Joe Biden is about to inherit a Trump-style 'deep state': reporters

Joe Biden is about to inherit a Trump-style 'deep state': reporters

President Donald Trump has repeatedly railed against the "deep state," which is his term for bureaucrats and career employees of the federal government. But according to Politico reporters Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Cassella, it is Trump who has arguably promoted a "deep state" in the U.S. — and it is former Vice President Joe Biden who will have to contend with it after he is sworn in as president this week.

"A higher-than-usual number of Trump administration political appointees — some with highly partisan backgrounds — are currently 'burrowing' into career positions throughout the federal government, moving from appointed positions into powerful career civil service roles, which come with job protections that will make it difficult for Biden to fire them," Ollstein and Cassella explain. "While this happens to some degree in every presidential transition, and some political appointees make for perfectly capable public servants, Biden aides, lawmakers, labor groups and watchdog organizations are sounding the alarm — warning that in addition to standard burrowing, the Trump administration is leaning on a recent executive order to rush through dozens, if not hundreds, of these so-called 'conversions.'"

The Politico reporters continue, "The fear is that, once entrenched in these posts, the Trump bureaucrats could work from the inside to stymie Biden's agenda, much of which depends on agency action. The October executive order — which Biden is expected to swiftly rescind — has allowed federal agencies to help political appointees circumvent the usual merit-based application process for career civil service jobs, while moving career policymakers into a new job category with far fewer legal protections."

Ollstein and Cassella note that although the Office of Personnel Management is "required to report any conversion of political appointees into career positions to Congress on a quarterly basis," the federal government has "gaps in terms of which agencies must be included in the reports."

A Biden "transition official," quoted anonymously, told Politico, "The incoming Biden-Harris administration is keenly aware of last minute efforts by the outgoing administration to convert political appointees into civil service positions. We anticipate learning more in the weeks ahead as our work to restore trust and accountability across the federal government begins, including reviewing personnel actions taken during the Trump administration."

Another interviewee, described by Ollstein and Cassella as someone "close to Biden," told Politico, "We've identified some people already, but we don't know how many there are in total — or where exactly they're placed. The incoming administration will have to evaluate it and think about alternative placements (for the burrowers), and that will take time and create more distractions and burdens for them."

Trump appointees who are "already on the radar of the Biden team," according to Ollstein and Cassella, range from Michael Ellis (who is being added this week as the National Security Agency's top lawyer) to Brandon Middleton (who became chief counsel at the U.S. Department of Energy).

A Democratic aide told Politico, "Our options to respond to burrowing are really limited, which is why they do it. It's like whack-a-mole. Once you have found them, you can't fire them. Your recourse is to transfer them to somewhere they don't want to be, isolate them, and make working conditions bad to the extent you can, without crossing lines put in place to protect the civil service."

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