Dec 22, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump appoints more loyalists to board seats


Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Trump on Tuesday included some of his most loyal defenders in more than three dozen appointments to federal board seats, including former Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, former acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell and former National Security Council staffer Ezra Cohen-Watnick.

Why it matters: The president is still refusing to publicly acknowledge his election loss but such appointments are a typical means for outgoing presidents to extend their legacy. The positions are usually unpaid, have little political power and do not require Senate confirmations.

  • Bondi, who helped lead Trump's effort to stop vote counting in Pennsylvania, will serve on the board of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
  • Grennell, who also served a stint as U.S. ambassador to Germany, will serve on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.
  • Other Trump allies including Corey Lewandowski, Kellyanne Conway and David Bossie have received appointments in recent weeks.
  • Conway was appointed to the board of visitors of the U.S. Air Force Academy, while Lewandowski and Bossie were sent to the Pentagon Defense Business Board.

The big picture... Other high-profile names announced include:

  • Hope Hicks, former White House communications director, to the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.
  • Stephanie Grisham, former White House press secretary, to the board of directors for the National Board for Education Sciences.
  • Russ Vought, Trump's current director of the Office of Management and Budget, to the board of visitors to the United States Naval Academy.

Of note: Cohen-Watnick, who is currently serving as the acting undersecretary for Defense Intelligence, also was named to be a member and the chair of the Public Interest Declassification Board.

  • His tenure in the Trump administration has been marked by controversy after he was brought to the National Security Council by Michael Flynn before clashing with Henry McMaster when he ran the NSC, Axios Hans Nichols notes.

The bottom line: The appointments are parting gifts to Trump's confidants and have the effect of extending his impact into Biden's term, just as President Obama did with similar appointments before leaving office in 2017.

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