At least eight members of president-elect Donald Trump’s transition team apparently ignored internal rules that would have required them to recuse themselves on matters for which they lobbied the previous year.
The Wall Street Journal reported vice president-elect Mike Pence, who formally took the reins of the transition team Sunday, has ordered the removal of all lobbyists from the operation.
Politico reported it had obtained a copy of Trump for America Inc.’s “Code of Ethical Conduct,” which admonishes team members to "disqualify myself from involvement in any particular transition matter if I have engaged in regulated lobbying activities with respect to such matter, as defined by the Lobbying Disclosure Act, within the previous 12 months.”
Senate records indicate, however, at least eight members of the Trump team ignored the rule.
Trump spent much of the campaign railing against the cozy relationship between the government and K Street lobbyists, pledging to “drain the swamp” if elected. In a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday, however, Trump said there’s really no choice but to deal with lobbyists because “that’s the only people you have down there.” He added he still plans to “clean up Washington.”
“I’m saying that they know the system right now, but we’re going to phase that out,” Trump said.
Just last month, he promised to reinstitute a five-year ban on lobbying after leaving government by former lawmakers and said he would have “no problem” barring lobbyists and big donors from his administration.
Among those on the Trump team who engaged in lobbying include Steve Hart, charged with the handoff of the Labor Department, who lobbied on labor issues for Anthem, Brinks and Smithfield Foods as recently as September, according to Politico. Michael Catanzaro, who lobbied on behalf of the American Fuels and Petrochemical Manufactures, Hess, Encana, Noble Energy and Devon Energy, and has been put in charge of energy independence.
The Wall Street Journal reported Pence is purging anyone who was brought into key positions by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was demoted to make way for Pence to head the transition. Among those who have left is Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who had been handling the transition’s national security unit and had been considered a candidate for head of the CIA.
Trump tweeted Tuesday night, and then again Wednesday, that the transition is proceeding smoothly.
The reshuffle has delayed the briefings that must occur during the transition.