Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

There are only a few days left in our critical Mid-Year Campaign and we truly might not make it without your help.
Please join us. If you rely on independent media, support Common Dreams today. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

A man holds a sign reading "You're Fired" during a worker's rally in Copley Square in Boston just after Joe Biden was declared the president-elect in Boston on November 7, 2020. (Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

To Prevent 'Active Sabotage' of His Agenda, Biden Urged to Clean House of Trump Loyalists on Day One

"The next administration must consider all possibilities, including unconventional but legal removals, to get the federal government working for the public interest as quickly as possible."

Jake Johnson

During his four-year tenure in the White House, President Donald Trump packed powerful federal regulatory agencies with dozens of right-wing loyalists who are well-placed to stall or undermine the agenda of President-elect Joe Biden from the moment he takes office.

But according to a report (pdf) released Monday by the Revolving Door Project, there is an immediate and perfectly legal solution available to Biden if he's willing to act: Clean house of all political officials who were installed because of their allegiance to Trump.

While noting that many political appointees typically step aside once the president who hired them departs, the Revolving Door Project points out that "a powerful minority will, by default, continue in office," leaving them positioned to slow-walk or even "sabotage" Biden's agenda.

"Biden has the power to remove the top two officials at the Social Security Administration, who have been waging a regulatory war on people with disabilities. He needs to use it."
—Social Security Works

"Some of these figures are beyond the next president's reach, protected by provisions that stipulate they can only be removed 'for cause.' (Of course, if 'cause' for termination is ultimately ascertained, it ought to be acted upon.) Many, however, can be removed on a president's first day in office, even if that is not routine," reads the four-page memo. "These figures are only protected by norms—norms that the Trump administration has itself undermined."

The Revolving Door Project, an initiative of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) that aims to ensure executive branch officials serve the public interest, pointed to a number of officials whom Biden has the authority to terminate immediately upon assuming the presidency.

Those officials, according to the report, "include the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the Comptroller of the Currency,​ the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and taking ​Seila Law v. CFPB as precedent, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and the commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA)."

Citing the new memo, progressive advocacy group Social Security Works urged Biden to make use of his power and remove top SSA officials "who have been waging a regulatory war on people with disabilities."

"Biden has the power to remove the top two officials at the Social Security Administration," the group said. "He needs to use it."

Though top Trump-appointed officials at other key agencies such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and Postal Regulatory Commission cannot be removed without cause, they can be demoted, stripped of the "power to set an agency's agenda and otherwise steer its course," and replaced, the Revolving Door Project noted.

"Putting that position in a Democratic commissioner's hands, even when Democrats lack a majority on the commission, could allow the agency to begin to reorient right away," the group said.

Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, said in a statement Monday that it would be a major "unforced error" if Biden fails to use his authority to remove or demote Trump loyalists standing in the way of his policy agenda, which—if Democrats fail to take control of the Senate by prevailing in both Georgia runoffs in January—will rely heavily on executive and regulatory actions.

"Holdovers from the Trump administration may actively sabotage the Biden administration's initiatives from their powerful perches (this is not without precedent)," said Hauser. "Even if, however, they do not set out to undermine the new administration, it is doubtful that these will be the best figures to carry out Biden's ambitious agenda."

"A Biden administration's success will hinge substantially on the energy and creativity of all its appointees," Hauser continued. "With that in mind, the next administration must consider all possibilities, including unconventional but legal removals, to get the federal government working for the public interest as quickly as possible."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

Jan. 6 Panel Subpoenas Trump White House Counsel Pat Cipollone

Noting his refusal to cooperate beyond an informal April interview, the committee's chair said that "we are left with no choice."

Jessica Corbett ·


Sanders Pushes Back Against AIPAC Super PAC With Endorsements of Tlaib and Levin

"Once again, these extremists are pouring millions of dollars into a congressional race to try to ensure the Democratic Party advances the agenda of powerful corporations and the billionaire class."

Brett Wilkins ·


Missouri Hospital System Resumes Providing Plan B After 'Shameful' Ban

The health network had stopped offering emergency contraception over fears of violating the state's abortion law—a "dangerous" move that critics warned could become a national trend.

Jessica Corbett ·


'An Act of Conquest': Native Americans Condemn SCOTUS Tribal Sovereignty Ruling

"Every few paragraphs of the majority opinion has another line that dismissively and casually cuts apart tribal independence that Native ancestors gave their lives for," observed one Indigenous law professor.

Brett Wilkins ·


'Lunacy': Democrats Risk Running Out of Time to Confirm Federal Judges

"Democrats aren't filling open seats right now in federal district courts because, for unfathomable reasons, they are letting red state senators block nominees," said one critic.

Julia Conley ·

Common Dreams Logo