The President has vilified some career officials as the “deep state” during his term and sought to rid the federal government of people he views as anti-Trump. Critics warn that the order would allow the President to fill the federal workforce with his cronies and reverts the country back to a spoils systems.
The executive order, issued Wednesday, creates a new classification of federal employees titled “Schedule F” for employees serving in “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions” that typically do not change during a presidential transition.
The push back was fierce, with the largest union for federal employees calling the order the “most profound undermining of the civil service in our lifetimes.”
Max Stier, the head of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, which seeks to fix government, argued, “Being able to place any number of existing career positions into this new Schedule F not only blurs the line between politics and the neutral competency of the career civil service, it obliterates it.”
Trump’s executive order would also strip hundreds of thousands of federal workers of their due process rights and protections, according to Kelley.
But while the order aims to make it easier to remove employees for poor performance, the White House says that the order prohibits “certain personnel actions” against “Schedule F” employees, including “actions on the basis of the employee’s partisan affiliation, other protected characteristics, or because of the employee’s status as a whistleblower.”
According to the White House, the order does not impact the Senior Executive Service, top employees who serve just below presidential appointees.
Senior Executives Association interim president Bob Corsi said in a statement Thursday that the executive order is “nothing more than propaganda intended to further the message that career federal workers are corrupt and not dedicated to serving all Americans equally.”
The directive also changes hiring for the roles from “competitive service,” which is majority of the civil service positions, to “excepted service.”
Corsi said the order goes against research and leadership from good government groups that advocate for an “increasingly merit-based and competitive workforce” and instead injects the workforce with positions “tied to vague performance metrics based on political talking points.”
“This president’s attacks on our federal workforce continue: It seems clear that he wants to be able to fire exemplary career officials like Dr. Fauci and those in the intelligence community who know that they serve the American people and not Donald Trump,” Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a tweet.
Democratic Rep. Don Breyer of Virginia, who represents the largest number of federal workers, said Congress would look at “legislative remedies” to the President’s order.
The order, which comes less than two weeks ahead of the election and with a deadline for a “preliminary review” of which positions should be designated as “Schedule F” the day before the presidential inauguration, could be rescinded if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is elected.
After his impeachment acquittal, Trump was eager to purge his administration of officials he perceived as anti-Trump and instead install officials who have previously proved their loyalty to him.
Trump’s executive order, however, earned praise from the top Republican on the House Oversight Committee, who argued that Trump is delivering on his promise to “drain the swamp.”
CNN’s Jason Hoffman and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.