[I said once-weekly updates but fair warning: this week, at least, is going to take two. Part 1 below:]
Trump’s campaign promise of “draining the swamp” hasn’t gotten off to a great start so far. D.C. is looking swampier than ever. I mean, when your first week in office is met with articles like “Advice for Those Weighing Jobs in the Trump Administration: Assessing the risks of service,” by George W. Bush’s former speechwriter and “Should You Resign from the Trump Administration?” by a dude with 18 years of bipartisan experience in the State Department, it’s not a good sign.
Let’s look at some specifics, shall we? This article sheds some seriously unflattering light on the Presidential transition; there’s a lot to unpack there but I take special note of the following quote. “Trent Lott, a lobbyist close to several people on the transition, said the transition team was relying on lobbyists and others for lists of potential hires and policy recommendations.” It’s interesting that despite Trump’s excoriation of lobbyists on the campaign trail, he doesn’t seem to mind them much now; in fact, he’s already met with lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industries, and been persuaded to drop his promise to let Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices.
There’s been a whole bunch of issues with Trump’s cabinet and executive nominees. Here’s the low-hanging fruit:
- Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos has a bad track record of education reform in Michigan, is accused of plagiarizing material in her written responses to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and was unable to correctly answer verbal questions by senators regarding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act;
- Treasury Secretary nominee Steven Mnuchin “forgot” to tell the Senate about more than $100 million in personal assets and interests in a Cayman Islands corporation, led a bank that has been accused of racial discrimination, is a favorite of hedge fund managers who are betting they will make A LOT of money from policies he will be able to enact or influence, and lied (or at best “misled”) the Senate Finance committee about his bank’s foreclosure practices;
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is the first ever secretary of state with no prior military or government experience, holds the Order of Friendship from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and lobbied in 2010 against an anti-corruption law requiring oil companies to disclose payments to foreign governments (the House voted to kill this rule the same day the Senate confirmed Tillerson as Sec. of State) ;
- Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions has the full support of white-nationalist Steve Bannon, but was sharply criticized for racist behavior in the 80s by Coretta Scott King, and was eventually deemed unfit for a federal judgeship during the Reagan Administration;
- Health & Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Price has plans to slash Medicare and Medicaid funding and strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding (remember that Planned Parenthood is forbidden from using taxpayer money to provide abortions; federal funding to Planned Parenthood covers preventative medicine and pre-natal care for poor women) and has proposed bills in Congress benefitting his own investments;
- Energy Secretary Rick Perry didn’t even understand the description of the job he would be taking on when he accepted the nomination from Trump;
- Trump’s Army Secretary pick “has been trying to swap his majority interest in Eastern Air Lines for a smaller stake in Swift Air, a charter company with millions of dollars in hard-to-track government subcontracts…[he] may find himself in the precarious position of being a government official who benefits from federal contracts;”
- Lawmakers are seeking a Pentagon probe of national security advisor Mike Flynn’s acceptance of money from a state-funded Russian television network and there are reports that Flynn has been under investigation from U.S. counterintelligence agents for his ties to Russia;
- Trump’s pick for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, built his political career fighting the EPA. He has filed 14 lawsuits against the agency and brings no scientific, health, or regulatory experience to the job.
Democratic Senators boycotted the committee vote on Mnuchin and Price. The Republicans then changed the procedural rules and allowed a vote to proceed in committee anyway.
A leaked email shows that Trump tried to replace all the Inspectors General at each federal agency, which matters because Inspectors general are “independent watchdogs who are typically in place for an indefinite period, regardless of the party in charge.”
Kellyanne Conway was roasted for using the phrase “alternative facts” in an on-air disagreement about the size of President Trump’s inaugural crowd. She’s being called the greatest spin doctor in modern American history. Sean Spicer has already gained notoriety for lying in his press conferences. These articles pair nicely with a legitimately horrifying speech by the chair of the House Science Committee, which included the line “Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”
…I’ll pass, thanks.
In other news, Congressional staffers signed non-disclosure agreements to work on the “immigration ban” executive order (why this matters). Trump brought a cheering section along to his CIA visit after the inauguration; silenced government scientists with gag orders; made the White House comments opening Black History month all about himself; asked for prayer for the TV ratings of his show The Apprentice at the National Prayer Breakfast; and politicized the National Security Council (more on this in my next news round up). Angela Merkel apparently had to explain the Geneva Conventions to Trump over the phone.
Meanwhile, Trump still has yet to release his tax returns, and his business is actively receiving direct payments from foreign agents. He has not provided any evidence that he has followed through on his commitment to resign from his companies.
I’ll end here with this photo of Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. meeting with Orin Hatch in the White House, which could also be captioned “Executives running the business the President owns meeting with the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee in the White House.” (This is example #1 of why “I’m handing the business to my children” doesn’t fly as a solution to the ethics problems posed by the Trump organization. Even the appearance of impropriety is important when you are THE LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD.)