WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump began promising to “drain the swamp” while campaigning, with his rally crowds often chanting along with him. In October he outlined a few proposals he said would get the drainage started: Clamping down on lobbying, fundraising and even the number of terms lawmakers can serve.
As president, he can now work to turn slogans into actions. Here’s what he’s done about the “swamp” in his first three months:
Within days of taking office, Trump signed an executive order aimed at limiting the influence of the people who leave government service. The order imposes a lifetime ban on their lobbying on behalf of foreign governments and a five-year freeze on their ability to lobby the executive branch on anything. Also, incoming officials are not supposed to work on issues they’d formerly lobbied on.
The catch: There have been exceptions to these rules. Take Marcus Peacock, who served as a senior budget adviser. He left after 77 days to work for the Business Roundtable, a lobbying group. And ProPublica and The New York Times reported that some administration hires appear to be taking up issues they recently worked on as lobbyists.
Trump waived Peacock from the five-year ban, and it’s possible he’s waived the rules for recent lobbyists who joined the administration. But the White House isn’t sharing that information with the public.
That’s a change from President Barack Obama’s practice of posting ethics waivers on the White House website.
The White House has gone dark in other ways, too. Last week, the White House said it would not go public with its visitor logs. Obama released those records every three months. Seeing the names of people who come and go can help the public understand who has the ear of the administration on important policy matters.
Trump’s tendency toward concealment should not be a surprise: Breaking from precedent, Trump refused to release his tax forms throughout his campaign and even now — while Democrats threaten to hold up his tax reduction plans over the issue.
A bright spot: The White House is making available the personal financial disclosure forms of its top appointees. That means people can have a look at the financial interests those employees had as they entered government service.
FAMILY & (INDUSTRY) FRIENDS
Same swamp, different creatures? Trump has hired his daughter and son-in-law as top advisers. Like Trump himself, they stepped back from daily operations of their companies (Jared Kushner has a real estate company and Ivanka Trump a fashion and lifestyle brand) but retained a financial interest in most of them. Government watchdogs have warned this leaves them susceptible to divided loyalties.
And the president has surrounded himself with advisers who aren’t technically White House employees, meaning they don’t have to adhere to its ethics rules. Among that group: billionaire Carl Icahn and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, both named by Trump in press releases as top advisers — but not actual employees.
Icahn, special adviser on regulatory reform, maintains a sprawling portfolio of business interests directly affected by regulations. Giuliani heads a White House committee on cybersecurity matters, and he is executive of a private-sector cybersecurity firm.
The White House considers its moves to reduce the federal bureaucracy part of its drain-the-swamp action plan. To that end, Trump is requiring that agencies revoke two regulations for each new one, and he has asked agencies to look for ways to cut costs
He began his term with a 90-day federal hiring freeze that has now ended.
Trump benefited big-league from small donations to his campaign, which leaves some campaign finance reformers hopeful that he will support proposals to encourage that kind of money in politics. So far he has not backed any such legislation.
Since he won the presidency, big donors are flocking to him. His record-setting $107 million haul for inaugural festivities came from a raft of companies and people who do business with the government.
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