On Wednesday, Trump adviser Newt Gingrich acknowledged that President-elect Donald Trump has given up on the “drain the swamp” pledge he repeatedly made during the final weeks before the election.
“I’m told he now just disclaims that,” Gingrich said of the slogan, which was often chanted at Trump rallies in October and November, during an interview with NPR. “He now says it was cute, but he doesn’t want to use it anymore.”
There’s good reason Trump might want to distance himself from the slogan — it should be impossible for him to utter “drain the swamp” with a straight face these days given what he’s done since November 8.
One of Trump’s first actions as president-elect was to stuff his transition team full of lobbyists and Wall Street veterans. He did that despite saying in June that “if I am elected President, I will end the special interest monopoly in Washington, D.C.” and then the next month saying “I don’t want lobbyists, I don’t want special interests.” In October, spokeswoman Hope Hicks bragged to the Wall Street Journal about how registered lobbyists weren’t raising money for Trump. But Trump’s relationship to lobbyists changed almost immediately after he became president-elect.
Being rich isn’t the same as being corrupt, but it’s hard to insist you’re serious about ushering in a different way of doing business in Washington when your cabinet is the richest in history, with a combined wealth of well over $9.5 billion — greater than that of one-third of U.S. households combined. Not only are Trump’s choices rich, but they’re also well-connected insiders, with secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson currently working as CEO of oil and gas giant ExxonMobil and treasury secretary nominee Steve Mnuchin having worked as a banker at Goldman Sachs. Mnuchin later become owner and chairman of OneWest bank, an institution that was described as a “foreclosure machine” by the California Reinvestment Coalition.
Trump’s pick of Goldman Sachs executive Gary Cohn as his director of the National Economic Council had some Trump supporters crying foul before November was even through.
Mr Trump, this is bullshit. Can you hire someone who doesn't work for Goldman Sachs?
What about that swamp? Huh? https://t.co/t2QkXsrtBy
— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) November 30, 2016
Gingrich’s NPR interview came on the same day that former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski announced he and another Trump adviser are forming a “full service government relations and political consulting firm” in Washington, “just a block from the White House” at 1717 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Their mission? Lobbying the government on behalf of their clients.
Despite all that swampiness, Gingrich explained the death of “drain the swamp” as merely a result of Trump winning the election.
“He’s in a different role now, and maybe he feels that as president, as the next president of the United States, that he should be marginally more dignified than talking about alligators in swamps,” he said. But Trump’s newfound dignity hasn’t prevented him from using Twitter to bash Vanity Fair after the magazine published an unfavorable review of the Trump Grill, Saturday Night Live for Alec Baldwin’s unfavorable impressions of him, or a labor leader who dared to speak out about Trump’s lies.
Trump might intend to drop the “drain the swamp” slogan going forward, but he’s continued to invoke it during his post-election “thank you” tour. During a December 6 speech in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Trump echoed his campaign speeches and vowed to “drain the swamp of corruption in Washington, D.C.”
He said that at the same time ethics experts were warning that if he doesn’t divest himself from the Trump Organization, he’ll involve himself in conflicts of interest that will violate the Constitution. But Trump reportedly plans to maintain ownership of his business while president.
During a separate NPR interview on Tuesday, Gingrich suggested that Congress should consider changing ethics laws so that they don’t cause problems for Trump and his team of millionaires and billionaires.
“We’ve never seen this kind of wealth in the White House, and so traditional rules don’t work,” Gingrich said. “We’re going to have to think up a whole new approach… Congress can try to figure out how to do this.”
UPDATE: In a video he posted on Twitter on Friday, Gingrich walked his comments back.
“I want to report that I made a big boo-boo,” Gingrich said. “I talked this morning with President-elect Donald Trump and he reminded me, he likes draining the swamp — I mischaracterized it the other day — he intends to drain the swamp. He even describes it as ‘DTS.’”
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) December 22, 2016