The White House announced on Wednesday that a 24-year-old drug policy appointee, Taylor Weyeneth, would resign by the end of January. Weyeneth is leaving his post as a senior official in the White House drug policy office after The Washington Post uncovered that he had basically made up his résumé. But even as the recent college grad steps down, another fresh-faced twenty-something has come under fire after his qualifications were called into question, too.
Last July, Weyeneth became the deputy chief of staff at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy after initially serving as a White House liaison with that office. According to The Washington Post, Weyeneth submitted three different résumés to the federal government that contained multiple inconsistencies. A university official at Fordham University told the Post that Weyeneth hadn't actually finished his master's degree, contrary to what he claimed on his résumé. A partner at a law firm where Weyeneth once worked also told the newspaper that he'd been fired after routinely not showing up for work.
Those inconsistencies weren't the only thing that called Weyeneth's qualifications into question, however. His age also prompted concerns that he hadn't yet had the time to work extensively in the drug policy field. He graduated from St. John's University less than two years ago, and Democratic senators recently noted in a letter to the White House that Trump wasn't appointing the seasoned officials necessary to tackle pressing drug policy matters like the opioid crisis.
Weyeneth has made the decision to step down, but another twenty-something Trump appointee is now facing similar criticism. G. Payne Griffin is a deputy chief of staff to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. He graduated from American University in 2014 with a bachelors in economics and political science, according to The Daily Beast, and he rose to a position in the U.S. government less than three years after graduating from college.
Griffin first joined the USTR office as part of the Trump presidential transition's "landing team," after serving as a legislative correspondent for then-Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. He became deputy chief of staff in an unprecedentedly short period of time, thanks to Sessions' powerful position in the Trump administration.
But Griffin had minimal experience in trade policy prior to assuming his post, and yet he has been attending meetings with both American and foreign government officials, as well as trade negotiations concerning the future of NAFTA. The USTR office did not immediately respond Thursday to Bustle's request for comment on Griffin's qualifications.
Like Weyeneth, Griffin is now facing criticism because he is young. But no one should assume that because of his age, he lacks talent. Don Fulsom was one of Griffin's professors at American University, and while he was surprised to learn about Griffin's position at the USTR office, he chose not to comment that position to the Daily Beast. Instead, Fulsom told the news outlet that Griffin was “one of my best students, ever." The more pressing matter is whether Griffin and Weyeneth — as well as other Trump administration appointees — have sufficient experience for the jobs they hold.
The Daily Beast cited both Griffin and Weyeneth as examples of how the Trump administration is relying on "young, inexperienced officials to fill important positions in the federal government." Indeed, multiple Trump critics have suggested that the Trump administration is facing a vacuum in leadership. Hope Hicks, the 29-year-old White House communications director, may be alone in dodging that criticism for now. Her qualifications have been called into question, especially because her previous work with Ivanka Trump ultimately led to her current job at the White House, but she's still retained her spot in Trump's inner circle.
As New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks wrote last year, "Nobody is going to want to join a self-cannibalizing piranha squad whose main activity is lawyering up." In other words, the scandals surrounding the Trump administration have discouraged many qualified people from pursuing senior-level government positions that require a lot of talent and experience. And that has created a vacuum where people like Griffin and Weyeneth have the opportunity to skyrocket to top posts in Trump's government.