Speed Reads

behind the scenes

How Johnny McEntee, a 'f--king idiot,' came to be known as Trump's 'deputy president'

It's now no surprise to hear how strings were pulled behind the scenes in the Trump White House. But according to journalist Jonathan Karl's forthcoming book, Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, one young staffer and loyalist to former President Donald Trump was, toward the end, pulling more of those tethers than the average American may have thought. 

Johnny McEntee, a political appointee who rose in the ranks after carrying the ex-president's bags, was a Trump man "through and through," per an excerpt of Betrayal adapted for The Atlantic. But during the final year of Trump's tenure, and following a promotion to head the Presidential Personnel Office — which manages the hiring and firing of White House employees — McEntee was "willing to do anything Trump wanted," per Karl. "He became the deputy president," said one senior official. Another high-profile Cabinet secretary described him as "a f---king idiot."

When Trump alerted his team in February 2020 that he wanted to place McEntee in charge of personnel — "perhaps the most important human-resources department in the world," writes Karl — they vehemently pushed back. But Trump proceeded anyway. McEntee later said he was "the only person around here that's just here for the president."

When helming the PPO office, McEntee reportedly staffed his "comically inexperienced" team with gorgeous, Rockette-esque women and nerdy men, per Karl. He had his office interview "virtually every senior official across the federal government," regardless of their tenure, in an attempt to root out anti-Trump sentiment. He even supported the president's desire to overturn the election, and "helped set the stage" for Jan. 6.

Nowadays, McEntee and Trump reportedly still remain in "close contact." Should Trump run for re-election, Karl argues, the former staffer is likely to find himself in the White House again.