Longtime Trump aide fired over financial crime investigation

Longtime Trump aide fired over financial crime investigation
Trumps new tagline: You were fired! A few hours ago
WASHINGTON — John McEntee, who has served as President Trumps personal assistant since Mr. Trump won the presidency, was forced out of his position and escorted from the White House on Monday after an investigation into his finances caused his security clearance to be revoked, officials with knowledge of the incident said.

But Mr. McEntee will remain in the presidents orbit despite his abrupt departure from the White House. Mr. Trumps 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.

Trumps personal aide John McEntee was fired Monday. Media reports differed on why with some pointing to a security issue and others to a financial probe.

The campaigns decision underscores Mr. Trumps 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.

White House aide John McEntee, right, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchins Chief of Staff Eli Miller stand in the Oval Office on Jan. 31.

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.

White House aide John McEntee, right, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchins Chief of Staff Eli Miller stand in the Oval Office on Jan. 31.
Trumps new tagline: You were fired! A few hours ago
Trumps new tagline: You were fired! A few hours ago

Officials declined to say what issues prompted the security concerns about Mr. McEntee. Two people familiar with the decision to remove Mr. McEntee from the White House said he was known by colleagues to be a gambler.

Fear of a more aggressive Fed first jolted markets from their pleasant ride at the start of February, when worries about higher inflation pushed investors to ratchet up their expectations for Fed rate increases this year. That fear has abated somewhat with recent government reports showing only modest growth in wages and consumer prices, signals that inflation remains under control for now.

Video: White House Aide John McEntee Dismissed, Joins Campaign

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. McEntees firing.

It’s easy to see how the tax cuts will affect corporate earnings: Lower tax bills will mean bigger profits, and investors hope the overhaul will encourage companies to spend more to expand their businesses, which would drive future growth. Analysts now expect S&P 500 earnings to grow 18 percent this year, up from a forecast of 12 percent a few months ago, according to FactSet.

UConn Trick-Shot Quarterback John McEntee Loses White House Job

But a senior administration official said that many of the presidents 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.

Last year, investors calmly brushed aside every surprise that came out of Capitol Hill or the White House. Whether it was President Trump barring the arrival of travelers from certain countries, firing his FBI director or trying repeatedly to overhaul the health care industry, nothing seemed to knock markets off their steady, record-setting course that lasted through 2017.

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 presidents longtime director of security, left the White House in September. Hope Hicks, the director of communications and one of Mr. Trumps closest aides, has announced she is leaving in the coming days as well.

Trump fires White House assistant John McEntee, who promptly rejoins Trumps campaign

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A possible trade war could have just as strong an effect for U.S. companies, but in the opposite direction. Big U.S. businesses have become reliant on overseas customers, from Apple, which gets 63 percent of its revenue from outside the United States, to Zoetis, an animal-health company that gets just over half from abroad.

That left Mr. McEntee, who worked on the presidents campaign and was brought into the White House to be Mr. Trumps 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.

Add in the high emotions that Trump generates and big swings in the market can quickly result. The S&P 500 plunged 1.1 percent the day Trump first mentioned the possibility of steel and aluminum tariffs to industry executives, only to recover and then plunge again in ensuing days as speculation swirled.

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.

“The politics that matter for the market are the ones that impact the fundamentals,” said Stephen Auth, chief investment officer of equities for Federated Investors. “Which politics have moved the market? The tax deal, and now the tariffs. The other stuff tends to be noise.”

Trump fires his personal assistant, John McEntee, then Trump campaign hires him

Mr. McEntees departure has several of Mr. Trumps closest advisers worried about the effects on the presidents 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.

If the fears stay in the foreground, they will likely be a dominant force for the market. If the trade-war talk dies down, though, the Federal Reserve and the threat of higher interest rates will likely return to the top of the list of investors’ concerns.

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

Auth believes a global trade war is unlikely, although he won’t rule it out. So he viewed the market’s recent drop as an opportunity to buy at lower prices at a time when the economy is continuing to grow and corporate profits keep piling higher.
Pink slips and promotions fly at White House in chaotic day of turnover
Pink slips and promotions fly at White House in chaotic day of turnover

Mr. McEntee worked at Fox News in 2015 when he volunteered on Mr. Trumps campaign and quickly became a full-time staff member. 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.

It may take a while to see if the worries about a global trade war were prescient, as other countries mull their options. Trump has already exempted Canada and Mexico from the tariffs and said he will be “very flexible.”

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

“Right now, half the country thinks that the president is a lunatic, and they have very little confidence in his rational approach to issues, so they are worried about politics as an issue,” said Auth.

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

Impossible for market to ignore latest Trump policy moves

Mr. McEntees ouster is the latest fallout from the security clearance scandal that erupted when Rob Porter, the presidents 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.

McEntee forced out – US media” alt=”Trump personal aide John McEntee forced out – US media”>
Trump personal aide John McEntee forced out – US media

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.

Trumps personal assistant couldnt get a security clearance, so he joined the Trump campaign

Late last month, Mr. Kushners 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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Who Is John McEntee? Trumps Personal Assistant Was Ousted In The Most Dramatic Fashion

Rex Tillerson is out as secretary of state. Jonathan Swan of Axios provides insight into Pompeo's nomination.

A key Cabinet official was canned and another promoted, while one of the presidents closest aides was escorted from the White House on Tuesday in one of the busiest – and most chaotic – days of the Trump administration.

It all started when President Donald Trump unceremoniously fired his embattled Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in an unexpected morning tweet and announced he was giving Tillersons job to CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

In the same tweet, Trump named Gina Haspel, Pompeos deputy at the spy agency, the new director of the CIA.

News then broke that John McEntee, a former UConn quarterback who serves as the presidents personal aide, was ousted from his official job, given a new job with the Trump campaign and escorted from the White House under mysterious circumstances.

Then a few hours later, a top Tillerson aide, Steve Goldstein, lost his job at the State Department after issuing a statement about how Tillerson didnt understand why he was being fired.

In all the chaos, though, Trump is expressing confidence that the changes will be positive for his administration.

Im really at a point where were getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want, Trump told reporters Tuesday at the White House.

For a guy who made youre fired a catchphrase, Trump sure is a coward about White House layoffs

A senior White House official told Fox News the president decided to swap out Tillerson for Pompeo ahead of his coming meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

The president wanted to make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea and various ongoing trade negotiations, the adviser said.

Speaking to reporters before leaving for California, Trump acknowledged he and Tillerson have had disagreements. The president said he and Pompeo have a similar thought process."

We got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things, Trump said of Tillerson. When you look at the Iran deal, I think its terrible. I guess he felt it was okay…So we were not really thinking the same.

Trump praised Pompeo for his tremendous energy, tremendous intellect."

Longtime Trump aide fired over security clearance issue

"Were always on the same wave length," he said. "The relationship has always been very good. Thats what I need as secretary of state."

Tillerson, the former chief executive of ExxonMobil, was tapped as Trumps first secretary of state. But the two have clashed over foreign policy strategies over the last year.

Donald Trump Trolls Jose Altuves Height During Astros White House Visit

A White House source told Fox News that Chief of Staff John Kelly called Tillerson Friday to tell him Trump wanted him to step aside.  Tillerson, the source said, asked if Trump could wait for him to get back from his trip to Africa.

Tillerson returned to the United States on Tuesday morning, as Trump pulled the trigger on his firing.

During remarks at the State Department on Tuesday afternoon, Tillerson said Trump called him a little after noontime from Air Force One, several hours after he was fired.

What is most important is to ensure an orderly and smooth transition during a time that the country continues to face significant policy and national security challenges, he said.

Goldstein, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement Tillerson did not speak to Trump before he was fired and was not sure why he was being dismissed.

"The secretary did not speak to the president this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted," Goldstein said.

John McEntee, longtime body man for Trump, out at the White House: Report

Several hours after that statement, Goldstein, too, was fired from his job at the State Department.

Trump also said Tuesday he is nominating Gina Haspel as the new director of the CIA. Haspel has served as Pompeos deputy and would become the first woman to serve as director.

I am grateful to President Trump for the opportunity, and humbled by his confidence in me, to be nominated to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Haspel said in a statement.

Haspel is a seasoned spymaster who has avoided the limelight during a 32-year career that has included stints running overseas black sites where dangerous terrorists were waterboarded.

While she has won praise from Washington insiders – including Obama Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director Michael Hayden – she will likely face questions on the Hill about her connection to sites where waterboarding took place.

Trump Personal Assistant Reportedly Fired Over Security Issue

Meanwhile, back at the White House, McEntee, Trumps longtime so-called "bodyman," on Tuesday was moved to a position at Trumps 2020 campaign – but was seen being escorted out of the White House.

Report: President Trumps Personal Assistant Was Abruptly Fired For An Unspecified Security Issue

The Wall Street Journal first reported on McEntees departure, citing an unspecified security issue.

CNN reported that he was under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for financial crimes. The Secret Service offered "no comment" when asked to confirm that report. Sources also told Fox News that security clearance was not the issue.

Fox News Adam Shaw and Jennifer Earl and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

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