The Trump administration is well known for placing staffers in positions for which they’re unqualified — see the appointment of Richard Grenell, the new director of national intelligence with no intelligence experience, for the most recent example. But the hiring pattern has reached a new peak, according to a report from Politico stating that the White House has found a 23-year-old college senior to work in the Presidential Personnel Office.
Meet James Bacon, the reported White House staffer currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at George Washington University. His extracurricular record is quite impressive, including work on the Trump campaign; an operations role on the transition team; a confidential assistant to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson; a White House liaison for HUD; and a brief stint in the policy shop for the Department of Transportation. With this impressive résumé, Bacon will now be a senior adviser to Presidential Personnel Office director John McEntee, who is responsible for staffing some 4,000 executive-branch jobs, 1,600 of which require Senate confirmation.
According to a 2018 Washington Post report, the office — which has been understaffed since the beginning of the administration — is known in the executive branch for its “frat-house” reputation. Responsible for vetting thousands of vital executive-branch roles, PPO is reportedly a social hub where staffers in their 20s serving without much experience outside the Trump campaign go to hang out and vape. Regardless of Bacon’s personal habits, bringing in an actual college student probably won’t do much to clear the fratty name of an office where the deputy director reportedly got iced on his 30th birthday.
If critics of the administration are concerned by Bacon’s hiring, wait until they see his boss. John McEntee, 29, began his career in politics working in the 2016 campaign as Trump’s body man, leveraging that role into a position as a White House aide until March 2018, when he was fired due to security concerns reportedly related to online gambling and mishandling of his taxes. But with Trump emboldened after his acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial, McEntee is back. According to Axios, he has a very specific mission: to find staffers who have criticized the president and remove them. Last week, he reportedly brought in White House liaisons from the cabinet agencies, asking them to name appointees who do not support the president. In the meeting, he suggested that some of the staff changes are so significant that they’d have to wait until after the election.