The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy was almost eliminated by budget officials until senators objected. Then a 23-year-old ex-Trump campaign worker was named deputy chief of staff, until the Washington Post asked question about his qualifications.
In 2016, Taylor Weyeneth studied legal issues at St. John’s University in New York raised money for veterans and their families. Less than a year later, at 23, he was a rising star at the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the White House office responsible for coordinating multibillion dollar federal anti-drug initiatives and supporting President Trump’s efforts to curb the opioid epidemic. Weyeneth became deputy chief of staff, the Washington Post reports. His professional experience after college was working on Trump’s presidential campaign.
Weyeneth’s ascent is largely the result of staff turnover and vacancies. The story of his remarkable rise illustrates the Trump administration’s political appointments and the troubled state of the drug office. Trump pledged to marshal federal resources against the opioid crisis, but nearly a year after his inauguration, ONDCP lacks a permanent director. At least seven of his appointees have departed, including the general counsel and acting chief of staff, some of whose duties were assumed by Weyeneth. After the Post asked about Weyeneth’s qualifications and inconsistencies on his résumés, Weyeneth will return to the job of White House liaison for ONDCP, which involves working with outside groups. The office hired Weyeneth in March “after seeing his passion and commitment on the issue of opioids and drug addiction,” an official said. Weyeneth was moved by the death of a relative from a heroin overdose. Last year, the Office of Management and Budget proposed cuts that would have effectively eliminated ONDCP. The White House abandoned the plan after senators objected. The turmoil hinders efforts to rally the government amid the opioid crisis. “It sends a terrible message,” said Gil Kerlikowske, a former Seattle police chief who ran ONDCP in the Obama administration. “It’s a message that we’re not taking this drug issue seriously.”