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Trump rushes to dole out plum appointments to allies on way out the door

Trump rushes to dole out plum appointments to allies on way out the door

Even as Trump denies defeat, the move is common to lame-duck presidents.

While President Donald Trump has refused to acknowledge that he lost the election, he’s handling the lame-duck period as his predecessors did in one respect: awarding plum appointments to key allies, donors and friends on his way out of the White House.

Since the election, the White House has announced more than 100 appointments and nominations - some to key administration posts, but also to various advisory boards and commissions, in a practice also done by the Bush and Obama White Houses.

He’s named former White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway to the Air Force Academy Board of Visitors despite having no obvious connection to the school or the military, along with Heidi Stirrup, an administration official recently barred from the Justice Department over claims she pressured officials for information related to election fraud.

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Trump appointed former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Monday to the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, and named his daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, to a commission planning and fundraising for a memorial to honor President John Adams.

Rudy Giuliani’s son Andrew, who works as a White House aide, and the president’s bodyman Nick Luna were named Wednesday to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

The White House also announced in early December that Brian Ballard, a prominent GOP lobbyist with ties to the White House, and Pam DeVos, a sister-in-law of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, will sit on the Kennedy Center’s board of trustees.

Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Anthony Tata, who has a history of making inflammatory, anti-Muslim remarks and once referred to former President Barack Obama as a “terrorist leader,” was awarded this week with an advisory board position at the Merchant Marine Academy.

The positions themselves are not salaried but some of the choices amount to empowering individuals with questionable qualifications for the appointments. The process of selecting the appointments flows through the White House Office of White House Presidential Personnel Office, headed up by Johnny McEntee, who previously served as the president's personal assistant before being escorted off the White House grounds amid issues with his background clearance.

The practice of lame-duck appointments is by no means new or unusual. The president’s two most recent predecessors, Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, made a similar flurry of appointments in the final days of their lame-duck administrations.

“In many ways, [it] is a vestige of the spoil system, where you have political leaders that are able to hand out these plums, not because somebody has deserved it from the perspective of, they're serving their country or having a particular expertise, but because of the political closeness to the president,” said Max Stier, the president of the nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service that aims to improve government effectiveness.

The White House declined to comment on the uptick in appointments and nominations in the final days of the administration.

But a person familiar with the process characterized the list of appointments as being "literally a laundry list of all these people who claimed to have been shut out of things for the wrong reasons who are now just being given these things, and there’s even less pressure knowing it doesn’t matter anymore."