White House staffer devised plan to 'hide out' for 6 months while still getting paid: Report
One White House aid reportedly tried to “hide out” in Washington, D.C., for six months until he could qualify for a Coast Guard early retirement program. But then the program was pulled from Congress and canceled.
Zachary Fuentes, the White House deputy chief of staff, told colleagues that after his boss and mentor John Kelly left the Trump administration at the end of 2018, he planned to retreat from his role and wait until he could qualify for an early retirement program, all while remaining on the payroll, according to a report by The New York Times.
Fuentes, an active-duty officer in the Coast Guard, would only need to “hide out” until July in order to complete 15 years of service in the military and qualify for early retirement. The 36-year-old White House staffer told co-workers that he would find refuge in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building located near the White House.
The only problem for Fuentes was that the early retirement program expired at the end of the 2018 fiscal year. Fuentes reportedly discussed the issue with the Department of Homeland Security, which pressed Congress to reinstate the program for 2019. An official told the Times lawmakers received a “written request” to renew the retirement plan.
But after reporters began asking questions about the program, legislation to reinstate it was suddenly removed from a House of Representatives bill this week.
The Coast Guard’s retirement plan, created five years ago, allows the military branch to grant partial benefits to a certain number of officers every year with fewer than the standard 20 years of service.
Before becoming a top Trump official, Fuentes previously served as a military aide to Kelly when they both worked in the Department of Homeland Security. The White House told the Times that Fuentes will stay in his role during the transition to Trump’s latest chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney will be the president's third chief of staff in two years.
During his tenure in the administration, Fuentes has emerged as a polarizing figure. He reportedly earned the nicknames “Zotus” (Zach of the United States) and “prime minister” for the way he treated other White House officials.
Fuentes made headlines earlier this year when he canceled President Trump’s visit to an American military cemetery in France due to rain. Trump’s absence at the memorial immediately drew widespread criticism.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry, a decorated war veteran, blasted Trump on Twitter, writing: "President @realDonaldTrump a no-show because of raindrops? Those veterans the president didn’t bother to honor fought in the rain, in the mud, in the snow — & many died in trenches for the cause of freedom. Rain didn’t stop them & it shouldn’t have stopped an American president.” Trump reportedly blamed Fuentes and Kelly for not advising him that he looked "terrible" by not attending the cemetery.