At some point even avid Trumpsters are going to have to start asking themselves why this administration has so much trouble understanding ethical lines, and how not to cross them.
The latest entry into the “Swamp? What Swamp?” sweepstakes: The Interior Department (now led by the hopelessly conflicted David Bernhardt) has opened investigations into …. Let’s see … checking the list …. one, two, three … six! more Interior appointees who are accused of engaging with their former employers and/or clients while working for us the people (the Washington Post reports that only five still work for the Interior Department; one apparently left to rejoin the private sector).
And even if it’s not manifestly clear that such contacts at a minimum appear to be a conflict of interest, and thus should not happen, these folks signed pledges when they took the jobs promising not to work with their former bosses and clients.
Trump (who has his own overstuffed bag of conflicts) seems more like the swamp keeper.
And why did they sign pledges? Because President Trump ordered such pledges as one of his first actions after taking office as part of his “drain the swamp” efforts that so far have been more served in the breach than in the observation. In fact, ProPublica reported in February that at least 33 Trump appointees had found ways to work around the ethics pledges, with varying degrees of success.
Paragraph 6 of the presidential order specifically says appointees must agree that:
“I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.
“If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 6, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment or participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls.”
So what are these most recent accusations? The nonprofit Campaign Legal Center, which filed the complaint that launched the investigations, lists them all in a letter to the agency’s inspector general. But in essence, the appointees are accused of failing to keep their former bosses and clients at arm’s length.
For a politician (and yes, Trump is one) who won election in part by promising to drain the swamp, Trump (who has his own overstuffed bag of conflicts) seems more like the swamp keeper.