The Speaker
Thursday, 18 July 2024 – 18:40

Shake-up in US officials in time of crisis speaks to the nature of the President

NOTE: This is an opinion article – any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Speaker or any members of its team.

Over the course of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tenure as president, there has been a high turnover rate among his cabinet members and other officials in the White House, and during the response to the Coronavirus, that number continues to climb.

But recently there have been several appointments and firing among those in the military. On April 2, the commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, captain Brett Crozier, was fired for allegedly leaking a letter to the media describing how there was not enough action being taken to address infected crew members aboard Crozier’s ship. 

It is possible that the acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, who fired Crozier, did so at the behest of Trump, however, the only fact supporting that is a column in the Washington Post quoting a colleague of Modly who said “Breaking news: Trump wants him fired.” However at a press briefing on April 7, Trump denied any involvement in the matter, but Trump said Crozier should not have written his letter.

Following Crozier’s firing, Modly gave a speech to the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt on April 6 in which he called Crozier “too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” according to a leaked transcript of the speech. The day after, Modly resigned from his position as acting Navy secretary, which will be filled by Army Undersecretary James McPherson, due to his response to Crozier’s letter.

On the same day that Modly resigned, Trump removed Glenn Fine from his position as Defense Department’s acting inspector general and will no longer be the chair of Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), which oversees the $2 trillion allocated in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was passed at the end of March. Fine was nominated to lead the PRAC by a panel of inspectors general and Trump is replacing Fine’s role on the PRAC with Sean O’Donnell, inspector general of the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump nominated Jason Abend, senior policy adviser for US Customs and Border Protection, as the new Defense Department inspector general.

While it is unclear why Trump chose O’Donnell to head the PRAC or what impact he will have on the committee, when O’Donnell was approved for his position at the EPA in December 2019, Democratic Senator Tom Carper said “After more than a year without a Senate-confirmed EPA Inspector General, I’m glad that Mr. O’Donnell is up to the task.”

Preceding these firings, on April 3, Trump fired the intelligence community inspector general, Michael K. Atkinson because “It is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general. That is no longer the case with regard to this inspector general.” Despite the lack of clarification by Trump on why he fired Atkinson, it is possible he was fired because Atkinson shared a whistle-blowers complaint with Congress about Trump’s handling of money in Ukraine, which led to Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives.

While it is not unprecedented in the Trump administration to fire various officials, especially ones who have slighted Trump in various ways, it does speak to the nature of the president who continues these kinds of actions during a time of crisis. And while those in the media and Congress have attempted to highlight these actions by Trump as wrong, the impact these kinds of actions will have most likely will not be as far-reaching as the firing of these officials in the first place. 

 

Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour (Public Domain)

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