Friday, July 20News That Matters

John McEntee, Trump Aide, Is Forced Out Over Security Issue, but Joins Re-election Campaign


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WASHINGTON — John McEntee, who has served as President Trump’s personal assistant since Mr. Trump won the presidency, was forced out of his position and escorted from the White House on Monday after his security clearance was revoked, officials with knowledge of the incident said.

But Mr. McEntee will remain in the president’s orbit despite his abrupt departure from the White House. Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign announced Tuesday that Mr. McEntee has been named Senior Adviser for Campaign Operations, putting him in a position to remain as a close aide during the next several years.

The campaign’s decision underscores Mr. Trump’s tolerance for — and often encouragement of — dueling centers of power around him. And it highlights the extent to which the re-election campaign has already become a landing pad for former Trump associates who have left the White House but remain loyal to the president.

The decision to remove Mr. McEntee came to light on the same day that Mr. Trump announced that he is removing Rex W. Tillerson as secretary of state and replacing him with Mike Pompeo, his C.I.A. director.

Officials declined to say what issues prompted the security concerns about Mr. McEntee.

John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, has said in recent weeks that too many staff members were operating on interim security clearances because they could not pass F.B.I. background checks. A White House spokesman declined to comment on Mr. McEntee’s firing.

But a senior administration official said that many of the president’s top aides were shocked and dismayed by the abrupt departure, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The official, who requested anonymity to discuss personnel issues, said Mr. McEntee had been expected to travel with Mr. Trump — as he always does — when the president departed for a trip to California Tuesday morning.

For Mr. Trump, the absence of Mr. McEntee strips away another of the handful of close associates who have constantly been by his side as he made the transition from real estate mogul to politician. Keith Schiller, the president’s longtime director of security, left the White House in September. Hope Hicks, the director of communications and one of Mr. Trump’s closest aides, has announced she is leaving in the coming days as well.

That left Mr. McEntee, who worked on the president’s campaign and was brought into the White House to be Mr. Trump’s “body guy,” the aide who travels with the president wherever he goes. During presidential trips, Mr. McEntee and the White House doctor were two aides who were never left off the travel manifest. Aides said that Mr. McEntee often tried to keep hangers-on away from Mr. Trump when he traveled to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

Now, with Mr. McEntee gone, the president will have none of his closest, most-trusted aides by his side at all times. Kellyanne Conway, who remains close to Mr. Trump, does not frequently travel with the president. Ivanka Trump, his daughter, and her husband, Jared Kushner, have offices near Mr. Trump but play different roles.

Mr. McEntee’s departure has several of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers worried about the effects on the president’s mood. The senior administration official said that the president has been in a “good place” recently, but said that it is hard to overstate the effect of the departure, along with that of Ms. Hicks. Both Mr. McEntee and Ms. Hicks have had offices just outside the Oval Office.

A former quarterback with the University of Connecticut, Mr. McEntee’s first brush with fame came when he released a football trick-shot video on YouTube that went viral. The nearly five-minute, 2011 video has almost 7.3 million views.

Mr. McEntee worked at Fox News in 2015 when he volunteered to work on Mr. Trump’s campaign and quickly became a full-time staffer. Over the course of the chaotic campaign, Mr. McEntee became close with Mr. Trump and joined the small cadre of loyal, trusted aides around him.

Like Reggie Love, the former Duke basketball player who served as the personal assistant and first body man to former President Barack Obama, Mr. McEntee was one of the few people with nearly constant access to the president he served.

But unlike many of Mr. Trump’s more famous advisers, Mr. McEntee was absent from public view, making virtually no comments to the press and remaining largely under the radar amid the backbiting and chaos swirling around the president.

Mr. McEntee’s ouster is the latest fallout from the security clearance scandal that erupted when Rob Porter, the president’s staff secretary, resigned under pressure last month. Mr. Porter left after it was revealed that allegations of spousal abuse were holding up his permanent security clearance.

A review of the security clearances at the White House by Mr. Kelly found that many officials were operating with interim clearances. In a memo to the staff last month, Mr. Kelly said that he would revoke the interim clearances for people whose background investigations showed they could not receive permanent clearance.

Late last month, Mr. Kushner’s security clearance was downgraded, but Mr. Kushner remains a senior adviser at the White House working on Middle East peace efforts, prison reform and other issues for Mr. Trump.

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