Actors As Cabinet Heads
Why does Trump seem to be satisfied with so many acting heads of cabinet departments? Of course, it’s not only the cabinet heads that have not been confirmed by the Senate, but a number of important agency chiefs and many high level personnel in a plethora of departments. At present, DOD, DHS and the Department of the Interior all have acting heads. Mick Mulvaney, the White House Chief of Staff is also an actor. Trump claims that he likes acting cabinet members because it gives him more flexibility. But it also means a loss of continuity. And acting also allows the person running the department to avoid Senate confirmation where many embarrassing questions could be asked and the candidate could be turned down.
Acting officials also provide the president with more control over these individuals and allows them to function with less oversight. Yet thus far, the Senate has not complained about Trump’s appointment of acting department heads. Some agency heads have also been fired by Trump and replaced by people the president felt were more aligned with him on policy, such as General McMaster, the head of the National Security Council, removed by Trump and John Bolton given his position.
Another question that has not been raised is whether or not the possible invocation of Article XXV by the principle officers of the government’s executive departments is in the back of the president’s mind when he appoints acting heads of departments or people to lead important agencies. Under Article XXV, Section 4, the president can be removed from office if a majority of the principle officers of executive departments and the vice-president believe he is unfit to discharge his duties. Has that possibility been worrying the president? We know that General James Mattis, formerly head of DOD, questioned the president’s actions at times, as did General John Kelly, his former Chief of Staff, and General McMaster at the NSC. We also are aware that Kristen Nielson was a protégé of General Kelly and probably had a similar view of the president.
Though at this time, impeachment does not seem to be a viable means to removing the president, there are many questions about Trump’s behavior in the White House and whether he is fully competent to execute his duties. He constantly changes his mind about decisions to which he has agreed and at times will not even acknowledge commitments he has made. His orders do not always appear to be in the interest of the United States, particularly where Russia is concerned. It is possible he could have been removed from office with the proper mix of cabinet officers, but with the constant turnover of officials it is very unlikely to happen. Mr. President you are safe until Election Day when the nation’s citizens will decide your fate.