Biden fires Trump trio from Naval Academy board

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John P. Coale

President Biden is firing members of the Naval Academy’s board of visitors who were appointed by former President Donald Trump — drawing lashback over the apparent payback because their terms were supposed to last three years.

Trump’s White House budget director Russ Vought, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and lawyer John Coale — husband to TV host Greta Van Susteren — were among those asked to step aside or get canned.

“On behalf of President Biden, I am writing to request your resignation as a Member of the Board of Visitors to the U.S. Naval Academy,” White House Personnel Director Cathy Russell wrote to recipients.

“Please submit your resignation to me by the close of business today. Should we not receive your resignation, your position with the Board will be terminated effective 6:00 pm tonight. Thank you.”

John Coale was asked to resign or be fired from the Naval Academy’s board of visitors.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images

An aide to Russell, Katie Petrelius, underscored the message in an email, writing, “If we do not receive your resignation by end of day today, you will be terminated.”

But those getting fired aren’t going quietly.

“No. It’s a three year term,” Vought tweeted. He also emailed that reply to Petrelius.

A person close to Vought, who is now president of the Center for Renewing America, said, “At a time when we have hostages on the ground and military personnel are in harm’s way and have died because of President Biden’s incompetence, the last thing the Biden administration needs to be doing is picking petty political fights with civil servants and focus on getting our hostages out of Afghanistan.”

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Van Susteren tweeted her husband’s termination letter and wrote, “This is lousy… [Coale] merely wanted to help – this is a non partisan Board of Americans volunteering to help.”

Sean Spicer
Sean Spicer was also asked to leave the Naval Academy’s board of visitors.
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

She added: “And by the way, both political parties do this and it is rotten..how do Administrations expect to foster non partisanship among Americans when they act partisan with volunteer boards that have no power to effectual [sic] American policy?”

Spicer, now a TV host for Newsmax, tweeted, “Instead of focusing on the stranded Americans left in #Afghanistan, President Biden is trying to terminate the Trump appointees to the Naval Academy, West Point and Air Force Academy.”

Board member Jonathan Hiler, who worked for former Vice President Mike Pence, also was told to resign. Like Vought, he does not intend to comply.

“It’s not clear what the basis for this purge is. A plain reading of the statute that created the Board in 1879, which includes traditionally bipartisan appointments by congressional leaders, says the president’s appointees serve three-year terms,” Hiler said.

“To my knowledge, the Service Academy Boards have always enjoyed a tradition of bi-partisanship.  As an alum and a former naval officer, my only concern is making sure the U.S. Naval Academy is fulfilling its mission of developing officers capable of leading our country’s Navy.  Defending the country’s interests at sea, especially with what’s going on in the world today, is not something that should be influenced by partisan politics, and I regret that this Administration apparently sees things differently.”

Joe Biden
Biden’s drawn ire over the apparent payback because the trio’s terms were supposed to last three years.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

Spicer was appointed to the board in 2019. Coale, Hiler and Vought were appointed last year. It’s unclear if the two other Trump appointees, former Naval officer Anthony Parker and retired Rear Adm. Joseph Walsh, are getting booted from the board.

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The law establishing the board doesn’t clearly explain a president’s power to fire members. The law says, “The persons designated by the President serve for three years each except that any member whose term of office has expired shall continue to serve until his successor is appointed. The President shall designate two persons each year to succeed the members whose terms expire that year.”

It was not immediately clear if any board members would file lawsuits in a bid to block their termination.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



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