As part of an ongoing effort to put a positive spin on President Donald Trump’s unfortunate first 100 days in office, the Trump administration on Thursday blasted out a press release touting “President Trump’s 100 Days of Accountability.”
The release ticks off a number of things Trump claims to have done to follow through on his campaign promise to “drain the swamp” — a promise he was undermining just two days after the election by stocking his transition team with lobbyists.
Team Trump sent out this email on the same day news broke that Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, is under investigation by the Defense Department’s inspector general for taking money from foreign governments without permission — even after he had been specifically warned not to.
When the topic came up during Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s press briefing, Spicer blamed President Obama for giving Flynn a security clearance — even though Obama fired Flynn from his position as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014.
But it would be hard to blame Obama for the Trump administration’s tidal wave of other ethical slips and relaxed ethics rules.
For one thing, the Trump administration’s boast about the “tough new lobbying standards for political appointees” they’ve implemented is absurd. Less than two weeks ago, the New York Times and ProPublica reported that Trump “is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck.”
“In at least two cases, the appointments may have already led to violations of the administration’s own ethics rules,” the report continues. “But evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules.”
In late January, Politico reported that Trump’s “much-hyped ban on administration officials becoming lobbyists removed some of [Obama’s] ethics rules instead of strengthening them.” One way in which Trump weakened the rules is by giving the White House the ability to issue ethics waivers without disclosing them, as was the policy during the Obama administration. The webpage where the Obama administration posted them now looks like this:
It also omitted an Obama rule directing OGE to publicly report ethics pledge waivers. The WH website says it will post those. That page rn: pic.twitter.com/Fwrnb4nGKS
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) April 27, 2017
ProPublica criticized the Trump administration’s release in a tweetstorm, citing the secret waivers and the fact that at least three Trump transition/administration employees — including Flynn — simply never signed the ethics pledge that was supposed to prevent them from lobbying.
— ProPublica (@ProPublica) April 27, 2017
6/ In the press release, Trump brags about this ethics pledge — too bad not everyone has to sign it! pic.twitter.com/FAqU1qwr6P
— ProPublica (@ProPublica) April 27, 2017
In another blow to transparency, the Trump administration recently announced it is breaking both with Obama administration policy and with Trump’s campaign rhetoric and keeping White House visitor logs secret. That policy will allow Trump to meet with lobbyists and donors without the public ever knowing about it.
Meanwhile, Trump steadfastly refuses to release his tax returns, despite repeatedly promising to do so during his campaign. His refusal has come under new scrutiny this week, as he’s pushing a vague tax reform proposal that would save people as rich as he claims to be millions of dollars each year.
But perhaps Trump’s stickiest ethical entanglement stems from his unprecedented refusal to divest from his business.
Ethics experts broadly agree that the conflicts of interest created by Trump’s business interests — including his ongoing ownership of the Trump International Hotel just blocks from the White House — mean he’s violating the Constitution by accepting gifts from foreign governments. Trump has already been sued by a government watchdog group for that reason.
Tthe State Department has used its webpages and social media platforms to promote Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago club. Membership there doubled to $200,000 days after the inauguration. Trump has visited a Trump-branded property each of the last 12 weekends, at an enormous cost to taxpayers.
Meanwhile, despite having no qualifications, Trump’s daughter and son-and-law — Ivanka Trump and Jared Kusher — both serve in senior White House roles. On Wednesday, the New York Times reported that a major business partner of Kushner’s comes from a wealthy Israeli family whose patriarch is “under scrutiny by law enforcement authorities in four countries” for alleged bribes and money laundering.
“Dealings with the Steinmetz family could create complications for Mr. Kushner,” the Times reported. “The Justice Department, led by Trump appointees, oversees the investigation into Beny Steinmetz. Even as Mr. Kushner’s company maintains extensive business ties to Israel, as a top White House adviser, he has been charged with leading American efforts to broker peace in the Middle East as part of his broad global portfolio.”
Last but certainly not least, Trump’s campaign is currently the subject of numerous investigations — including one being conducted by the FBI — for its shady dealings with Russia. Numerous members of Trump’s inner circle — including Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — were caught lying about their communications with Russian officials. Trump repeatedly blasted the intelligence community after it went public with its conclusion that Russian officials meddled in the presidential on Trump’s behalf, and has blatantly contradicted himself in public statements about whether he has a relationship with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s “100 Days of Accountability” release comes two days after his administration blasted out one about his accomplishments that was riddled with errors.