Why you should care
Because while it’s hard to believe anyone in President Trump’s orbit is benefiting from the Russia investigation, they are.
Susan Del Percio
Susan Del Percio is a New York–based Republican strategist.
Torrential downpours yesterday rendered the nation’s capital into an appropriately swamp-like state. For all the talk in recent years about draining the so-called corruption-filled corridors of power around Washington, D.C., it seems that many affiliated with the current administration are looking decidedly wet.
Looking back at Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, to date there have been five guilty pleas, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Headed to court is Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, not to mention 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies indicted of meddling in the U.S. presidential election. And there is also the case Mueller referred to New York’s Southern District, which involves the president’s lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen.
This is Washington, where if someone’s losing, someone else must be winning.
Trump has hired and fired several lawyers, and he often tries undermining the investigation via tweet. With all this fallout, it is hard to believe that there is anyone in the president’s orbit benefiting from this investigation. But this is Washington, where if someone’s losing, someone else must be winning. In this case, the lucky beneficiaries of the investigation are several members of Trump’s cabinet.
How? Well, I think initially there was a lot of envy among the cabinet members themselves. Some of them are extremely wealthy people. Take Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, for example, who often uses a private plane for travel. This makes other members think they should too. But here’s the rub: DeVos pays for her travel at no cost to the U.S. taxpayers. In the same vein, when cabinet members learn that other colleagues have their offices nicely decorated, they want to do the same. But again, the fancier office decors are paid for by cabinet members out of their own pockets. Apparently, HUD Secretary Ben Carson was suffering from cabinet envy when he ordered a $31,000 dining set, expecting taxpayers to foot the bill.
But the biggest offender is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt. His abuse of spending taxpayer money has been widely reported, whether it be on a $43,000 secure phone booth or his frequent first-class travel. His abuse doesn’t stop there — don’t forget the condo rental for $50 a night provided by a powerful D.C. lobbyist and the “business” travel to Australia, Israel and Morocco arranged by lobbyists, just to list a few of the scandals.
Normally, it would be shocking that Pruitt still has a job. By comparison, less than a year ago former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned, and rightly so, over his misuse of government-funded private jets. But these are not normal circumstances, because the Mueller investigation is sucking all the oxygen out of the room. There is no shortage of news to cover in the administration, but for the most part, the only news that filters down to the public is about the Russia investigation.
This has provided great cover for Pruitt, because he is not in the president’s line of sight. Translation: His gross abuse of taxpayer money is no longer showing up in the 24-hour cable news coverage, the primary way the president gets his news.
As the new saying goes, if a story is not on Fox News, is it a story? If you are Trump, probably not, which is why Pruitt is likely safe — at least for now. In fact, he may have even found a defense that the president will believe: Pruitt’s blaming the deep state deeply buried in the EPA.
You read that right — Pruitt is blaming all of his scandals on agency staff. Recently, Pruitt did an interview on a Washington Free Beacon podcast, where he implied that it was the deep state that caused his troubles: “This has been a bastion of the left for many years. This agency has been a safe haven in advancing against certain sectors of our economy,” he said.
At any other time, this would be laughable, but the ethics and integrity of any administration is dictated by the Oval Office. It is not hard to imagine the ads attacking Republicans who support Pruitt’s actions. To that end, if you were to drain the swamp, and collect the gunk at the bottom, that gunk would be Scott Pruitt, the muckiest of all the swamp creatures.
While “Drain the Swamp” was a popular campaign slogan, it may be the new “Trump Swamp” that sees Republicans drown in a blue wave this November.