At nearly every rally in the waning days of his presidential campaign, Donald Trump promised to purge the wealthy special interests that wield power in D.C. “I don’t need them. I don’t want them,” he told a roaring crowd in Akron, Ohio, in August, denouncing the lobbyists and career politicians who help run the nation’s capital. “I’m going to do what’s good for you.” This pledge to “drain the swamp” was slapped on bumper stickers and hashtagged on tweets. It helped lift the swaggering outsider to his upset victory.
But as he turns to the task of governing, the President-elect is stocking his Cabinet and senior staff with the same sort of connected insiders that he railed against on the campaign trail. He’s tapped four billionaires for his Administration, not to mention three current and former financiers from Goldman Sachs, the investment bank he pilloried rivals like Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz for cozying up to. His intended nominees donated millions to back Trump’s candidacy and helped finance the super PACs that boosted his upstart campaign down the stretch. Several others have earned fortunes working for companies with large lobbying presences in Washington. From the start, it will be one of the wealthiest Administrations in modern history.
Meanwhile, the Washington influence machine has kicked into overdrive. Scores of lobbyists and political consultants are brokering meetings between their clients and members of the Trump transition team. The President-elect and his allies are hosting fundraisers where they will collect checks of up to $1 million–including from corporations–to fund his Inauguration ceremonies.
While some supporters may balk, Trump’s decision to embrace those who have wallowed in the Washington muck has spread a sense of relief among the capital’s political class. “It shows,” says one GOP consultant close to the President-elect’s transition, that “he’s going to govern like a normal Republican.”
This appears in the December 26, 2016 issue of TIME.
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