Donald Trump’s personnel moves since the election – firing the Secretary of Defense and several of his top Pentagon aides, two top Homeland Security officials, a senior climate scientist and the leader of the agency that safeguards nuclear weapons, the number two person at the U.S. Agency for International Development – are part of what some observers are calling a “slow coup.”
The president’s hatchet man for most of those moves is Johnny McEntee, the former college quarterback who was ordered off the White House grounds two years ago based on personal issues discovered during a background check.
McEntee was Trump’s so-called “body man” during the 2016 campaign. After Trump was inaugurated McEntee became his personal assistant and was constantly at the president’s side. But in May 2018 he was fired after it became known the Department of Homeland Security was investigating him for serious financial crimes.
When then-chief of staff John Kelly learned of the issues he became deeply concerned about McEntee’s presence at the White House complex. Kelly ordered him immediately escorted off the property without giving him the opportunity to even grab his suit jacket or other personal belongings.
The Wall Street Journal reported back then that the former University of Connecticut football player had a major online gambling problem and issues with his taxes, which were the reasons he failed the FBI background check.
Less than a day after being shown the gate at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue the Trump 2020 campaign hired him as a senior adviser, which is where he stayed until February 2020 when he rejoined the administration as personnel director for the entire U.S. government. It could not be determined if he currently has, or needs, a security clearance for his current government position.
A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters, told The Washington Post “Johnny is loyal to a fault to the president, but doesn’t have the basic understanding of how departments operate and what skills are required to hold certain Cabinet-level positions. It’s actually hampered the president by putting unqualified people throughout senior roles.”