In May 2016, Taylor Weyeneth was an undergraduate at St. John’s University in New York, a legal studies student and fraternity member who organized a golf tournament and other events to raise money for veterans and their families.
Less than a year later, at 23, Weyeneth, was a political appointee and rising star at the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the White House office responsible for coordinating the federal government’s multibillion dollar anti-drug initiatives and supporting President Donald Trump’s efforts to curb the opioid epidemic. Weyeneth would soon become deputy chief of staff.
Weyeneth’s brief biography offers few clues that he would so quickly assume a leading role in the drug policy office, a job recently occupied by a lawyer and a veteran government official. His only professional experience after college and before becoming an appointee was working on Trump’s presidential campaign.
Weyeneth’s ascent from a low-level post to deputy chief of staff is due in large part to staff turnover and vacancies. The story of his appointment and remarkable rise provides insight into the Trump administration’s political appointments and the troubled state of the drug policy office.
Trump has pledged to marshal federal government talent and resources to address the opioid crisis, but nearly a year after his inauguration, the drug policy office, known as ONDCP, lacks a permanent director. At least seven of his administration’s appointees have departed, office spokesman William Eason said. Among them was the general counsel and acting chief of staff, some of whose duties were assumed by Weyeneth, according to a memo obtained by The Washington Post.
“ONDCP leadership recognizes that we have lost a few talented staff members and that the organization would benefit from an infusion of new expert staff,” said the Jan. 3 memo from acting director Richard Baum, a civil servant. “The functions of the Chief of Staff will be picked up by me and the Deputy Chief of Staff.”
Weyeneth, 24, did not respond to requests for an interview.
After being contacted by The Post about Weyeneth’s qualifications, and about inconsistencies on his resumes, an administration official said Weyeneth will return to the position he initially held in the agency, as a White House liaison for ONDCP, a job that typically involves working with outside interest groups. The official, who agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity, said that Weyeneth has been primarily performing administrative work, rather than making policy decisions, and that he had “assumed additional duties and an additional title following staff openings.”
The office hired Weyeneth in March “after seeing his passion and commitment on the issue of opioids and drug addiction,” the official said. The official and Weyeneth’s mother both said Weyeneth was moved by the death of a relative several years ago from a heroin overdose.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy was started by