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Report: Office responsible for vetting Trump appointees plagued by personnel problems

The office responsible for finding and vetting Trump administration political appointees is plagued with personnel concerns of its own, according to a new Washington Post investigation

The Presidential Personnel Office (PPO) may not be a household name, but it's responsible for sifting through the histories of thousands of top appointees. And its leaders, according to the Post, include a college dropout with a history of arrests for drunken driving and bad checks, and a lance corporal in the Marine Corps reserves with arrests for assault, disorderly conduct, fleeing an officer and underage drinking. 

The office also employs fewer staffers than the PPO did under the Bush and Obama administrations. Trump appointees — as the White House often complains — are taking longer on average to be confirmed by the Senate, compared to previous administrations. But the Trump administration also lags behind other recent administrations in the number of appointments made after 14 months.

Many in the Trump administration's PPO took their jobs after with little or no professional experience outside of working for the campaign, the Post found. The PPO, which largely employs 20-something workers, has hosted multiple happy hours with beer, wine and snacks for executive branch employees, and in January of this year hosted an "icing" drinking game for the deputy director's 30th birthday, the Post claims. Icing is a drinking game in which the guest of honor is forced to guzzle a bottle of Smirnoff Ice, typically on one knee.

The Post says it conducted its probe by reviewing the names of 40 current or former PPO officials and examining their qualification history, resumes, 2017 salary disclosures, ethics filings, police reports and other available public records. 

The White House did not immediately respond to CBS News' request for comment on the story, although White House principal deputy press secretary Raj Shah told the Washington Post the experience of the PPO staff is commensurate to other administrations. 

"Despite historic obstruction from Democrats in Congress, the Presidential Personnel Office is filling the administration with the best and brightest appointees who share the president's vision for the country," Shah told the publication. "Staff work tirelessly and have experience consistent with the practice of previous administrations." 

Some of the top people working in the PPO have troubled backgrounds.

Caroline Wiles, the daughter of a Florida political operative and lobbyist, worked in the White House as a deputy assistant to the president, but was moved to the PPO and made special assistant to the president, according to the Post. In 2005, the Post claims, her license was suspended for driving while intoxicated, and she was found guilty of a misdemeanor. In 2007, she was arrested for driving while intoxicated, although a related charge was dropped, the Post claims. 

Another top PPO official, 29-year-old special assistant to the president Max Miller, was charged in 2007 with assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest after punching another male in the head and running from police. He pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor charges, and the case was eventually dropped under a first offender program, the Post said, citing court records. In 2009 he was also charged with underage drinking, a case which was also eventually dropped under a first offender program.

The Post revealed multiple alleged family connections in the hiring process. Since Katja Bullock — a 75-year-old special assistant to Mr. Trump who has worked under three under GOP administrations — joined the Trump transition, four of her family members received political appointments to federal agencies, according to the Post. Bullock told the Post she had no involvement in their hiring.

Another PPO employee, entry-level staff assistant Jimmy Carroll III, is a 2017 college grad and son of former White House deputy chief of staff James Carroll II, according to the Post. The elder Carroll recently took the role of acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. 

  • Kathryn Watson

    Kathryn Watson is a politics reporter for CBS News Digital.