ILYA MARRITZ: Okay. So — so, um, I’m outside a polling location in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. The voting is happening inside the Toyota Sports Plex, which is where the Wilkes Barre Penguins practice, as was explained to me.
MARRITZ: These past few months I’ve been living not too far from northeast Pennsylvania coal country.
MARRITZ: It’s a pretty nice day, actually.
MARRITZ: Donald Trump won Pennsylvania narrowly four years ago, thanks in part to voters right here. Joe Biden’s hometown of Scranton is close by. Trump and Biden both campaigned in the area. And in September, the Department of Justice started investigating a small number of discarded ballots here in Luzerne County.
So on the last day of voting, that’s where I was, with an extra long mic-holder. I spoke with Biden supporters and Trump supporters.
PENNSYLVANIA VOTER 1: It was very easy. It always is when I come here.
MARRITZ: How confident are you your vote will be counted?
PENNSYLVANIA VOTER 1: Oh I’m very confident. They way — the way they did it, the system has changed, so I see that they put — actually — paper through the machine, so you can actually see your vote going through.
MARRITZ: I think I saw you guys go in, like, 5 minutes ago. So it seems like that was pretty quick.
PENNSYLVANIA VOTER 2: Here, it’s going pretty smooth right now, today, so far.
PENNSYLVANIA VOTER 3: We would’ve been out sooner, but I had to do a provisional vote because they sent me in a mail-in ballot. So … I dunno.
PENNSYLVANIA VOTER 2: Yeah.
PENNSYLVANIA VOTER 3: We would’ve been out — yeah. In and out.
MARRITZ: And why did you [A BEAT] decide to do the in-person voting, versus mail or drop-off?
PENNSYLVANIA VOTER 3: Just ‘cause of everything going on, and all the lost votes, and not trusting everything.
PENNSYLVANIA VOTER 2: Yeah. I can’t trust in that way. I’ve been doing that — since — coming, voting since I’ve been 18. I’ve only missed one election. [BREATHES LONG AND SLOW THROUGH A MASK] I don’t miss ‘em. I come down every time.
MARRITZ: Uh, are you confident that your vote will be counted this time?
PENNSYLVANIA VOTER 2: Absolutely.
PENNSYLVANIA VOTER 3: Yes.
MARRITZ: Whoever they were supporting, the voters I met were following the news, and they were confident their ballots would be counted — like Megan.
[ETHEREAL MUSIC PLAYS SOFTLY]
MEGAN: I’m, like, 100% sure. I — I would hope that my vote would be counted, especially with what happened a few weeks ago in Luzerne County, where six ballots were thrown out. I hope that they’ve learned from it. I believe that this area will decide. We did four years ago. What was it? 44 thousand votes decided, four years ago. So I think every vote counts. Republican or Democrat, every vote counts.
MARRITZ: And in the end, it was Pennsylvania, by a narrow but decisive margin, that gave Joe Biden the votes he needed to win the presidency.
All this year, we’ve been thinking about what can go wrong: foreign interference, voter intimidation, violence and unrest, disinformation promoted by the President. Well, people mailed in their ballots, or dropped off their ballots, or showed up at the polls. They smashed century-old records for voter turnout — mostly without any problem at all.
[MUSIC PLAYS UP FOR A BEAT, THEN OUT]
[INTENSE, INDUSTRIAL PERCUSSIVE MUSIC PLAYS]
ERIC TRUMP: Guys, this is fraud. This is absolute fraud. We’ve seen this in Philadelphia before. They’re trying to make a mockery of the election of this country. [FADES UNDER]
ANDREA BERNSTEIN: Two days after the election, the President’s son, Eric Trump, showed up in Center City, Philadelphia.
ERIC TRUMP: [FADES UP] My father is up by almost half a million votes in this state, with 86% supporting … [FADES UNDER]
BERNSTEIN: Eric Trump has been running the Trump Organization while also working on his dad’s campaign.
ERIC TRUMP: [FADES UP] This is rampant corruption, and it can’t happen. It simply can’t happen. It’s not fair.
BERNSTEIN: Eric Trump turned the mic over to Rudy Giuliani.
RUDY GIULIANI: [OVER LIGHT CHEERS] Thank you very much, Eric.
BERNSTEIN: He was accompanied by Trump’s fired 2016 campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, former Florida A.G. and Trump loyalist Pam Bondi, and former New York Representative John Sweeney, who spent much of Trump’s term in office working as a lobbyist for a state-owned Russian bank. All of them were helming Trump’s legal efforts, they said. Giuliani made a bunch of claims, without evidence.
GIULIANI: They can be from Mars as far as we're concerned! or they could be from the Democratic National Committee. Joe Biden could have voted 50 times, as far as we know, or 5,000 times. The ballots could be from Camden!
BERNSTEIN: A few days later, Rudy was back in Philadelphia, in a parking lot on the edge of town —
GIULIANI: Wow, what a beautiful day. Thank you!
BERNSTEIN: — in front of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, and next to an adult bookstore.
GIULIANI: On behalf of the Trump campaign …
BERNSTEIN: This time Rudy Giuliani showed up with — among others — the former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, who had been convicted and imprisoned for corruption [PAUSE] before Trump pardoned him.
[A MOMENT OF INDISTINCT QUESTIONS FROM THE CROWD]
BERNSTEIN: When Giuliani stopped to take questions, a reporter asked about what had just happened. The networks had called the election for Joe Biden.
GIULIANI: The poll?
REPORTER: [DISTANT] The poll, the poll. The polls for Joe Biden.
GIULIANI: Because they don’t decide the election, the call for Joe Biden is a — is a — is a … Who was it called by? [FEIGNING REVERENCE] All of them, oh my goodness. All the networks. Wow!
BERNSTEIN: He raised his arms to the side —
GIULIANI: All the networks!
BERNSTEIN: — then to his front, and looked up, as if praying.
GIULIANI: We have to forget about the law! Judges don’t count! C’mon. Don’t be — don’t be ridiculous. Networks don’t get to decide elections. Courts do.
[TRUMP, INC. THEME MUSIC PLAYS]
BERNSTEIN: Hello, and welcome to Trump, Inc., a podcast on the business of Trump. I’m Andrea Bernstein.
MARRITZ: I’m Ilya Marritz.
BERNSTEIN: Trump, as you know, has been defeated. News outlets have turned their spotlights on his successor, Joe Biden. But Trump is still being Trump.
Today on the show, we’re going to begin to look at what Trump is doing in the waning days of his presidency to hold on to power, enhance his interests, and thwart his successor.
[MUSIC SHIFTS TO MORE ESOTERIC BACKGROUND NOISE]
MARRITZ: He’s using the tools he’s always used: aggressive legal tactics; ignoring norms, protocols, and laws; and taking full advantage of the power to fire people. Today, we look at all three.
[MUSIC UP FOR A MOMENT]
MEG CRAMER: After news networks called the election for Joe Biden, Trump put out a statement. “Beginning Monday,” it read, “our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court.”
BERNSTEIN: Trump, Inc. reporter, Meg Cramer.
CRAMER: Echoing Rudy Giuliani’s comment that courts decide elections —
GIULIANI: Courts do!
CRAMER: — Trump claimed that his campaign had, quote “valid and legitimate legal challenges that could determine the ultimate victor.”
This statement felt very familiar to us over here at Trump, Inc., because it fits into a pattern of longtime legal strategies that began at the Trump Organization and continued into the Trump White House.
One of those strategies is stalling. When investigators subpoenaed President Trump’s accountants, seeking his tax returns, Trump sued to stop them. He didn’t win his lawsuit, but he appealed again and again, essentially running out the clock.
Another tactic Trump uses is bullying his opponents with extraordinary lawsuits. Like filing a $5 billion defamation suit against the journalist Tim O’Brien, who had written that Trump was not a billionaire. Trump lost in court, but claimed a different kind of victory. He told the Washington Post: “I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.”
[MUSIC BECOMES MORE INDUSTRIAL]
CRAMER: Sometimes, a lawsuit serves as a kind of negotiating tactic. In 2008, a loan with Deutsche Bank was coming due on Trump’s Chicago Tower. When Trump defaulted on the loan, he sued Deutsche Bank, claiming $3 billion in damages. He blamed the bank for its role in the 2008 financial crisis. They settled out of court. A few years later, Trump paid back the rest of his loan [PAUSE] with money he borrowed from another division within Deutsche Bank.
In Trump’s world, going to court is a way to demand the impossible — and settle for an advantage. So it isn’t surprising that, after the election, Trump’s campaign started taking legal action — in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona.
ADAM KLASFELD: These cases have been uniformly, uh, booted from court, um, often with very stinging words from the presiding judge.
CRAMER: Adam Klasfeld is a reporter and editor for Law&Crime News. His Twitter feed reads like a play-by-play of every campaign lawsuit happening across the country.
KLASFELD: You mentioned the Georgia case, for example. The Georgia judge, basically, after hearing the entire dearth of evidence over an issue of late ballot counting — he dismissed the case in a sentence, and issued a written ruling explicitly saying there was no evidence.
There was another case in Michigan you mentioned —
THOR HEARNE: [FROM THE MICHIGAN HEARING] I would say, your honor, in terms of the hearsay … [FADES UNDER]
KLASFELD: — where you had a judge —
JUDGE CYNTHIA STEPHENS: [FROM THE MICHIGAN HEARING] I absolutely understand that … [FADES UNDER]
KLASFELD: — basically exclaim “Come on now!” to the Trump campaign's lawyer, because the evidence that they were offering was this: You had a poll worker who signed an affidavit that she heard an unidentified person tell her that someone else told her there was some vague impropriety.
HEARNE: [FROM THE HEARING, FADES UP] … and she has made that statement based on her own firsthand physical evidence and knowledge —
JUDGE STEPHENS: [FROM THE HEARING] “I heard somebody else say something.” Tell me why that's not hearsay? Come on now.
KLASFELD: The judge said that was double hearsay, case dismissed. The list goes on and on. In Nevada, there was a case where there was a claim of voter disenfranchisement of an elderly woman named Jill Stokke.
CRAMER: The campaign wasn’t named as a party in this lawsuit, but the same day it was filed, Stokke spoke at Trump campaign press conference [PAUSE] where she claimed her vote was stolen.
KLASFELD: Well, people examined the claims and election authorities say that they told her that she could vote with a provisional ballot. And if she alleges some sort of impropriety, she can attest to that. She declined to do so. That case was thrown out too.
You know, I've covered the courts for about a decade, and these lawsuits are being filed and then dispatched and dismissed in record time, because judges are seeing the evidence and finding it utterly lacking. And it goes to the kind of broader issue of a claim of voter fraud, which most independent experts have long found to be a myth in the United States.
CRAMER: Does the campaign have a legal strategy, as far as you can tell?
KLASFELD: If there is one, it's very difficult to discern. And it’s — I — and I have asked for legal experts to chime in on that. But, by and large, you know, they see this as a PR move so far.
CRAMER: Over the last four years, you have followed a number of Trump legal cases as they've made their way through the courts, including Trump's efforts to keep investigators from seeing his taxes. What do you make of this new batch of lawsuits, these post-election lawsuits, and how do they fit into your understanding of Trump's overall legal strategy?
[HEAVY MUSIC SOFTLY PLAYS]
KLASFELD: Well, a lot of that has been a continuity, I would say — in the sense that there is a strategy of going very big, making a sweeping legal claim. Whether it's alleging a rather vague and inchoate voter fraud, or whether it's alleging that you are absolutely immune from criminal investigation — even, as one of his attorneys argued, if he actually shot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue. There are no modest legal arguments from the Trump White House. And [LAUGHS] in that we are seeing a continuation, not only from him, but from local GOP aligned with him throughout the country.
[MUSIC UP FOR A MOMENT]
CRAMER: Reporter Adam Klasfeld. [PAUSE] The Trump campaign did not comment for this story.
Here’s the thing about Trump’s legal strategy: It tends to work best when Trump has an edge over his opponent: more money, more power, or something to withhold. That’s not really the case here. And it’s much harder to contest an election than it is to appeal a failed lawsuit. Overturned elections are extremely rare. This is one instance where Trump’s tactics of “delay and distract” face unusually long odds.
[MUSIC UP FOR A MOMENT AGAIN]
BERNSTEIN: Trump, Inc.’s Meg Cramer.
We’ll be right back.
[PLUCKY STRINGS MUSIC PLAYS]
MARRITZ: We’re back. We’ve been looking at Trump’s lawyers' efforts to impede the transition of power, working the courts from outside government. Now, what Trump can do, as president, to body-block the incoming Biden administration.
BERNSTEIN: In the days after the election, President Trump fired a deputy administrator for foreign aid, demoted the chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and demanded the resignation of the woman who is charged with safeguarding America’s nuclear weapons.
This was just a warm-up for what came next: firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper and shaking up the upper ranks of the Defense Department, provoking the resignation of the Justice Department Elections Crimes chief, removing the scientist in charge of climate change. More personnel moves are coming every day.
BERNSTEIN: At the same time, It became clear that no one in Trump’s government was to acknowledge his loss, down to officials like the General Services Administrator.
In order for the Biden-Harris transition to gain access to resources — like offices and security clearances — the Administrator, Emily Murphy, had to sign a letter of authorization. She would not do so, because, the GSA said, “an ascertainment had not yet been made.”
Under Murphy, the GSA has done the things Trump wanted: It allowed him to continue his lease at the Old Post Office for his Washington Hotel — a decision the GSA inspector general later found “improper” and characterized by “serious shortcomings.” Then there was the time Murphy told Congress she had not discussed with the White House the sale of the FBI building, which could’ve become a rival hotel. Turned out she had [A PAUSE] but maintained the decision not to sell the building was made by the FBI.
The GSA is in charge of real estate: buildings, office space, money. Trump understands how to use that to his personal advantage — as with everything else Trump, a sharp contrast from what came before.
[CURIOUS MUSIC PLAYS]
BERNSTEIN: Four years ago, as the transition to the Trump presidency was set in motion, the GSA Administrator was Denise Turner Roth, an Obama appointee.
BERNSTEIN: What makes somebody want to be the GSA administrator?
DENISE TURNER ROTH: Um, being a government wonk. I was a city manager, actually, and in my career, have been in city operations and government. And the role of GSA is very much government operations, um, in the pinnacle of government operations.
BERNSTEIN: That includes operations as government is handed off from one president to another. It was Turner Roth’s job to lead that, whatever the outcome of the 2016 election.
TURNER ROTH: Well, I would — I would say that personally, the election turned out in a way that was unexpected. Um, and I think that we've had a lot of discussion about polling these days. Um, that definitely played out in 2016.
BERNSTEIN: The election was called in the wee hours of the morning. Hillary Clinton quickly conceded. President Obama instructed a sometimes tearful staff to cooperate in the transition.
TURNER ROTH: So it was probably the following morning, around 10:00 AM or so — um, it's my recollection — that we actually signed the letter, um, that made for the official transition.
BERNSTEIN: Obviously, everybody understood in 2016 that Trump was going to be a big, big departure from Barack Obama. [A BREATH] Can you just talk a little bit about what that was like, on a sort of personal level, going through with that?
TURNER ROTH: So, from a personal standpoint, it was important for me to separate my emotions from the duties of the job. Um, GSA is in a unique position to lead transition, and to take on, um, the steps to ensure that the government has a smooth handoff and that was, uh, significant for me and important to me to do my best in showing up there.
BERNSTEIN: So, given that, how do you process what is going on now, where Trump is saying, “I'm not leaving,” and signaling to the people that he's appointed that they shouldn't do anything that indicates that he is?
TURNER ROTH: There's a lot that Emily Murphy is having to weigh right now, and she is — I'm sure is getting, uh, very good advice from, um, uh, career employees and general counsels around her in terms of “What are the right next steps?” Um, at the end of the day, the GSA has a responsibility for the smooth transition of government. And I'm sure she is weighing those concepts of, “How do I make sure that the government transitions in a way that doesn't hinder those who have to take these steps next?” And the real question here becomes: [SEARCHING FOR WORDS] Is there an apparent win?
BERNSTEIN: This has been the norm in all modern transitions, Democrat to Republican, or vice versa.
[A MOMENT OF MUSIC]
BERNSTEIN: There are people who live for these seventy or so days between presidential administrations. Robert Shea is one of them.
BERNSTEIN: [LIGHTLY LAUGHINGLY] How’d you get to be a transition team type of person?
ROBERT SHEA: I noticed a little chuckle in the question, uh, which makes perfect sense, because, you know, this is, uh, an area of expertise that's utilized only for a few days every four years.
BERNSTEIN: Shea’s day job is working for the business advisory firm Grant Thornton. He’s a former top official in the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, and nearly every four years, he’s worked for Republicans on presidential transitions — including, in 2008, Bush to Obama.
BERNSTEIN: One of the things that I've understood from talking to people over the years who've been involved in these processes is that — I mean, you know, presidents — and, you know, giving everybody the benefit of the doubt, sort of up to now — have more or less, you know, sort of wanted to protect the institutions of U.S. government in — in handing over the government to their successor. Uh, but at the same time, presidents always do things to do whatever they can to solidify their legacy. Is that right?
SHEA: Absolutely right.
BERNSTEIN: So how did that play out in — in the — in the, you know, sort of 2008, beginning of 2009?
SHEA: Well, it — it played out in a number of ways. Presidents are elected for four years terms. And those go all the way through the middle of the day on January 20th. So they've got authorities they can exercise: they’ve got regulatory authority, they've got pardon authority, they’ve got executive order authority.
BERNSTEIN: Now, there's a term that I've heard bandied about [CHUCKLES] reporting on transition, which I just — which was a new-to-me term: “burrowing,” a way to keep senior-level employees — sort of put them from political jobs into civil service jobs. Is that something that's familiar to you, “burrowing”?
SHEA: It is. It's forbidden — inappropriate burrowing, that is. You know, civil servants are employed by the federal government through a competitive process, and those who circumvent those processes by converting a political position to a career one, or putting a political person into a career person after having gone around those processes, is illegal.
BERNSTEIN: So, I mean, did people try to do that as President Bush was leaving?
SHEA: Um, yes. I mean, there was no plan to do that, but a federal civil service job is an attractive one. So I'm certain there were cases where a political person tried to get a — a civilian position inappropriately. I don't know of a specific case, I’m just saying that the chances are that happened.
[LOW, SLOW MUSIC PLAYS]
BERNSTEIN: So I think it's already pretty clear. This is not going to be [LAUGHS] anything like the transitions that we've seen in — in modern history and maybe, you know, almost in the entire history of the Republic. We’ve seen the President — we saw his executive order that he signed shortly before the election regarding civil service and political employees. We’ve seen, you know — as of the last time I checked, his General Service Administrator would not sign the letter that would turn over resources to the transition team. He has just fired the Defense Secretary, Mark Esper. What else do you think is coming?
SHEA: [LAUGHS] So, you know, I've been telling folks who will listen to fasten your seatbelts, because you're right. This is an administration that has not honored the practices of traditional government institutions. You referenced the executive order on creating Schedule F, which would convert career employees with a policy-advising role into basically non-career, which means they could be hired outside the competitive process I described. You could see acceleration of regulations across the board — those deeply inconsistent with a Biden-Harris administration. If we can continue, under the guise of the current emergency, awarding contracts without going through the competitive process. Um, that's a clear danger.
BERNSTEIN: Have — have you heard anything about, um, I don't know — for lack of a better word — Trump sort of trying to put in his own “Deep State” to thwart the Biden agenda. Have you heard anything about that actually happening, or that fear expressed?
SHEA: Yes. Well, I think that's sort of the fear behind Schedule F. It’s sort of institutionalized burrowing, right? You could appoint individuals — without having to go through as a competitive process — to positions, and have them in a policymaking role. So I do think that's a distinct concern.
MARRITZ: Robert Shea is not the only person who has this stuff on his mind right now. The other day I spoke with Ron Sanders. He was Director of Civilian Personnel for the Department of Defense, with responsibility for about a million federal workers, and later Chief of Human Resources for the intelligence community after 9/11. Most recently, Sanders was Chairman of the Federal Salary Council.
RON SANDERS: It is, um, among the most obscure positions in the federal government.
MARRITZ: Basically, it’s a group tasked with determining competitive pay rates for federal workers, so that good people will want to work in government.
SANDERS: Obviously in New York, federal salaries are higher than they would be in Kansas City. Federal salaries there are adjusted to address that, and it's the Federal Salary Council that oversees that effort. And then we, uh, make recommendations regarding how much of the federal government's salary should go to locality pay adjustments, and where those adjustments should occur.
I told you this was an obscure position.
MARRITZ: At the end of October, Sanders was yanked out of obscurity, when he resigned from the Federal Salary Council. His resignation letter was leaked. It was a barn burner.
As Sanders’ letter explains, he quit his job in response to Executive Order number 13957, “Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service.” That’s the one we’ve been talking about that makes changes to the civil service, the enormous body of federal employees who do a lot of the daily work of government: tax auditors, statisticians, meteorologists.
Although the order is written in dry, bureaucratic language, Sanders immediately grasped its radical intent. Quote, “it is clear that its stated purpose notwithstanding, the Executive Order is nothing more than a smokescreen for what is clearly an attempt to require the political loyalty of those who advise the President, or, failing that, to enable their removal with little if any due process.”
SANDERS: I believe it has the potential to politicize the civil service, and I think that's a dangerous, dangerous thing.
MARRITZ: Ronald Sanders is a lifelong Republican.
During our Zoom call, I noticed, behind his desk, a full-sized American flag on a pole, a world map, and framed awards, including the rarely-given National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal.
Sanders explained to me that Trump’s executive order creates a new class of federal worker, known as “Schedule F.” Unlike other categories of workers who are hired on merit, with Schedule F workers, other things may be considered: political beliefs, personal connections. That’s why we keep talking about Schedule F.
When it’s implemented, this could cover anyone, quote, “employed in positions of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character.” Sanders was appalled.
SANDERS: So I resigned from my very obscure position and Ilya, I will, again, state for the record. My resignation was intended to be private. It was not intended to, uh, go viral and, uh — and become a cause célèbre. It’s uh, frankly — it's not a bad thing that it has, because I think it helps for people to understand the role of the career civil service.
MARRITZ: The White House characterized the executive order as an effort to address poor performance, and add flexibility in hiring. We asked them to respond to Sanders’ view that the order is about installing loyalists. They did not give an answer.
MARRITZ: Can you help me think through what the negative consequences could potentially be of an order like this. Like, what is the negative consequence for taxpayers, for democracy, for people who vote every four years?
SANDERS: I'll give you, uh, for taxpayers who ought to be concerned about this. Let's say I'm a procurement person, and the Department of Defense is going to let a multi-billion dollar weapons system contract, and I am the professional procurement person who is managing the process, managing the program, managing the bids and re- and, most importantly, reviewing and analyzing those bids.
And I come up with a recommendation and — maybe more importantly — I say, “Some of these companies have problems and they should not be allowed to bid.” And I take that — privately — I take that to my political superiors and say, “Here's what I've got,” and those political superiors say, “Sorry, don't want to hear it. We're going to hire one of those contractors that you say we shouldn't, and we don't want you to say anything about it.”
And you don't want those crew civil servants worrying: Should I not say this? Because, if I do, I — I may lose my job or I may be banished. You don't want them worrying about that. And you want them to begin to be able to give that unexpurgated professional opinion to the policymaker. And then it's up to the policymaker to make the decision and, frankly, be held accountable for it.
MARRITZ: It's — it really is, in some sense, the career civil service that stands between us and, like, a pay-to-play form of government.
SANDERS: Yes. [BEAT] Um, I — I do know — and I'm not going to reveal any of my sources and methods — but I do know that the folks at the Office of Personnel Management — particularly the career folks, the real experts here — had nothing to do with this executive order. It came as a surprise as much as a surprise to them as it did to me.
MARRITZ: The Office of Personnel Management did not comment for this story.
[MUSIC FADES OUT]
SANDERS: And I'm really gonna make your head hurt, Ilya.
Somebody will ask, “Well, won't it be obvious — won’t we be able to track down those people appointed under Schedule F in a — a new administration?” And the answer is “Yes, but —“. There was also a federal prohibited personnel practice that says that an individual's retention as a civil servant should not be based on their political persuasion.
So if I'm appointed under Schedule F between now and January 19th, and somebody later tries to remove me, that's not as easy as it sounds, because I could claim — perhaps legitimately — I'm being removed because of my political beliefs, uh, not my policy expertise. So, under one scenario, you could find people, uh, “embedding themselves” is the technical term. Actually, it's not a technical term, it's a euphemism. But the term is called “burrowing in.”
A longstanding practice of administrations of both parties to try to put people who were political appointees in their administration into the career civil service. So that's one possibility.
The other — if the administration continues — is to begin rooting out those people who spoke truth to power who they don't agree with, and removing them, because the other thing that Schedule F does is, once a person is placed under that authority, they can be removed more or less at-will, with very little due process.
[LIGHT MUSIC PLAYS]
MARRITZ: So, basically, Schedule F takes a little bit from the political appointee side, and a little bit from the career civil service side, and creates a position — creates a situation where the administration in power can both reward loyalists and [PAUSE] harm people who are perceived to be, um, disloyal, or opponents, or inconvenient.
SANDERS: I think that's exactly right. It's a very sharp two-edged sword.
[INDUSTRIAL JUNGLE MUSIC PLAYS]
MARRITZ: Trump, Inc. wants to hear from you, if you know of any unusual hirings, firings, or other personnel moves in the federal government, we are collecting stories now.
So please consider sending us a tip if you know something. You can share documents or information securely. Just go to our website TrumpIncPodcast.org. We will respect your confidentiality.
BERNSTEIN: This episode was produced by Katherine Sullivan and Meg Cramer. Our editor is Nick Varchaver. Sound design and original scoring by Jared Paul. Our theme and additional music is by Hannis Brown.
Matt Collette is the executive producer of Trump, Inc. Emily Botein is WNYC’s Vice President for Original Programming, and Steve Engelberg is Editor-in-Chief of ProPublica.
BERNSTEIN: I’m Andrea Bernstein.
MARRITZ: I’m Ilya Marritz.
BERNSTEIN: Thanks for listening.