- Mark Meadows had to leave the room to take a call during Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings.
- A HUD official called to inform Meadows that a low-level staffer had liked a Taylor Swift Instagram post.
- The post said “Vote” and endorsed Biden, and the White House was rooting out disloyal staffers.
Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows got a phone call during the high-stakes Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Justice Amy Coney Barrett — prompting him to briefly leave the room — because a low-level staffer at the Department of Housing and Urban Development had liked an Instagram post by musical artist Taylor Swift.
This comes from Jonathan Karl’s forthcoming book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show,” an excerpt of which was published in The Atlantic on Tuesday.
Andrew Hughes, a former Uber driver who was serving as chief of staff at HUD, called Meadows because a young assistant at the department had liked Swift’s post urging people to vote. It also featured a photo of Swift holding a plate of Biden-Harris themed cookies.
“I spoke to @vmagazine about why I’ll be voting for Joe Biden for president,” Swift wrote in the Instagram post. “So apt that it’s come out on the night of the VP debate.”
“We really can’t have our people liking posts promoting Joe Biden,” Meadows told Hughes, according to the book. It is unclear whether the staffer was ultimately fired or not.
This attention paid to something as minuscule as Instagram activity was part of a broader pattern of scrutinizing staffers for their loyalty to then-President Donald Trump during the last year of his administration, an effort that was led by the Presidential Personnel Office under John McEntee, a 29-year old staffer who started out as Trump’s “bag man” during the 2016 campaign and part of his administration.
McEntee was once fired in March 2018 by then-chief of staff John Kelly after a background check revealed that he “deposited suspiciously large sums of money into his bank account” that came as the result of gambling winnings. He was reportedly escorted out without being allowed to collect his belongings.
But he was then re-hired in January 2020 long after Trump had fired Kelly, and Trump decided to put him in charge of the personnel office. According to the book’s excerpt, that move prompted a screaming match between Trump and Mick Mulvaney, then the acting chief of staff.
“I want to put Johnny in charge of personnel,” Trump told Mulvaney, who called his top deputy, Emma Doyle, into the meeting.
“Mr. President, I have never said no to anything you’ve asked me to do, but I am asking you to please reconsider this. I don’t think it is a good idea,” Doyle said, according to Karl’s book.
“You people never fucking listen to me!” Trump screamed. “You’re going to fucking do what I tell you to do.”
Doyle later spoke with McEntee about his interest in the job, Karl wrote, to which he responded that he “didn’t feel ready before” but added, “I am 29 now and I’m ready.”
“I’m the only person around here that’s just here for the president,” McEntee went on to say, per Karl.
Meadows, Hughes, and McEntee didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
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