The Trump regime's future fascism can ill afford another incident where the Pentagon talks him out of US troops putting a few thousand rounds into protesters, so the loyalty checks and purges are on in the Defense Department.
A pair of 20-something White House staffers will begin conducting interviews with political appointees at the Defense Department starting next week, three current and former U.S. officials told Foreign Policy, a move that some fear could lead to more dismissals of Pentagon officials considered disloyal to President Donald Trump.
The White House liaison office sent an email to political appointees at the Pentagon on Wednesday, inviting officials to schedule a meeting with representatives from the Presidential Personnel Office (PPO). The message, described in detail to Foreign Policy, touts the meetings as a platform for noncareer officials to show off their credentials for a position in a possible second Trump term.
Advertised as “office calls,” the meetings over the course of several weeks will include each political appointee in the Pentagon, from presidentially appointed and Senate-confirmed appointees to their subordinates, according to the email. “This is an opportunity for each appointee to discuss their career and interests for 2021 and beyond,” the email said.
The interviews will be conducted by two subordinates of John McEntee, Trump’s former body man who now runs the personnel office: John Troup Hemenway, an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, and Jordan Hayley, who graduated from Liberty University in June and heads up PPO’s external relations. Politico first reported in April that Hayley had joined PPO, after Hemenway was brought on in March.
“These meetings were set up by DoD so that our political appointees could discuss second-term opportunities at the Department and throughout the administration,” Chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Rath Hoffman told Foreign Policy.
Though the email described to Foreign Policy appears to include all appointed Pentagon officials, a defense official said senior officials such as Defense Secretary Mark Esper are not intended to participate and described the meetings as nonmandatory. Following interviews at the Pentagon, White House personnel are also expected to interview appointees at the State Department and Department of Homeland Security in the coming weeks, officials familiar with the matter said.
But current and former officials who spoke to Foreign Policy worry that the 30-minute interviews will be used to root out officials who aren’t seen as sufficiently loyal to Trump, as the Pentagon has been rocked by the recent departures of several top appointees who broke with the White House on the hold of military aid to Ukraine or had ties to Trump’s political foes.
“I think the assumption is correct—aligned with Trump or you’re out,” a former senior Trump administration official told Foreign Policy.
“Suffice it to say that in my 30 years in government I am unaware of anything quite like this,” Eric Edelman, a former Pentagon policy chief during the George W. Bush administration, told Foreign Policy in an email.
Foreign Policy reported this week that the McEntee-led PPO has been pushing for Rich Higgins, a former National Security Council staffer under Trump fired for a memo that alleged “deep state” political actors were conspiring to overthrow the president, to be hired for a top job in the Pentagon over objections from inside the department. Moving loyalists into political appointments at the Pentagon could position them to move into higher-level jobs if Trump is reelected in November.
The news of the interviews also comes after high-profile departures of officials perceived as disloyal to Trump. The resignation of Kathryn Wheelbarger, who performed the duties of assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs for nearly two years, will become effective on Saturday, after the White House dropped her intended nomination for a top Pentagon intelligence post.
Other recent Pentagon exits appear to be casualties of the House’s impeachment of Trump. Elaine McCusker resigned her role as acting comptroller in June. She was removed from consideration for the permanent post after raising questions about Trump’s aid freeze to Ukraine at the center of the impeachment trial. Former Pentagon policy chief John Rood was also fired in February after finding himself at odds with the president on Ukraine and other behind-the-scenes clashes with the White House.
So yeah, just remember, a second Trump term means a rubber stamp military that will obey not the Constitution, not the rule of law, but Trump.
And only Trump.