Since losing his reelection bid earlier this month, President Donald Trump has appointed two men with well-documented white nationalist ties to government roles, raising urgent questions about whether they’ll still have jobs under Democratic President-elect Joe Biden.
Darren J. Beattie, a former White House speechwriter fired in 2018 after it was revealed he’d spoken at a white nationalist conference, announced Wednesday that Trump had appointed him to the Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad.
On Nov. 13, the Trump administration also appointed Jason Richwine — a policy analyst pushed out of a conservative think tank for writing that Mexican and other Latino immigrants have lower IQs than white people — to a senior position at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
“The U.S. government should not be giving posts to people with ties to white nationalists, end of story,” Lecia Brooks, chief of staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told HuffPost in a statement. “Under the leadership of the Trump administration, our government has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to work with or amplify voices from the far-right racist fringe, and they appear willing to do so until the bitter end of the president’s term in office.”
But will Beattie and Richwine still have these jobs once Biden is inaugurated in January? The answer illuminates the sometimes complicated and confusing process by which transitions between White House administrations occur.
Karen Hult, a professor of political science at Virginia Tech and board member of the White House Transition Project, told HuffPost that most political appointees are expected to submit a resignation letter after a new president takes office.
This is the likely scenario for Richwine, she said.
“Although not all of these resignations are accepted, in this case it seems clear it would be,” Hult said.
Richwine, 38, resigned from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, in 2013 after co-authoring a widely mocked report about immigrants being a drain on the economy.
His resignation came after media scrutiny of his past racist writings, most notably his Harvard dissertation, in which he stated that Latinos and Mexican immigrants had lower IQs than whites and that “the difference is likely to persist over several generations.” The U.S., Richwine argued, should select only high-IQ immigrants in order to prevent “underclass behavior.”
Richwine also wrote two stories for Alternativeright.com, the website founded by white supremacist figurehead Richard Spencer.
Despite this history of white nationalism, Hult said, “Dr. Richwine can add being deputy undersecretary of commerce for standards and technology to his résumé” — even if he’ll only be in the position for a couple months.
Lame-duck presidents often make appointments to pad the résumés of friends and loyalists.
“These sorts of things not infrequently take place at the end of administrations,” Hult said. “They can be short-term résumé builders for some or longer-term, mostly ceremonial appointments for others. Of greater concern for many is when political appointees ‘burrow in’ to career service jobs.”
This is the concern about Beattie, whose appointment to the Commission for the Preservation of American Heritage Abroad drew sharp criticism from Jewish groups this week.
The commission, whose website isn’t currently working, is devoted in part to preserving Holocaust memorials and other sites associated with the genocide in Europe.
If Beattie’s appointment is finalized, according to a Congressional Research Services description of his new role, he’d serve a three-year term on the commission.
“Though a President Biden could not remove him, the president or allies might request that he step down,” Hult told HuffPost, but Beattie could refuse to do so.
A spokesman for Biden’s transition team didn’t respond to a HuffPost request for comment on how it might address Beattie’s appointment.
Beattie, who is Jewish, has extremely deep ties to white nationalists and anti-Semites.
He served as a speechwriter in the Trump administration until 2018. He was dismissed after revelations that he’d spoken at the 2016 gathering of the H.L. Mencken Club, an annual conference that routinely attracts prominent white nationalists.
He had appeared on a panel at the conference alongside Peter Brimelow, founder of the white nationalist and anti-immigrant website VDare.
Beattie has since become a frequent booster and ally of Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist who rallied alongside neo-Nazis at 2017’s deadly “Unite the Right” demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Fuentes is a leading figure in the America First, or Groyper, movement, one of the more recent incarnations of the explicitly racist and anti-Semitic alt-right. Fuentes hosts a live-stream show in which he has promoted Holocaust denial and called for law enforcement to kill anti-racism protesters.
“I want to Roman salute my president so bad,” Fuentes once said of Trump, referring to the fascist arm gesture most commonly associated with the Nazis.
Fuentes also once explained that the only reason he doesn’t call himself a white nationalist is for branding purposes, “not because I don’t see the necessity for white people to have a homeland and for white people to have a country.”
Beattie has frequently retweeted Fuentes and promoted his work. Fuentes, in turn, has called Beattie “brilliant” and “honorable.”
Earlier this year, Beattie issued a white nationalist call to arms on Twitter, writing, “If white people are targeted as a group, they must learn to defend themselves as a group.”
Beattie did not respond to a HuffPost request for comment on his new role on the commission or about his well-documented white nationalism.
Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, expressed dismay over Beattie’s appointment.
“Even as we cross the grim milestone of a quarter-million Americans dying from COVID, with Trump’s administration failing to protect Americans or provide desperately needed economic relief, Trump is using his final weeks in office to spread fear and lies and promote white nationalists and neo-fascists like Darren Beattie,” Cotler said.
Cotler added that the “ties between government, the Republican Party and hate groups have become so commonplace” that Beattie’s appointment was, sadly, not surprising.