'Personal goon squad': Why a newly reported memo by a Trump loyalist is 'cause of considerable alarm' for US democracy

'Personal goon squad': Why a newly reported memo by a Trump loyalist is 'cause of considerable alarm' for US democracy

ABC News' Jonathan Karl has reported that on October 19, 2020, Trump loyalist John McEntee — then serving as White House director of presidential personnel — issued a memo listing reasons to fire then-Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper from the Trump Administration. Never Trump conservative Max Boot discusses Karl's reporting and that memo in his November 15 column for the Washington Post, explaining why McEntee's memo should be a "cause of considerable alarm" if Donald Trump runs for president in 2024.

Boot was highly critical of Esper in the past, describing him as a Trump enabler. But in light of Karl's reporting, the conservative columnist now believes he "may have been too harsh on" the former defense secretary — who Trump fired on November 9.

"Now that we have seen fresh evidence of how much Trump and his henchmen loathed Esper, he is rising in my estimation," Boot explains. "That evidence comes courtesy of ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl, who has unearthed a memorandum from Johnny McEntee, Trump's director of presidential personnel, listing 14 reasons for ousting Esper. That document was dated October 19, 2020. Three weeks later, Esper was fired by a Trump tweet."

Describing McEntee's memo as "both sinister and ludicrous," Boot notes that the Trump loyalist "was making the case for getting rid of a senior cabinet officer for insufficient loyalty to the president."

"This revealing and chilling document deserves to be read not as a historical curiosity, but as a terrible portent of what could be in store if Trump wins another term," Boot writes. "He appears determined to turn the military into his personal goon squad."

Boot goes on to note some of McEntee's reasons for wanting Esper fired. Esper, McEntee complained, "approved the promotion of Lt. Col. (Alexander) Vindman," a key witness during Trump's impeachment — and Esper "publicly opposed the president's direction to utilize American force to put down riots just outside the White House," McEntee wrote.

Boot observes, "This was a reference to Esper's brave decision in June 2020 to resist Trump's desires to deploy active-duty troops to suppress Black Lives Matter protests. Esper acted after he and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had been lured by Trump into a bizarre photo op in Lafayette Square, which been cleared by force of peaceful protesters."

In the memo, Boot adds, McEntee (now 31) also wanted Esper fired for removing Confederate flags from military installations.

McEntee's memo, the Never Trump conservative warns, underscores the fact that a second Trump presidency —should he run in 2024 — would be disastrous for the United States.

"Trump would want to ensure that the 'guys with guns' are on his side," Boot warns. "If he wins a second term, Trump's next defense secretary Johnny McEntee perhaps? — would almost certainly be somebody more devoted to him than to the Constitution. For anyone concerned about the future of U.S. democracy, that should be a cause of considerable alarm at a time when Trump and (President Joe) Biden are running almost neck and neck in polling matchups."

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