Don Benton, the controversial former state senator from Vancouver who was an early Donald Trump supporter, will be nominated to head the U.S. Selective Service System, the White House announced Monday.
The nomination to the small federal agency, which has an authorized staff of 124, comes amid reports that the volatile Benton was having clashes with Scott Pruitt, the EPA’s new administrator.
Benton had been named a “senior adviser” between Trump and the Environmental Protection Agency. The White House news release used the past tense “served” in describing that role.
A New York Times editorial published March 31 said:
“Mr. Benton is now driving Mr. Pruitt batty. Two agency officials told The Washington Post that Mr. Pruitt has tried to shut Mr. Benton out of meetings because he has ‘piped up so frequently during policy discussions,’ with remarks so weird, weird, weird they are actually humorous.”
At the Selective Service, Benton will lead an agency that hasn’t overseen a draft since 1973 after the Vietnam War. Its job now is to register virtually all men ages 18 through 25.
Benton has had a colorful history in the state Legislature for two decades and as a former state Republican Party chairman.
He clashed with state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, in 2013. He reportedly called her “a trashy trampy-mouthed little girl,” according to an account in The Columbian newspaper.
Rivers said Benton followed her around the Senate floor as she was trying to get away from him, saying, “You are weird and … weird! Weird, weird, weird. Just so weird!”
As state GOP chairman in 2001, Benton’s tenure was only eight months. He began by firing the staff and changing the locks on the party headquarters. He was voted out.
Benton’s relationship with Trump grew when the latter made his only campaign stop in Washington in May 2016. Benton flew with Trump between rallies in Spokane and Lynden. The two spent 40 minutes together, Benton said, and shared a lunch from McDonald’s.
“I had a Filet-O-Fish and he had a Big Mac,” Benton said.