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Thursday, June 01, 2017

The swamp overflows

by digby

Trump's voters won't care about this because when he said he would "drain the swamp" they thought he meant that he would run all the Democrats out of Washington. If it were anyone but him it would be a massive scandal:
President Donald Trump has granted waivers to at least 16 White House officials to allow them to work on issues they handled in their private-sector jobs, according to disclosures released by the White House late Wednesday.

The number of waivers granted to White House staff in the first four months of the Trump administration—the same number former President Barack Obama gave out during his eight years in office—calls further into question Mr. Trump’s campaign pledge to rid Washington of special interests and “drain the swamp.” The waivers allow officials who spent recent years lobbying the government on behalf of corporate clients to now weigh in on those same issues.

The White House posted the waivers late Wednesday after a tense back-and-forth with the Office of Government Ethics, which had requested information about the waivers in an effort to determine if the Trump administration was following federal ethics rules. Among those rules: an executive order Mr. Trump signed in January requiring former lobbyists to recuse themselves from matters on which they had lobbied for two years after their appointment.

Yet Mr. Trump has so far granted waivers to four former registered lobbyists, including Michael Catanzaro, who has spent years representing oil-and-gas companies such as Devon Energy Corp. , Koch Industries Inc., Halliburton Co. and Hess Corp. He also lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency over its greenhouse gas regulations and regulatory reform, representing industry trade groups such as the American Chemistry Council and American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.

Under the terms of his waiver, Mr. Catanzaro—who serves as special assistant to the president for domestic energy and environmental policy—can work on some of those same issues, including the Clean Power Plan and methane regulations.

Andrew Olmem, a former registered lobbyist at Venable LLP who represented MetLife Inc., American Express Co. and other financial companies, now serves as a special assistant to the president for financial policy. Under the terms of his waiver, he can interact with his former clients on policy matters including Puerto Rico’s fiscal issues, amending the Flood Disaster Protection Act and overhauling the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s treatment of insurers.

Shahira Knight, a former lobbyist for Fidelity Investments on tax and retirement policy issues, can participate in policy discussions on that subject, her waiver says.

Two top White House advisers—chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior counselor Kellyanne Conway—were granted waivers related to their past work for the Republican National Committee and other political organizations. The waivers state that they can continue to interact with those groups in their official roles.

One waiver, which applies to all executive office of the president officials, allows them to “participate in communications and meetings with news organizations regarding broad policy matters.” Chief strategist Steve Bannon earlier this year faced a complaint from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington over his ongoing interactions with Breitbart News, his former employer.

The administration on Wednesday only released waivers for White House staff, not for officials at federal agencies. Agencies are required to disclose their waivers to the Office of Government Ethics by Thursday.

The White House earlier this month sought to block the Office of Government Ethics’s effort to obtain its waivers, eliciting an unusually forceful response from Walter Shaub, the agency’s director.

I heard Republicans on TV explaining that Trump won the election because people believed he would bring in the best people from the private sector so  it makes sense that they would be people who needed to stay in touch with business and industry. Or something.

The debasement these people are willing to endure to defend this man is astonishing. Laughable. And they seem not to realize that in this day and age everything is recorded and documented. But then if they succeed in bringing down the country or turning it into a full-fledged police state, as they seem intent upon doing, I suppose we will all have bigger problems.