The Trump Transition
The Rescaling of the American Government
By. Raimondo Graziano
~ Written in the weeks following the Inauguration of the 45th President
In the weeks that followed the election of President Donald J. Trump, the transition team tasked with filling cabinet appointments and staffing departments under the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch, has been engaging in activity that can only be described as worrisome and worthy of a degree of alarm. The transition team has been circulating lists of questions to numerous agency heads regarding employees within the government who have worked on specific programs orchestrated underneath the eight years of his predecessor. Agencies that have been specifically targeted include the State Department, the Energy Department, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency. In the days following the inauguration the White House began clamps on numerous agencies and their capabilities to autonomously operate and release information to the public. Agencies that have had specific restrictions placed on the latitude of informational release they are afforded include, to varying degrees – the Environmental Protection Agency and the departments of the Interior, Transportation, Agriculture and Health and Human Services.
The Department of Homeland Security has been asked to compile documents and hand their contents over to the administration officials regarding assets available for the construction of a border wall on both the southern and northern border. The administration has also requested information pertinent to the expansion of immigrant detention, and the reinstatement of an aerial surveillance program regarding the southern border that was significantly scaled back under the previous administration. Of considerable note is the question poised, stating, “have federal workers altered biographic information kept by the department about immigrants out of concern for their civil liberties?” In response to the request, U.S. Customs and Border Control agents identified over four hundred miles on the southern and northern borders that can be outfitted with advanced border protections, including walls, barricades and fences. What is curious is the renewed focus on the northern border, in the previous year, according to the Department of Homeland Security, border patrol agents apprehended 2,626 illegal migrants on northern border compared to 331,333 apprehended on the southern. While the administration has attempted to alleviate concerns on the status of individuals who have Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, a program meant to protect children of undocumented immigrants that had no say, and arguably, are not at fault, for the actions of the parents that have placed them in the United States today; the administration continues inquiries into both the scope and recipients of such, exacerbating fears that the administration may use such information to aid in the process of deportations, which have begun, though officials are attempting to downplay the significance, stating “it is routine.”
The Department of Energy has been asked to compile lists of men and woman working within the agency on programs pertinent to the investigation of the effects of climate change, as well as the mitigation of these effects on American coasts, waterways, resources, and communities within our borders as well as globally. The President, and the Congress’s hopes to dismantle the legacy and policy objectives met and set by the previous administration are coming into full public focus; the administration has requested access to lists of individuals who have been involved extensively in international climate talks, as well programs pertinent “within DOE that are essential to meeting the goals of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.” What has specifically been circulated to Department of Energy officials is a questionnaire intended to single out specific programs, individuals, and mandates set forth under the previous administration, and those who have worked extensively on these priorities. While it is routine for administrations to staff their agencies with like-minded individuals, the choice to single out specific programs and people working on such is unusual especially given the ability for agencies to now, with greater access to technology, systematically track and record the past and ongoing activities of civil servants.
The State Department has been asked by the administration as well to provide information regarding both gender equality programs and women’s issue programs, both of which were greatly expanded under the previous administration and the State Department under the leadership of Secretary Clinton. A one page memo distributed throughout the department requested that agency officials “to outline existing programs and activities to promote gender equality, such as ending gender-based violence, promoting women’s participation in economic and political spheres, entrepreneurship, etc.” Likewise, the memo requested a list of positions “whose primary functions are to promote such issues,” though it is important to note that the memo did not specifically ask for the names of individuals like the memo sent through the Energy Department did. The administration has also made requests to ascertain funding figures relating to gender-related programs in the past year. Interestingly enough, The United States Agency for International Development also received the very same request, according to a senior official there. When pressed to clarify their positions at the behest of The New York Times, “The transition team declined a request for comment on the memo. A person answering the phone in the State Department transition office directed inquiries to the public affairs office, which declined to confirm the memo’s existence or to discuss information being sought.”
While the intended nature of these sorts of inquires is entirely up to pundits and commentators to discuss and debate, the intended purposes of such will be unknown until either legislation, or the President’s preferred choice of action, Executive Order, though decree is more appropriate, is taken. Though, people can easily make assumptions as to what the administration may do, based on the views of those closest to the President and his own personal remarks on issues paramount to these particular policy points. This, and any request by the administration that would denigrate the effectiveness of programs aimed at alleviating and advancing the study of climate change, promoting the advancement of women and girls worldwide, ensuring that individuals of any race, creed, orientation or otherwise are not discriminated against, should be viewed as a direct affront to our ideals as Americans.
Our president, daily, continues to show his ineptness and lack of care to, a casual attitude, to issues that for decades, the United States has advocated for whether directly or indirectly; whether he understands or not, the President of the United States is not only diminishing our stature globally, but dismantling decades of alliance building, of economic positioning, and of respect. Scholars have predicted the decline of the United States, economically and politically. What goes up, naturally, must come down; though the right push, pun specifically intended, can certainly aid in the fastening of the process. And whether it is the President’s intention or not, he is doing that very thing.