President Trump says he wants to “drain the swamp.” His strategist Stephen Bannon calls for “deconstructing the administrative state.” They face fierce opposition. But their biggest obstacle may end up being of their own making. There are nearly 2,000 political vacancies within the Trump administration, most of which did not require Senate confirmation, according to the tracking service Leadership Directories.
“There is no consensus inside the White House on how to make senior appointments in this administration,” a longtime participant in presidential transitions told me. “Secondly, the administration doesn’t have a well-staffed, well led Office of Presidential Personnel. The result is you have only 35 officials named so far, and another three have had to withdraw.”
The White House won’t respond to inquiries about its Presidential Personnel Office, and there may be a good reason. It is headed by John DeStefano, who served as former House Speaker John Boehner’s political director and senior adviser. At age 38 his only major personnel experience has been advising newly elected 2010 Tea Party members on who to hire.
DeStefano is captaining what amounts to a ghost ship when compared to previous presidents. I’m reliably told that only 18 people are currently working in his office. An official who has helped guide several presidential transitions told me that at this point in his presidency, Bill Clinton had nearly 100 people handling résumés inside the White House. “There were desks spilling out into the hallways of the Old Executive Office Building,” he recalls. Of course, Clinton’s early White House wasn’t always a model of efficiency.