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Government

Charlie Kirk, left, and Russ Vought

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Christian nationalist Russ Vought recently appeared on Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk’s radio show to discuss plans to purge at least 10% of federal career staffers under a new Trump administration. Vought described that portion of the federal workforce as “the roots of the problem” that prevented former President Donald Trump from fully implementing his agenda. During the interview, Kirk suggested that the next Republican administration subject civil servants to “ideological purity tests.”

Vought ran the powerful Office of Management and Budget under Trump and now heads up a right-wing think tank called the Center for Renewing America, whose mission is to “renew a consensus of America as a nation under God.” While at OMB, Vought helped develop a policy called “Schedule F” as a tool that would allow a new conservative administration to circumvent job protections typically enjoyed by federal workers who aren’t politically appointed.

Speaking on the September 23 edition of The Charlie Kirk Show, Vought claimed to have reclassified 90% of the workers in his own office under that job category.

“Schedule F is an authority that we discovered and developed at the end of the Trump administration to give the president the ability to reclassify career civil servants, who normally have permanency within the bureaucracy, to turn them into essentially at-will employees,” Vought told Kirk.

When asked by Kirk how many career employees he’d like to potentially sack using this authority, Vought set the floor at 10% of current workers, but suggested that he considers as much as 80% of the federal workforce to be ideological opponents.

“I would say that within my agency, we had, you know, 80% of it was left-leaning,” Vought said. “Their paradigms were all rooted in this permanent class, ruling class that defines the milieu of Washington, D.C.”

“And you can reason and work with that crowd, but there is about a 10% of activists that are animated by the wokeism, the anti-racist movement, to be able to come into these agencies and they're just activists,” Vought added.

Vought then told Kirk that someone in the human resources department at OMB described themselves and their colleagues as “committed anti-racists.”

Kirk responded by calling that person the leader of “a sleeper cell of a woke communist ideology who's just right there within our federal government.”

“You're going to have to figure out how to solve that, I don’t know,” Kirk continued. “But ideological purity tests are an interesting approach, but let's break up the federal government first and then we'll go from there.”

In July, Axios reported on discussions Trump allies were having about staffing their next administration, with the Schedule F being central to the framework. Vought reportedly has been a leader in these efforts: As Media Matters reported a week prior to Axios’ story, Vought stated publicly that he wants to build an “army” of hard-right activists with “Biblical worldview” to run the federal agencies that he can’t outright destroy. He’s been very clear that the goal is to get “ideologically committed individuals up and down the agencies,” and he’s been similarly clear that Schedule F is the way to do it.

Right-wing propagandist Christopher Rufo – known for launching bad-faith attacks on critical race theory and targeting children’s hospitals that provide care to trans youth – has pushed for a similar course of action.

“The idea is to centralize ideological control over the federal agencies in the White House and create a team at the Office of Management and Budget to enforce it,” Rufo said in an interview with conservative website IM-1776 in July.

In furtherance of those shared goals, Vought has attempted to turn the Center for Renewing America into a shadow government-in-waiting for Trump or another conservative president. In June, Vought brought on Jeffrey Clark, a former Department of Justice environmental lawyer and Trump’s top coup architect, as senior fellow at CRA. Kash Patel, another key figure in Trump’s attempt to subvert the 2020 election, is a CRA senior fellow as well.

In the recent interview with Kirk, Vought expressed a common regret among former Trump officials that the administration wasted precious time in its first years adjusting to the steep learning curve of running the government.

“My hope is that we don’t have to do that again because we're laying the groundwork now,” Vought said, later adding, “We want to make sure that can never happen again and make sure that from day one, we can ensure that the agenda is being done.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

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Tucker Carlson

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Fox News host Tucker Carlson claimed on Monday that the Biden administration is hiring “87,000 armed IRS agents to make sure you obey,” a wildly inflammatory and false claim that his network’s White House correspondent debunked a few days earlier.

Carlson returned from last week’s vacation with a wild rant about the FBI’s August 8 search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and residence, which uncovered 11 sets of classified documents, among other materials, that the former president took with him when he left the White House. The Fox host argued that the court-approved search was part of President Joe Biden’s “war on his own population,” specifically targeting “Trump voters” with “acts of aggression and hostility.”

Carlson went on to declare that “just in case you missed the theme here, they're hiring another 87,000 armed IRS agents just to make sure that you obey. Got it?” He was referencing a provision in the Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden will sign into law on Tuesday, which provides $80 billion in funding to the IRS over ten years to raise $124 billion over the same period through increased enforcement targeted at individuals with incomes greater than $400,000.


But the IRA does not specifically provide for the hiring of 87,000 agents, and it certainly doesn’t call for them to be armed. Carlson is mashing together two misleading talking points that the right has taken up as part of its defense of wealthy tax cheats who face increased enforcement.

In recent days, Republicans and their propagandists have endlessly complained that the IRA funds “87,000 new IRS agents.” But that’s not true, as the Associated Press noted in a fact-check:

Last year, before the bill emerged, the Treasury Department had proposed a plan to hire roughly that many IRS employees over the next decade if it got the money. The IRS will be releasing final numbers for its hiring plans in the coming months, according to a Treasury official. But those employees will not all be hired at the same time, they will not all be auditors and many will be replacing employees who are expected to quit or retire, experts and officials say.

The IRS currently has about 80,000 employees, including clerical workers, customer service representatives, enforcement officials, and others. The agency has lost roughly 50,000 employees over the past five years due to attrition, according to the IRS. More than half of IRS employees who work in enforcement are currently eligible for retirement, said Natasha Sarin, the Treasury Department’s counselor for tax policy and implementation.

Carlson, in claiming that the 87,000 new hires will all be “armed,” is glomming on to last week’s right-wing frenzy over an IRS job posting for “Criminal Investigation Special Agents” which stated that the hires will “carry a firearm and be willing to use deadly force, if necessary.” Some online conspiracy theorists incorrectly interpreted this as a signal that the 87,000 new IRS employees supposedly hired under the IRA would all carry guns.

In fact, as the AP noted, special agents with IRS Criminal Investigation, a division which dates to 1919 and is the only one in which employees are armed, only constitute about 2.5 percent of the service’s total staff. “The job description does not apply to most potential new employees that the IRS will hire in the coming years,” according to the AP.

Carlson’s “news side” colleague, White House correspondent Jacqui Heinrich, also posted a Twitter thread on Saturday debunking the claim that he made two days later. She reported that, per a treasury official, “a tiny fraction of the agency’s new hires, ~1%,” would be armed special agents. She also pointed out that those agents work on “big public corruption, narcotics, and money laundering cases” and would “never” come in contact with “the average American.”

Heinrich has just under 93,000 followers on Twitter, while Carlson’s Fox show regularly attracts more than 3 million viewers.

Carlson’s falsehood follows a week of unhinged demagoguery from Fox and others in the right-wing media that links the new IRS funding with the Mar-a-Lago search as dark signs that the Biden administration has weaponized the government against Americans. Fox pundits have described the potential wave of IRS hiring as an “economic, financial militia against regular people” deployed by those who “want to control you”; a “new army” that will “hunt down and kill middle class taxpayers”; a “new Gestapo” Biden will use in an “abusive, corrupt manner”; “a Praetorian Guard that will be unleashed again” to “grab all the cash they can by any means necessary”; and “part of an orchestrated campaign to target Americans and have the federal government be at war with those Americans.”

The out-of-control tenor of right-wing attacks on the IRS has triggered concerns that its employees may be subject to violence.

“Given the social media chatter we’re already seeing, it’s all too easy to imagine individuals using these conspiracy theories as justification for violence against public servants and their families,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said in a statement last week. “It’s unbelievable that we even need to say this, but there are not going to be 87,000 armed IRS agents going door-to-door with assault weapons. This is funding for answering phone calls and upgrading computer systems.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland, FBI director Christopher Wray, and the magistrate judge who signed off on the Mar-a-Lago search warrant have all received an uptick in death threats since last Monday’s search, leading to a joint intelligence bulletin from the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security warning about the prospect of violence against federal officials.

On Friday, an armed Trump supporter who had called for the murder of federal agents following the search attacked the FBI field office in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was later killed in a shoot-out with police.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.