The muck

But meanwhile we can’t let Trump’s reckless Twitter-threats at North Korea distract us from the less dramatic ongoing corruption and secrecy of his disgustingly sleazy self-interested administration. The NY Times and Pro Publica are collaborating to cover the subject. The Times today:

President 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.

Remember yesterday’s news about how they’ve made the visitor logs secret? Yeah.

The result is potential conflicts of interest not just with Trump but across the whole executive branch.

In at least two cases, the appointments may have already led to violations of the administration’s own ethics rules. But evaluating if and when such violations have occurred has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules.

Oh is it. Is it really. How is that even legal?

One: Michael Catanzaro, top White House energy adviser.

Until late last year, he was working as a lobbyist for major industry clients such as Devon Energy of Oklahoma, an oil and gas company, and Talen Energy of Pennsylvania, a coal-burning electric utility, as they fought Obama-era environmental regulations, including the landmark Clean Power Plan. Now, he is handling some of the same matters on behalf of the federal government.

That “until late last year” is tactful. What happened late last year? Oh yes, the election.

Another case involves Chad Wolf, who spent the past several years lobbying to secure funding for the Transportation Security Administration to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new carry-on luggage screening device. He is now chief of staff at that agency — at the same time as the device is being tested and evaluated for possible purchase by agency staff.

Gee, what a coincidence.

At the Labor Department, two officials joined the agency from the K Street lobbying corridor, leaving behind jobs where they fought some of the Obama administration’s signature labor rules, including a policy requiring financial advisers to act in a client’s best interest when providing retirement advice.

Find the most self-serving corrupt thing you can do, and then do it. Those stupid people getting financial advice deserve to be shafted by their advisers because…well because the advisers want to buy another condo in Palm Beach, that’s why.

…the Trump administration is more vulnerable to conflicts than the prior administration, particularly after the president eliminated an ethics provision that prohibits lobbyists from joining agencies they lobbied in the prior two years. The White House also announced on Friday that it would keep its visitors’ logs secret, discontinuing the release of information on corporate executives, lobbyists and others who enter the complex, often to try to influence federal policy. The changes have drawn intense criticism from government ethics advocates across the city.

But it doesn’t matter because Trump does not care. He never will care. He doesn’t have it in him to care. Think of him as, say, a food processor. A food processor can’t fix your roof. Trump can’t care about criticism from government ethics advocates. The parts aren’t there.

A White House spokeswoman, Sarah H. Sanders, declined repeated requests by The Times to speak with Stefan C. Passantino, the White House lawyer in charge of the ethics policy. Instead, the White House provided a written statement that did not address any of the specific questions about potential violations The Times had identified.

See, there again – they have no right to do that. They have no right to refuse to be accountable. They have no right, but it doesn’t matter because there’s no mechanism to force them to. “Checks and balances” don’t check or balance them.

Read the rest.

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