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Above all, President Donald Trump promised that he would change Washington. The promises he made were extravagant, but they resonated in 2016 because they spoke to public perceptions that the political system isn’t working the way it should.

Three moments in a week otherwise dominated by foreign policy focused fresh attention on those shortcomings — a comment by Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget; the congressional testimony of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency; and the controversy over the nomination of White House physician Ronny Jackson to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. Each in its own way feeds the public’s cynicism.

Almost every poll taken over years shows public revulsion over what people see as the outsized and corrosive influence of money in politics. Through one change in campaign finance laws after another, public cynicism toward money in politics has hardly moved in a positive direction. People know how much time and effort candidates spend raising money, and many believe that the transactions involve some kind of quid pro quo that is to the detriment of the common good, whether true or not.

During the campaign, Trump bragged about how he exploited the campaign finance system. He said he gave money to political candidates to buy access. When he came calling, he said with typical Trumpian flourish, the politicians would kiss his backside to try to help him. He also claimed, “Only I can fix” what he said was wrong with Washington.

Into that jaded climate of public opinion stepped budget director Mulvaney, who is also the interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Speaking to a group of bankers, Mulvaney explained that, as a House member, he had rules about meetings with lobbyists. If a lobbyist had made campaign contributions to Mulvaney, he might get a meeting with the congressman. If a lobbyist had not given money, there would be no meeting.

Mulvaney’s statement was as brazen an explanation of the cost of doing business in Washington as anyone has made in a long time. But it no doubt shocked few people around the country, who hold a dim view of politicians and believe they are always losers in the transactions of government. What Mulvaney said likely only reinforces what people already believe.

Pruitt trooped to Capitol Hill on Thursday to respond to a string of reports about his ethical conduct — his spending habits in office that includes first-class travel (which he stopped after it was made public); a $50-a-night condo rental from a lobbyist; a $43,000 soundproof booth for secure communications installed near his office suite; approval outside of normal processes of big raises for two employees at EPA who had worked with him in Oklahoma.

In an administration that has seen one Cabinet officer (Tom Price) forced to resign as Health and Human Services secretary for ethical reasons and another (Ben Carson) order $31,000 in dining room furniture for his office, Pruitt’s conduct has only added to a disturbing portrait of high government officials taking advantage of their positions of power, if not actually abusing them.

Pruitt’s appearance yielded one reversal. Having earlier told Fox News that he had not known about the raises for his advisers and changed them immediately upon hearing about them, he acknowledged Thursday that he had given a deputy the authority to raise the salaries, while maintaining that he did not know the size of the raises — in one case a 52 percent hike and in the other a 33 percent increase. After brazenly misleading Fox News, Pruitt grudgingly acknowledged in his congressional appearance that he had given approval for the salaries to be raised.

In the case of the extravagant phone booth, he offered the classic Washington response of a politician caught in the act: Don’t blame me, the staff did it. He only wanted a place to make secure phone calls; the staff then undertook the work that eventually cost the $43,000.

The next EPA administrator might have to use dynamite to remove it.

Pruitt was in no mood to give ground to his critics on the committees, who with only a couple of exceptions were all Democrats.

Pruitt’s aggressive efforts to roll back environmental regulations adopted during the Obama administration have made him a favorite of many conservatives who objected to those rules and a target of the environmental community that supported them. But Pruitt has more than stretched the patience of presidential advisers with his conduct.

Like all such administration officials, however, Pruitt’s employment depends on maintaining good relations with a constituency of one. So far, the president has not signaled that the end is near, while various internal investigations into specific controversies continue. There could be more bad news ahead for him as those are completed. Among those on Pruitt’s case is none other than Mulvaney, who is looking into the costly phone booth. Such are the ironies of life in the Trump administration.

The personnel process of this administration has been badly flawed from the start. It went off the rails during a chaotic transition and has never recovered, which is why there has been record turnover in the first 15 months of the Trump presidency. The story of Jackson’s nomination adds to the record, but the damage goes beyond the White House to Capitol Hill as well.

Jackson’s nomination was questionable from the start. His experience offered no prospect that he had the qualifications to manage a bureaucracy as sprawling and complex and with a history of problems as VA. Yet, with little serious vetting the nomination went forward to Capitol Hill, where it was clear he faced a difficult confirmation process.

Then it took another turn, as allegations started arriving at the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs from people who have worked with Jackson and others. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, became the chief antagonist, the public dispenser of the privately expressed allegations.

Those damning but unattributed allegations were summarized in a publicly released document that categorized them in three baskets: Jackson’s handling or mishandling of prescription drugs; Jackson’s workplace conduct; and then what came under a large headline that said only, “Drunkeness,” in all caps.

The most explosive allegation — that Jackson had gotten drunk at a Secret Service going-away party and wrecked a government vehicle — was made public without any verification, no details of time or place, no named witnesses and without any government records about the incident.

Jackson denied this charge and other accusations but nonetheless withdrew his nomination on Thursday. The White House said Friday a review of the doctor’s vehicle records found no evidence that he had wrecked a car after a Secret Service party.

Secret Service officials also knocked down another allegation, that a drunken Jackson had pounded on a hotel door or a colleague, near to where then-President Barack Obama was sleeping an overseas trip.

Trump tweeted Saturday that Tester should resign, having called what happened to Jackson “a disgrace.” He suggested at a news conference on Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that Montanans will not look kindly on how Tester handled Jackson’s nomination.

Tester will have to answer for the decision to make public allegations that have since been knocked down. The president bears responsibility for nominating someone for a Cabinet post with questionable credentials to carry out the responsibilities of the job. All it all, it was a train wreck.

At the news conference Friday, the president called Washington a “nasty” place. The public might have other descriptions. But the president did not repeat the claim that he alone can — or will — fix it. The record speaks otherwise.

– Balz is chief correspondent at The Washington Post. He has served as the paper’s deputy national editor, political editor, White House correspondent and Southwest correspondent.