WASHINGTON – Today, the Revolving Door Project released a memo calling on President Biden to “legally remove all of those Trump appointees he can as soon as possible, even where this might break with convention.” While the vast majority of Trump’s appointees will presumptively step down on January 20 a critical, powerful minority will stay in their seats until they are asked to leave. This includes the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, Inspectors General, United States Attorneys, and a suite of chairpersons at independent agencies. Upon assuming the Oval Office, Biden should ask for their resignations without delay.
President Trump has demanded total loyalty from his appointees and removed any official who failed to demonstrate the requisite fealty. After four years of purges, those who are within the reach of the President’s removal power but who have, nonetheless, held on to their positions can only be assumed to have cleared the President’s loyalty test. Passing this exam will have necessitated at the very least, a willingness to turn a blind eye to lawbreaking, if not active participation in the project. In proving themselves in Trump’s eyes, these figures have disqualified themselves from service in the next administration.
Failure to remove these officials expeditiously would be an unforced error. Holdovers from the Trump administration may actively sabotage the Biden administration’s initiatives from their powerful perches (this is not without precedent). Even if, however, they do not set out to undermine the new administration, it is doubtful that these will be the best figures to carry out Biden’s ambitious agenda.
Regardless of the outlook for newly transformative legislation, powerful laws remain on the books from the 19th (e.g., Sherman Antitrust Act), 20th (e.g., 1964 Civil Rights Act), and 21st (e.g., Dodd-Frank) Centuries. Robust executive branch action is democratically legitimate and urgently required, as a Biden administration’s success will hinge substantially on the energy and creativity of all its appointees. With that in mind, the next administration must consider all possibilities, including unconventional but legal removals, to get the federal government working for the public interest as quickly as possible.