By Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck, CNN
The Biden administration has told 11 officials appointed to military service academy advisory boards by former President Donald Trump to resign or be dismissed, a source familiar with the situation tells CNN’s KFile.
The officials asked to resign include prominent former Trump officials like former White House press secretary Sean Spicer, former senior counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster. They were appointed to the advisory boards of the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy and West Point respectively.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday afternoon confirmed the request had been made.
“The President’s objective is what any president’s objective is — to ensure you have nominees and people serving on these boards who are qualified to serve on them and who are aligned with your values. And so yes, that was an ask that was made,” Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing.
Psaki added: “I will let others evaluate whether they think Kellyanne Conway and Sean Spicer and others were qualified, or not political, to serve on these boards, but the President’s qualification requirements are not your party registration, they are whether you’re qualified to serve and whether you’re aligned with the values of this administration.”
Other more prominent names include Heidi Stirrup, the former White House liaison to the Justice Department who was banned from entering the building after she attempted to access sensitive information about possible election fraud in December 2020, and retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, a former ambassador pick and Pentagon official with a history of controversial comments. The duo were appointed to the boards of the Air Force Academy and West Point.
Other appointees who have been asked to resign are Michael Wynne, who was appointed to the board of the Air Force Academy; retired Gen. John Keane, Meaghan Mobbs, and David Urban appointed to the board of West Point; and John Coale and Russell Vought, Trump’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, appointed to the Naval Academy’s board.
The dismissal of Trump officials from the military advisory boards comes after the Pentagon has recently restarted its other advisory boards after removing hundreds of appointees from other boards in February. In November, just months ahead of when he was set to leave office, Trump dismissed several longstanding members of the Defense Policy Board ahead of their terms being up.
The military academy advisory boards, according to the Air Force Academy website, were established to oversee the “morale, discipline, social climate, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods, and other matters” relating to the nation’s military academies. The board for each academy meets several times a year and its members provide independent advice and recommendations to the President.
The members typically serve out three-year terms. At least one Trump appointee, Vought, has signaled he will not resign.
“No. It’s a three year term,” Vought tweeted, attaching an image of the letter requesting his resignation.
Spicer said Wednesday on his Newsmax show, “Spicer & Co.”: “All Trump appointees, including myself, have been kicked off the boards of the United States Naval Academy, Air Force Academy and West Point in an unprecedented move by the Biden administration. I’m announcing tonight for the first time that I will not be submitting my resignation and I will be joining a lawsuit to fight this.”
He later added: “Remember back during the inauguration when President Biden said. ‘I’m going to be the President for all people, Trump voters and everyone else?’ Yeah, where’d that go?”
Wynne told CNN “it was an honor to be on the board,” and said he was disappointed he wasn’t asked to remain on the board.
“Very disappointed to see the Biden administration not honor a previous president’s appointment to the board of visitors, which has been the tradition for years,” Keane told CNN.
In a statement, Mobbs said she would not be resigning.
“Frankly, I find this whole act unconscionable and not all in the spirit by which this Administration promised to govern. President Biden ran on a supposed platform of unity but his actions speak directly to the contrary. Apparently, unity is only for those who conform,” Mobbs said. “When I joined the Board under the Trump Administration, there were holdovers from the Obama Administration. They were not terminated but instead served alongside Trump appointees. This mix of perspective, experience, and belief systems ensured there was diversity – a value the Democratic party purports to hold above all else.”
In response to CNN, Urban said Mobbs’ statement reflected his views.
Conway posted a statement on Twitter addressed to Biden, calling the news “petty and political” and saying she would not resign.
“Your decision is disappointing but understandable given the need to distract from a news cycle that has you mired in multiple self-inflicted crises and plummeting poll numbers,” Conway wrote.
CNN has also reached out to Macgregor, Stirrup, Coale and McMaster for comment.
CNN’s KFile has previously reported that Macgregor, who served in the Trump administration as a senior Pentagon adviser and was nominated to the West Point board late last year, disparaged immigrants, refugees and minorities and spread conspiracy theories that the Biden administration was replacing White people of European ancestry.
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