Biden fired a Trump-appointed lawyer who refused to leave office

Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting with labor leaders in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Washington, DC. Evan Vucci/AP
  • The president on Friday dismissed a Trump appointee, Sharon Gustafson, after she refused to resign.
  • Gustafson served as general counsel for the EEOC, a federal agency charged with investigating workplace issues.
  • Her dismissal prompted fury from other Trump appointees and Republican lawmakers.
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President Joe Biden on Friday fired a Trump-appointed lawyer serving on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that investigates workplace sex discrimination and retaliation. 

Sharon Gustafson, who had under the Trump administration been the EEOC’s general counsel, refused to resign, according to an email published online by the Ethics and Policy Center, a conservative think tank. 

Gustafson in a letter dated March 5 said she “respectfully” declines Biden’s request that she resign from her role. She wanted to serve until 2023, which would have marked the end of her four-year term.  

“At the time I was nominated, I was asked if I would commit to do my best to fulfill my four-year term, and I answered yes,” she wrote in the letter, addressed to Biden. “Unless prevented from doing so, I intend to honor that commitment.” 

In response to her letter declining to resign, Gautum Raghavan, the deputy director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, said in an email to Gustafson that she would be terminated effective end of day on Friday. 

Her termination unleashed fury from Andrea Lucas, another Trump appointee to the EEOC.

“I find the action taken today by the White House against our independent agency to be deeply troubling, a break from long-established norms respected by presidents of both parties, an injection of partisanship where it had been absent, and telling evidence of what ‘unity’ actually means to this President and his Administration,” Lucas tweeted

When a new president is inaugurated into office, it’s common for them to appoint their own people to all White House staff positions. Typically, staff members appointed by the preceding administration voluntarily depart from their posts. The chief of staff of the new administration asks about 4,000 appointees to hand over resignation letters.

Gustafson, however, pointed out in her letter to the president that she isn’t aware of any similar requests made of others with respect to the EEOC.

“So far as I know, no previous General Counsel has been fired for being appointed by the wrong political party,” Gustafson wrote in her letter. 

A Republican lawmaker also condemned the move by Biden, calling her dismissal an “unprecedented firing of an honorable public official.” 

“This is a pattern. President Biden calls for the end to ‘partisan warfare,’ only to turn around and demand that Senate-confirmed officials resign so he can make room for his left-wing friends,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx in a statement.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.