So much for “Drain the Swamp.”
With a month to go in his shockingly victorious campaign, Donald Trump unveiled a new slogan: Drain the Swamp. The slogan supposedly differentiated him from Hillary Clinton, whose alleged corruption for months dominated headlines and caused millions of Americans to inherently distrust the Democratic candidate. “Drain the Swamp” also pointed to Trump’s repeated campaign promise of standing up to “career politicians” and returning Washington to the people. But like many of his other promises, this one is quickly being thrown to the wayside. Trump is doing all he can to fill the swamp with more monsters.
First of all, the supposed anti-establishment, populist candidate announced that his chief-of-staff would be Republican National Committee chair and spineless, acquiescent “leader” Reince Priebus. All authoritarian strongmen reward those who bow to their wishes and pose no threat to power accumulation. Priebus perfectly fit the bill and the Kenosha political operative who commissioned a 2012 autopsy that concluded Republicans needed to better appeal to Latinos by moderating their rhetoric will head the White House staff.
Not content with solely appointing the establishment’s figurehead to his administration, Trump named Steve Bannon, former Breitbart executive and known anti-Semite, racist, and sexist, as a senior adviser. Long before becoming Trump’s campaign CEO, Bannon turned Breitbart into a pro-Trump outlet that worked closely with his Government Accountability Institute (which published the dubious book “Clinton Cash”) to undermine both Republican obstacles in the primary and Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. The site has no plans to abandon its 24/7, wall-to-wall pro-Trump coverage. But now that its white nationalist former executive is steps from the Oval Office, Breitbart can – and certainly will – use proximity and connections to the president to become a de facto government propaganda outlet. Kurt Bardella, a former Breitbart employee who left the site after questioning its coverage of the Trump campaign, worries that “it will be as close as we are ever to have…to a state-run media enterprise.”
Trump campaigned extensively on the egregiously incorrect statement that he self-funded his campaign. Doing so, he argued, would help him #DrainTheSwamp because he would have no allegiance to – and thus no reason to favor – donors. Not the case. Already, Trump’s donors are “shaping the incoming administration.” Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire financier Robert Mercer (a prominent Trump donor who has a major stake in Breitbart) is helping shape the presidential transition. Peter Thiel, mega-Trump donor and Silicon Valley billionaire who funded a court case that bankrupted Gawker, sits on Trump’s executive transition committee. Other lobbyists (against whom Trump repeatedly railed while on the campaign trail) and fundraisers have been charged with hiring and planning executive agency transition. It’s hard to drain the swamp when lobbyists and donors guide the president’s assumption of power.
Throughout the campaign, questions lingered about what would happen to Trump’s many businesses if he won. Newsweek aptly pointed out that there are many potential conflicts of interest with potentially calamitous results for Trump because of his businesses’ foreign ties. It seems as if Trump’s children will be running the private businesses. However, reports have emerged that Trump team has requested top-level security clearance for his children, the very ones who will be charged with running the companies, meaning they would be considered unpaid national security advisers (a way of skirting nepotism rules). That means the individuals running multi-billion dollar businesses with ties to foreign banks and governments will have access to top-secret information. Such ability for corruption dwarfs by magnitudes the unproven accusations of improper behavior Trump and his surrogates hurled at the Clintons for alleged pay-to-play schemes at their Foundation during Hillary’s time at the Department of State.
Donald Trump has clearly shown no interesting in actually draining the swamp. His campaign promise, unsurprisingly, has turned out to be empty rhetoric whose political expediency helped elect him president but whose principles will not define his administration. From his chief-of-staff and senior adviser appointments to the empowerment of donors and lobbyists and his desire to give top-secret information to those who will run his businesses, Trump will fill the swamp with actors and beliefs against which he ran his campaign. Drain the swamp is out; fill the swamp is in.