Although no man is an island, President Trump plays one in the White House, where he could add to his fortune by renting out empty desks.
Andrew Restuccia, a writer for Politico, summed up the situation with this lead:
“President Donald Trump’s Cabinet is increasingly stocked with temporary stand-ins and Washington insiders with deep ties to the industries they regulate, complicating Trump’s ability to govern as he approaches the most perilous period of his presidency and opening up his advisers to conflict-of-interest investigations by resurgent Democrats.
“As of Thursday (Jan. 2) at least four agencies — the Defense Department, the Health and Human Services Department, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department — are being led by former corporate executives or industry lobbyists.”
According to Restuccia, Trump’s Cabinet is more unsettled than at any time since he took office two years ago. The heads of the EPA and the Interior and Defense departments, as well as the attorney general and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations are all serving in an acting capacity while Trump seeks permanent replacements or waits for the Senate to confirm his picks.
Mick Mulvaney is serving as acting White House chief of staff while running the Office of Management and Budget.
“This is unprecedented,” Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit that advised the Trump transition team as it set up the government, said. “Fundamentally, permanent leadership is required to be able to run the government effectively.”
House Democrats have signaled that they intend to investigate Cabinet secretaries’ potential conflicts of interest, likely subjecting agency leaders to contentious oversight hearings and an explosion of document requests.
“I definitely see this as the swamp times 10,” Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group, said. “I have been doing this for 30 years and I can’t remember a time when we’ve had so many agencies being run by people who are coming from the industries they regulate or are recipients of multibillion-dollar contracts.”
According to people familiar with the matter, facing a new Democratic majority in the House and the looming conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, the Trump administration has often had difficulty recruiting top-tier candidates for high-level jobs.
Trump has praised his current crop of top advisers, arguing that he has assembled a great team. The president is particularly high on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom he views as a loyal defender.
The president’s decision to tap lobbyists and former industry executives to lead major departments, even on a temporary basis, appears to conflict with his repeated promises during the campaign to “drain the swamp” and limit the influence of vested interest in government decision making.