Democracy Dies in Darkness

The Fix

Swampwatch: The overlap between Trump's Cabinet and the world of high finance

By Philip Bump

December 12, 2016 at 3:18 PM

Donald Trump greets Wilbur Ross for their meeting at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey. (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

This article has been updated.

"Drain the swamp!" Donald Trump would cry to attendees at his late-campaign rallies. He didn't love the term at first, he would say, but eventually grew to embrace it when he saw how it resonated. Drain the swamp! Clear the pervasive negative influences out of Washington!

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At a rally in Kinston, N.C., Oct. 26, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump said the phrase “drain the swamp” had been “trending all over the world” since he started using it. (The Washington Post)

What influences? In his closing ad, Trump decried the "global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the hands of a handful of large corporations and political entities." As the words "large corporations" are spoken, the person who appears on-screen is Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. Trump lashed out at the investment bank early in the campaign, declaring that "the guys at Goldman Sachs" had "total, total control" over Ted Cruz and "total control over Hillary Clinton." (Clinton, of course, appears as part of that powerful elite cabal in the Trump ad.)

Perhaps Mr. Snowden's choice wasn't that hard after all.

As our Matea Gold notes, if Goldman Sachs is the swamp, Trump is putting on waders. Trump's proposed nominee to run the Department of the Treasury is Steven Mnuchin, who led Trump's fundraising efforts, once Trump started accepting contributions in May. (Previously, he'd rejected fundraising, saying that his opponents who raised money were puppets to their donors.) Politico reports that Trump may select Gary Cohn, the president of the firm, to run the Office of Management and Budget. He's already selected the controversial figure Stephen Bannon to serve as his chief strategist in the West Wing; Bannon worked for Goldman for years and in finance more broadly for longer.

Among two dozen or so people who have been picked for key positions or who are being seriously discussed to fill Trump administration roles, at least nine have some tie to the finance industry.

In the interests of keeping an eye on how the swamp-draining is going, here's a breakdown of possible and confirmed Trump nominees and the extent of their backgrounds in the finance industry.

The question that arises from Trump's possible and verified picks is the extent to which Trump will be able or willing to reverse what he has argued are harmful behaviors -- while being aided by people from a world that he suggests created them.

The broader question, really, is the extent to which Trump's "drain the swamp" verbiage was just a handy tagline and his disparagement of global power elites simply campaign rhetoric. Again: Trump embraced "drain the swamp" despite not really liking it as a catchphrase. The implication, then, may be that he didn't really like the idea of draining the swamp, either.


Philip Bump is a correspondent for The Post based in New York.

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