New White House 'questionnaire' tests job applicants' Trump loyalties

From now on, those seeking jobs in Trump's White House will be asked to reflect on Trump's 2016 campaign message, so that they can identify their part.
Image: US-POLITICS-POWER-OUTAGE-ELECTRICITY
A view of the White House seen on April 7, 2015 in Washington, DC. A power outage hit many parts of downtown Washington, leaving several buildings in the dark, including the State Department and metro stations. BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP - Getty Images
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By Steve Benen

After some unfortunate missteps, John McEntee has a rather powerful role in the White House. The 29-year-old aide used to be the president's personal assistant -- as part of a job known as Donald Trump's "body man" -- but McEntee is now serving as the new director of the Office of Presidential Personnel, making him responsible for hiring and vetting applicants for thousands of executive-branch positions.

As we discussed last week, McEntee also reportedly is playing a central role in a White House loyalty "purge," in which officials are subjected to political scrutiny and those deemed insufficiently pro-Trump face transfers or dismissals.

But as part of his duties, McEntee's office has apparently prepared a new questionnaire for those applying for jobs on Team Trump. CNN reported yesterday on the document's details:

Candidates applying to join President Donald Trump's administration will now have to explain what part of Trump's campaign message "most appealed" to them and why. [...] The White House's renewed focus on loyalty has raised questions about whether the hiring process for political appointments will overly weight loyalty over qualifications, raising the prospect that less-qualified candidates could be installed in certain positions.

Ordinarily, those seeking an executive-branch position may expect to field questions about their experiences, their references, and their educational background. But Team Trump now wants these applicants to also reflect on the president's 2016 campaign message -- so they can pick their favorite part.

I take some solace in the fact that the new questionnaire doesn't ask applicants, "Donald J. Trump: great president or the greatest president?"

CNN's report added, "While it is not unusual for presidential administrations to vet political appointees for ideological or policy alignment, the questionnaire previously used by the Trump White House did not ask for applicants' views about Trump or his campaign. Trump's name does not appear once on the previous questionnaire. It now appears five times."

It's worth emphasizing that it would be illegal to ask applicants for career executive-branch positions to fill out a questionnaire like this, which is why it's reportedly only being given to those seeking political appointments.

That, of course, mitigates the cringe-worthy nature of the loyalty-test exercise, but only a little.