Fill the Swamp
January 20, 2021

President Trump's last big batch of pardons will get most of the attention, but he also issued an executive order in his last few hours in office that seeks to free all current and former hires from the ethics agreements they signed to work in his administration. Trump revoked his January 2017 "Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees" order, the White House announced early Wednesday, so "employees and former employees subject to the commitments in Executive Order 13770 will not be subject to those commitments after noon January 20, 2021."

Those commitments included not lobbying the federal agencies they served under for five years after leaving government. The executive order, Yashar Ali notes, was the backbone of Trump's "drain the swamp" pledge.

President-elect Joe Biden takes office at noon on Wednesday, and presumably he could just issue a new executive order reversing Trump's.

Norm Eisen, "ethics czar" to former President Barack Obama, said in a Politico column Tuesday that Obama's clear ethics rules led to "arguably the most scandal-free presidency in memory," but "Trump greatly watered down the standards with scandalous results" and "Biden has done the opposite, restoring the Obama rules and expanding them."

Biden's planned executive order, Eisen wrote, "restores the fundamentals of the Obama plan, closing loopholes Trump opened—but going further, including new crackdowns on special interest influence. If implemented rigorously (always a big if) Biden's plan promises to go further to 'drain the swamp' than either of his predecessors." Peter Weber

September 9, 2019

"Build that dynasty" is a bit at odds with every other thing President Trump has promised.

Yet in a direct contradiction to Trump's 2016 campaign promise to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C., Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale claimed Saturday that the "Trumps will be a dynasty that lasts for decades." Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, who is usually on Trump's side, succinctly called out Parscale's contradiction in a Monday morning tweet.

Dobbs wasn't the only one itching to attack Parscale's misguided promise, as Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs reported.

Parscale's statement came Saturday at a GOP convention in California, and he explained his dynastic reasoning later in the day to reporters. Trump's relatives have "amazing capabilities," Parscale said. "I think you see that from Don Jr. I think you see that from Ivanka. You see it from Jared [Kushner]. You see it from all."

After all, the "Trump swamp" does have a nice slant-rhyme ring to it. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 24, 2019

On Tuesday evening, Mark Esper was sworn in as defense secretary, hours after the Senate overwhelmingly confirmed him to fill the position following a record 204 days without a confirmed Pentagon chief. Esper, a 55-year-old West Point graduated and Army officer, brings decades of military experience to the job, along with stints as a professional staffer on two Senate committees, a position in George W. Bush's Pentagon, and a spell at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Esper was also, until he became Army secretary in 2017, a lobbyist for Raytheon, the No. 3 U.S. defense contractor. And heading up the department you used to lobby isn't too uncommon in the Trump administration, it turns out. As Rachel Maddow pointed out on MSNBC Tuesday night, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is a former oil industry lobbyist, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was a coal industry lobbyist, and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist and senior executive.

President Trump memorably vowed to "drain the swamp" in Washington, D.C., but he also boasted at his re-election kickoff last month that his administration has "stared down the unholy alliance of lobbyists and donors and special interests, who made a living bleeding our country dry. That's what we've done."

Soon after being sworn in as president, Trump signed an executive order requiring all political hires to sign a pledge that bars them from lobbying the agencies they worked at for five years and avoid lobbying White House officials or political appointees as long as Trump is president. "But loopholes, some of them sizable, abound," ProPublica's David Kravitz reported in February, and "at least 33 former Trump officials have found ways around the pledge," most prominently former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Of those 33, "at least 18 have recently registered as lobbyists," Kravitz added. "The rest work at firms in jobs that closely resemble federal lobbying. Almost all work on issues they oversaw or helped shape when they were in government." Peter Weber

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