President Donald Trump has installed 16 senior aides from the White House to watch over every department of government to make sure that his Cabinet secretaries are remaining “loyal,” according to at least eight officials with knowledge of the situation.
Many are comparing the move to Soviet-era Communist Party like tactics, where officials were routinely placed in select units around government to make sure they didn’t veer too off track from whatever message the government was dictating.
One aide Don Benton, even got into it with Environmental Protect Agency Chief Scott Pruitt, after Pruitt shut him out of several meetings for offering unsolicited advice – causing further tension and resentment within the Trump administration. One official described Pruitt throwing out Trump’s White House aide as something seen on the HBO comedy series “Veep.”
Also – take, for instance, the Department of Defense. Trump installed Brett Byers, a former Marine officer and fighter pilot to watch over Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Already senior Pentagon officials there are calling him “the Commissar,” a Communist Party term, and are suspicious that he is not directly on Mattis’s team.
These aides, like the others, are given the lofty title of senior White House advisor and are supposed to report back to the White House every week on their findings. This is unusual because every department of government usually reports directly to the secretary of that said agency, not the White House. Every modern president before Trump including President Obama, President George W. Bush, and President Clinton have usually trusted their cabinet secretaries with running the agency without a need for a White House plant. But, not Trump.
Keven Knobloch, who was chief of staff under Obama to then-Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, thinks there needs to be some space between the White House and his cabinet – at least where they aren’t being treated like children who need babysitters.
“It’s healthy when there is some daylight between the president’s Cabinet and the White House, with room for some disagreement. That can only happen when agency secretaries have their own team, who report directly to them,” he said.
Part of the reason Trump is doing this according to the officials is that he doesn’t have very strong relationships with most of the leaders in his Cabinet – nor do they have much experience with running an agency. This is why he may not trust them as much and think he needs to monitor them.
Another reason is that the agencies haven’t yet implemented their entire teams yet and this is to help offset the lack of manpower. While this is understandable to a point, Trump is giving these roles to people who were loyal to him throughout the campaign – but they, too, don’t have experience in agency matters.
Featured Image via Getty.