Turns Out Making An Inexperienced 29-Year-Old King Of The Federal Bureaucracy Is Bad Actually

Remember how crazy everything was for four straight years? Remember when every single day there was a HOLY SHITBALLS story coming out of the White House? Do you miss it?

LOL, just kidding. Anyway, take whatever you read at the time, triple it, and still it won't match the level of batshittery going on in the Trump administration, particularly during the final few months. Case in point, Trump's body man turned head of the Presidential Personnel Office (PPO), Johnny McEntee, known to readers of Your Wonkette as "Hot Johnny."

It was all fun and games when Hot Johnny was getting derp walked off the premises in 2018 for having undeclared gambling winnings. But after a brief stint with the Trump campaign, he returned to the White House in January 2020 ready to burn it all down.

ABC's chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl published an excerpt in The Atlantic from his forthcoming book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, and it is bugfuck.

Soon after his return to the White House, Trump tapped McEntee to lead the PPO, giving him authority over 4,000 political appointees.

"People have been telling me I should do that for a long time," McEntee told the supervisor who gave him the good news. "I didn't feel ready before, but I am 29 now and I'm ready," adding later, "I'm the only person around here that's just here for the president."

Which may or may not have been true, but the former college quarterback was certainly not "here" for good, functional government. He quickly staffed up his office with what one official described to Karl as "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." One had literally been a Rockette in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade the year before and had no experience other than as a dance instructor and White House intern.

White House Photo

As reported at the time by Politico, McEntee fed the president a steady stream of nonsense about a supposed fifth column of officials sabotaging the Dear Leader, then promised to fix the problem by embarking on a loyalty purge of the executive branch. And so in June of 2020 the PPO informed every senior official in every executive office in the land that they'd have to sit down and re-interview for their own jobs, answering questions like "Do you support the policies of the Trump administration and, if so, which ones?"

He also parked spies cum "liaisons" at the agencies to ensure absolute fealty to Trump. HHS employee Heidi Stirrup was dispatched to the Justice Department where she marched into Attorney General Bill Barr's office and handed him a list of people she wanted him to hire because "The election is being stolen. You need better people doing these investigations." Barr eventually locked her out of the building after catching her rooting around in confidential legal files.

Over at Homeland Security, Josh Whitehouse, the 25-year-old minder, had a violent temper, constantly screaming at people, threatening to fire them or even inflict bodily harm.

Two people who worked with Whitehouse on the second floor of DHS headquarters told me his mood swings were so wild that they worried he could get violent. He was overheard screaming things into the phone such as, "If they don't do this, I will literally go to their house and burn it down." (Whitehouse said the quote sounded "exaggerated" and he didn't think he had said it.) As one DHS official told me, "I was legitimately worried he was going to come and kill us." When I asked Whitehouse about this comment, he told me, "They need help." He added: "I can't imagine anybody should be afraid of another person working there if they are in it for the right reasons and aligned with the agenda."

Apparently unbothered by this behavior, McEntee next dispatched Whitehouse to the Defense Department to work his magic there. Karl writes that Whitehouse drafted memos on senior Pentagon officials to fire for various acts of disloyalty, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The memo on Esper, never before made public, provides remarkable insight into the degree to which McEntee's team was calling the shots. It includes bullet points outlining Esper's sins: He "bars the display of the Confederate flag" on military bases; "opposed the President's direction to utilize American forces to put down riots"; "focused the Department on Russia"; was "actively pushing for 'diversity and inclusion'"; and so on. The memo recommended that Esper be fired immediately after the election and replaced by Christopher Miller, then the director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

And indeed Esper was fired six days after the election and replaced with Christopher Miller, in accordance with the dictates of a 25-year-old with exactly zero defense policy experience.

But it was on the subject of elections where McEntee did his best — read craziest — work. To wit, Johnny Good Hair and his legal team (no word on whether they were Rockettes or merely cheerleaders) came up with a memo proving that all the DOJ and White House lawyers were wrong wrong wrong when they said that Vice President Pence couldn't unilaterally overturn the election results. As Karl points out, McEntee managed to be comically, hilariously wrong about both law and facts in the 135-word "legal" memo texted to Pence's chief of staff on January 1.

But the Trump White House was never really a law and facts kind of joint. And so Hot Johnnycakes hung on to the very bitter end.


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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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