Volume 34

Should We Stay or Should We Go: Lessons from the Trump Administration

by Kathleen Clark

After the 2016 election, commentators published a flurry of essays with advice on whether lawyers and federal officials should remain in government during the Trump administration. In this article, I review those essays, including Professor David Luban’s stern advice about the risk of remaining. I also discuss three key concepts from Professor Luban’s article for this symposium: desk perpetrators, desk mitigators, and operational maneuvering room, and explore how they apply to Trump administration officials who engaged in internal resistance or principled resignation. More than one hundred federal officials in the administration engaged in principled resignation, many acting in concert with each other. The power of concerted action is most evident when a group of powerful officials together threaten to resign as a way of deterring abusive conduct. Many of these officials wrote letters or op-eds explaining their decision to resign, often sounding in the language of morality, emphasizing their disagreement with Trump policies and rhetoric they found repugnant.

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