President Trump has called for large agency budget cuts and a crackdown on news leaks, but according to at least two voices among “movement conservatives,” his current agenda for the bureaucracy does not go far enough.
“Trump could become lame duck unless he clears out Obama holdovers,” wrote commentator and senior editor Daniel Horowitz in a March 3 essay in Conservative Review, playing off the ongoing controversies over investigating the role of the Russians and of President Obama in the 2016 campaign. “Not only have these Obama holdovers sabotaged Trump’s policy preferences, they have spied upon administration officials and have leaked sensitive information to the media.”
Horowitz’s warning: “Trump is at the cusp of losing control over his presidency if he doesn’t immediately fire all of the Obama appointees.”
The Baltimore-based stalwart of the South Carolina-based journal edited by Mark Levin offered a simple solution: Trump chief of staff Reince Priebus “must instruct every department head who should then direct every agency head to call for the resignation of any political appointees and special counsels who do not share the views of the president.”
Horowitz’s call comes at a time in the transition between administrations when the incoming team has fallen behind in replacing qualified Obama appointees who were asked to remain. But it’s based on the perception that at a comparable time early in the Obama administration, “the newly-minted messiah had full control over every nook and cranny of the executive branch. There was not one morsel of dissent.”
Citing the Constitution, Horowitz argued that the president has “full control over the hiring and firing of executive branch staff.” That, he wrote, means that any “open borders” official within the Justice Department or the Homeland Security departments “should be gone.” Any “pro-government-run health care supporter” within the Health and Human Services Department “has to go.” Any official within the Treasury Department who is not on board with the Office of Management and Budget “spending cuts and pro-growth tax cuts should go out and campaign for their cause … on the outside.” And any State Department official “who is a shill for refugee resettlement, a Palestinian State, the Muslim Brotherhood, or who opposes the president’s immigration moratorium must go.”
Cabinet members, such as Defense Secretary James Mattis, “must get with the program as well and lead the charge against Obama saboteurs instead of hiring them,” he wrote. “President Trump has one last shot to save his presidency.”
At least one member of Congress was impressed with Horowitz’s logic. “Trump needs to purge leftists from executive branch before disloyal, illegal & treasonist sink us,” tweeted Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, on March 5 in blessing the essay. King has been loyal to Trump since well before his surprise election victory.
Asked by Government Executive whether his writings influence Trump, Horowitz said he wasn’t sure, given that, despite a “long paper trail,” Conservative Review is “relentlessly consistent” in what it believes in, regardless of whether it’s aligned with Trump. (His editor Levin’s writings and radio broadcasts are said to have been the source for Trump’s recent tweet accusing President Obama of having tapped the phones at Trump Tower.)
“But I’m a pretty good ambassador to talk about the issues because I’m not a hack for Trump,” Horowitz said in an interview. He stressed that when Democrats have come to power, the same resistance from the bureaucracy does not show itself. “Have we ever seen a parallel problem where a Democratic president, newly inaugurated, not only finds deep-state officials disagreeing ideologically, but downright trying to undermine the president’s core mandate and the issues he ran on?” He said he couldn’t remember any GOP administration where “a single agency was acting rogue or against the president’s message.”
Asked whether mass firings would risk denying understaffed agencies the expertise needed to keep things functioning, Horowitz said, “there’s a difference between wants and needs,” adding that Trump told opponent Hillary Clinton during one of the campaign debates that “there’s good experience and bad experience.”
Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp,” Horowitz added, “doesn’t mean we’d want everyone fired on Jan. 20. But certainly you wouldn’t have expected by now to have a fifth column” still in place. “It’s not just a policy disagreement, there’s a clear agenda to undermine legitimate activity,” Horowitz said. The president has a right to an administration that can “speak with one voice.”