According to the White House, the Biden administration dismissed 18 appointees to US military academy boards designated by Donald Trump in the closing months of the Republican president's term.
Cathy Russell, director of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, addressed letters to 18 personnel named to the boards of visitors at the Air Force Academy, Military Academy, and Naval Academy, requesting that they resign by the end of business on Wednesday or face being fired.
Among those fired by Biden are White House counselor Kellyanne Conway (Air Force Academy), press secretary Sean Spicer (Naval Academy), national security advisor H.R. McMaster (Military Academy), and Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought (Military Academy) (Naval Academy).
According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, former Trump officials were urged to resign or fear being fired. It was unclear whether any of those asked to tender their resignations done so by the White House's deadline of 6 p.m.
“I'll leave it up to others to decide whether Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer, and others were qualified or not to serve on these boards,” Psaki added. “However, the president's qualifications are not based on your membership in a political party. They are whether you are qualified to serve and whether you share the administration's values.”
Several of those who were asked to quit refused. Conway poked Biden in the eye and said, "I'm not going to quit, but you should.” She labeled it a "disappointing but understandable" attempt to divert attention away from the tumultuous US pullout from Afghanistan, an increase in COVID-19 cases, and disappointing August jobs report in a statement.
Russell's message was uploaded on Twitter by Vought, who responded, "No." It's a three-year contract.”
Vice President Mike Pence's director of legislative affairs, Jonathan Hiler, a Navy academy alumnus, said he was "not resigning."
“As an alumnus and former naval officer, I believe that the mission of USNA, which is to develop leaders capable of defending our country's interests at sea, should not be consumed by partisan politics. President Biden, on the other hand, appears to be of a different mind. Hiler wrote on Twitter, "@WhiteHouse."
Spicer, who works for the conservative news station Newsmax, chastised Biden on social media for attempting to fire Trump appointees rather than working with them "concentrating on the #Afghanistan stranded Americans.”
Spicer later accused Psaki of downplaying his military service and other veterans chosen to Trump's boards on Newsmax. He stated that he wanted to challenge the ruling in court.