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Court blocks Trump officials from returning to Naval Academy board after Biden kicked them off

Then-White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)
December 07, 2021

A court has denied two former Trump administration officials’ request to be returned to the U.S. Naval Academy board.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich rejected former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former Office of Management and Budget Director Russel Vought’s motion to be reinstated on the board while the pair sues President Joe Biden for removing them, Bloomberg News reported Monday.

Friedrich said there was no evidence to back the officials’ claim that their removal was an attempt to “silence dissenting views” on the board.

The pair “give no indication that their views on the governance of the Naval Academy actually differ from the other board members,” the judge argued. “Nor do they explain how it would serve the public interest to present advice to the president — the primary function of the board — that the president does not intend to consider.”

In September, the Biden administration warned a number of Trump-era officials appointed to military service academy advisory boards that they will be fired if they don’t immediately resign from the positions.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the request, claiming it was made to ensure those serving on the boards are “qualified.”

“The President’s objective is what any president’s objective is — to ensure you have nominees and people serving on these boards who are qualified to serve on them and who are aligned with your values. And so yes, that was an ask that was made,” Psaki told reporters at the time during a White House press briefing.

“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, but the President’s qualification requirements are not your party registration, they are whether you’re qualified to serve and whether you’re aligned with the values of this administration,” she added.

Sean Spicer, a U.S. Navy Reserve commander who previously served as former President Donald Trump’s press secretary, shot back at Psaki, warning her never that the president’s unprecedented move “has taken partisanship to a new level.”

“I’ve followed tradition. Press secretaries never comment on the previous press secretary or the current one and I’ve respected that. I haven’t responded to Jen or reacted to her, but she crossed a line today. She chose to bring me into this,” Spicer said on Newsmax. “So, Jen, you want to know about my qualifications? Joining the military and wearing the uniform of this amazing country remains one of my greatest decisions in life. For 22 years, I’ve had the honor of serving alongside some of the most talented, patriotic and brave individuals this country has to offer.”

Shortly thereafter, America First Legal filed a suit against the Biden administration on their behalf, arguing in a statement that the move was an “illegal partisan power-grab” that serves as “just another example of the Biden administration breaking longstanding bipartisan norms and traditions.”

In addition to Spicer and Vought, former national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Michael Wynne, former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, retired Gen. John Keane, Meaghan Mobbs, David Urban, Heidi Stirrup, retired Col. Douglas Macgregor, and John Coale were also asked to resign.