In this March 10, 2016 photo, Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Attorney General, gestures as he speaks during an interview in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Photo by Sue Ogrocki/AP

How the debate over pesticides unfolds in Donald Trump's 'swamp'

— Updated

In his inaugural address, Donald Trump declared that, effective immediately, he was transferring power to "you, the people." The new president added, "For too long, a small group in our nation's capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost.... That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment, it belongs to you."

Trump didn't go into any detail about whom he was referring to, but there's ample evidence to suggest "the people" who were acquiring power were powerful corporate interests. Consider this Associated Press report, for example.

The Trump administration's top environmental official met privately with the chief executive of Dow Chemical shortly before reversing his agency's push to ban a widely used pesticide after health studies showed it can harm children's brains, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt's schedule shows he met with Dow CEO Andrew Liveris on March 9 for about a half hour at a Houston hotel.

About three weeks later, Pruitt ignored the findings of his own agency's chemical safety experts to allow the use of Dow's chlorpyrifos pesticide on food. The AP's report added that EPA scientists concluded "ingesting even minuscule amounts of the chemical can interfere with the brain development of fetuses and infants."

A spokesperson for Pruitt's agency said that when he spoke to Dow Chemical's CEO, the two did not discuss the pending decision on the pesticide. The timing, apparently, is supposed to be seen as a coincidence.

A separate AP report noted in April, "Dow Chemical chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris is a close adviser to President Donald Trump. The company wrote a $1 million check to help underwrite Trump's inaugural festivities.... When Trump signed an executive order in February mandating the creation of task forces at federal agencies to roll back government regulations, Dow's chief executive was at Trump's side."

As we discussed at the time, it's easy to see this as a classic elections-have-consequences moment. American voters were given a choice in presidential candidates, and just enough of them sided with the Republican who'd create conditions like these. The country, at least for four years, now has to deal with the consequences.

But stories like these also shed new light on what Trump meant when he vowed to "drain the swamp." The phrase, a staple of Trump's campaign rhetoric, has become a laughable cliché, but let's not forget its purpose: the GOP candidate took aim not only at D.C., but also at the city's culture and legal corruption. Trump assured voters that he -- and he alone -- would change how the system in the capital worked.

We now know that meant making things substantially worse.