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Pentagon stops Trump’s advisory board appointments amid Biden admin’s ‘thorough review’

Donald Trump in Phoenix, Ariz. in Feb. 2020. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr) | Joe Biden in Altoona, Iowa in Aug. 2019. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
January 29, 2021

The Pentagon halted processing several former President Donald Trump appointees to defense advisory boards this week, temporarily blocking a number of Trump loyalists from serving on panels that provide advice to the defense secretary.

The move, which was announced in an email to advisory board members on Wednesday, is part of an effort “to determine if appointments were politically motivated vice professionally made,” one person close to the matter told Politico.

The email stated that effective immediately, “all appointments, reappointments and renewals” to the boards would be frozen “pending a thorough review by the new Administration.”

Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and deputy campaign manager David Bossie are among those momentarily prevented from serving.

The suspension applies solely to appointees who have not been sworn in or who have not completed the necessary paperwork, two people familiar with the discussions told Politico. Multiple board members were sworn in prior to Joe Biden’s inauguration, but financial disclosures and security clearance procedures were still underway for Lewandowski and Bossie – processes that can take months, according to people familiar with the matter.

In the meantime, Biden’s team is reviewing whether Trump’s last-minute appointments can be replaced, and the Department of Defense has not disclosed a timeline for potential action taken against those in limbo.  

“Once a determination has been made, we will either continue to process the packages for final onboarding or return the packages to the sponsoring organization as cancelled,” according to the email.

In its final months, the Trump administration had removed a number of business and policy board members, replacing them with those loyal to the former president.

Board members who were removed reportedly received an email from White House liaison to the Department of Defense Joshua Whitehouse, which stated, “if you are receiving this e-mail, your membership on the Defense Business Board has expired or is coming to an end.”

“A number of board members have been terminated with a form letter. In my experience, I was very surprised that the White House would, at the eleventh hour, adjust an advisory board that for 19 years has had a record of nonpartisan support with the department,” now former-board member Michael Bayer told Politico.

“The Secretary, as you would expect, is reviewing current policies in place across the Department to determine if any changes are necessary, to include the advisory boards,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said in a statement. “No final decisions have been made with respect to board membership. But we will make the information available should that change.”