Early in the morning, during some of his last hours in the White House, Donald Trump revoked an executive order that barred federal administration officials from being able to lobby or work for foreign countries after they leave their posts.
The order was among the first ones he signed after assuming the presidency in January of 2017. It forced presidential appointees to sign an ethics pledge with a slate of restrictions related to lobbying, including a five-year ban from lobbying the agencies where they formerly served and a ban on working on behalf of foreign governments or political parties.
If a former appointee was found to be in violation of the pledge, they could be subject to civil suits, as pursued by the attorney general, and the five-year ban would be stretched to 10 years.
The order, which Trump signed with much fanfare in 2017, flanked by aides and cameras, was part of a five-point plan to “drain the swamp” that he had released on the campaign trail in 2016. It was meant to stop the “revolving door” of government employees lobbying their former colleagues. Though sound in theory, the order was full of loopholes, even though Trump had promised to close the loopholes left by former administrations.
The White House released the revocation at around 1 a.m. on Wednesday. It states that “Employees and former employees subject to the commitments in Executive Order 13770 will not be subject to those commitments after noon January 20, 2021”.”
It’s unclear as to why he revoked the order. The last-minute revocation means that Trump has no longer delivered on any aspect of his five-point “swamp-draining” plan, two of which were covered by that executive order. And though Trump reiterated his plans to “drain the swamp” repeatedly while campaigning in 2016, he never followed up on any of the other points.
As many have pointed out over the years of his presidency, Trump actually packed the swamp more than he drained it. The Washington Post reported last year that “the president has worsened Washington’s profiteering culture in nearly every way.”
Indeed, having packed his four years with self-dealing, nepotism and encouraging thousands of conflicts of interest while having delivered very little of what he had promised his followers, Trump is one of the people who has and will benefit the most from his presidency, as some have noted. As one Washington Post columnist wrote in December, “Trump won’t concede because it’s so profitable to keep the con going.”
The president also released a raft of 143 pardons and commutations early on Wednesday morning that included several of his former allies. The list included people like Steve Bannon, who was charged with defrauding donors in an online campaign to “build the wall,” and Elliott Broidy, who pleaded guilty last year to a foreign lobbying conspiracy to influence the Trump administration. He also offered clemency to people charged with a variety of other white-collar crimes — money laundering, corruption, racketeering.
Trump had also contemplated giving himself, his family and his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, preemptive pardons for any potential crimes that may be uncovered in the coming years. Vox noted that the pardons are extremely dubious, ethically: “Trump has brazenly used the pardon power to shield his associates from consequences for criminal wrongdoing in a way no president has for decades.”
Axios, meanwhile, put it simply. Reporting on both the revoking of the executive order and the multiple pardons, they wrote: “The Swamp wins.”