Two former Trump administration officials who were removed from the Board of Visitors for the U.S. Naval Academy earlier this month are suing the White House over what they called an “unprecedented” and “illegal partisan power-grab.”
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought were among the appointees, as was former Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway.
The 18 people targeted were sent letters on Sept. 8 demanding their resignations or they would face termination that evening.
On Thursday, Spicer and Vought sued the Biden administration. In a news release from America First Legal, which is representing them, they slammed Biden for purging them over their apparent political leanings.
“Today, America First Legal sued President Biden on behalf of former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and former Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought over the Biden Administration’s unprecedented decision to oust them from their duly-appointed positions on the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Naval Academy,” the news release stated.
“As outlined in the complaint, President Biden has no lawful authority to terminate members of the Board of Visitors. Historically, such term-limited board members remain in their positions for the duration of their term, notwithstanding a change in administrations. Unlike Presidential Advisory Boards, the Academy board is a statutory board enacted in law by Congress to provide oversight responsibilities.”
“Furthermore, for over a year, the Biden Administration has prevented these boards from meeting, obstructing necessary and important business from happening,” America First Legal continued, calling the terminations an “illegal partisan power-grab”
The group also said the terminations were “another example of the Biden Administration breaking longstanding bipartisan norms and traditions.”
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“For a President who has pledged to unify the country, terminating two highly qualified individuals from serving on this Board instead of focusing on the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan that left Americans stranded, is clearly an attempt to distract the American people,” said America First Legal Vice-President and General Counsel Gene Hamilton.
“The Administration is clearly trying to avoid the oversight that Congress set out to achieve.”
The lawsuit lists Biden, White House Presidential Personnel Office officials Catherine Russell and Katherine Petrelius, Naval Academy Board Chair Charles Ruppersberger and board Designated Federal Officer Raphael Thalakottur as defendants.
Asked on Sept. 9 about the termination of former Trump administration officials from military academy boards, White House press secretary Jen Psaki took a shot at the people targeted by the purge. She called out Spicer and Conway by name.
“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,” she said. “But the president’s qualification requirements are not your party registration. They are whether you’re qualified to serve and whether you are aligned with the values of this administration.”
Conway responded on Twitter to the letter she received, and took the opportunity to tell Biden to resign.
President Biden, I’m not resigning, but you should. pic.twitter.com/HuRYM4bLYP
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) September 8, 2021
Vought was also among those who stated publicly he would not submit a resignation.
— Russ Vought (@russvought) September 8, 2021
In the lawsuit filed on Thursday, America First Legal defended Spicer’s qualifications to sit on the board of the Naval Academy.
“Mr. Spicer served for 22 years in the United States Navy Reserve and earned a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College,” the lawsuit said.