Multiple officials have left the Trump administration in what appears to be a post-election purge — with more exits likely to come.
After suffering a loss to former Vice President Joe Biden on Election Day, Donald Trump was quick to make White House staff changes in a tumultuous churn across various departments, within the span of two weeks.
Several officials have so far been ousted for not being pro-Trump enough or being perceived as disloyal for making "independent choices."
Most recent among them is Chris Krebs, whom Trump fired in a tweet on Tuesday night.
Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, had issued a statement on Nov. 12 along with election officials from across the country, which stated resolutely that "the November 3rd election was the most secure in American history," and that there was "no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised" — a direct contrast to Trump's repeated claims of election fraud.
"The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud," Trump falsely claimed in a series of tweets on Tuesday evening, listing several debunked examples of that so-called fraud. "...Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency."
Twitter quickly marked both tweets as misleading.
According to a source who spoke to CNN, Krebs "knew he might get in trouble for telling the truth, but realized his dismissal could come soon when media organizations that are friendly to the President started to attack him."
Krebs is the latest in a growing line of outgoing Trump administration staffers, many of whom have since been replaced by Trump loyalists in acting capacity, a loophole Trump often uses to avoid having to obtain Senate confirmation for his picks.
Here's who else has exited the Trump administration since the initial shakeup on Nov. 3.
Bryan Ware, the assistant director for cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, resigned under pressure from White House on Friday.
Trump has insisted for months now that widespread voter fraud exists and that mail-in ballots, submitted by voters en masse across the country in the midst of a pandemic, as a way to cast their ballots safely, are somehow rife with problems. He amplified those claims following his election loss, suggesting Democrats had acted illegally to oust him from office.
There is zero evidence to support those claims and Trump's own administration has confirmed as much.
Late Thursday, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency publicly concluded that there was no evidence of election fraud. "The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history," a joint statement from the agency and state and local officials read. "Right now, across the country, election officials are reviewing and double checking the entire election process prior to finalizing the result. While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too."
An anonymous U.S. official told Reuters that the White House had asked Ware to resign earlier in the week. Ware said he handed in his resignation on Thursday.
Ware will now move to a role in the private sector, according to CyberScoop.
Valerie Boyd, DHS assistant secretary for international affairs, was also asked for her resignation on Thursday by the White House's Presidential Personnel Office, the Washington Post reported.
Having worked under the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, she was perceived as not loyal enough, an anonymous source told the Post.
"They’re looking for complete loyalty, and someone with experience serving different administrations is not perceived as sufficiently loyal," the person said.
Neil Chatterjee, chairman of the five-member Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, announced in a tweet on Nov. 5 that he was being replaced by James Danly, a Trump appointee.
For now, he will remain a commissioner.
Chatterjee, a Republican, told the Post at that time that some of his recent actions, which included opening up electricity markets to green energy, might have "aggravated somebody at the White House, and they make the switch."
"If that’s the case, that’s being demoted for my independence, I'm quite proud of that, and will wear it as a badge of honor," he said.
Last Monday, Trump announced through a tweet that he fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and replaced him with loyalist Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center and a former staffer on the White House National Security Council.
"I serve the country in deference to the Constitution, so I accept your decision to replace me," Esper wrote in a letter.
Esper regularly sought to keep politics and partisanship out of the military. In June, he pushed back against Trump's request to use the military against protesters under the Insurrection Act. Esper's action reportedly drew the ire of Trump, prompting his apparently vindictive termination.
An anonymous former senior administration official told the Post that the former defense secretary "knew he was going to be fired for many months," often seeking advice on how to handle interactions with Trump.
Two days after the election, Esper had already prepared a resignation letter, three anonymous active defense officials told NBC News.
Esper's departure ushered an exodus of three more DOD officials the next day.
James Anderson, who was the DOD's acting undersecretary for policy, resigned last week Tuesday.
The former acting policy chief repeatedly clashed with the White House, which insisted on placing Trump loyalists at the Pentagon, according to Politico.
Retired one-star Army Gen. Anthony Tata, who came under fire for a series of since-deleted tweets calling former President Barack Obama a "terrorist leader" and Islam "the most oppressive violent religion I know of," has since replaced him.
Joseph K. Kernan
Retired Navy Vice Adm. Joseph K. Kernan stepped down from his role as the DOD's undersecretary for intelligence last Tuesday.
The Pentagon said in a news release that Kernan had planned to retire for several months already.
Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who served as an aide to former national security adviser Michael Flynn, replaced Kernan in an acting capacity.
Jen Stewart, Esper's chief of staff, was replaced by Acting Defense Secretary Miller's pick Kash Patel last Tuesday.
She was ousted just after being appointed to lead the Pentagon's transition team for the Biden administration, according to Foreign Policy.
Patel was also previously on the National Security Council and served as an aide to California Rep. Devin Nunes (R). The newly-named chief of staff assisted Republicans in bludgeoning the investigation into Trump's ties with Russia, Foreign Policy notes.
Alexis Ross, Esper's deputy chief of staff, submitted her resignation last Tuesday, a defense official confirmed.
Anonymous sources told CNN that the White House appeared to be focused on pushing out Esper's undersecretaries because he and his team opposed the premature withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan over security concerns.
"This is scary, it's very unsettling," an anonymous defense official told the network. "These are dictator moves."
Lawmakers worry that Trump's post-election shakeup in the Defense Department is endangering the nation.
"It is hard to overstate just how dangerous high-level turnover at the Department of Defense is during a period of presidential transition,” Adam Smith (D-WA), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. "If this is the beginning of a trend — the president either firing or forcing out national security professionals in order to replace them with people perceived as more loyal to him — then the next 70 days will be precarious at best and downright dangerous at worst."
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, similarly told the Washington Post, "By destabilizing our national security team, we could increase the likelihood that one of our adversaries tries to take advantage of us."
Richard Pilger, who was the head of the Justice Department's election crimes branch under the Public Integrity Section, resigned Monday in protest against Attorney General Bill Barr's authorization to investigate Trump's various election fraud allegations, which have been largely debunked
"Having familiarized myself with the new policy and its ramifications, and in accord with the best tradition of the John C. Keeney Award for Exceptional Integrity and Professionalism (my most cherished Departmental recognition), I must regretfully resign from my role as Director of the Election Crimes Branch," Pilger said in a letter.
"I have enjoyed very much working with you for over a decade to aggressively and diligently enforce federal criminal election law, policy, and practice without partisan fear or favor. ... I thank you for your support in that effort," his letter continued.
Pilger remains a prosecutor in the DOJ's public corruption unit.
Lisa Gordon-Hargety, head of the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the country's nuclear weapons testing and stockpile, and the first woman to serve in the role, resigned on Nov. 6.
After clashes with Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette reportedly over budget and oversight issues, his office informed her that Trump had "lost faith" in her ability to perform her duties, according to Bloomberg.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a statement slamming the move and praising Gordon-Hagerty.
"A short while ago, I spoke with Administrator Gordon-Hagerty, who is an exemplary public servant and remarkable leader of the National Nuclear Security Administration," he wrote. "That the Secretary of Energy effectively demanded her resignation during this time of uncertainty demonstrates he doesn’t know what he’s doing in national security matters and shows a complete lack of respect for the semi-autonomous nature of NNSA.”
Dr. William Bookless, NNSA principal deputy administrator, will replace her in an acting capacity.
The State Department announced on Monday that James Jeffrey, special envoy for Syria engagement, will retire this month. In 2018, Jeffrey, a U.S. Army veteran, came out of retirement to take on his current role. The career ambassador also led the State Department's coalition against ISIS.
Last week, Jeffrey said he hid the exact number of U.S. troops in Syria from Trump, who had insisted on their withdrawal.
"We were always playing shell games to not make clear to our leadership how many troops we had there," Jeffrey told Defense One.
"What Syria withdrawal? There was never a Syria withdrawal," he continued. "When the situation in northeast Syria had been fairly stable after we defeated ISIS, [Trump] was inclined to pull out. In each case, we then decided to come up with five better arguments for why we needed to stay. And we succeeded both times. That’s the story."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Nathan Sales, counterterrorism coordinator for the State Department, would resume Jeffrey's responsibilities on ISIS.
Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, was forced out on Friday, according to CNN.
According to the outlet, "Glick's removal from the deputy administrator post came the same day that John Barsa's term as acting administrator of the agency expires under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act, and sources believe that she was fired so he could remain at the helm."
An anonymous source told CNN that Glick was given notice to resign by 5 p.m. Friday or be terminated. She ultimately refused to resign and was subsequently ousted.
"[The] President has designated Mr. Barsa as the Acting Deputy Administrator of USAID, and he will begin those duties this evening and continue to lead the Agency in this new capacity," the agency said in a statement.
Michael Kuperberg, scientist and executive director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, was told on Nov. 6 that he would no longer be leading the climate organization, according to E&E News and the New York Times.
The research program spans 13 federal agencies and is in charge of conducting the congressionally-mandated National Climate Assessment every four years. The fifth climate change report is due to be released in 2022, but the Trump administration has pushed it back to 2023, according to the program’s website.
The administration transferred Kuperberg back to the Energy Department, according to E&E News. Don Wuebbles, a University of Illinois scientist who led part of 2018's Fourth National Climate Assessment, said he spoke with Kuperberg about the news and thought the timing was curious at best.
"[Kuperberg] was basically told your detail was ended and go back to DOE," Wuebbles told the outlet. "It seems very strange to me, right after the election. You waited four years, and Mike has done a great job of running this."
The move reportedly paves the way for climate change skeptic David Legates to helm the program. In September, Trump appointed Legates to lead the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a decision that "blindsided staffers," Politico reported.
"Legates arguably could directly or indirectly influence the direction the [fifth] assessment takes," Rick Spinrad, NOAA's chief scientist under President Barack Obama, told the publication at the time. "There's an opportunity to manipulate."
CIA Director Gina Haspel, and FBI Director Christopher Wray are likely on the chopping block as well.
CNN reported that Trump wants to fire Haspel because "advisers believe [she] has been 'insubordinate' to both the President and Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe," and because she "routinely circumvents the chain of command to further her own agenda and that of the CIA."
Haspel also reportedly opposed Trump and Ratcliffe's requests to declassify sensitive documents out of concern the action would damage the intelligence community, CNN added.
"That's the problem with Trump. To survive you need to become complicit. It's like the mafia," John Sipher, former CIA officer, told CNN.
Some Republican lawmakers have come to Haspel's defense, appearing to make her job safe, for now.
An anonymous source also told CNN that before the presidential election that there were "lots of discussions" to fire Wray, who drew Trump's ire when he chose not to investigate Hunter Biden, the president-elect's son.
In September, Wray testified to the Senate Homeland Security Committee that his agency has "not seen, historically, any kind of coordinated national voter fraud effort in a major election, whether it's by mail or otherwise."
This article was updated to include more information on Michael Kuperberg's ousting.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.