Trump's push to install people loyal to him in law enforcement, intelligence appears to be well underway

Peter Weber

President Trump's replacement of acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire, a respected career official in a historically nonpartisan role, with U.S. Ambassador Richard Grenell, a vocal Trump loyalist with scant intelligence or management experience, raised eyebrows and some amount of alarm in Washington. Along with Maguire, acting Deputy DNI Andrew Hallman and ODNI General Counsel Jason Klitenic are heading for the exits. These aren't isolated moves.

"The president has been focused lately on officials who are allegedly disloyal to him, particularly at the Justice Department, the National Security Council, the Pentagon, and the State Department," The Washington Post reports, citing Trump aides. "And has heard from outside advisers that 'real MAGA people can't get jobs in the administration,' in the words of an administration official."

Since Senate Republicans voted down his impeachment charges, Trump has sacked several people who testified or were otherwise linked to the impeachment inquiry — Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his twin brother at the National Security Council, U.S. Ambassador Gordon Sondland, Pentagon policy chief John Rood — and some he considered otherwise insufficiently loyal or pliable, like Deputy National Security Adviser Victoria Coates, U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu, and, "over fierce objections of some White House aides," Sean Doocey, the head of the White House Presidential Personnel Office, the Post reports.

By ousting Doocey and replacing him with Johnny McEntee, the president's 29-year-old former "body man" with no experience in government staffing, "Trump has centralized his efforts to purge the ranks of his perceived opponents," the Post reports. "Trump has instructed McEntee, who lost his job in 2018 over concerns about his online gambling, to install more loyalists in government positions."

It's important to remember what "loyalist" means here, Adam Serwer writes at The Atlantic. "Public officials swear an oath to the Constitution, not to Donald Trump. The purged officials were removed for their disloyalty to the latter, not the former." In other words, "if you don't agree with the king, you're gone," Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) told The Daily Beast. "That has a chilling effect on people being willing to tell the truth, and that makes us less safe."

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