Every federal cabinet agency is led by a secretary chosen by the president, but the departments also have White House liaisons. The positions are relatively low profile, but not unimportant: the liaisons help communicate priorities, keep relevant officials apprised of important developments, make plans for future initiatives, etc.
And while White House liaisons are rarely at the center of political controversies, the Associated Press reports today on developments that are almost hard to believe.
The official serving as President Donald Trump's eyes and ears at the Justice Department has been banned from the building after trying to pressure staffers to give up sensitive information about election fraud and other matters she could relay to the White House, three people familiar with the matter tell The Associated Press.
At issue is a woman named Heidi Stirrup who was "quietly installed" at the Justice Department as a White House liaison over the summer. She's also, incidentally, an ally of Stephen Miller, the controversial anti-immigration adviser to the president.
The idea that a Miller acolyte would work as a White House liaison at the Justice Department isn't especially surprising. What is surprising is what appears to have happened during her brief tenure.
If the Associated Press' reporting is accurate -- it hasn't been independently confirmed by MSNBC or NBC News -- Heidi Stirrup tried to use her position to "collect insider information about ongoing cases and the department's work on election fraud." She also allegedly approached Justice Department staffers to demand information about investigations, tried to interfere in the hiring of career staffers, "extended job offers to political allies for positions at some of the highest levels of the Justice Department without consulting any senior department officials or the White House counsel's office."
And then, according to the AP's reporting, Stirrup was recently told to "vacate the building" after senior Justice Department officials learned of her efforts.
It's the kind of story that raises all sorts of questions. Was her departure really that dramatic? Who told her to "vacate the building"? Will those responsible face political repercussions?
If Stirrup did engage in these activities, was she doing so at the behest of someone else? To whom did she report at the White House?
It's likely we haven't heard the last of this story?