Trump Rewards His Cronies and Bundlers With Plum Posts on His Way Out the Door

Lachlan Markay
REUTERS
REUTERS

With the clock running out on his presidency, Donald Trump has rewarded some of his top fundraisers with plum federal positions that will outlast his single term in office.

The White House announced on Thursday that Trump had appointed lobbyist Brian Ballard to the board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Jeff Miller, also a prominent lobbyist, to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

Both men were high-dollar fundraisers for the president’s reelection. Miller reported “bundling” more than $3.5 million for Trump Victory, the joint fundraising account that housed the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee field operation. Ballard raised nearly $600,000 for Trump Victory.

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The apparent parting gift for two of the president’s most lavish financial supporters installs them in largely ceremonial roles where they will serve well into President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. Kennedy Center board members serve six-year terms, while positions on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council last for five years.

Ballard’s and Miller’s appointments were just two of 24 appointments to various federal bodies announced on Thursday. Heidi Stirrup, a White House liaison to the Department of Justice, landed a spot on the Board of Visitors to the United States Air Force Academy. Within minutes of the White House email announcing the slate of appointments, the Associated Press reported that Stirrup, an ally of senior White House aide Stephen Miller, had been banned from DOJ’s offices after pressuring officials there into divulging information about ongoing investigations into supposed irregularities in last month’s presidential election.

There were other current or former Trump administration officials on the list as well. Brian Hook, a former State Department’s official overseeing U.S. policy towards Iran, got a spot on the board of the Smithsonian’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Hook was involved in efforts to remove State Department officials deemed insufficiently loyal to the president, a role that drew scrutiny from the department’s inspector general.

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Ray Washburne, who until last year was the president of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (and a six-figure Trump Victory donor), was appointed to the National Security Education Board.

Trump also tapped Pamella DeVos, a high-dollar GOP donor and sister-in-law of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, for a spot on the Kennedy Center board.

Other notable appointees included John Coale, the husband of former Fox News host Greta Van Susteren. He will serve on the Board of Visitors to the United States Naval Academy. Garrick Davis, the poetry editor of the conservative commentary website First Things, was tapped for the board of the American Folklife Center.

For the President’s Committee on the National Medal of Science, Trump appointed David Legates, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official who has questioned both the scientific consensus on human-driven climate change and, more recently, the need for stringent measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

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