Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign manager in New Mexico, who had been rewarded after the inauguration with a top government job in the Defense Department as an advance officer for Secretary James Mattis, suddenly resigned this week after embarrassing revelations became public about his past comments on President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Muslims and more.
Todd Johnson had left New Mexico where he had worked as a grassroots organizer on several unsuccessful Republican political campaigns and as Political Director of the state’s Republican Party organization, before working for Trump, to take the job in Washington, D.C. at a salary of $112,021 per year.
He has traveled extensively with Mattis and was even photographed on the road with him.
Recently, CNN did a review of his social media and found he had “posted birther conspiracies about then-President Barack Obama and shared a video that claimed Obama was the Antichrist.”
CNN also found that Johnson had shared an off-color joke about President Obama dying, and in 2012 a video claiming that Michelle Obama had admitted her husband was born in Kenya. Both are obviously false.
When CNN asked the Defense Department for a comment about Johnson, he quickly made his Facebook page private. After CNN informed them it would be writing an article about Johnson this week, a DOD spokesperson said he had offered his resignation and it had been accepted.
Prior to taking the DOD job, Johnson was active on social media but he knew once he took his new job that it could be a detriment. Last September, Johnson asked his friends on Facebook not to post or tag him in any articles or items about current events or politics.
“While I really appreciate you tagging me in and posting to my wall articles covering politics and current issues, ” he wrote, “I have to request that you please refrain from doing so any longer, due to the sensitive nature of my job. I don’t mean to upset anyone, it’s just what I have to do to protect myself and others in my position, and to comply with our policies.”
Despite that effort, Johnson’s past caught up with him.
Johnson was one of the hundreds of Trump campaign workers who were given jobs across the federal government after the president took office, often with little regard to whether or not they were qualified for that particular department or position.
Trump’s idea at the time was not just to reward those who had been loyal to him but also to bring in hires who were not from the usual pool of DC appointees, with an eye in some cases on disrupting the business-as-usual attitude of the government.
Many of those people washed out of jobs they never should have gotten and were replaced by lobbyists or executives from the industries that the agencies they joined were supposed to be regulating, which was even worse as it encourages cronyism and insider self-dealing.
In Johnson’s case, it just took longer for the past and present to collide.