Sen. Mark R. Warner, D-Va., took to the Senate floor Wednesday to give an impassioned speech defending federal workers and express “great gratitude” for their service to the nation, especially in the face of hostile attacks from the Trump administration.
“The way our federal government treats its workforce, the way we manage and invest in the human capital of our federal government is not some kind of parochial issue,” Warner said. “This is an issue that impacts all American who pay their taxes, follow the laws, and expect their federal government to work for them, and to work well.”
Warner said he is especially concerned about recent “efforts by this administration to scapegoat and undermine the work of our federal employees. It started with hiring freezes that threw a wrench into the day-to-day operations of nearly every federal agency. And, frankly, this kind of wrench was thrown in with no apparent benefit to the taxpayers writ large.”
He also cited the administration’s efforts to freeze employees’ pay, cut retirement benefits for 2.6 million retirees and survivors, and curb the influence of federal unions.
“This is the thanks federal employees get for their service,” he said
Warner said that despite Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington, “the great irony is that the most glaring instances of failure and corruption at the federal level in recent months have not come from career federal employees. They’ve come from the appointees installed by this administration. Look no further than the EPA, where the American people saw some of the most blatant examples of waste and abuse from [former administrator Scott] Pruitt.”
He also cited “disturbing reports of Trump political appointees purging career employees at the State Department and the VA.”
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Warner, who serves as vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said he was especially worried about Trump’s “all out attack” on the men and women in the FBI, the Justice Department and the intelligence community.
“Naked partisanship threatens not only the functioning of our government, but the rule of law itself,” he said, adding:
"Unfortunately, in the months since Russia attacked the very institutions of our democracy, we’ve seen the most bizarre reaction from the President and his allies.
Instead of uniting our country behind the cause of defending democracy and bringing our adversaries to justice, the President has led an all-out attack on the credibility of the FBI, the Justice Department, and our Intelligence Community."
The actions have demeaned career FBI officials who had performed great service to the nation and impugned the motives of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, “perhaps the most respected federal lawman of his generation,” Warner said.
“Worst of all, we saw the President of the United States stand onstage with Vladimir Putin last week and publically side with Putin over the career men and women of our intelligence community—many of whom risk their lives on a daily basis in order to keep our country safe,” he said.
“My advice for this President, if he’s really serious about ‘draining the swap,’ is to leave our federal employees alone,” he said.
Ross Gianfortune contributed to this report.