Sean Spicer, Russ Vought sue Biden over Naval Board removal
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer and former Office of Management and Budget Director Russ Vought are suing President Biden over the president’s request that they resign from the Board of Visitors at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C., by America First Legal on behalf of Spicer — who is now a host at Newsmax — and Vought, both of whom served in the Trump administration.
The former officials, who were appointed to the posts by former President Trump, are requesting a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctions to stop their “unlawful removal.”
America First Legal said the lawsuit was in response to the Biden administration’s “unprecedented decision to oust them from their duly-appointed positions on the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Naval Academy.”
“Sean Spicer and Russ Vought are American patriots who were appointed to positions on the Board of Visitors at the United States Naval Academy because of their ability to contribute to the Board with their unique skills and tremendous experiences,” Gene Hamilton, vice president and general counsel of America First Legal, said in a statement.
“President Biden’s threatened dismissal of them before their terms expire–from the purely advisory Board of Visitors, an entity that exercises no executive power whatsoever–violates the law,” he added.
The lawsuit comes after the White House this month asked Trump appointees to resign from the advisory boards of the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy and West Point.
The appointees included Spicer, Vought, former Senior Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway and former national security adviser H.R. McMaster.
Catherine Russell, assistant to the president, on Sept. 8 sent letters to Spicer and Vought on behalf of Biden asking the former officials to “submit your resignation to me by the close of business today.”
“Should we not receive your resignation, your position with the Board will be terminated effected 6:00 pm tonight,” Russell added.
Appointments to the Naval Board are for three-years terms. Typically, board appointments span across presidential administrations.
Spicer’s term was set to end in December, and Vought’s at the end of 2023.
Spicer and Vought argue that no statute exists that allows “at-will presidential removal” from the board.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki at a briefing this month explained Biden’s position on requesting the resignations.
“The president’s objective is what any president’s objective is, which is to ensure you have nominees and people serving on these boards who are qualified to serve on them and who are aligned with your values,” Psaki said.
“And so yes that was an ask that was made,” she added.
Spicer at the time said he was not resigning from his post, adding that he would “be joining a lawsuit to fight this.”
Conway also put out a statement saying she would not resign.
“I’m not resigning, but you should,” she wrote in a letter to the president.
Hamilton said Biden’s request for the resignations is an attempt by the administration to “distract the American people” from the situation in Afghanistan.
“For a President who has pledged to unify the country, terminating two highly qualified individuals from serving on this Board instead of focusing on the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan that left Americans stranded, is clearly an attempt to distract the American people,” Hamilton said in Thursday’s statement.
“The Administration is clearly trying to avoid the oversight that Congress set out to achieve,” he added.
When reached for comment the White House referred to Psaki’s remarks earlier in the month.
Updated at 6:31 p.m.