Today yet another high level Trump administration official announced their resignation – Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) head Brock Long. FEMA, with Brock Long as its administrator, faced widespread criticism for an anemic response to Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico, especially as compared to FEMA’s response to hurricanes in Florida and Texas. Long has said he is leaving to spend more time with his family, but it comes at the same time that House Democrats have announced the intention to investigate the Trump administration’s response in Puerto Rico.
Brock has indicated he plans to leave March 8. His deputy, Peter Gaynor, will serve as acting administrator until a permanent replacement is nominated by President Trump and confirmed by the Senate. Given the frequent turnover among high level official’s in Trump’s administration, there is a growing list of officials working in only an acting capacity who have not been confirmed as yet by the Senate, including a quarter of Trump’s Cabinet. In addition to the controversy over FEMA’s response in Puerto Rico, Long, who assumed his post in June of 2017, has also been embroiled in an ethics scandal for using government vehicles and staff for personal transportation. The Department of Homeland Security Inspector General determined that Long had in fact misused government vehicles for personal purposes, and DHS expects Long to reimburse them $151,000 for having done so. According to Bloomberg News:
Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Brock Long is leaving the agency he led through a record period of natural disasters — including a widely panned response to a storm that devastated Puerto Rico. “While this has been the opportunity of the lifetime, it is time for me to go home to my family –- my beautiful wife and two incredible boys,” Long said in a statement…House Democrats have pledged to investigate the agency’s response to Hurricane Maria’s strike on Puerto Rico. The storm left most of the commonwealth without electricity for months, and caused an estimated 2,975 deaths…An inquiry by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General concluded that Long took government cars for his personal use despite FEMA’s own lawyers telling him it wasn’t appropriate. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said that Long would have to reimburse the government for the cost of the vehicles and staff involved in the trips, many of which were between Washington and his home in North Carolina. The report puts that cost at $151,000.
President Trump’s administration has featured an unusually large number of high level resignations and firings, amid multiple ethics scandals (involving, e.g., former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke as well as Brock Long). Brock Long’s departure from FEMA likely will not stop Democrats from investigating FEMA’s response to Hurricane Maria.