The top IT official at a scandal-plagued federal agency led what one participant called “the most partisan meeting I have ever attended” as despondent bureaucrats had a collective meltdown the day after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, internal messages obtained by The Daily Wire reveal.
David Shive, chief information officer for the General Services Administration (GSA), addressed a key technology department during a “town hall” On Nov. 9 when he made the shocking comments. The department he spoke to, the Technology Transformation Service (TTS), has since been cited for “gross misconduct” and security violations.
“That was the most partisan meeting I have ever attended in government. David Shive joking that he dressed like a Republican (because he wore a suit and tie?) and concern about the ‘white men’ and what steps needed to be taken to protect us from the new President-elect (‘having allies’),” one attendee wrote on Slack later. “I’m not even a Republican and I’m offended! The point of the meeting was to reassure the staff that everything will be all right and that certainly could have been done without the copious partisan overtones.”
The Daily Wire reported last week that GSA’s inspector general found that the TTS tricked federal agencies into violating security standards by omitting facial recognition from software designed to lock up highly sensitive information, privately reasoning that such software was racist. It obtained $197 million in part by falsely telling customers and funders that it was compliant with NIST standards that required biometrics. The IG separately found “gross mismanagement” that occurred while the group was preoccupied with things like pronouns and building a social justice robot, and faulted Shive for a lack of oversight.
Now, internal chat records obtained by The Daily Wire through the Freedom of Information Act show the government’s central tech agency having a top-to-bottom psychological meltdown when Trump won the presidency, with the group seemingly believing that their work as government bureaucrats was to advance a Democratic agenda, not provide services at the direction of the government.
“It’s not easy. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Pet all the pets. Squeeze all the fam and friends.”
Although at least a few employees were stunned by the partisan tone struck by Shive and another thought the fears were overblown, other employees’ internal messages showed the partisanship was widespread. Messages obtained by The Daily Wire included quotes from and reactions to the Zoom meeting and questions that were submitted to the speakers.
Though they worked comfortable IT jobs and many worked remotely, they said they feared for their “safety.”
“I want to know what we can do to ensure that this remains a safe working environment for everyone,” said a participant named Shawn Allen.
The Slack screen name for Allen, like several others who expressed fear for their well-being with Trump as the president-elect, listed pronouns.
“It falls to all of us in the organisation, but most of all to those of us who feel safer than others, to uphold our diversity practices, continually improve them, and spread them throughout government,” Yoz Grahame (“SFO, he/him”) wrote.
“Thank you all for making me feel safe :heart:,” Rebecca Refoy-Sidibe wrote.
Jez Humble (“SF, he”) plotted to try to get GSA, which also manages federal real estate, to block the Trump Organization from acquiring a hotel.
“Quite simply, I believe the GSA should end the contract. They should simply terminate it,” he wrote.
Noah Kunin, the infrastructure director for 18F, a major component of TTS, told them that Dennis McDonough, Barack Obama’s chief of staff, had told them not to work, apparently referring to over a three-day weekend. “Straight from Dennis: *do not work*. Engage in self care,” Kunin wrote.
Kara DeFrias added: “The emotional labor will be high all around for awhile, but especially today and this week. Take the time you need. It’s not easy. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Pet all the pets. Squeeze all the fam and friends. Listen more than you speak. Embody empathy. Breathe.”
Some expected to continue to be paid while refusing to work on projects ordered by the Trump administration. Alan Atlas wrote that he “was told on joining that we have always had a policy of not forcing people to do work they were uncomfortable with.”
Eric Schles (“he or him”) wrote: “Question: what is your advice for speaking truth to power? How could / should we engage when we are asked to do things we don’t necessarily agree with?”
“We should have space for realignment there that doesn’t mean leaving government,” Kaitlin Devine wrote.
Some managers sought to deflate the pessimism with rhetoric about how their job was to serve America, but the government’s tech employees were not interested. “With due respect, we have not always been the beacon of rights. I don’t want to distract from the larger point, but this nation was built by enslaved people,” Annalee Flower Horne (“She/They”) wrote.
Gail Swanson chimed in: “I think it’s worth noting that some folks may not be in a place to hear optimism quite yet.”
Another employee, Patrick Bateman, pointed out that the “real or imagined” idea that they were nonpartisan was being offered as a coping mechanism simultaneously to one that contradicted it. “On one hand, lots of talk of the non-partisan aspects (real or imagined) and popularity of what we do; on the other hand hearing a lot of ‘we have allies’ on the hill, in GSA etc… can’t square that,” he wrote.
Then-TTS Director Dave Zvenyach tried to walk a fine line, apparently first reminding employees that they were civil servants. But the employees painted Trump’s views as being so abhorrent that they went beyond partisanship and into questions of morality.
“I want to work for a government that respects us and democracy,” Jesse Taggert wrote.
“How do we comport the difference between what a president thinks and believes and our own needs (not just values but safety and care)?” Jessie Posilkin asked.
Zvenyach wrote, “I kinda want to tell folks: look, if you feel like you want to leave on political grounds, GREAT! that’s a totally acceptable reason. But don’t try and make this a moral conundrum to justify your otherwise political decision… I’m not so fine with a policy that says people can choose not to do work because they don’t like the politics.”
But Zvenyach appeared to change his tune, perhaps folding to identity politics-fused statements that suggested that a white man like him just couldn’t understand.
“There are hard questions that many people of color, will have to wrestle with moving forward. It has nothing to do with the oath we swore or our obligation to American citizens,” Erren Lester wrote.
Zvenyach eventually backtracked: “My comments on the oath of office are based on personal experiences that — based on what i’m hearing from others — must have sounded totally ridiculous.”
Though the techies claimed to be motivated by support for government “transparency” through “open data,” their leader seemed to think some facts were better kept secret. “I’m wiped out thinking about the morality of the open data APIs we’ll be asked to build in the next administration [sic],” Zvenyach wrote.
Billy Griffin wrote: “Sincere thanks to everyone for speaking your minds, and to <@U03V848BQ> for being vulnerable and recognizing your blind spots and being thoughtful about addressing real concerns people have.”
The GSA ignored a request for comment and for video of the meeting from The Daily Wire.
Messages showed that one experienced civil servant tried to tell her colleagues that they were being hysterical.
“I have 16 years in public service, and I have served under 2 Republican Presidents (soon to be 3), and 2 Democrats…and honestly…neither party has ever had a HUGE effect on my public service. I do not see this one being any different,” the employee wrote.
History would prove her to be correct: The TTS team continued to carry on as normal and implemented a far-left agenda under the Trump administration, one that would result in the “equity”-inspired cybersecurity vulnerability and false statements identified by the Inspector General this month.
This is the fourth installment in a series.