WASHINGTON President-elect Donald Trump, who pledged on the campaign trail to “drain the swamp” in Washington, is staffing his on-the-ground transition teams mostly with government veterans, including ex-lobbyists, a Reuters review of publicly available information shows.
Drawing heavily from former military, congressional and agency staff, he has named about 140 operatives to “landing teams” at various government departments to smooth the transition to a new Trump administration.
The Reuters review found that about 80 percent of them have prior government experience. At least 25 of them have done lobbying work at some point in their careers, and at least six appeared to be actively working as registered lobbyists up until November.
Trump made getting rid of insiders a key tenet of his campaign. “We have to break the cycle of corruption, and we have to give new voices a chance to go into government,” Trump said on Oct. 18.
Historically, it isn’t unusual for presidents-elect to staff their landing teams with government veterans and it probably helps, said experts on presidential transitions.
“If you were really trying to drain the swamp … you want to get people who actually understand the terrain,” said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit group focused on government service.
For instance, Sharon Brown-Hruska is on several Trump landing teams, including one for the market-regulating Commodity Futures Trading Commission. She is a former CFTC commissioner. Brown-Hruska could not be reached for comment.
Shawn Krause, who is on the housing and urban development transition team, represents mortgage lender Quicken Loans in Washington as chief of its government advocacy program.
Krause was a registered lobbyist until early November, when she deregistered because she had not actively lobbied for some time, Bill Emerson, chief executive at Quicken Loans told Reuters.
Nova Daly, who lobbied for the aluminium extrusion industry, is on Trump’s trade office landing team. Reached by email, Daly said he had terminated all his lobbying activity.
Jessica Ditto, deputy communications director for the Trump transition, said the presence of Daly, Krause and others on the landing teams was not at odds with Trump’s campaign statements about the country being run poorly or about getting rid of bureaucrats who don’t create jobs.
“These volunteers who have experience in government are going to help us ensure that we understand the areas that need to be fixed,” she said.
Trump’s transition rules require landing team members to sign a code of conduct requiring them to agree not to lobby for six months after they complete their work. A five-year ban is being applied by Trump to actual administration hires.
Trump has nominated some figures from the Washington establishment to top posts, including Elaine Chao, a former labor secretary who is his nominee for transportation secretary.
Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, is sceptical about the appointment of Washington veterans to the transition teams. “Those draining the swamp will be alligators themselves,” he said.
But Steve Moore, a Trump policy adviser who is not a formal part of the transition, said, “If you want an incredibly ambitious legislative agenda in your first 100 days … having people with political savvy and knowing how to pass laws and how the process works is a real asset.”
(Additional reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Ross Colvin)