And so, the purge takes shape.
This week’s move by the GOP Congress to revive an 1876 rule that allows them to cut any federal employee’s pay to $1 sets up the purge of non-loyalists that Donald Trump’s team has been talking about, for months.
This summer, Reuters reported that then-Trump Transition chair, Governor Chris Christie, had told a group of Trump insiders that, if he won, Trump would seek new ability to purge the government of non-loyalists. Reuters reported, at the time:
One of the things I have suggested to Donald is that we have to immediately ask the Republican Congress to change the civil service laws. Because if they do, it will make it a lot easier to fire those people,” Christie said.
He said firing civil servants was “cumbersome” and “time-consuming.”
As I explained at the time, this kind of purge of civil servants is often one of the first moves of an authoritarian, and, ironically and frighteningly, getting legislation to do so was also one of Hitler’s first moves, upon taking power.
The Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service was passed just two months after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. It was such a major piece of his plan to ultimately become dictator, that the Holocaust Museum notes it on their timeline of events.
Reinstatement of the 1876 rule should not come as a shock. For weeks, the Trump transition team has sought out the names of individual employees in the government.
They demanded names of all Department of Energy employees who worked on climate change.
They demanded a list of all positions in the State Department that work on gender and women’s equality issues.
They told the Department of Homeland Security to send over the names of anyone working on combating the spread of extremism. One government insider implied it was likely a way to get to civil servants who do not think we’re in a war against Islam.
To be clear ― these lists will mostly be civil servants, the kind of people who work in administrations of different parties, with different agendas.
So, here we are.
In the summer, Chris Christie told people that Donald Trump would root out civil servants who may not be loyal. Upon winning, the transition team began seeking out names and positions of civil servants that may not pledge fealty to Trump’s agenda. And now, Congress has upended civil service protections, by restoring a rule that will allow for individual workers to be targeted and forced out.
This is not normal. Yet, as time goes on, it’s starting to feel that way. That might be the scariest part of it all.