New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told a group of senior Republicans that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump will lobby Congress for the authority to fire hundreds of government officials appointed by President Obama should he win the November election.
Christie, who directs the Trump transition effort, made the comments during a closed-door powwow with donors and party leaders at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, according to audio first obtained by Reuters.
The Trump campaign fears that the president will reinstall political appointees as civil servants before leaving office, making them much more difficult for successive presidents to dismiss. Political appointees generally have strong ideological fidelity to the party to which they belong, while career civil servants are expected to operate in a non-partisan way. Ensconcing committed liberals across the federal bureaucracy would hinder a Republican president’s policy agenda.
“It’s called burrowing,” Christie explained. “You take them from the political appointee side into the civil service side, in order to try to set up … roadblocks for your successor.”
Christie has recommended overhauling federal civil service laws to combat the practice, common to Republican and Democrat administrations. “One of the things I have suggested to Donald is that we have to immediately ask the Republican Congress to change the civil service laws,” he said. “Because if they do, it will make it a lot easier to fire those people.”
“As you know from his other career, Donald likes to fire people,” he added, referencing Trump’s iconic maxim from his television program “The Apprentice.”
Civil servants enjoy a variety of employment protections, which makes firing them a tall order. For example, “dismissal for performance,” can only take place after a lengthy investigation in which employee productivity is measured against expectations set by their respective agency. But experts say, most federal agencies have not established such standards, and prefer to avoid the cumbersome due process procedures which federal law requires. They also say the upper echelons of the federal bureaucracy are generally unreceptive to requests from middle management to dismiss federal employees.
“I have found that there is rarely any glory in being viewed as a tough manager,” Henry Romero, a Clinton-era manager at the Office of Personnel Management told Government Executive Magazine in 2012. “Nobody winds up in the agency newsletter for firing three employees this year.”
A Government Accountability Office report found that it takes approximately 170 days to dismiss a federal employee, before the appeals process even begins.
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