Gary Cohn, the chairman of the National Economic Council, made millions when he left Goldman Sachs for the Trump administration. (Screen shot via Bloomberg)
Just one day before President Trump spoke in front of Congress and explained how his administration has “begun to drain the swamp of government corruption,” the White House announced new additions to its National Economic Council.
The council, which advises the president on foreign and domestic economic policy, is packed with former corporate lobbyists and Koch Brother allies. Council Chairman Gary Cohn called the new appointments the “best-in-class team,” but many observers were quick to point out conflicts of interest.
David Sirota of the International Business Times reports:
Cohn’s two deputies are Kenneth Juster (who was a partner and managing director at Warburg Pincus) and Jeremy Katz (a former managing director at GCM Grosvenor). Those firms are key members of a private equity industry with significant legislative interests in Congress. …
Cohn hired DJ Gribbin to oversee the president’s infrastructure policy. Trump has said that policy will be “financed through both public and private capital,” a form of financing that has helped private financial firms make big money from public projects. One such firm: Macquarie Capital — where, according to the White House press release, Gribbin worked leading “advisory teams structuring public-private partnership transactions for governmental clients.”
Sirota adds that telecommunications advisor Grace Koh, retirement policy advisor Shahira Knight and energy and environmental policy Michael Catanzaro all have ties to corporate firms or lobbyist groups in their fields.
And the list goes on. Zaid Jilani of The Intercept writes that George David Banks, whom Cohn appointed Special Assistant to the President for International Energy and Environment, was a registered lobbyist for three different energy companies.
And Cohn, the head of the council, reportedly unlocked $284 million when he joined the Trump administration.
Yet one day after the Trump administration released the list, Trump reiterated his “drain the swamp” campaign slogan in front of Congress.
“We have begun to drain the swamp of government corruption by imposing a five-year ban on lobbying by executive branch officials and a lifetime ban on becoming lobbyists for a foreign government,” Trump proudly stated.
However, this declaration was met with titters from some of the liberals in the crowd. Watch Trump’s remarks and listen for the reaction in the video below:
— Mashable News (@MashableNews) March 1, 2017
These new appointments to the National Economic Council are not the first time corporate influences have cozied up to the Trump administration. The president’s cabinet picks, his advisors, his children and even Trump himself have faced ehtical criticism.
But how do the president’s most ardent supporters, those who cast their vote on the promise of a “drained swamp,” feel about the conflict of interest allegations? Although many Trump voters expressed enthusiasm about Tuesday night’s speech to Congress, the president’s approval ratings have continued to drop since he took office.
And even conservative outlets friendly to the Trump administration have criticized some of his appointments – The Washington Times, one of the few outlets recently allowed into a casual Q&A with White House press secretary Sean Spicer, recently argued that “the president’s economics team is less than inspiring.”
Analysis of White House staffers is likely far from over – according to CNN, Trump still needs to fill 2,000 administration vacancies.