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.

Go deeper

Scoop: New White House personnel chief tells Cabinet liaisons to target Never Trumpers

McEntee, shown with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and White House senior adviser Stephen Miller, walks on the South Lawn of the White House Jan. 9. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump, three sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly but recently rehired — and promoted to head the presidential personnel office — foreshadowed sweeping personnel changes across government.

Exclusive: Trump's "Deep State" hit list

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: WPA Pool/Getty Pool, Drew Angerer/Getty Staff

The Trump White House and its allies, over the past 18 months, assembled detailed lists of disloyal government officials to oust — and trusted pro-Trump people to replace them — according to more than a dozen sources familiar with the effort who spoke to Axios.

Driving the news: By the time President Trump instructed his 29-year-old former body man and new head of presidential personnel to rid his government of anti-Trump officials, he'd gathered reams of material to support his suspicions.

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.