It was a refrain Donald Trump used repeatedly during the 2016 campaign: If elected, he would “drain the swamp” and eliminate the old order in Washington where lobbyists and politicians scratch each others backs in exchange for money and favors.
But now, as president, it appears Trump has merely restocked the metaphorical swamp, and the new creatures that inhabit it also happen to be members of his administration.
Late Wednesday, President Trump granted ethics waivers to 17 of his top White House aides, including chief strategist Steve Bannon, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway, along with four former lobbyists who are now members of the Trump team.
The pace of the ethics waivers is unprecedented. The 17 senior White House appointees have been granted ethics waivers in a mere four months time. In contrast, President Obama granted that same number of waivers to his top staff over the course of his eight years in office.
White House lawyers defended the waivers by saying they were justified because the administration’s “need for the covered employee’s services outweighs the concern” that the employees might put their own financial interests ahead of the interests of the country.
In the case of Conway, her waiver allows her to meet and communicate with former clients of her consulting firm, though the White House didn’t bother to explain how that was more important than Conway being able to make a buck while also receiving a salary paid for by taxpayers.
Bannon’s waiver will allow him to communicate with news organizations. Seeing as how Bannon is the former CEO of Breitbart News, this means Bannon can now coordinate strategy with right-wing websites and news networks as the administration continues their dissemination of propaganda to the masses.
White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said the waivers keep “the president’s commitment to the American people to be transparent.” She added:
“The White House Counsel’s Office worked closely with all White House officials to avoid conflicts arising from their former places of employment or investment holdings. To the furthest extent possible, counsel worked with each staffer to recuse from conflicting conduct rather than being granted waivers, which has led to the limited number of waivers being issued.”
Drain the swamp? Trump is filling it to overflowing.
This article was originally published by the same author at LiberalAmerica.org