As Vice-President-elect Mike Pence takes over for Chris Christie in leading Donald Trump’s transition team, we’re seeing a full-scale shakeup. Immediately, there was a host of personnel changes, which cut many longtime Washington lobbyists off the team as well as several individuals with close ties to Christie. And on Wednesday, Trump’s transition team announced that they would require every member of his administration to sign a contract forbidding them from lobbying Washington for five years after leaving the fold.
This is in line with proposals made by President-elect Trump in the final weeks of the campaign, particularly at the Gettysburg speech that was overlooked due to the sexual assault allegations all over the media. In that speech, he outlined a laundry list of specific efforts his administration would take to get D.C. corruption under control. “Drain the Swamp” became a rallying cry for the Trump campaign heading into the final stretch of the race.
“It goes back to Mr. Trump’s goal of making sure people aren’t using government to enrich themselves,” said Sean Spicer of the RNC. “Not only will people not be able to (be) registered state or federal lobbyists, but when they leave government, they will be banned from being a registered lobbyist for five years.”
The mandate is unusual only in its length; President Obama signed a similar executive order on the first day of his presidency, preventing members of his administration from going into lobbying jobs for two years after leaving their posts. As we’ve seen in that situation, and perhaps in Trump’s, is that lobbyists can get around those rules by calling themselves “consultants” and applying for special waivers.
Trump came under immediate criticism when journalists reported on the transition team, noting that it was stuffed with the usual Washington insiders. Asked about the situation on 60 Minutes, Trump acknowledged the problem.
“Everybody’s a lobbyist down there,” he said. “That’s the problem with the system. We’re doing a lot of things to clean up the system. But everybody that works for government, they then leave government and they become a lobbyist, essentially. I mean, the whole place is one big lobbyist.”
The shakeup on the team seems related to that criticism, which is fine, but hopefully Trump won’t get into the habit of responding immediately to every bit of criticism that comes from the media. They want him to fail, and they are ready to knock him every time he does anything that seems at odds with his campaign promises. His voters know he’s not going to wave a magic wand and turn Washington – or the country – into an idyllic paradise overnight.
Take your time, Mr. President-elect. Your supporters are not as impatient and unrealistic as your critics.