White House Defends Firing Trump Military Academy Holdovers, Cites Jan. 6 Insurrection

The White House is defending its decision to turn over board members at the U.S. military service academies.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration sent letters to 18 Trump-appointed members of military academy boards asking them to resign or be fired by 6 p.m. The demand was made to all six members of each of the boards overseeing West Point, Annapolis and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, appearing on CNN's New Day program Thursday, said the request wasn't "personal."

"This really goes back to what every president's right is, which is to appoint individuals they choose because they align with their values," she told host John Berman.

Psaki later said, "I will say that there are some people on these boards of course that have supported or stood by silently while their former boss supported an insurrection. That's not really OK with us either.... But it's really not more complicated than the president, his Cabinet and team wanting to appoint a fresh layer of people."

Several of the holdovers have publicly said they will not resign, including high-profile figures such as Kellyanne Conway, Russell Vought and Sean Spicer.

"President Biden, I'm not resigning, but you should," Conway wrote on Twitter. The post included an image of a letter she sent to Biden informing him she wouldn't be stepping down from her role.

In the letter, Conway wrote that Biden's decision was "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."

Vought, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget, also denied the administration's request.

"No," Vought tweeted alongside a copy of the letter requesting his resignation. "It's a three-year term."

WH defends firing military board holdovers
The Biden administration has sent letters to 18 Trump-appointed members of military academy boards asking them to resign or be fired. Above, press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing on August 25. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Psaki told CNN that the administration is "confident" in its legal abilities to choose who it wants to serve on these boards.

"No one's looking to have a battle here," she said.

Traditionally, appointees serve out their three-year terms regardless of political affiliation. Critics say the Biden administration is setting a dangerous precedent.

"Frankly, I find this whole act unconscionable and not all in the spirit by which this Administration promised to govern," Meaghan Mobbs, who serves on the Military Academy board at West Point and is an Afghanistan veteran, said in a statement.
Mobbs was also asked to step down from her role but said she won't be doing so.

"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," she said.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for additional comment but didn't receive a response before publication.