President Joe Biden has ousted a variety of Trump-appointed officials from prominent posts, but late last week offered one of the highest-profile examples: the president fired Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul after he refused a request to resign. The move, however, came with an unexpected twist: Saul insisted Biden couldn't fire him, and he intended to remain at his job.
As we discussed yesterday, the White House believes a recent U.S. Supreme Court empowers the president to remove Saul, a prominent Republican donor before his 2019 nomination, from his position at the Social Security Administration, despite its traditional independence. Saul, however, not only believes he can't be fired, he also said on Friday that he intended to work yesterday as if his ouster hadn't happened.
This led some readers to ask me how the matter was resolved. Did Saul go back to work yesterday or not?
CNN yesterday quoted a Biden administration official yesterday morning saying, "As with any employment termination, the government has taken steps to off-board Andrew Saul as we would any other former employee." The "off-boarding" process, of course, meant cutting off the former commissioner's remote access to the Social Security Administration's system.
A Washington Post report added:
Ousted Social Security commissioner Andrew Saul, the Trump appointee who declared Friday he would defy his firing by President Biden, on Monday found his access to agency computers cut off, even as his acting replacement moved to undo his policies. "I'm here to do the job," Saul said from his home in Katonah, N.Y., where he had led the agency since the coronavirus pandemic forced most operations to shift in March 2020 to remote work, "but I can't do anything with the communications shut down."
Or put another way, Saul may think he still has the job, but as far as his employer is concerned, he does not. (And like Milton in Office Space, Saul probably shouldn't expect a paycheck, either.)
As thing stand, Kilolo Kijakazi, the Biden-appointed acting Social Security commissioner, is on the job and proceeding with her duties, but few expect her predecessor to quietly fade away.
"There will be more," Saul told the Post. "Stay tuned."