In addition to the numerous leaks from within the circle around Donald Trump and a number of rogue Twitter accounts that have sprung up in the federal government, there also appears to be growing public resistance from inside the government bureaucracy, which is still required to actually run the government (whether Steve Bannon wants to believe so, or not).
The biggest source of dissension, so far, has come from within the State Department, where a number of senior non-partisan officials have been let go in the last 12 days. That little dissent cable that the State Department sent around a few days ago in reaction to the Muslim ban has gained quite a following. By yesterday around 4 p.m., the cable had received over 1,000 signatures from State Department employees both here and around the world in various embassies. Hundreds more are apparently also eager to sign it, but are not sure from where the cable originated. The level of dissent here is unprecedented in the modern era for the State Department.
Meanwhile, a national alliance of government employees in the science industry is warning in a letter that Trump could face massive backlash. “Simply put, administration attempts to manipulate science to fit its official talking points will inescapably fail, automatically be leaked and subject your White House to a daily drip-drip-drip of bad, off-message news coverage,” the letter, written by Jeff Ruch, Executive Director of the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said. In November, 2,300 scientists, including 22 Nobel Prize recipients promised to hold Trump accountable for any efforts to undermine science in policymaking.
The Post is also reporting that 180 federal employees have signed up for a weekend workshop advising them on how to express civil disobedience. Elsewhere, the Justice department is threatening to slow their work and file complaints if they are taken off mission.
This passage from the Post is of particular note:
The resistance is so early, so widespread and so deeply felt that it has officials worrying about paralysis and overt refusals by workers to do their jobs.
Asked whether federal workers are dissenting in ways that go beyond previous party changes in the White House, Tom Malinowski, who was President Barack Obama’s assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, said, sarcastically, “Is it unusual? … There’s nothing unusual about the entire national security bureaucracy of the United States feeling like their commander in chief is a threat to U.S. national security. That happens all the time. It’s totally usual. Nothing to worry about.”
It’s worth noting, too, that though there is no mass revolt yet, we are only in day 12, and there is a particularly nasty executive order coming down the pipeline that will surely be unpopular with liberals: It targets would-be immigrants who are more likely to be on public assistance for rejection, and immigrants who are using public assistance as targets for deportation.
The administration would be seeking to “deny admission to any alien who is likely to become a public charge” and to develop standards for “determining whether an alien is deportable . . . for having become a public charge within five years of entry” — receiving a certain amount of public assistance, including food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Medicaid.
That order would almost certainly trigger another round of massive protests. The only problem is: It’s likely to be a very popular order on the right, especially among low-income white people who believe that only they — by virtue of being born in the United States — deserve public assistance.
This account from a former editor on The Apprentice is also relevant to this discussion:
“Trump would often make arbitrary decisions which had nothing to do with people’s merit,” confirmed another Season One editor who requested anonymity. “He’d make decisions based on whom he liked or disliked personally, whether it be for looks or lifestyle, or he’d keep someone that ‘would make good TV’ [according to Trump].”
Setting up story beats to justify the contestant that Trump ultimately fired required editorial gymnastics, according to the show’s editors. Manipulating footage to invent a story point that did not exist organically is common in reality TV editing, although with The Apprentice, it proved a tremendous feat.
“We’d often be shocked at whomever Trump chose to fire,” Braun explained. “Our first priority on every episode like that was to reverse-engineer the show to make it look like his judgment had some basis in reality. Sometimes it would be very hard to do, because the person he chose did nothing. We had to figure out how to edit the show to make it work, to show the people he chose to fire as looking bad — even if they had done a great job.”
Given how difficult it was for an editing team to shift or create a narrative surrounding an idiotic or ill-advised decision by Trump on a television show, imagine how difficult it might be for a government bureaucracy of approximately 2.79 million civil servants to reformulate policy around that of a mentally unstable President who makes decisions on a whim.