Over the last 18 months, the White House and allies have compiled a list of disloyalists to oust along with the pro-Trump list of replacements, according to more than a dozen sources who talked to Axios.
Trump’s distrust has amplified since impeachment, but outside advisors have been happy to help implement the changes.
Most of the details of the new report have not been published before, but have accrued as memos, reviews, and lists compiled since 2018. Trump feels there is a long line of Deep State individuals — from Justice to State to Defense to Homeland Security — that he cannot trust. He calls them snakes.
A well-connected network of conservative activists and insiders is quietly helping develop the lists of never-Trumpers and pro-Trumpers. Members of the network include Ginni Thomas, wife of Justice Clarence Thomas, and Republican Senate Staffer Barbara Ledeen.
The Jessie Liu memo, written by Ledeen, highlights the alleged misdeeds of Liu who was withdrawn from a high Treasury Department role she was nominated for by Steve Mnuchin. Among her misdeeds were not acting on Justice Kavanaugh’s accusers, being pro-choice and anti-Alito, not indicting Andrew McCabe, and dismissing cases of “violent protestors” at the inauguration.
Thomas has been a significant influence to Trump in attempts to remove unwanted insiders. Groundswell, a conservative activist group, has funneled names to Thomas, and she compiled a list of their recommendations and passed them along personally to Trump.
Potential names she offered for pro-Trump service include:
- Sheriff David Clarke for a senior Homeland Security role.
- Fox News regular and former Secret Service agent Dan Bongino for a Homeland Security or counterterrorism adviser role.
- Devin Nunes aide Derek Harvey for the National Security Council (where he served before McMaster pushed him out).
- Radio talk show host Chris Plante for press secretary.
- Federalist contributor Ben Weingarten for the National Security Council.
The tensions in the White House have come from those close to Trump, who have constantly told him that his own staff is undermining him, while White House staff have complained that they are being smeared.
One particular incident involved then head of presidential personnel, Sean Doocey, and reportedly came from Groundswell. A memo came in about Doocey himself, accusing him of obstructionism and named several State Department officials who needed to be fired.
As the New York Times’ Peter Baker wrote on Saturday, “in some of the most critical corners of the Trump administration, officials show up for work now never entirely sure who will be there by the end of the evening — themselves included.”
Groundswell is an influential driver of that uncertainty. Its members have been working toward this moment for three years. They have lists. They have memos. And they have the president’s ear.