Durham’s report sheds light on the FBI’s investigation
A 306-page report by Justice Department special counsel John Durham is refocusing negative attention on one of the most politically significant investigations in FBI history: the probe into whether Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 he was colluding with Russia to tilt the outcome of the election. (May 16)
On TikTok, John McEntee is an “icon”.
The 33-year-old Californian is known on TikTok for starring in videos parodying the political left for the conservative-only dating app The Right Stuff. With more than 400,000 followers and around 18 million likes on the social media app, McEntee has found modest fame there by any measure.
But McEntee’s matchmaking isn’t reserved for dating app social media.
A former Trump aide once dubbed the “Vice President,” McEntee has been tasked with pairing political appointees with the next conservative presidential administration as part of the Heritage Foundation 2025 Presidential Transition Projector “Project 2025”.
“Any Conservative candidate, if they win in 2024, one of the first people they’re going to turn to is John McEntee to say, ‘How do I cover this government?'” said Paul Dans, head of Project 2025.
From “Defense Marshal” to “Vice President”
Big jumps have defined McEntee’s career.
McEntee was raised in a Republican family in Orange County, California – a long-time conservative stronghold in mostly blue condition. His father, a lifelong Republican, founded the celebrity booking company TEI Entertainment. The senior McEntee he told Politico in 2017 that the younger McEntee has been around fame “his whole life,” making his eventual White House job “easier.”
But McEntee told USA TODAY that he cared little about politics growing up; he focused more on sports. As a student at the University of Connecticut, McEntee he joined the football team as a walk-on in his first year. By his senior year, he was already the starting quarterback for every game of the season. His knack for internet virality became apparent after one collection of soccer tricks it got over seven million views on YouTube.
A few years after college, McEntee moved to New York City on a whim, sleeping on a friend’s girlfriend’s couch and picking up odd jobs while looking for the next one. She met a man at church who worked at Fox News and soon after joined the network as a production assistant.
Then, sitting in his cubicle at Fox in June 2016, McEntee watched Donald Trump descend a golden escalator, launching his 2016 presidential campaign with a speech in which he called for more competitive international trade, called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and promised he could make America great again.
“I remember at the time, everyone in the office was laughing — they were saying I didn’t have a chance,” McEntee said. “The speech had the complete opposite effect on me. I thought he was tapping into something that Republicans had forgotten.”
“I’m like, ‘How do I work for him?'” she added.
McEntee said he began emailing anyone who could connect him to the Trump campaign, to no avail. Eventually, someone—Ivanka’s clothing company, he thinks—pointed him to the Trump campaign website. After emailing the campaign every day for two weeks without a response, McEntee said she sent one more email.
“I’m like, ‘Apparently this campaign doesn’t have anyone to review the emails. I’ll take this job and do it for free,” he said. “And they were like, come in and do it. So I quit my job at Fox, started volunteering on the Trump campaign in July 2015 and worked my way up.”
When Trump won the 2016 race, McEntee was hired as his headquarters man body — the guy who carries the president’s bags and coordinates his meals. By the end of Trump’s presidency, McEntee was known to other Trump officials as the “Vice President.” according to reports.
Turning to dating app TikTok and The Right Stuff
Despite his strong political resume, McEntee’s recognition of late has not come from politics; it comes from TikTok.
When Trump lost re-election in 2020, McEntee returned to California and turned his attention to a new venture: founding The Right Stuff, a dating app for singles who lean politically to the right. Backed by conservative billionaire Peter Thiel, the app launched in September.
While the app has a presence on every major social network, TikTok is its “number one” platform for exposure, McEntee said.
McEntee stars in all of Right Stuff’s TikToks, most of which satirize Democrats and liberalism. In a video with 1.8 million views, McEntee plays a liberal parent who drops his son off at school and encourages him to play “VFO: Vaccinated Friends Only” during recess. In another video with 2.8 million views, the former Trump staffer punches handfuls of plastic straws at an In-N-Out, posing as a liberal who steals the straws to “save the turtles”.
“It’s night and day,” McEntee said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been recognized outside of DC for anything political that I’ve done, but I get recognized almost every day walking around here.”
His time on the app hasn’t changed his political views. But it has put him squarely at odds with most other Republicans on the perception of TikTok.
Once viewed by many Americans as a children’s dance app, TikTok has struggled intense federal control about his possible national security implications due to its Chinese ownership. Republicans and some Democrats have expressed support for a total ban on the app in the US, and the White House in February blocked the popular app from all government-issued devices. For McEntee, this is a mistake.
“You have to talk to people where they are,” McEntee said. “And I think a lot of conservatives are making the mistake of trying to stay off TikTok or be anti-TikTok. Because that’s where all the eyes are, as much as people want to pretend it’s not.”
McEntee’s TikTok presence and work for Project 2025 are not linked, he said, though it’s possible he could contribute some of that knowledge.
The staff of the next conservative administration
Boiled down to just one word, Dans said Heritage wants the next Conservative administration to be “grounded”.
It’s a term that has become popular slang for the political right online, meaning something that is supposedly based on fact, not influenced by outside forces, in many cases, not influenced by ideology “awake”.
And it’s McEntee’s job to help find that staff.
Former Trump staffer’s role in Project 2025 is building the “Presidential Personnel Database”, collect resumes and screen potential candidates ahead of a possible transition to a conservative administration in January 2025. The New York Times considered the project “Right-wing LinkedIn”.
The project is, in part, intended to address staffing issues the Trump administration faced in 2017. When Trump took office, the transition from Barack Obama’s presidency to Trump’s moved slowly; Four months into Trump’s presidency, the administration was more than 50% behind previous administrations in filling the 221 “most important” appointments, the trade publication FCW reported in April 2017.
McEntee said he’s looking for candidates both inside and outside the Beltway, though the latter brings a “fresh perspective” to the job that the former lacks, who share a commitment to advancing the “conservative agenda.”
“As long as they’re there for the right reasons, we can sort out the rest later,” McEntee said.
While Project 2025 will create a pool of candidates for the next administration to hire, it is ultimately the president’s job to select political appointees, with the help of his staff office. McEntee served as chief of staff in the Trump White House in early 2020, overseeing more than 4,000 positions in the federal government that required political appointments.
In that role, he helped Trump recruit, vet and nominate potential political appointees, reportedly heavily vetting staff for loyalty to the president.
Jonathan Karl, ABC’s chief correspondent in Washington reported in his book“The Final Act of the Trump Show,” that “some Trump aides privately compared the PPO (under McEntee) to the East German Stasi or even the Gestapo, always on the lookout for traitors within.”
Applications for the 2025 Project include questions about specific social and political perspectives, such as whether America is systematically racist, whether more than two genders exist, and whether life is entitled to legal protection from conception. Another question asks whether a president “should be able to advance his agenda through the bureaucracy unhindered by unelected federal officials.”
“Having people who are not politically aligned working in politically appointed jobs just doesn’t work,” McEntee told USA TODAY. “This is a recipe for disaster.”
In contrast to what was Republican President Abraham Lincoln “Team of Rivals”, it’s a team of Yes-Men that McEntee seems to be looking for. Dans said he doesn’t think McEntee’s staff’s strict approach to the Trump administration was “negative at all.”
“Everything that any president says is really aspirational, it’s hot air, until it becomes reality,” Dans said. “The only way things get done is if the people below the president can do it.
“This would suggest that the very essence of being able to make any change in Washington rests on the shoulders of the people who work for the president,” he added.