James Runcie, chief operating officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid, resigned Wednesday night after a disagreement with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. DeVos had asked Runcie to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about the department’s supposed mishandling of improper financial aid payments. He refused, sending the following memo to his coworkers laying out his concerns about the Trump administration's "micromanagement."
“I am incredibly concerned about significant constraints being placed on our ability to allocate and prioritize resources, make decisions and deliver on the organization’s mission,” Runcie wrote in the memo that was obtained by POLITICO. He added that he was “encumbered from exercising my authorities to properly lead this great organization” and that he could not continue as chief “given the risk associated with the current environment at the Department.”
Runcie continued to explain in the memo that the chief financial officer would be better prepared to answer the Oversight Committee's questions.
Republican lawmakers rushed to DeVos's defense, noting that Runcie should not consider himself above accountability, while Democrats like Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said they were "troubled" by the White House's "political interference."
DeVos did not have much to say about Runcie's departure, simply telling Politico, “I wish him well and thank him for his service."