Saul was fired after refusing a request to resign, White House officials said. His deputy, David Black, who was also appointed by former president Donald Trump, resigned Friday upon request.
Biden named Kilolo Kijakazi, the current deputy commissioner for retirement and disability policy, to serve as acting commissioner until a permanent nominee is selected.
But Saul said in an interview Friday afternoon that he would not leave his post, challenging the legality of the White House move to oust him. As the head of an independent agency whose leadership does not normally change with a new administration, Saul’s six-year term was supposed to last until January 2025. The White House said a recent Supreme Court ruling gives the president power to replace him.
Saul disputed that. “I consider myself the term-protected Commissioner of Social Security,” he said, adding that he plans to be back at work on Monday morning, signing in remotely from his New York home. He called his ouster a “Friday Night Massacre.”
“This was the first I or my deputy knew this was coming,” Saul said of the email he received from the White House Personnel Office Friday morning. “It was a bolt of lightning no one expected. And right now it’s left the agency in complete turmoil.”
Saul’s firing came after a tumultuous six-month tenure in the Biden administration during which advocates for the elderly and the disabled and Democrats on Capitol Hill pressured the White House to dismiss him. He had clashed with labor unions that represent his 60,000 employees, who said he used union-busting tactics. Angry advocates say he dawdled while millions of disabled Americans waited for him to turn over files to the Internal Revenue Service to release their stimulus checks — and accused him of an overzealous campaign to make disabled people reestablish their eligibility for benefits.