On Wednesday, the Biden administration informed 18 officials appointed by former President Trump to military service academy boards of visitors that they must resign or be fired by the end of the day.
Cathy Russell, director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, sent letters to 18 people named to the boards of visitors for the Air Force Academy, Military Academy and Naval Academy. The letter called on them to resign by close of business on Wednesday or face termination, The Associated Press reported.
Among those are some high-profile Trump administration officials, including White House counselor Kellyanne Conway (Air Force Academy), press secretary Sean Spicer (Naval Academy), national security adviser H.R. McMaster (Military Academy) and Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought (Naval Academy).
Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, confirmed that the former Trump officials were asked to resign or face termination. It was unclear whether any of those asked to tender their resignations did so before the White House’s deadline of 6 p.m.
During a press briefing on Wednesday, Jen Psaki told reporters that: “The President’s objective is what any president’s objective is — to ensure you have nominees and people serving on these boards who are qualified to serve on them and who are aligned with your values. And so yes, that was an ask that was made.”
“I will let others evaluate whether they think Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer and others were qualified, or not political, to serve on these boards, but the President’s qualification requirements are not your party registration, they are whether you’re qualified to serve and whether you’re aligned with the values of this administration,” she added.
The mission of the Air Force Academy’s Board of Visitors, which is shared by the Naval Academy and West Point, is that it “inquires into the morale, discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods and other matters relating to the Academy which the Board decides to consider.”
Spicer, Vought, and John Coale are among Trump’s appointees to the Naval Academy’s Board of Visitors.
Conway, the former White House liaison to the Justice Department, Heidi Stirrup, and Michael Wynne were told to resign or be fired from the Air Force Academy’s Board of Visitors.
Trump appointed McMaster, a former Pentagon official, retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, retired Gen. John Keane, Meaghan Mobbs, and David Urban to the West Point Board of Visitors.
List of Trump appointees on the non-partisan military advisory boards
- Kellyanne Conway: Former senior counselor to the president who was picked for the Air Force Academy advisory board.
- Sean Spicer: Ex-press secretary who Trump picked for the Naval Academy Board of visitors.
- H.R. McMaster: Former national security adviser appointed to the West Point advisory board.
- Russell Vought: Trump’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, appointed to the Naval Academy’s board
- Heidi Stirrup and Michael Wynne: Appointed to the board of the Air Force Academy.
- Retired Gen. John Keane, Retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, Former U.S. Army North commander Guy Swan III, Meaghan Mobbs, and David Urban: All appointed to the West Point board
Responses of Trump military academy board appointees
Conway responded to the White House with her own letter on Twitter, saying, “President Biden, I’m not resigning, but you should.”
She mentioned that she spoke with “[t]hree former Directors of Presidential Personnel” who had informed her “that this request is a break from presidential norms.”
Conway added that the move will result in “faithful and willing public servants” being “discouraged or thwarted from service. Our service academies will risk being further politicized and polarized.”
Vought also posted his response on Twitter, tagging the White House and saying, “No. It’s a three year term.”
Wynne told CNN he was disappointed that he was not asked to stay and that “it was an honor to be on the board.”
Keane told the cable network, “Very disappointed to see the Biden administration not honor a previous president’s appointment to the board of visitors, which has been the tradition for years.”
Mobbs said in a statement that she wouldn’t resign.
“Frankly, I find this whole act unconscionable and not all in the spirit by which this Administration promised to govern,” she said. “President Biden ran on a supposed platform of unity but his actions speak directly to the contrary. Apparently, unity is only for those who conform.
“When I joined the Board under the Trump Administration, there were holdovers from the Obama Administration. They were not terminated but instead served alongside Trump appointees. This mix of perspective, experience, and belief systems ensured there was diversity – a value the Democratic party purports to hold above all else.”
Urban told CNN that he agreed with Mobbs’s statement.