White House Expands “Loyalty Tests” Across All Federal Agencies

Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour / Public Domain

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Trump administration conducts interviews to gauge how supportive various political appointees are of the president.

The White House launched a sweeping loyalty test to determine faithfulness to President Donald Trump, according to Politico

  • The presidential personnel office conducts one-on-one interviews with hundreds of political appointees across federal agencies, aiming to find out potential threats. 
  • Prior to the upcoming presidential election, the incumbent administration seeks to find potential leaks and other subversive acts. Interviewees span a range of departments, including Health and Human Services, Defense, Treasury, Labor, and Commerce. The top tier of Trump aides, the Senate-confirmed appointees, are also subject to the test. 
  • The loyalty test requires officials to detail career goals and thoughts of current policies. White House officials say these interviews are important to determine which appointees would serve for President Trump’s pending second term. 
  • The interviewed officials say this process distracts from policy priorities, such as combatting the pandemic or boosting the economy. HHS staff, for instance, are tasked with a round-the-clock response to COVID-19 while dealing with other policy goals. 

A former senior administration official said, “If they’re spending time trying to hunt down leakers, that’s time they’re taking away from advancing an agenda. And that’s irresponsible.”

The devotion test, paired with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows constantly seeking out leakers, demonstrates the administration’s focus on loyalty and image. 

  • The issues with Anthony Fauci showed the constant focus on internal commitment to the president’s policy approach to the pandemic, as Trump downplays the latest coronavirus surges.
  • Johnny McEntee, Trump’s aide, conducts the interviews that span questions about career goals and apparent loyalty, such as asking for thoughts on the US relations with China. Interviews have asked appointees for examples of the ways they are supporting the administration.
  • The interviews have also exposed some appointees to risks, such as Labor Department officials needing to quarantine after meeting with a COVID-infected staffer, according to Bloomberg Law

Rudy Mehrbani, head of the presidential personnel office under President Barack Obama, said, “I could definitely see that kind of questioning being uncomfortable...If you are working in one subject area like Peace Corps or USAID, that does not mean you are signing on to the administration’s position on funding for reproductive rights.”

For Trump’s devoted supporters, the interviews are essential: “If we’re going to extend this amount of capital on you, and push for you, they should ask more questions...it’s long overdue,” said a White House official. 

Read the full report.

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