As if the Trump administration hasn’t already operated bizarrely enough, its Cabinet will now have a new addition: senior aides who will monitor how closely the secretaries’ allegiances lie with U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a new report by the Washington Post.
The political appointees have been assigned to agencies as far-ranging as the Environmental Protection Agency to the Pentagon to NASA.
The news comes while most members of Trump’s Cabinet do not yet have leadership teams in place or even nominees for their top deputies.
The Trump White House has installed the aides in at least 16 agencies, and their discovery was first made by ProPublica, after the outlet obtained records through a Freedom of Information Act request. The aides will report to the Office of Cabinet Affairs, which is overseen by Rick Dearborn, a White House deputy chief of staff.
While the White House did not comment on the appointees’ position, the Washington Post reported that the aides’ main role will be to make sure cabinet leaders and their top staff carry out the president’s agenda and don’t stray too far from the White House’s talking points.
“When you’re starting a government and you have a changeover of parties when policies are going to be dramatically different, I think it’s something that’s smart,” said Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, as reported by the Washington Post. “Somebody needs to be there as the White House’s man on the scene. Because there’s no senior staff yet, they’re functioning as the White House’s voice and ears in these departments.”
Critics, however, say the arrangement will breed mistrust, chaos and inefficiency. Past administrations, such as those of Barack Obama, George W. Bush or Bill Clinton had no such appointees.
Still, the Obama White House did keep tight control over agencies. According to the Post, foreign policy became so centralized that both State Department and Defense Department officials complained about micromanagement.
For Republicans close to Trump, the change is a welcomed and necessary one. “If you drain the swamp, you better have someone who watches over the alligators,” former house speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a Trump adviser said. “These people are actively trying to undermine the new government. And they think it’s their moral obligation to do so.”