dispatch from the swamp
October 12, 2020

President Trump has said he never liked his pledge to "drain the swamp," but his fans did so he kept it in his stable of three-word chants. Once elected, though. "Trump did not merely fail to end Washington's insider culture of lobbying and favor-seeking," The New York Times reports. "He reinvented it, turning his own hotels and resorts into the Beltway’s new back rooms, where public and private business mix and special interests reign," building "a system of direct presidential influence-peddling unrivaled in modern American politics."

To map Trump's own swamp, centered at his hotel in Washington, D.C., and Doral and Mar-a-Lago clubs in Florida, the Times pored over the tax information it has obtained, reviewed hundreds of social media posts by patrons of his properties, and interviewed nearly 250 business executives, lobbyists, and club members.

The Times investigative team uncovered more than 200 companies, foreign governments, and special interest groups giving money to Trump's properties and reaping benefits from his administration, including 60 customers with business before the government spending $12 million at his family businesses in 2017 and 2018. The Times provided an overview:

Patrons at the properties ranged widely: foreign politicians and Florida sugar barons, a Chinese billionaire and a Serbian prince, clean-energy enthusiasts and their adversaries in the petroleum industry, avowed small-government activists and contractors seeking billions from ever-fattening federal budgets. Mr. Trump’s administration delivered them funding and laws and land. He handed them appointments to task forces and ambassadorships, victories as weighty as a presidential directive and as ephemeral as a presidential tweet. [The New York Times]

White House spokesman Judd Deere told the Times that Trump has "turned over-day-to-day responsibilities" to sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., and claimed Trump "kept his promise every day to the American people to fight for them, drain the swam, and always put America first."

The people who paid to interact with Trump at his properties did not always get what they wanted, the Times reports, but Trump's heavily indebted family business always got paid, thanks to this "lucrative new revenue stream: people who wanted something from the president." Read the extensive details at The New York Times. Peter Weber

September 19, 2019

Vice President Mike Pence's newest hire already seems pretty comfortable in the White House.

Pence has tapped Katie Waldman as his new press secretary, Pence's Chief of Staff Marc Short confirmed to NBC News on Thursday. She was previously a deputy press secretary in the Department of Homeland Security, is currently Sen. Martha McSally's (R-Ariz.) communications director, and, as The Washington Post's Nick Miroff notes, is dating President Trump's adviser Stephen Miller.

Waldman served under former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during the height of the Trump administration's family separation crisis, and with her focus on immigration, became one of the leading defenders of the "zero tolerance" policy. Perhaps uncoincidentally, Miller was reportedly the "architect" of that policy that split migrant children from their parents at the border, as well as several other hardline immigration ideas.

Regardless of who drew it up, Waldman's unflinching defense of the Trump immigration agenda "impressed a lot of people in the administration," one DHS official tells NBC News. "She's shown she has the mettle to handle intense environments," including the intense media scrutiny of DHS throughout the past year, Short added. Waldman starts Oct. 1, and will be Pence's top spokesperson as he and Trump head into an election year. Kathryn Krawczyk

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