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Trump appoints a colorful bunch to fill official 'beachhead teams'

Trump used to say he's tired of everybody in Washington "being controlled by the special interests and the lobbyists." As president, he's doing the opposite.
The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty)
The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. 
Donald Trump clearly has some personnel troubles. Most of the president's cabinet is in place, but the vast majority of Senate-confirmed positions throughout the Trump administration remain empty -- because the president hasn't bothered to nominate anyone. Trump last week insisted he wants those offices to remain empty on purpose, for reasons that still don't make any sense.But those refer specifically to Trump administration jobs that require the consent of senators. In a vast federal executive branch, there are scores of positions that a president can fill through simple appointments -- no confirmation votes necessary -- and ProPublica published a fascinating report yesterday taking a closer look at the crew Team Trump is pulling together.

A Trump campaign aide who argues that Democrats committed "ethnic cleansing" in a plot to "liquidate" the white working class. A former reality show contestant whose study of societal collapse inspired him to invent a bow-and-arrow-cum-survivalist multi-tool. A pair of healthcare industry lobbyists. A lobbyist for defense contractors. An "evangelist" and lobbyist for Palantir, the Silicon Valley company with close ties to intelligence agencies. And a New Hampshire Trump supporter who has only recently graduated from high school.These are some of the people the Trump administration has hired for positions across the federal government, according to documents received by ProPublica through public-records requests.

The list of officials, members of the White House's so-called "beachhead teams" throughout the executive branch, isn't short. There are, as ProPublica noted, more than 400 people in these positions.But ProPublica's diligence has uncovered quite a colorful crew. One new Labor Department staffer, for example, was appointed by Trump after he graduated in 2015 -- from high school.Perhaps the most substantively interesting takeaway, however, is the role lobbyists are playing.

The list is striking for how many former lobbyists it contains: We found at least 36, spanning industries from health insurance and pharmaceuticals to construction, energy and finance. Many of them lobbied in the same areas that are regulated by the agencies they have now joined.That figure is almost certainly an undercount since we only included those who formally registered as lobbyists, a process increasingly avoided by many in Washington.During the campaign, Trump said he would have "no problem" banning lobbyists from his administration. But they have nonetheless ended up in senior roles, aided by Trump's weakening of Obama-era ethics rules that modestly limited lobbyists' role in government.

In August 2015, not long after launching his Republican candidacy, Trump told NBC's Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" that he's tired of everybody in Washington "being controlled by the special interests and the lobbyists." It was rhetoric like this that led many voters, and a few too many journalists, to believe Trump was some kind of populist who'd do battle with the entrenched D.C. establishment.In reality, corporate lobbyists are thrilled with the Trump White House; the president is already doing lobbyists' bidding; and Trump is even hiring dozens of lobbyists to fill appointed posts in his administration.Voters who actually believed Trump's campaign rhetoric were apparently played for fools.