done at all rather than work with one or more Trump appointees in the room. Boards which simply did not meet while Trump appointees were still on them include the National Board for Education Sciences (NBES), which did not meet during a year when there was a massive demand for guidance about what science says about how coronavirus should impact schooling.
In July, two Trump appointees to that board, Steve Hanke and John Yoo, sued Biden’s Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, saying bureaucrats had simply ignored the fact that they were duly appointed to the board.
By ignoring Trump-appointed members, the board lacked a quorum so it could not meet at all, violating a law that required it to meet three times a year, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit said that it was a violation of the law for bureaucrats to refuse to seat a presidential appointee.
While a president prematurely removing appointments made by his predecessors has not historically been done, the suit did not argue that Biden does not have the legal right to do so.
“The current Administration has the power to remove members of the Board, but the rule of law and separation of powers principles require accountability and transparency for those choices,” it said. However, “It may not obstruct the work of the NBES by simply ignoring the valid appointment of Plaintiffs by the prior Administration and refusing to convene the NBES to begin its statutorily required work.”
“The requirement that commissions be timely delivered is one of the oldest Supreme Court precedents in the nation’s history. In 1803, the high court ruled in Marbury v. Madison that failing to deliver such commissions is unlawful,” their lawyers, with the Pacific Legal Foundation, said.
Hanke is professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University and Yoo is a professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley. The board is also tasked with ensuring that the work of the Education Department’s Institute of Educational Sciences is “objective, secular, neutral, nonideological, and free of partisan political influence and racial, cultural, gender, or regional bias.”
On September 3, the Biden administration finally acknowledged that Hanke and Yoo were, in fact, appointed to the jobs — then terminated them.
Similar occurred with Defense Department advisory boards. In February, soon after Biden took office, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin suspended boards. Early this month, he agreed to restart some — with Trump appointees purged.
Those include boards that oversee service academies that train future military members, whose members are appointed to three-year terms.
On Wednesday, Jonathan Hiler, a member of the board of visitors of the U.S. Naval Academy, received a demand that he resign, or be fired by the end of the day. He refused to resign.
Hiler told The Daily Wire that suspending the service academy boards was “in keeping with the Biden administration trying to politicize the military, minimize input from perceived political enemies.”
He said “they fulfill an oversight function… the service academy boards have historically enjoyed a good bit of collegiality and bipartisanship, it’s not something a president traditionally comes in and wipes out” before their three-year terms expire.
The New York Post reported that all Trump appointees to service academies had received the ultimatum. One appointee told the paper it was “unprecedented,” and that Trump did not do the same thing with Barack Obama’s appointees.
“I think this complete purge shows that the administration is hellbent on the woke mob controlling or having input into military education. Otherwise, why do it?” the soon-to-be-ex-official said.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki pointed to clearly political appointees, such as Kellyanne Conway. But the list also included those whose qualifications for such a position would seem to be clear, such as HR McMaster, who is set to receive the West Point “distinguished graduate” award.
Katie Petrelius, a special assistant to the president in the Office of Presidential Personnel who issued some of the ultimatums, did not return a request for comment from The Daily Wire about the criteria and the rationale for the departure from norms.
In March, Biden demanded that a Trump appointee to the Equal Opportunity Commission in the position of general counsel, Sharon Gustafon, resign or be fired, in a move that legal observers said fell into a legal gray area.
Republican EEOC Commissioner Andrea Lucas said the appointment was for a fixed term that intentionally did not align with presidential administrations. “This is one of the ways Congress ensured that the agency remains bipartisan and, true to its structure, independent,” Lucas previously said. President Biden’s decision “infused politics where it is not supposed to be,” the Republican commissioner said.
Biden also fired National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Peter Robb under similar circumstances, well before his term was set to expire in 2023.