Trump's 24-Year-Old Drug Policy Appointee To Step Down

By Kelly Burch 02/01/18
Critics say the appointment of a 24-year-old to such a critical role indicates that drug policy is not a priority for the administration.
taylor weyeneth
Taylor Weyeneth

A 24-year-old former campaign worker with no apparent policy experience who became the deputy chief of staff at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) will reportedly be stepping down as controversy over his appointment grows.

Taylor Weyeneth was appointed to the position in July, when he was just 23 years old. His role came to light earlier in the month when The Washington Post reported on Weyeneth’s apparent lack of experience and inconsistencies in the resumes that he supplied the agency with.

“Mr. Weyeneth has decided to depart ONDCP at the end of the month,” the White House said Wednesday, Jan. 24, in a statement to The Washington Post.

However, as of Feb. 1, it was not clear whether Weyeneth had in fact given up his position. Initially a spokesperson for the White House said on Jan. 12 that Weyeneth would continue to be employed at the ONDCP, but that he would take the lower position of a White House liaison to the office. He formerly held that position from March to July of 2017, before being promoted to deputy chief of staff.

During a recent government shutdown, Weyeneth was one of three ONDCP employees who were deemed essential to the agency’s operation.

The office that Weyeneth is helping to lead is responsible for coordinating anti-drug initiatives at 16 federal agencies and coordinating the administration’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic. Those efforts have come under vast criticism, and some people argued that the appointment of an inexperienced person to such a critical role showed that the administration was not prioritizing drug policy.

"It sends a terrible message," former ONDCP director Gil Kerlikowske said earlier this month. "It's a message that we're not taking this drug issue seriously.”

The investigation into Weyeneth’s appointment uncovered a number of concerning details. On three resumes submitted to the ONDCP, Weyeneth listed three different graduation dates for a master’s program that he claims to have completed at Fordham University. However, a university spokesperson said that Weyeneth had never actually graduated.

His resumes also showed inconsistencies in the dates of employment at a New York City law firm. A partner at the firm told The Washington Post that Weyeneth was “discharged” because he stopped showing up for work.

Weyeneth isn’t the only seemingly problematic appointment at the ONDCP.

Initially, Trump nominated Tom Marino, a Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, to be the head of the organization. But Marino withdrew from consideration after reports emerged that he had a history of sponsoring legislation that favored opioid manufacturers. The leadership role remains open.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.