The swamp rises around an administration that promised to drain it

The image of a top government official, a Washington fat cat, blowing taxpayer money to pay for private chartered airplanes is exactly what President Trump seemed to have in mind when he promised voters he would “drain the swamp.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s use of expensive private jets for routine government travel lost him his job Friday when the White House announced the president had accepted his resignation after days of controversy.

But beyond the eye-roll irony of the scandal enveloping a Republican politician who promoted himself as a penny-pinching budget hawk, Price is not the only example of waste, carelessness or entitlement in an administration that pledged to speak for the little guy.

At least four other Cabinet officials have taken unusual chartered or military air trips on the public dime. There is also the matter of Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s $25,000 secure phone booth and the unauthorized use of private email by White House adviser Jared Kushner and others — a development that follows a campaign where Trump lambasted for her use of a private email system when serving as secretary of state.

Candidate Trump would have been appalled.

“A vote for Hillary is a vote to surrender our government to public corruption, graft and cronyism that threatens the very foundations of our constitutional system,” Trump said during an Oct. 29 speech.

He went on to describe his broader belief that public corruption and cronyism were eating away at voters’ faith in government — a situation he would remedy.

“I want the entire corrupt Washington establishment to hear and to heed the words I am about to say,” Trump said. “When we win on Nov. 8, we are going to Washington, D.C., and we are going to drain the swamp.”

But from the day he was elected, ethics experts have complained that many of Trump’s actions have been at odds with his vow to clean up Washington.

He has famously refused to release his tax returns, something every president has done for decades in the interest of accountability. He did not divest his eponymous business interests and holds official events at Trump-owned and branded properties.

He prefers to spend weekends at private, Trump-owned golf clubs. He traveled to his golf club in New Jersey on Friday.

Transportation, staffing and other costs are paid by the taxpayer, as they were for the far-less-frequent family vacations taken by recent presidents.

 

 

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