When Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” it was taken by his supporters to mean that he would rid Washington of corrupt and self-dealing insiders. Little did they know that he really intended to relocate the swamp dwellers to his administration. And in that respect he succeeded beyond all expectations.
Trump’s appointees to high-level positions have proven to be the worst offenders of the sort he railed against. A report by ProPublica found that “At least 187 Trump political appointees have been federal lobbyists and … many are now overseeing the industries they once lobbied on behalf of.” But the standout abusers of the public trust are the heads of his cabinet agencies. People like:
- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who charged personal travel to his department and spent $139,000 on a door for his office.
- Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, who ordered a $31,000 dining set for his office.
- Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, who took vacations with his wife on the taxpayers’ dime.
- Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who was found to have misused his travel funding by flying first class because he was afraid he would be accosted by angry coach passengers.
These are all egregious breaches of ethics by executive branch managers. Any administration would be shocked and embarrassed by such irresponsible behavior. And Trump’s administration is no exception. Indeed, the President was embarrassed by the news reports of these incidents. So embarrassed that he made sure that those involved were reprimanded. However, it’s clear from the reports that what they were being scolded for were the embarrassing stories, not their unethical behavior. Their mistake was that they cast a negative light on their egocentric boss. As CNN reports:
“The White House held private meetings with four Cabinet-level officials last month to scold them for embarrassing stories about questionable ethical behavior at their respective agencies, sources familiar with the sessions tell CNN.
“Internal watchdogs have launched at least nine audits, reviews or investigations across several Cabinet agencies, and stories about first-class travel, expensive office furniture, and internal strife have become commonplace.”
Notice that there is no indication that the White House was upset with what these agency heads did, only that they got caught and generated bad press. Nor is there any mention of punishment for the offenders. That’s typical of this White House that refuses to hold anyone accountable for their misdeeds. Just last week Trump senior counsel Kellyanne Conway was found to have violated the Hatch Act, which forbids politicking by government staffers. In fact, she broke this law three times. But she has not been fired or punished in any way. Except, perhaps, Trump may have pulled her aside to complain about having embarrassed him.
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So for anyone who was wondering, the swamp is alive and well in Trump’s White House. It must be comforting to the alligators that they will always be defended against any effort to hold them accountable. Which insures that future misbehavior can be expected since there are no repercussions. That’s pretty much the way Trump lived his life of excess and crime before coming to Washington. And he’s apparently sticking to that method. Because, at least with regard to his dimwitted supporters, it’s working.