It’s no secret that the Trump administration has been plagued by personnel problems, with the administration setting a record for its senior staff turnover rate in the first year. As the administration has gone into its second year, the rate at which top officials have left their positions has not considerably slowed. Instead, high ranking officials including the Secretary of State, White House communications director, and the president’s national security adviser have all had their imminent departures announced in the first few months of this year.
Besides the straightforward problem of a high staff turnover rate, there are some positions that aren’t even filled yet, over a year into the Trump administration. There are an array of ambassador positions, for instance, that remain unfilled. We don’t even have an official ambassador to South Korea, even though we remain in a relatively bitter standoff with the North Koreans over their nuclear program.
Now, there is a new report out from The Washington Post that explains why all of these issues may be as pressing as they are.
The Presidential Personnel Office, which is that body tasked with finding and vetting candidates for key positions, has apparently failed to build up its own substantial team. Two staffers at the office even have histories of arrests; one of the staffers with such a history, Max Miller, has been charged with assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and underage drinking.
The other staffer in the PPO to have a history of arrests is Caroline Wiles, who had her license suspended for drunk driving at one point and has been arrested in the past for a bad check. She made it to the PPO after serving as a deputy assistant to the president and director of scheduling in the White House; she reportedly failed the background check associated with that position, and that’s why she now works for the PPO.
The issue with Miller calls to mind one that was widely reported upon earlier this year already. The now fired Rob Porter made it to the position of White House staff secretary even in the face of credible allegations against him of domestic violence. Despite the allegations, which chief of staff John Kelly has been documented to have known about before actually doing something to address them, Porter was able to get a security clearance.
As for the PPO, besides the fact that it has two staffers with criminal histories, the office has not even filled its own positions to the levels seen in previous administrations. The Post discovered that the office began its work under Trump with staffing levels at one-third the level seen in prior administrations, and that dismal level has had its issues compounded by the fact that many of the staffers have “little professional experience” outside of work on the Trump campaign.
The White House’s principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah unsurprisingly blamed Democrats for the fact that an array of positions across the government remain unfilled, praising the makeup and work of the PPO in the process.
As he put it:
‘Despite historic obstruction from Democrats in Congress, the Presidential Personnel Office is filling the administration with the best and brightest appointees who share the president’s vision for the country. Staff work tirelessly and have experience consistent with the practice of previous administrations.’
Shah’s comments do not change the fact that the Trump administration has lagged significantly behind other recent presidential administrations in getting positions meant to be filled by civilians occupied.
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