Feb 13, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Ex-Trump aide John McEntee to lead White House office of personnel

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

John McEntee, President Trump’s former body man who was fired by former chief of staff John Kelly over security clearance issues and recently returned to the West Wing, is expected to lead the Presidential Personnel Office, according to two sources with direct knowledge.

Why it matters: Trump has increasingly become furious with what he sees as a federal government full of "never-Trumpers." Administration officials tell Axios Trump feels he’s surrounded by snakes and wants to clear out all the disloyal people.

  • Trump sees McEntee as the ultimate loyalist, and he has assigned him the powerful role of picking personnel across the federal government.
  • The New York Times' Maggie Haberman first reported that McEntee was returning to the White House.

What we're hearing: Trump has been asking for names of people he should fire. Many on the outside are more than happy to oblige.

  • He was furious about former D.C. Attorney Jessie Liu, who he had nominated to serve as the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, after hearing from a number of people, including Rep. Louie Gohmert, that Liu was someone not to be trusted.
  • As Axios first reported, Trump is now withdrawing her nomination.

The backdrop: Prior to working for Trump, McEntee, now 29, was the starting quarterback for the Connecticut Huskies football team.

  • He is very close with Stephen Miller from their days on Air Force One and the campaign.
  • McEntee’s move to PPO comes immediately after the news that Hope Hicks, former White House communications director and a close Trump aide, will also return to the White House and will work closely with Jared Kushner.

The bottom line: With McEntee at the helm of PPO, Trump’s hardcore allies will have a freer hand than ever with personnel across the federal government.

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Hope Hicks to return to White House

Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Former communications director Hope Hicks is returning to the White House as counselor to the president, an administration official confirmed to Axios.

Why it matters: Hicks was one of President Trump's closest and most loyal aides before she resigned in March 2018, working with Trump dating back to the launch of his campaign in 2015.

Scoop: Trump pulls nomination for former U.S. attorney for D.C. to Treasury post

Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

President Trump is withdrawing his nomination for former U.S. attorney for D.C. Jessie Liu to serve as the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes, a top position overseeing economic sanctions, according to two sources with direct knowledge.

The big picture: Liu was confirmed in September 2017 to lead the largest U.S. attorney's office in the country, overseeing a number of politically charged prosecutions that included the case against Trump associates Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and other spinoffs from the Mueller investigation.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Feb 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump's sense of invincibility

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios.

President Trump often says he's the smartest person in the room on virtually every topic. Now, after taking several risks on what he privately calls "big shit" and avoiding catastrophe, Trump and his entire inner circle convey supreme self-confidence, bordering on a sense of invincibility.

The state of play: Three years into Trump's presidency, their view is the naysayers are always wrong. They point to Iran, impeachment, Middle East peace. Every day, Trump grows more confident in his gut and less deterrable. Over the last month, 10 senior administration officials have described this sentiment to me. Most of them share it.