As President Trump continues to build out his administration, many of his officials are having trouble filling vacancies in their departments because of questions about the loyalty of the people they want to select — questions that include scrutiny of old social media posts. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin is sufficiently frustrated about the situation that “people familiar with the matter” leaked about his frustration to Bloomberg:
The White House’s reasons for the holdups vary, but questions about loyalty to Trump played a role in at least two cases, some of the people said.
Mnuchin’s pick for the Treasury’s top lawyer, Brent McIntosh, got an especially tough vetting by the White House personnel office after his Twitter feed was flagged as potentially critical of Trump.
I’ve been told by staff for independent regulators that candidates for jobs have been asked to hand over their Facebook passwords so that old posts can be scrutinized for criticism of Trump.
This sort of vetting has proved doubly frustrating to the people it’s hampering. The vast majority of Trump’s Cabinet appointees are outsiders to government services, and few of them believe they can run their agencies exclusively on the basis of outsiders. But there simply aren’t very many professional Republicans who’ve been consistent Trump supporters — he had almost no endorsements from GOP elected officials during the primary, and ran his campaign as a frontal assault on the party establishment.
At the same time, the rules against disloyalty are not being enforced in any clear way. Energy Secretary Rick Perry called Trump a “cancer.” Kellyanne Conway used to work for a Ted Cruz Super PAC and was extremely critical of Trump, talking about how he “built a lot of his business on the backs of the little guy,” had screwed over “victims of Trump University,” and engaged in “unpresidential” rhetoric that was “unfortunate for children.”
Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional.— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) December 8, 2015
Then last night, the White House announced that it was appointing Richard Grenell as US ambassador to NATO. Grenell is a well-qualified, experienced Republican who happens to have been viciously critical of Trump in the past. In other words, exactly the kind of guy whom many other administration principals are struggling to get past White House vetting.
. @WordgirlSmith yes. If you think Trump knows foreign policy issues then absolutely yes, you are stupid. A thousand times yes!— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) March 30, 2016
The bottom line is that everyone is confused. A rule disqualifying anyone who said mean things about Trump during the campaign bars far too many people from staffing the administration. At the same time, Trump remains concerned about leaks and loyalty and doesn’t seem to want to drop the idea entirely. Consequently, nobody is exactly sure who they are allowed to put forward for what position or why.