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!
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.)
2016: a choice between Donald Trump and Goldman Sachs.
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) February 28, 2016
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.
- Stephen Bannon, Chief strategist. Experience at Goldman Sachs.
- John Bolton, Possible secretary of state nominee. No previous work in finance.
- Ben Carson, Possible secretary of housing and urban development nominee. No previous work in finance.
- Elaine Chao, Nominee for secretary of transportation. Has worked in finance. Board member at Wells Fargo.
- Gary Cohn, Nominee to head of the National Economic Council. Current employee of Goldman Sachs.
- Bob Corker, Possible secretary of state nominee. No previous work in finance.
- Betsy DeVos, Secretary of education nominee. Has worked in finance. Works for the Windquest Group.
- Michael Flynn, National Security Adviser. No previous work in finance.
- Nikki Haley, U.N. ambassador nominee. No previous work in finance.
- James Mattis, Possible secretary of defense nominee. No previous work in finance.
- Donald McGahn, White House counsel. No previous work in finance.
- Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the treasury nominee. Experience at Goldman Sachs.
- David Petraeus, Possible secretary of state nominee. Has worked in finance. Holds a position with investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.
- Mike Pompeo, Head of the CIA. No previous work in finance.
- Reince Priebus, Chief of staff. No previous work in finance.
- Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee. No previous work in finance.
- Todd Ricketts, Dep. commerce secretary nominee. Has worked in finance. Worked for Incapital and Knight Securities.
- Mitt Romney, Possible secretary of state nominee. Has worked in finance. Founded Bain Capital.
- Wilbur Ross, Commerce secretary nominee. Has worked in finance. Worked for Rothschild Investments.
- Jeff Sessions, Attorney general nominee. No previous work in finance.
- Rex Tillerson, Possible secretary of state nominee. No previous work in finance. CEO of ExxonMobil.
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.