James Renne Was Once Involved In Purge Of Gay Employees; Now Works In Trump Administration

A former agency official who was once involved in launching a campaign against employees based on suspected sexual orientation is now part of the Trump administration.

The Bush-era scandal involved staffers from the Office of Special Counsel – an agency dedicated to protecting whistleblowers – being unexpectedly reassigned from Washington, D.C., to Detroit in an effort to “ship [them] out”. The staffers who refused were fired.

During this time, language stating that job discrimination protections extended to sexual orientation disappeared from the agency website. Additionally, anti-gay emails were found in the agency chief’s account.

James Renne was a core player in this scandal, having, for instance, taken the lead in removing that sexual orientation job protections mention from the agency’s website. He also had an important role in getting those staffers moved.

And he now works for the Trump administration.

Renne was appointed to Trump’s “landing team” at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in December, this as part of transition efforts. But on Jan. 30, he was hired in a senior role at the Department of Agriculture.

Proper vetting of Renne, however, would reveal that an inspector general report released in 2013 found him and his former boss, Special Counsel Scott Bloch, had targeted career employees for no good reason. The report states that “Mr. Bloch and Mr. Renne may have been motivated in their actions by a negative personal attitude toward homosexuality and individuals whose orientation is homosexual.”

Specifically about Renne, the report adds:

Mr. Renne was depicted as intently searching the OSC website with the assistance of a senior career official to identify passages which interpreted [the nondiscrimination law] as extending protection to employees on the basis of their sexual orientation. According to this account, Mr. Renne demanded that OSC’s information technology manager remove these materials from the website immediately.

Congressional and criminal investigations resulted from the scandal. Ultimately, employees came to a settlement with the government for terms not released.