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Donald Trump Promised to ‘Drain the Swamp,’ But His Transition Team Raises Doubts

Friday, November 11, 2016 16:40
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  During Donald Trump’s campaign, many of his supporters latched onto his anti-establishment message. (Gage Skidmore / CC 2.0)

Since Donald Trump won Tuesday night’s presidential election, there has been mounting speculation on who will join his administration. Although New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was initially at the head of Trump’s transition team (responsible for helping the president-elect choose his cabinet members), news broke early Friday that the Vice President-elect, Mike Pence, had been appointed as the transition team’s chairman.

Trump has said that he plans to “[p]ut together the most highly qualified group of successful leaders who will be able to implement our change agenda in Washington.” But his plan hit a roadblock almost immediately, when news broke that corporate consultants and lobbyists had joined his team.

The New York Times reports:

Jeffrey Eisenach, a consultant who has worked for years on behalf of Verizon and other telecommunications clients, is the head of the team that is helping to pick staff members at the Federal Communications Commission.

Michael Catanzaro, a lobbyist whose clients include Devon Energy and Encana Oil and Gas, holds the “energy independence” portfolio.

Michael Torrey, a lobbyist who runs a firm that has earned millions of dollars helping food industry players such as the American Beverage Association and the dairy giant Dean Foods, is helping set up the new team at the Department of Agriculture.

Throughout his campaign for president, Trump made a point of criticizing the overwhelming power of lobbyists and special interests groups in the American political process. In fact, less than a month before the election, he vowed to “drain the swamp” of Washington, D.C. insiders by calling for congressional term limits.

Now, however, it seems that the “drain the swamp” mentality has been set aside as the Trump campaign looks to fill the most important positions in a presidential administration. 

So far, the media can only speculate who might join the Trump administration—but a preliminary list, obtained by BuzzFeed, outlines prospective cabinet choices. The potential appointments would likely reinforce a conservative administration and has caused immediate alarm throughout liberal circles.

For instance, Ben Carson, a creationist and retired neurosurgeon, is tapped as a potential Secretary of Education. Many allies of the Trump campaign are listed, such as the potential appointment of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to the position of Attorney General.

Perhaps most frighteningly for progressives, Myron Ebell—a longtime skeptic of climate change—is a likely choice for head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Many of these possible appointments are not surprising. The friends and allies of Trump’s campaign are no secret, and Trump has made his own thoughts on education and climate change very clear.

But several of the choices represent the “establishment” that Trump supporters were encouraged to disavow, just as the inclusion of lobbyists in the transition team goes against Trump’s “drain the swamp” mentality.

Steven Mnuchin, who worked at Goldman Sachs for almost two decades, is listed as a potential Secretary of Treasury—despite Trump’s attacks on Wall Street in recent months.

This is just one example of Trump’s differences with mainline Republican Party members. Take a recent financial services meeting between Christie and lobbyists. “While the GOP platform called for reinstating Glass-Steagall and Trump’s campaign manager at the time promoted it,” CNN reports, “Christie told the financial services lobbyists gathered that Trump is often open to changing his mind when he gets input from people with expertise.

Other potential cabinet picks with ties to big business influences include oil-tycoon Forrest Lucas, venture capitalist Robert Grady, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross, and oil company CEO Harold Hamm.

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