It is rare when a top official from previous administration continues to work for the new administration, and especially when that new administration is pursuing such a divergent agenda. In situations such as this, is it due to a change of heart, or is it an attempt to “keep your enemies closer” and infiltrate the new administration?
Timothy Reif is one such official.
Reif leads the international compliance and enforcement efforts as the Senior Advisor to the US Trade Representatives. He is the highest ranking officials making the trade policies in Trump administration.
A former US Trade Representative (USTR) official said, “We thought it was outrageous the way [Trump] went after the career people who have dedicated their lives to some of this stuff … Agreeing to stay on and work in this administration is pretty unforgivable. And to stay on at USTR after what Trump said on the campaign trail is crazy.”
However, it is not entirely uncommon for new administrations to request that the old guard stay on through a new administration – even if the officials are from the previous political parties, supporting entirely different or opposing agendas. Many times, these career bureaucrats are professional and mature enough to suppress their own belief for a broader governmental mission and to fulfill the mandate of a new President’s administration.
It seems that Reif falls into the more professional category, even if his motivations are not as wholesome as “wanting to serve the mission of the sitting President.” In fact, another former US Trade Representative said, “The general impression was that he [Reif] was either trying to keep his job or trying to get a promotion … There was not a lot of principle.”
Reif may be a man short on principle, and eager to fulfill ambition, because he used to be a strong defender of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and is on record declaring, “these agreements are terribly important,” and are, “essential to the development of businesses and jobs in the United States … will have such a multiplicity of important benefits in different ways.”
Reif’s former Obama-era co-workers are not only surprised, but angry that Reif is working with the Trump administration, saying “It was shocking, given how Trump characterized the trade representative during the campaign, that he’d want to stay … a lot of people are upset he’s still there.” And even, “all the Obama USTR people are so pissed he agreed to stay.”
Could the US use more bureaucrats like Reif?