President Donald Trump remains fixated on purging the government of his perceived enemies, even as his administration struggles to meet the coronavirus crisis.
The president has fired the intelligence community’s inspector general, replaced an acting Pentagon inspector general was to oversee coronavirus relief spending and attacked a Health and Human Services inspector who reported severe shortages of COVID-19 testing supplies — and The Daily Beast reported that he’s leaning on a recently rehired loyalist to help do his dirty work.
Trump and John McEntee, the 29-year-old head White House Presidential Personnel Office, have been plotting the replacement of inspectors general — some of whom require Senate approval — and other government officials with supportive partisans, according to four administration sources.
The president has made clear that he want to fill those posts with individuals he perceives as more loyal and submissive to him, a senior administration official told the website.
Trump views McEntee — who was fired two years ago by then-chief of staff John Kelly over a reported gambling problem — as one of his most trusted lieutenants, and has ordered him to purge the government of anyone they believe is disloyal.
“Bashing the press is fashionable in Trumpworld, but a lot of people are faking it,” said one former White House official. “Not Johnny. He genuinely believes your only agenda is taking down Trump.”
McEntee’s office gathers evidence of disloyalty from conservative operatives and even the offices of some Republican lawmakers, and the Groundswell network headed by Ginny Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, has made recommendations for stuffing the federal government with Trump partisans.
“IGs aren’t supposed to be employees of the Trump Organization,” said one U.S. official. “But it’s clear that the president thinks they should be … It’s grotesque.”
The president has reportedly quipped that things would be much better for him if those watchdogs were replaced by someone with the integrity of Tom Fitton, who leads the hyperconservative Judicial Watch organization.
Fitton, a frequent guest on Fox News shows the president watches, would not confirm or deny whether he’d had any conversations with the White House, but told The Daily Beast that Trump should fire any inspector general he did not appoint — although he had appointed Michael Atkinson, the recently fired intel watchdog who had triggered the impeachment saga.
The president wants “fresh blood,” Fitton said, and deserved an administration with inspectors general who are “more in sync with him and who are as aggressive as he is.”