It’s become a stale punch-line, but there was a time when Donald Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp” was one of his signature campaign promises. He was always a little vague about the meaning of the phrase, though it was widely seen as an outsider’s vow to clean up the nation’s capital.
To that end, as regular readers know, Trump told voters how tired he was of everyone in D.C. “being controlled by the special interests and the lobbyists.” At one point, he went so far as to say he’d have “no problem” banning lobbyists from his administration altogether.
President Donald Trump will nominate David Bernhardt to be the new Interior secretary, ending the search for a permanent replacement for Ryan Zinke.
Zinke exited the agency in December amid multiple scandals and ethics investigations. Bernhardt will still have to woo support from senators who oppose the Trump Interior Department’s policies, including its attempts to expand oil and gas drilling in coastal waters and parts of the Arctic that had long been off the table.
As the Politico report noted, Bernhardt is a former oil lobbyist.
In fact, while serving as a deputy to Ryan Zinke, Bernhardt had so many conflicts of interest, the Washington Post reported last year that he had to “carry a small card listing them all,” because he “worked for years as a lobbyist representing many of the very businesses he now regulates.”
Bernhardt will join the former lobbyist Trump tapped to oversee the White House Domestic Policy Council, the former coal lobbyist whom Trump nominated to lead the EPA, and the former executive at a major defense contractor who’s currently leading the Pentagon.
And those are just some of the recent employment moves, and doesn’t include the months of related personnel decisions. Remember this New York Times report from April 2017?
President Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.
The potential conflicts are arising across the executive branch, according to an analysis of recently released financial disclosures, lobbying records and interviews with current and former ethics officials by The New York Times in collaboration with ProPublica.
The Times highlighted instances in which Team Trump appointed lobbyists to government posts in violation of the administration’s own ethics rules. There may be others, the article added, “but evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules.”
About a year ago, the president declared, “From the day I took the oath of office, I’ve been fighting to drain the swamp. And sometimes it may not look like it, but, believe me, we are draining the swamp.”
Maybe it doesn’t “look like it” because, in reality, Trump is making worse the same problem he promised to fix?