Biden asks Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway to quit military academy boards

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The Biden administration has removed 18 Trump appointees to military service academy boards, among them the former press secretary Sean Spicer and adviser Kellyanne Conway.

The White House said on Wednesday that the 18 people were asked to step down by 6pm on Wednesday or be fired, prompting deep upset among the Trump appointees.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said: “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.”

Associated Press reported on Thursday that the 18 appointees, who also include Trump’s former national security adviser HR McMaster and Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought, had been removed.

It was unclear whether any of the appointees had voluntarily resigned before the White House deadline.

Advisory boards exist to provide non-binding advice to the various academies.

Related: Trump will run for president in 2024, Sean Spicer claims

As defined by the United States Military Academy at West Point and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, the boards “inquire into morale and discipline, curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, academic methods and other matters”.

Each board has a mix of members of Congress and presidential appointees. Members appointed by Barack Obama remained in place under the Trump administration.

Trump appointed Spicer, a commander in the US naval reserve, to the advisory board for the naval academy. Conway, campaign manager for Trump in 2016, was appointed to the board for the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Psaki said: “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.”

Spicer tweeted that Biden should be focusing instead “on the stranded Americans left in Afghanistan”, and later addressed Psaki directly on his show on the rightwing Newsmax channel.

“Don’t you dare ever minimize or question my service to this nation, you got it?” Spicer said. “This move has taken partisanship to a new level.”

Spicer and Vought who was also appointed to the naval academy board, tweeted a White House letter that said if they did not resign they would be fired “effective 6pm tonight”.

Vought said: “No. It’s a three-year term.”

Conway released a letter in which she criticised Biden’s performance in office and said: “I’m not resigning, but you should.”

McMaster, a retired army general, was appointed to the board at West Point, where he is scheduled to be honored this weekend, as a distinguished graduate.

At West Point, Trump also appointed Jack Keane, a retired general and close adviser; Guy Swan, a retired general; Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel and Pentagon official; Meaghan Mobbs, a West Point graduate and psychologist; and David Urban, a West Point graduate, lobbyist, political strategist and sometime Trump adviser.

McMaster did not immediately comment. Keane said he was “very disappointed”. Urban told CNN he agreed with Mobbs, who said the move was “unconscionable”.

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