The Atlantic has published a rather stunning excerpt from Betrayal: The Final Act Of The Trump Show, by Jonathan Karl. It features Johnny McEntee, the former body man who carried out Trump’s loyalty purge:
McEntee and his enforcers made the disastrous last weeks of the Trump presidency possible. They backed the president’s manic drive to overturn the election, and helped set the stage for the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Thanks to them, in the end, the elusive “adults in the room”—those who might have been willing to confront the president or try to control his most destructive tendencies—were silenced or gone. But McEntee was there—bossing around Cabinet secretaries, decapitating the civilian leadership at the Pentagon, and forcing officials high and low to state their allegiance to Trump.
When Trump wasn’t happy with the answers he was getting from White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, McEntee set up a rogue legal team. This back-channel operation played a previously unknown role in the effort to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the vote. Just days before January 6, McEntee sent Pence’s office an absurd memo making the case that Pence would be following Thomas Jefferson’s example if he used his power to declare Trump the winner of the 2020 election.
McEntee was put in charge of the Personnel Office — because Trump knew he could trust him to do whatever he wanted.
The director of presidential personnel is responsible for vetting and hiring everybody, including ambassadors, Cabinet secretaries, and top intelligence officials. McEntee had never hired anybody for anything. Now he was going to be in charge of perhaps the most important human-resources department in the world?
For years, I’ve said the movie “Dave” was dangerous, because it validated the idea that running the government was good old common sense and that anyone could do it. They can’t, and Johnny McEntee is a textbook example.
McEntee’s underlings were, for the most part, comically inexperienced. He had staffed his office with very young Trump activists. He had hired his friends, and he had hired young women—as one senior official in the West Wing put it to me, “the most beautiful 21-year-old girls you could find, and guys who would be absolutely no threat to Johnny in going after those girls.”
“It was the Rockettes and the Dungeons & Dragons group,” the official said.
In fact, one McEntee hire was literally a Rockette; she had performed with Radio City Music Hall’s finest in the 2019 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The only work experience listed on her résumé besides a White House internship was a stint as a dance instructor. McEntee also hired Instagram influencers. Camryn Kinsey, for example, was 20 and still in college when McEntee gave her the title of external-relations director. In an interview with the online publication The Conservateur, she said, “Only in Trump’s America could I go from working in a gym to working in the White House, because that’s the American dream.” (Kinsey went on to work at the pro-Trump One American News Network.)
But here’s the kicker:
As one of Trump’s more levelheaded senior aides told me, “I shudder to think what the Cabinet would look like in a second term.” Johnny McEntee, I expect, is already working on his list of names.