A young Donald Trump supporter allegedly terrified officials at the Department of Homeland Security with his volatile temper, but he remained in high enough esteem inside the White House that he managed to convince the president to fire his own secretary of defense.
Josh Whitehouse, a 25-year-old Trump supporter from New Hampshire, was installed as a White House liaison to DHS by director of personnel Johnny McEntee, a fierce presidential loyalist, and the staffer began threatening to fire people -- which he had no direct authority to do -- and worried employees with wild mood swings, according to Jonathan Karl's new book, "Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show," republished in excerpt form by The Atlantic.
"I was legitimately worried he was going to come and kill us," said one DHS official.
Whitehouse was overheard screaming into the phone that he would "will literally go to their house and burn it down," if that individual didn't do as he demanded, but he told Karl the quote sounded "exaggerated" and that he didn't think he'd said it.
"They need help," he said of the DHS official who feared his potentially fatal wrath. "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."
Whitehouse argued loudly in August 2020 with then-acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf in front of several witnesses after he tried to remove an engraved metal plaque with the name of former chief of staff Miles Taylor, who had just published a highly critical op-ed against Trump.
"What are you doing?" Wolf asked, according to the book.
"I am removing the name of this traitor," Whitehouse said.
"Stop, that doesn't belong to you," Wolf replied. "It doesn't belong to me, and we don't erase history here at the Department of Homeland Security."
"Miles Taylor is a traitor!" Whitehouse erupted. "This just shows you don't really support President Trump!"
Whitehouse was reassigned in the fall to be White House liaison to the Pentagon, where he boasted that he would get then-defense secretary Mike Esper fired, and he delivered a series of memos recommending that move and other dismissals for Pentagon officials he deemed insufficiently loyal to the president.
"The memo on Esper, never before made public, provides remarkable insight into the degree to which McEntee's team was calling the shots," Karl reported. "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."
"Trump followed the script," Karl added. "Six days after the election, Esper was fired and replaced by Miller."
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