WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump rescinded an executive order early Wednesday morning that had limited federal administration officials from lobbying the government or working for foreign countries after they leave their posts, undoing one of the few measures he had instituted to fulfill his 2016 campaign promise to “drain the swamp.”
Trump had signed the now-reversed executive order with much fanfare in an Oval Office ceremony in January 2017.
“Most of the people standing behind me will not be able to go to work” after they leave government, Trump said at the time, flanked by senior aides.
The order required executive branch appointees to sign a pledge that they would never work as registered foreign lobbyists, and it banned them from lobbying the federal agencies where they worked for five years after leaving the government.
Ethics experts at the time noted the order had loopholes – but still offered cautious praise for Trump’s attempt at halting the revolving door that allows government employees to use their positions to land lucrative jobs in the private sector.
No explanation was given for why Trump chose to rescind the order. The White House released the directive at 1:08 a.m. on the day he will leave office. It had been signed Tuesday.
Government watchdog groups expressed disgust with Trump’s decision to reverse the policy in his final hours as president.
“The revocation of the 5-year lobbying ban for presidential appointees is the perfect coda for the most corrupt administration in American history,” Robert Weissman, president of the group Public Citizen, said in a statement.
Weissman said Trump cited the ban “to buttress his preposterous claim that he actually cared about corruption and cronyism. Now, as he exits the White House, Trump is revealing that even that signature policy was nothing more than a prop in his demagogic play-acting before the American people.”
Trump largely failed to fulfill the pledges he made to change Washington’s culture, including the specific promises he made to curtail moneyed interests in a 2016 campaign speech in Green Bay, Wis.
He promised he would push Congress to pass a five-year lobbying ban into law so it could not be lifted by a future president. But he never proposed such legislation. Nor did he ask Congress to impose a similar five-year lobbying ban on its members, as he had promised he would do in the speech.
He also never tried to seek to “close all the loopholes” used by former government officials who get around registering as lobbyists by calling themselves “consultants” and “advisers.” And he never acted on his pledge to stop foreign lobbyists from campaign fundraising – and in fact, benefited from their financial support.
Among the five pledges Trump made to “drain the swamp” and curtail the influence of lobbyists, a Washington Post review last year found that he sought to address only two – through the executive order in January 2017 that he has now reversed.
Meanwhile, Trump gave wealthy donors ample access to him and his top aides, holding pricey fundraisers where supporters personally pitched him on their ideas.
He also forced the government to spend money at his private hotels as he and his family traveled around the globe. And he sidestepped rules that had been designed to prevent nepotism, allowing his son-in-law to serve in a top government role.