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Top Trump appointee quits over new rule requiring 'loyalty' from federal workers

The chair of the Federal Salary Council says ‘as a matter of conscience’ he ‘can no longer serve’ Trump and his administration.

By Josh Israel - October 26, 2020
Donald Trump,

A top Trump administration appointee resigned on Sunday over the administration’s latest attack on federal workers. In a scathing letter, he accused the administration of creating a “smokescreen” for its attempt to ensure federal employees show total loyalty to Donald Trump.

Ronald Sanders, who Trump picked in 2017 to chair the Federal Salary Council, wrote that he was resigning “with great regret,” but that he “concluded that as a matter of conscience, I can no longer serve him or his administration.”

Sanders was outraged about Executive Order 13957, issued last Wednesday, which reclassified many nonpolitical civil service employees as “at-will,” stripping them of their labor rights and workplace protections.

The White House did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story. But the Trump administration previously called the move, which affects career public servants with “confidential, policy-determining, policy making, and policy-advocating positions,” a “much-needed reform” to “increase accountability in essential policymaking positions within the government.”

Public employee unions and ethical experts disagreed, and so, according to his resignation letter, does Sanders.

“On its surface, the President’s Executive Order purports to serve a legitimate and laudable purpose…that is, to hold career Federal employees ‘more accountable’ for their performance,” he wrote, noting that he has spent nearly 40 years trying to do just that. “However, it is clear that its stated purpose notwithstanding, the Executive Order is nothing more than a smokescreen for what is clearly at attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the president, or failing that, to enable their remove without due process.”

“The only ‘boss’ that they serve is the public and the laws that their elected representatives enact…whether this or any President likes it or not,” he explained. “That is the way our Constitution is supposed to work, and no President should be able to remove career civil servants whose only sin is that they may speak such a truth to him.”

Sanders noted that he, like the federal employees this executive order impacts, took “an oath to preserve and protect our Constitution and the rule of law.”

“I took that same oath, and despite being a life-long Republican (I was even named after Ronald Reagan), I would like to think that I lived up to it,” he wrote. “Yet the President’s Executive Order seeks to make loyalty to him the litmus test for many thousands of career civil servants, and that is something I cannot be part of.”

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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