Trump effort to bar racial-sensitivity trainings in federal government leads to confusion for employees

“I ended it because a lot of people were complaining that they were asked to do things that were absolutely insane, that it was a radical revolution that was taking place in our military, in our schools all over the place,” Trump said. “And you know it. And so does everybody.”

Democratic nominee Joe Biden alleged, however, that Trump had a much different motive for banning the trainings: “He’s a racist.”

Their comments came one day after the White House issued its second set of guidelines on the attempted bans. The guidelines outlined how the government would retaliate against those who did not follow the new restrictions.

They have raised numerous questions inside government agencies about how to proceed. It also triggered a backlash within the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, with some career employees complaining policy is being set based on what the president sees on conservative cable networks — and OMB officials are happily going along with it.

Russell Vought, OMB’s director, updated the administration’s guidance after the National Park Service sent agency officials a memo last week suspending hundreds of training programs while it tried to understand how to comply with the order, according to emails and documents reviewed by The Washington Post. It would later narrow the list of suspended courses, but some employees said they still included ones on sexual harassment, tribal consultation and how to respond to people with disabilities.

The White House orders have led to scrambling throughout the government.

Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the government’s second-largest agency and among the most decentralized, abruptly canceled a diversity training program at the VA hospital in West Palm Beach, Fla. This decision was made by the agency’s Washington headquarters after a conservative activist flagged the event on Twitter.

The chain of events stems from a Sept. 4 memo Vought issued, which said Trump had asked him to stop federal agencies from giving employee trainings on “white privilege” and critical race theory. Vought cast this approach as “divisive” and “un-American.”

The White House issued the memo after Fox News ran a number of segments criticizing “diversity and inclusion” efforts in the federal government.

Trump saw one of the cable news programs and asked aides, “What is this crap?” an administration official said, describing his reaction, and he directed OMB to cancel the seminars. Trump saw the matter as a winning campaign issue. Within days, a guest on Fox News who raised the issue had been called, Vought had been summoned to the Oval Office, and the memo from OMB had been drafted. It was released late on a Friday night.

Trump followed up with an executive order last week barring federal contractors from using workplace training that includes what he called “race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating.” The president has also asked other aides what else can be done to make sure agencies are complying.

The White House directives attempt to create significant penalties for federal

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