According to reports, President Donald Trump has asked his new personnel chief, Johnny McEntee, to help root out individuals across the federal government who oppose his agenda and who may be members of the bureaucratic “Deep State.”
McEntee has tasked Cabinet liaisons with identifying government appointees who are biased against Trump and may be working against the president, sources told Axios.
McEntee formerly worked for Trump as his body man, also known as a civilian personal assistant, but was fired by former Chief of Staff John Kelly in 2018. He is considered a Trump loyalist, one of several whom Trump has recently rehired in an effort to ensure that he is not surrounded by leakers and saboteurs of his policy agenda.
In addition to McEntee, Trump has recently brought former communications director Hope Hicks back into the fold and has named German Ambassador Richard Grenell acting Director of National Intelligence. He has also had career officials who testified during the impeachment hearings reassigned away from the White House, including Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, and has recalled Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland from his diplomatic post.
Is the “Deep State” real?
The media and others on the left have called the idea of an administrative Deep State — a cabal of career government officials biased against Trump and working to stop him from reaching his objectives — a conspiracy theory worthy of ridicule.
But considering the number of career bureaucrats who were involved in the impeachment charade — the whistleblower who reported the call with Ukraine, Vindman, Sondland, former Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and others — there does seem to be a pervasive problem of Obama-era holdovers actively attempting to undermine Trump and his agenda.
Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney argued that the Deep State was “100% true” in a speech to students at Oxford University on Wednesday, adding that officials are there to carry out the president’s agenda, not make policy themselves.
Mulvaney said that it’s the administration’s job to rid itself of Deep State actors and that officials serving in the government should either be on board with Trump’s objectives or leave their positions altogether.
Striking the right balance
On the one hand, it’s perfectly reasonable for Trump not to want people in his administration who fundamentally oppose his agenda. His first term in office was plagued by seemingly continuous leaks and other betrayals, and fatigue has surely set in.
There is, however, certainly something to be said for having White House staffers and agency officials who are willing to play devil’s advocate for the president and to provide checks and balances to his ambitions,
Without that kind of balance, Trump may not be able to get honest feedback on some of his famously unrestrained political passions, and the consequences of that could prove very serious indeed.
Hopefully, the current push to restructure the ranks of those closest to the president and elsewhere in the federal government will provide Trump with the insight and objectivity every chief executive requires.