Biden moves to purge Trump appointees from service academy boards

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the goal was to remove people unqualified to serve

Former Trump budget chief Russell Vought says he won't leave his position on the Naval Academy's board. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former Trump budget chief Russell Vought says he won't leave his position on the Naval Academy's board. (CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted September 8, 2021 at 5:39pm

The White House on Wednesday asked Trump appointees to step down from their positions on the boards of visitors of the military service academies or be fired.

President Donald Trump appointed a number of loyalists, including former spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway to the Air Force Academy’s Board of Visitors, former Press Secretary Sean Spicer and former Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought to the Naval Academy’s panel and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster to West Point’s panel, among others.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the resignation requests. “The president’s objective is what any president’s objective is — 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,” Psaki said.

“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,” Psaki said. “But the president’s qualification requirements are not your party registration. They are whether you’re qualified to serve, and whether you are aligned with the values of this administration.”

Some of those who received the letters from the White House personnel office said they would refuse to leave voluntarily.

“No. It’s a three year term,” Vought tweeted.

Meaghan Mobbs, a former Army captain, Afghanistan War veteran and Trump campaign adviser who serves on the West Point panel, also tweeted that she did not intend to resign. When she joined the board, there were Obama appointees on the board who completed their terms without controversy, she said.

“Frankly, I find the whole act unconscionable and not at all in the spirit by which this Administration promised to govern,” she wrote in a statement posted on Twitter. “As the youngest appointee, a woman, and a veteran of Afghanistan, it has been a great honor to serve on the Board of Visitors at the United States Military Academy — my alma mater. It is tragic that this great institution is now being subjected to and hijacked by partisan action that serves no purpose and no greater good.”

GOP lawmaker fires back

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., who is one of eight members of Congress to serve on West Point’s board alongside Mobbs and McMaster and also sits on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, issued a statement condemning the move.

“It’s an action expected of a dictator, not a Commander-in-Chief,” he said. “Playing politics with these institutions sends the wrong message to our future military leaders. The USMA Board has been well-served by its appointed members, and the unilateral removal of their wise counsel is a shame.”

Niels Lesniewski contributed to this report.