President Donald Trump’s efforts to rid the federal government of anyone perceived to be insufficiently loyal to his administration has ranged from the accountability-ducking firings of inspectors general to the authoritarian purging of career officials.
That effort, of removing or reassigning “bad people” suspected of disloyalty, has fallen in large part to John McEntee, the director of the White House’s Presidential Personnel Office. McEntee had previously worked for the president as a personal aide before being fired in 2018 over financial-crime allegations. Shortly after his rehiring, Axios and others reported that McEntee had held a Feb. 20 meeting in which he asked White House liaisons from cabinet agencies to identify political appointees and career officials deemed anti-Trump.
American Oversight filed Freedom of Information Act requests for liaisons’ communications with McEntee, and has received records from the Small Business Administration showing SBA Senior Adviser and White House Liaison Christopher Gray sending two officials’ resumes to McEntee on Feb. 28.
“Great seeing you again at the PPO & Cabinet Affairs meetings,” Gray wrote. “Administrator [Jovita] Carranza asked that I share these resumes with you per your discussion earlier this week.” One of the names is redacted, but the other is that of Bill Manger, an associate administrator who joined the administration in March 2017.
McEntee replied an hour later with his thanks, copying Jordan Hayley and Jared Smith. It isn’t clear from the document production what PPO intended to do with those two resumes, or why the two individuals in question were singled out, but American Oversight is continuing to seek answers.
Within the PPO, McEntee has worked quickly to install loyalists, including those with shockingly little professional experience. Hayley, a senior at Liberty University, joined the PPO in February as the office’s external relations director, the same month another college senior, James Bacon, was hired as a top official working with McEntee. (Two other college seniors have also recently joined the administration.)
Those hirings as well as what Politico described as “poor treatment” by McEntee and Paul Dans, the Office of Personnel Management’s White House liaison, reportedly led to the abrupt resignation of OPM Director Dale Cabaniss in March. Mike Rigas became acting director, and according to Politico “believes that all executive branch employees should be political appointees,” and disagrees with the law requiring that government officials be picked by merit.
Also according to Politico’s April reporting, “Dans has also castigated other OPM officials for relying on career employees he suspects are Democrats” and “has been asking how many policy jobs the government can shift from career officials to political appointees.”
American Oversight has also filed FOIA requests for Cabaniss’s email communications from before her resignation, as well as for her resignation letter. You can view our full investigation into Trump’s post-impeachment loyalty purges here.
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