Officer of Personnel Management headquarters in Washington.

Officer of Personnel Management headquarters in Washington. Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Trump Nominates Conspiracy Theorist to Lead OPM

John Gibbs, who currently serves at the Housing and Urban Development Department, in 2016 falsely accused Clinton campaign officials of secretly taking part in satanic rituals.

President Trump on Monday formally nominated Housing and Urban Development official John Gibbs to helm the Office of Personnel Management.

Gibbs has worked at HUD since 2017, initially as an advisor in HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s office and now as acting assistant secretary for community planning and development. Prior to entering public service, he was a conservative commentator and a software engineer.

But Gibbs is perhaps best known because of a series of now-private tweets he published during the 2016 presidential campaign, in which he promoted a debunked conspiracy theory that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were Satanists and that John Podesta attended a satanic ritual, based on an email published by WikiLeaks where Podesta was invited to have dinner with performance artist Marina Abramović.

Gibbs also came under scrutiny in 2018 over his position at HUD despite having no professional experience in housing policy. The Washington Post reported that he was paid $131,000 per year to serve in a position for which the job description stated the occupant should “possess knowledge of the Fair Housing Act” and understand other elements of federal housing policy.

The new OPM nominee similarly appears to have little to no job experience in human resources or human capital management, although in his LinkedIn profile, Gibbs notes that in his current post, which he has held since March, he oversees “more than 700 staff and an annual budget of $8 billion.” The Trump administration stated that he also worked on distributing more than $9 billion in coronavirus relief funding as part of the implementation of the CARES Act.

Gibbs is President Trump’s fourth nominee to lead the federal government’s embattled human resources agency. Most recently, Dale Cabaniss resigned from the post after just five months, reportedly because of continued interference from White House personnel director John McEntee.

News of the nomination comes as the agency is under renewed scrutiny over the proposal to merge most of its functions with the General Services Administration and to send its policy arm to the Executive Office of the President. Congress has demanded transcribed interviews with a variety of current and former Office of Management and Budget and OPM staffers over a recent Project on Government Oversight report that suggested they misled lawmakers when asked whether they had received advice regarding the legality of the proposal.

In a statement, National Treasury Employees Union National President Tony Reardon said he hopes to have a constructive relationship with Gibbs, if confirmed. "NTEU is committed to working with the Office of Personnel Management to strengthen the professional, merit-based civil service," he said. "It is important that the next director help ensure OPM's standing as an independent central personnel agency. NTEU is opposed to transferring certain OPM functions to the Executive Office of the President and GSA and we will urge the next director to resist any actions that would open the door to partisan manipulation of the federal workforce and weaken the important work of the agency."