Feb 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

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.

  • But McEntee suggested the most dramatic changes may have to wait until after the November election.
  • Trump has empowered McEntee — whom he considers an absolute loyalist — to purge the “bad people” and “Deep State.”
  • McEntee told staff that those identified as anti-Trump will no longer get promotions by shifting them around agencies.

The backstory: Several administration officials have already been targeted in a post-impeachment blitz.

  • Barely 48 hours after Trump was acquitted in the Senate, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — a key national security official who testified during the impeachment inquiry that Trump's July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was "improper" — was "escorted" out of his White House post.
  • U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who also testified in the impeachment investigations, was fired the same afternoon.
  • Trump has also promoted or brought back several people he considers core loyalists — including McEntee, former White House communications director Hope Hicks, and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell.
  • McEntee's job already is being tested with Trump's decision to tap Grenell, a staunch loyalist who has never worked for an intelligence agency, as the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Trump has said it's only a temporary move until he names a new permanent director.
  • But his efforts to put a Republican congressman in that job, thereby plucking him out of a Senate race with a complicated GOP primary, aren't going smoothly.

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