Donald Trump will never "drain the swamp": He's already staffing his transition team with GOP insiders, Wall Street lobbyists

Trump is ready to shake up Washington with insiders like Trent Lott and Jamie Dimon

By Sophia Tesfaye
Published November 11, 2016 2:35PM (EST)
Jamie Dimon, Donald Trump, David Koch                                (Reuters/Yuri Gripas/AP/Dan Hallman/Evan Agostini)
Jamie Dimon, Donald Trump, David Koch (Reuters/Yuri Gripas/AP/Dan Hallman/Evan Agostini)

The Trump campaign may have just been trolling the stunned protestors who have taken to the streets in the days since his surprise win with reports of a Sarah Palin and Rudy Giuliani-filled Cabinet. However, the millions of Americans who voted for the businessman and political novice citing his campaign pledges to "drain the swamp" and "blow up" the stale political apparatus in Washington D.C., have already been rewarded with perhaps the most epic political Rickroll ever.

New reports this week make clear that the president-elect’s transition team is packed with the very veterans of the GOP establishment he spent months railing against, as well as with the lobbyists he vowed never to allow near his administration.

“Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you the American people,” Trump's closing campaign ad reaffirmed. But a mere two days after winning the presidential election, Trump's advisers were already meeting with corporate lobbyist in Washington, D.C., to build a transition team.

Trump has roughly 70 days to build a government. As his campaign staff was just as inexperienced as the real-estate mogul turned reality-TV star, Trump has turned to many of the same people who worked for the last Republican administration of former president George W. Bush. Politico reported on some of those GOP insiders:

Top members of his transition team with ties to both Bushes include Kay Cole James, director of the Office of Personnel Management for the younger Bush; William Hagerty, an economic adviser to the elder Bush and player on Romney’s transition team; and Jamie Burke, a White House liaison to Health and Human Services for the younger Bush who also served on Romney’s transition.

There’s also Ado Machida, a top domestic policy aide to former Vice President Dick Cheney; David Bernhardt, Interior Department solicitor, and James F. Manning, a senior Education official, both for the younger Bush; and Ken Blackwell, undersecretary at Housing and Urban Development, and David Malpass, deputy assistant secretary of state, both for the elder Bush.

"If I am elected president, I will end the special interest monopoly in Washington, DC," Trump said in June. "The choice in this election is a choice between taking our government back from the special interests, or surrendering, really, the last scrap of independence to the total and complete control of people like the Clintons."

Hillary Clinton’s transition team banned lobbyists altogether and made staff sign a code of ethics requiring transition officials to recuse themselves from working on any issue on which they have lobbied in the past year. Trump, who was briefly a lobbyist in 2006, had no similar action beyond his campaign promises.

Now his presidential transition, led by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is relying on those very people who represent the so-called special interests Trump railed against to develop his policy plans and come up with a list of more than 4,000 presidential appoints. From the New York Times:

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.

From Politico:

Cindy Hayden of tobacco giant, Altria, is in charge of Trump’s Homeland Security team.

J. Steven Hart, chairman of Williams & Jensen, is in charge of the Labor team. His clients include Visa, the American Council of Life Insurers, Anthem, Cheniere Energy, Coca-Cola, General Electric, PhRMA and United Airlines.

Michael McKenna of MWR Strategies, who is working on the Energy Department team, lobbies for Engie (formerly GDF Suez), Southern Company and Dow Chemical.

David Bernhardt of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck who leads the Interior Department team, lobbies for the Westlands Water District in central California and used to represent Freeport LNG and Rosemont Copper.

Michael Torrey, who has the Agriculture Department portfolio, has his own firm representing the American Beverage Association and the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau.

Mike Catanzaro of CGCN Group, lobbies for the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, a refining group, as well as Hess, Encana, Noble Energy and Devon Energy. Catanzaro is working on energy independence, along with Mike Ference, a lobbyist at the firm S-3 Group, representing Halliburton, Koch Industries and Marathon Oil.

And while one central campaign proposal of the president-elect's was a five-year ban on members of Congress and executive branch officials who want to become lobbyists after leaving government, some former GOP members of Congress turned lobbyist are itching to get their say in a Trump administration.

“Trump has pledged to change things in Washington — about draining the swamp,” former Mississippi senator Trent Lott, who now works at the D.C. lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs, told the Times. “He is going to need some people to help guide him through the swamp — how do you get in and how you get out? We are prepared to help do that.”

It looks at least some of these lobbyists Trump previously disavowed are already working to build the type of administration Trump's supporters supposedly hate.

“I’m not going to let Wall Street get away with murder. Wall Street has caused tremendous problems for us," Trump told a crowd in Iowa, back in January.

On Thursday, CNBC reported that the Trump transition team is considering J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon for Treasury Secretary in a Trump Cabinet.

Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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