by Tom Maertens, Vox Verax co-editor
Tom Maertens served as National Security Council director for nonproliferation and homeland defense under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and as deputy coordinator for counter-terrorism in the State Department during and after 9/11.
One of Donald Trump’s regular refrains on the campaign trail was that he would “drain the swamp” — eliminate the corrupting influence of lobbyists and money in politics.
The votes had barely been counted when Trump’s children wandered into the swamp, attempting to sell access to their father for a million dollars a pop, another Trump-style “charity.” Trump’s son Eric planned to auction off coffee with his sister, Ivanka, and offered a hunting trip with his brother, Donald Jr., for “only” $500,000.
Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, has opened a lobbying office with another ex-campaign worker in the same building as Trump’s transition team. Politico reported that they already brokered Trump’s meeting with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.
Is there any doubt they are selling access to Trump?
Trump has stocked his cabinet with top donors, so far including five billionaires and six other people worth tens or hundreds of millions who used their resources to get special favors from Trump. According to Sen. Bernie Sanders, 17 of Trump’s appointees have more money than the bottom 43 million American households combined.
That includes billionaire investor Carl Icahn as a special adviser on regulation. Icahn already had a hand in picking Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt is pro-Big Oil and has sued the EPA repeatedly for its efforts to stop air and water pollution, positions likely to benefit the oil refineries Icahn owns.
Wilbur Ross, a billionaire named to head the Commerce Department, made his fortune buying and dismantling distressed industrial corporations. This guy is going to save manufacturing jobs?
Betsy DeVos, a billionaire nominated to head the Department of Education, is opposed to public schools; she was a leading proponent of charter schools in Michigan.
Andrew F. Puzder, another billionaire, chosen for secretary of labor, is a fast-food executive who was fined for failing to pay overtime and who opposes raising the minimum wage.
Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson was chosen as secretary of state after a career spent supporting fossil fuel. He has long-time connections with Russia, and recent revelations from the secret Panama papers show he was a director of one of Putin’s shadow corporations.
Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s nominee as Treasury secretary and a former Goldman Sachs executive, was part owner of IndyMac bank which foreclosed on 36,000 homeowners during the housing crisis despite receiving $900 million in federal bailout money. Additionally, Bloomberg is reporting that the bank is being investigated for possible fraud because of a $230 million hole in its balance sheet.
Another Trump appointee is Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) selected to run Health and Human Services. The WSJ has documented dozens of stock trades Price made in the last four years in 40 health-related companies, while sitting on several committees that shape health care policy, including chairing the House Budget Committee.
Price sponsored nine bills and co-sponsored 35 others that could potentially affect the value of his stocks. A 2012 law — Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act — bars members from using non-public information for personal benefit. Five thousand doctors signed a petition opposing his nomination.
Among Trump’s other appointees are conspiracy theorists such as Steve Bannon, his chief of staff, who is the leader of the racist, white-supremacist website, Breitbart.com
, and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s pick for national security adviser, who claimed in an on-line post that the New York Police Department had evidence linking Hillary Clinton to “sex crimes with minors.” “U decide,” Flynn wrote, calling the post a “must-read.”
Flynn also claimed that Islamists infiltrated across the Mexican border en masse, guided by Arabic-language signs Flynn claimed to have seen himself.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), Trump’s pick for interior secretary, told voters in 2014 that Clinton was the real enemy, “the Antichrist.”
The biggest problem is Donald Trump himself who is temperamentally unsuited to be president. His attention span is limited to 140-characters, usually chest-thumping, messages: in one week, he tweeted a nuclear arms race challenge to Putin, threatened a trade war with China, and attempted to intrude into a U.N. vote on Israeli settlements.
He is so desperate for adulation that he looks ready to abandon NATO allies and national interests for some praise from Putin.
Equally problematic, as the New York Times has written editorially, “Trump lies the way other people breathe.”
As Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said: “We have an incoming president who has kind of the maturity of a 5-year-old, warped by a massive ego.”