Trump Administration Swamp Deepens
February 2, 2018
Trump’s cabinet continued to follow in his footsteps this week, making one swampy decision after another. Here’s what you might have missed:
The Education Department awarded a debt collection bid to a company with links to the agency’s top officials, driving up stock shares in the process.
Bloomberg Businessweek: “Performant has ties to DeVos. The education secretary was an investor in a fund that owned a portion of a $148 million loan made to Performant in 2012; she said she’d divest shortly after becoming secretary. The loan was paid off in August. In addition, a former DeVos adviser at the Education Department, Taylor Hansen, is the son of a Performant board member, William Hansen, a top Education Department official in the George W. Bush administration.”
Despite warnings from HUD officials, Ben Carson allowed his son to organize a HUD listening tour in Baltimore and invite people with whom he had potential business dealings.
Washington Post: “Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson allowed his son to help organize a ‘listening tour’ in Baltimore last summer despite warnings from department lawyers that doing so risked violating federal ethics rules, according to internal documents and people familiar with the matter. Career officials and political appointees raised concerns days before the visit that Carson’s son, local businessman Ben Carson Jr., and daughter-in-law were inviting people with whom they potentially had business dealings, the documents show.”
Steven Mnuchin met with one of China’s most powerful CEOs, who has drawn scrutiny from a U.S. national security panel, months after he agreed to buy former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci’s business.
Bloomberg: “U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met last year with one of China’s most powerful chief executives, Adam Tan of HNA Group Co., the conglomerate whose opaque ownership has drawn scrutiny from a U.S. national security panel reviewing its bids to buy American companies. Mnuchin met with Tan on June 19, five months after HNA agreed to buy Anthony Scaramucci’s stake in the investment firm SkyBridge Capital LLC.”
Two American Indian tribes accused Interior Secretary Zinke of illegally stymying their casino plans after an intensive lobbying campaign by MGM Resorts International.
Politico: “Two casino-owning American Indian tribes are accusing Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke of illegally blocking their plans to expand operations in Connecticut — a delay that stands to benefit politically connected gambling giant MGM Resorts International. The Interior Department’s refusal to sign off on the tribes’ plans for a third Connecticut casino came after Zinke and other senior department officials held numerous meetings and phone calls with MGM lobbyists and the company’s Republican supporters in Congress, according to a POLITICO review of Zinke’s schedule, lobbying registrations and other documents.
Trump’s council that helped craft his infrastructure plan was filled with Trump’s allies in his real estate business, raising potential conflicts of interest.
Politico: “The group Democracy Forward will release a report Tuesday that alleges potential conflicts of interest on Trump’s infrastructure advisory council, which was disbanded last summer. The board was led by two of Trump’s longtime New York developer allies, Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth, who were tapped to help shape his plan to shore up roads and bridges by leveraging public money with private investors’ involvement. Among the potential minefields the group singles out are lobbying by LeFrak's company against flood risk regulations that the Trump administration axed last year and the prospect that Roth's company would benefit from a public-private partnership in the works to build a new Penn Station in New York City.”
Scott Pruitt, who has reaped political donations from the oil and gas industry, personally oversaw the removal of climate change information from the EPA website.
Associated Press: “Newly released emails show Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt personally monitored efforts last year to excise much of the information about climate change from the agency's website, especially President Obama's signature effort to reduce planet-warming carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants… Pruitt previously served as Oklahoma's attorney general, a post where he repeatedly sued EPA to block stricter environmental regulations while reaping political donations from the state's powerful oil and gas industry.”
A senior Trump official in the Energy Department told coal executives that his “total purpose” in government was to be an advocate for industry.
The Hill: “A senior Trump administration official in the Energy Department told a coal industry gathering Wednesday that he aims to be a strong advocate for coal. ‘The good news is I'm with the federal government and I'm here to help,’ Doug Matheney, a special adviser in Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, said at the West Virginia Mining Symposium, according to S&P Global. ‘I went to Washington, D.C., for one purpose and that was to help create coal jobs in the United States. That's my total purpose for being there,’ he said. ‘I’m not a researcher, I'm not a scientist, I'm an advocate for the coal industry.’”