The White House has hired a college senior to be one of the top officials in its powerful Presidential Personnel Office, according to three administration officials familiar with the matter.
James Bacon, 23, is acting as one of the right-hand men to new PPO director John McEntee, according to the officials. Bacon, a senior at George Washington University pursuing a bachelor’s degree, comes from the Department of Transportation, where he briefly worked in the policy shop. Prior to that role, while still taking classes, he worked at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where he was a White House liaison, according to two other officials. At HUD, he distinguished himself as Secretary Ben Carson’s confidential assistant, according to two other administration officials.
Bacon worked for McEntee on the Trump campaign’s earliest days and also did some work on the advance team. He later did operations on the Trump transition. Bacon would have graduated on timeif he had not taken time off from school to work on the campaign, an official said.
Bacon will be PPO’s director of operations overseeing paperwork and will assist on vetting. The role was previously filled by Katja Bullock, who is in her late 70s and was a veteran of the office in both Bush administrations, as well as the Reagan administration.
The White House has not yet sent around any formal internal notice of Bacon’s new role. A White House spokesman declined to comment.
McEntee replaced Sean Doocey, who is heading to the State Department.
McEntee held a meeting in a conference room in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building last Thursday with White House liaisons of Cabinet departments where he asked officials to find Trump appointees who may be anti-Trump, according to an administration official familiar with the meeting. McEntee also told them that PPO was going to take a look at all appointees at some point and re-vet them to see if they’ve been disloyal in any way.
More dramatic changes are likely to be delayed until after November but the agency liaisons have been told to stop moving around officials who are viewed as anti-Trump to other agencies. (Axios first reported the details of the meeting.)
Another administration official described the meeting as “very positive” and McEntee reassured colleagues that there won’t be delays even though some PPO officials are leaving.
At least during his transition into the office, McEntee has for now kept on Michael Burley, who is associate director of presidential personnel and a special assistant to the president, but Burley is trying to figure out his next steps if he decides to leave.
After his acquittal, the president — emboldened and increasingly skeptical of anyone not a part of his original team — has relied on people like McEntee to act on his unofficial edict to fill the White House with loyalists and get rid of anyone feared to be part of the “deep state.”
McEntee worked on the Trump campaign in 2016 as the president’s body man, and in his role at the White House had constant access to the president, flying with him on Marine One and Air Force One, and at the president’s side to assist with any needs. He was fired from his role in 2018 by former chief of staff John Kelly because of security concerns tied to gambling allegations.
But McEntee wanted to return to the White House and is trusted by Trump, his family, and senior staff, was brought back earlier this year as the president is about to head into a reelection year and personnel changes are expected at the White House.
Despite having the trust of the president, McEntee’s lack of experience has raised concerns among some White House staff about his ability to run a critical White House office. One White House official pointed out that loyalty, in this case, trumped age and experience.
“He will do a great job because he has trust with POTUS,” said one former White House official.
The PPO office has been the subject of complaints and finger-pointing by some in the administration over its “frat-house” reputation, but serves an important function for vetting and hiring appointees. With McEntee at the helm of the office, however, it’s expected the president will take a more direct role than he has before.
“After three years of allowing others to control who would be around him and have power, he’s trying to take back some of the power and have a say in the staffing in the White House and administration,” a person close to the White House said. “A lot of the people in there weren’t actual allies of Trump, and didn’t actually support his agenda but had significant roles in his administration.”
Nancy Cook contributed to this report.
The post A new senior leader at the White House personnel office: A college senior appeared first on Politico.