President Trump Decides That Transparency From the White House is Overrated
“Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”
That is the question that the Trump administration is asking the public, in the latest salvo in its war on transparency. The bevy of lobbyists and big money players that have been shuffling in and out of the White House in recent weeks will no longer be subject to public scrutiny, according to multiple reports.
The president is busy putting lobbyists in key positions up and down the government, all with zero transpanency, writes Justin Elliott of ProPublica:
The Times scrutinized financial disclosures of top White House staffers and found that the lobbyists and consultants in their ranks had more than 300 recent corporate clients and employers, including Apple and Anthem, the insurance company.
The report focuses on former industry insiders who are taking advantage of the administration’s lax ethics rules and working for the government to
undermine the regulatory structure of the very industries they used to work for, and in many cases still draw substantial income from.
One striking case involves Michael Catanzaro, an appointee on the National Economic Council whose portfolio includes energy and environmental issues. Catanzaro was formerly a lobbyist for oil and coal companies that strenuously opposed the Obama administration’s clean power regulation. Three industry sources told the Times that Catanzaro is now working on that same issue in the Trump administration.
Even under Trump’s weakened ethics rules, former lobbyists like Catanzaro are not supposed to work on issues that they formerly had lobbied on.
Still, under Trump’s executive order, he can issue waivers at any time to staffers, Catanzaro included, for any reason, and never disclose it.
It seems his repeated promises to drain the swamp are being abandoned by this White House. He is doing the exact opposite of that, and is doing it without any oversight at all.
Closing the Blinds
The official turn on executive accountability came last Friday, when the White House made a statement that they would be keeping all visitor logs secret, ending the public’s ability to monitor who the president is meeting with.
The White House announced Friday that it would cut off public access to visitor logs revealing who is entering the White House complex and which officials they are meeting, breaking with the Obama administration’s practice and returning a cloak of secrecy over the basic day-to-day workings of the government.
The official reason for this departure is the oft-used “national security” excuse, but the shift in policy also conveniently prevents the public at large from knowing exactly which corporate lobbyists, political activists, and potential donors to Trump’s campaign are visiting the oval office. This policy, a stark departure from prior precedent, is drawing the ire of watchdog groups, and has already sparked at least one lawsuit.
As a candidate and media figure, Trump was often critical of president Obama for what he considered to be a lack of transparency. Check out this tweet from back in 2012:
Why is @BarackObama spending millions to try and hide his records? He is the least transparent President–ever–and he ran on transparency.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2012
A Taxing Situation
Fresh off the heels of this weekend’s tax march, which drew thousands all around the country demanding to see Trump’s tax returns, we are being reminded once again that the president won the election, so we should just move on. Nothing to see here…
He took to his favorite platform for speaking directly to the people and blasted the protests, saying that he “easily won the electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?” He went on to accuse the protesters of being paid to protest.
The hubris on display here is stunning, and it is just the kind of authoritarian rhetoric his more tepid supporters laughed off and apologized for. Surely at least some of them must be starting to cringe a little bit at this point.