The Trump administration's extremist agenda is forcing long-serving government lawyers to make tough choices.
As the Trump administration unveils a wave of new federal regulations written and implemented on behalf of the conservative movement, more longtime government employees are deciding enough is enough and are heading for the exits.
Under pressure from religious conservatives and their lobbying apparatus, the Trump administration is rewarding its allies by moving to allow more guns on federal lands, scrubbing “references to ‘L.G.B.T.Q. youth’ from the description of a federal program for victims of sex trafficking. And, on the advice of religious leaders, it eliminated funding to international groups that provide abortion,” according to a New York Times report.
It’s all part of what the paper calls “a fundamental repurposing of the federal bureaucracy to promote conservative social priorities.”
Now, more long-serving civil servants and veteran attorneys with key government agencies are quietly leaving their jobs, rather than help un-do advancements made under previous administrations. Or they’re leaving rather than staying and being asked to make unsustainable arguments of logic in court on behalf of the Trump administration.
“Within the Justice Department, several long-serving lawyers have decided to retire or quit rather than help carry out the new policies, according to people briefed on the departures,” according to the Times.
And the attorneys who are leaving are not partisan hires. Some of them have served for decades in government, under both Democratic and Republican leadership. But what they’re seeing from the Trump administration is completely new, and it’s untenable.
And they’re not alone. Prior to being fired by Trump for refusing to implement what she considered to be the administration’s inconsistent and unconstitutional Muslim travel ban, acting Attorney General Sally Yates says she considered quitting. In the end, she decided she could not ask Department of Justice attorneys to argue in court that Trump’s executive travel ban had nothing to do with religion, when previously Trump had repeatedly tied a possible ban to religion.
For attorneys and civil servants not being dramatically fired by Trump the way Yates was, the same question applies: Do you stay and try to carry out what you consider to be destructive and possibly unconstitional policies?
Meanwhile, they weren’t government employees and instead served on presidential commission, but note that scores of business leaders made the calculation that they could not continue to be associated with Trump following his defense of white nationalists in the wake of the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in August.
The subsequent exodus of big business CEOs from Trump’s commissions was unprecedented. Now, as more executive orders and administration directives are handed down to please evangelicals, the farewells inside the federal government may increase.