Sean Spicer and Russell Vought lose lawsuit against Biden administration over Naval Board dismissal

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo
·2 min read

A U.S. District Judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former Office of Management and Budget director Russell Vought that sought to block their removal from the U.S. Naval Academy's Board of Visitors.

Spicer and Vought were among 11 appointees by President Donald Trump to various military service academy advisory boards that President Joe Biden asked to resign last September — threatening them with removal from their posts if they refused to resign. Then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki commented at the time that the president’s objective was to ensure he had “nominees and people serving on these boards who are qualified to serve on them and who are aligned with [his] values.”

The Board of Visitors to the U.S. Naval Academy was created by Congress to advise the President on the “state of morale and discipline” at the academy as well as its “curriculum, instruction, physical equipment, fiscal affairs, [and] academic methods.” U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich also noted that Congress specified that the “six persons designated by the President” would serve on the Board “for three years each” in staggered terms.

But based on the U.S. Code governing the Board of Visitors, Friedrich ruled that executive officials were not insulated from presidential removal.

Spicer and Vought did not immediately return requests for comment on the judge's decision.

Spicer, a Navy reservist, was appointed by Trump in 2019 to the Naval Academy Board of Visitors. Vought's appointment to that same board came in December, 2020, part of a string of controversial, lame-duck appointments that installed Trump allies like Hope Hicks, Ric Grenell and Kellyanne Conway in board or council positions overseeing Fulbright scholarships, the United States Holocaust Memorial and the U.S. Air Force Academy, respectively.