Staffing issues have plagued the Trump administration for an entire year, and in addition to more than 250 federal jobs remaining unfilled at the end of 2017, some of the appointees that actually were hired have raised eyebrows, too. Take President Trump's 24-year-old drug policy appointee, Taylor Weyeneth, for instance: he's a former staffer for Trump's campaign who apparently possesses even less experience than he advertised on his resume.
Weyeneth, who worked both for the campaign and Trump's transition to the presidency, was recently promoted to deputy chief of staff for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). The Washington Post first reported earlier this month that Weyeneth was appointed to the agency, which is in charge of combatting the opioid epidemic, less than a year after completing an undergraduate degree from St. John's University in New York. His quick ascent to become the second-highest ranking official in the ONDCP was largely due to a lack of employees, highlighting how a large number of vacancies can result in people with thin qualifications leading major government projects.
While Weyeneth's age alone signals that he's not seasoned in drug policy work, he also reportedly inflated his resume. His initial resume claimed he worked as a legal assistant at the New York law firm O’Dwyer & Bernstein until April 2016, but in reality he was fired in August 2015 when he "just didn’t show," partner Brian O’Dwyer told The Post.
Weyeneth reportedly revised his resume to reflect that he left the law firm in August 2015. It wasn’t the only error, though. His resume also reportedly claimed he had a master’s degree from Fordham University, but a university official later told The Post he didn’t finish the degree. Under a Fordham University header, his LinkedIn page reads: "Program deferred after accepting a position in the current Presidential Administration."
According to Weyeneth’s LinkedIn account, he worked as a voter services coordinator on Trump’s 2016 campaign and then as an advisor to the executive director of Trump’s transition team. Working on the campaign was his first work experience after college. He then became a Treasury Department deputy White House liaison in January 2017, a liaison and advisor to the Drug Czar in March, and deputy chief of staff in July.
Weyeneth will reportedly return to his previous liaison position once a deputy chief of staff is hired. The ONDCP is also on the hunt for a chief of staff after the agency's general council and acting chief of staff was dismissed in December.
The understaffed office is tasked with fighting the nation's opioid epidemic President Trump declared a public health emergency in October. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose every day. The administration extended the public health emergency last week despite Politico reporting the same week that Trump was planning to cut 95 percent of the ONDCP's budget.
Members of the House’s Bipartisan Heroin Task Force implored the president to commit more resources to combating the epidemic. "We urge you to work with Congress to advance additional funding as part of fiscal year 2018 budget negotiations as well as the inclusion of emergency supplemental funding for any continuing resolution," almost 50 task force members wrote in a letter to Trump. Senate Democrats' words to the president were more harsh, with Sen. Maggie Hassan calling the reported budget cuts "beyond comprehension."
While members of Congress and governors across the nation from both parties have urged the Trump administration to take more concrete actions to prevent Americans from dying of opioid overdoses, the fact that a 24-year-old with little experience is effectively leading the nation's drug policy agency does little to calm fears.