When President Donald Trump entered the White House he promised to change politics and pledged to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists and special interest groups influencing the government. Instead, he’s made the “swamp” even deeper than ever, and has been flexing his executive powers in ways never seen before.
So what is President Trump using his new powers to block now? Pretty much anything he wants.
Despite the President’s “no lobbyists” promise, his administration is chocked full of the same people allegedly “regulating” industries who are still profiting from them. How much? It’s hard to say, especially considering the President has exempted many of his aides from being forced to disclose potential ethics violations. Those waivers have finally been posted online after repeated pushing from the Office of Government Ethics, and now we are starting to see how much his close staff is still working with their previous clients, even now that they are influential administrative officials.
“Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway was allowed to communicate with clients from her former consulting firm, but only on ‘broad policy matters,'” NPR reports. “Three former corporate lobbyists will keep working on the issues they dealt with before: finance, energy and the environment. And chief strategist Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, may meet privately with the media outlet.”
Of these disclosures the Bannon news is quite disturbing considering how much the President rails against the media in general and considers them an enemy. That his closest advisor continues to meet with the rightwing, white supremacist-touting, xenophobic news site, and can give them off the record administrative thoughts, makes it essentially an official administration propaganda machine.
If it seems like the Trump team gets to play by its own set of rules when it comes to ethics, well, that’s because President Trump thinks he has the power to allow or block anything he chooses.
Take, for instance, his new policy to not fulfill oversight requests unless they come from Republican politicians. “The White House is telling federal agencies not to cooperate with congressional Democrats’ oversight requests, for fear the information would be used to attack the President, Politico reported Friday,” reports Talking Points Memo. “Citing unnamed ‘Republican sources inside and outside the administration,’ Politico reported that Special Assistant to the President Uttam Dhillon had instructed various agencies not to cooperate with Democrats’ requests in meetings this Spring.”
Does the President really have the power to simply say no to fulfilling oversight requests? Republicans claim that Democratic President Barack Obama was notoriously slow in fulfilling their requests, but he didn’t simply blanket block them to begin with.
This wouldn’t be President Trump’s only overstep, either. In yet another attempt to stop further inquires into Russian influence over the election, he recently signaled that he might invoke Executive Privilege to block former FBI Director James Comey from testifying to Congress.
“Asked on June 1 whether Trump would invoke executive privilege over Comey, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, told ABC’s Good Morning America, ‘The president will make that decision,'” Newsweek reports. “White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also left the option open, telling reporters on June 2, ‘It has got to be reviewed.'” However, apparently the Trump team realized that blocking Comey would be probably as damaging as anything that could be in his testimony, and has now officially agreed to let Comey speak.
“The president’s power to exert executive privilege is very well established, however, in order to facilitate a swift and thorough examination of the facts sought by the Senate’s Intelligence Committee, President Trump will not assert executive privilege regarding James Comey’s scheduled testimony,” Deputy White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday according to CBS News.
The President has blocked ethics disclosures, blocked nepotism laws, is blocking oversight requests, and considered blocking a key witness in a Congressional hearing from speaking on a foreign government meddling in a US election. Is there anything President Trump won’t block if he believes it will protect his legacy?