Swamp? What Swamp?
Remember when Donald Trump rallied crowds with promises to “Drain the Swamp!” in Washington?
Of course, we all do. In fact, nearly 16 months into his presidency, Trump is still running on the public’s perception that the nation’s capital is an ethical sewer. Public disgust about business-as-usual in Washington is the rocket fuel that propelled him to power.
But this morning’s news is brimming with fresh evidence that the swamp is bigger and deeper than ever and that Trump World is part of it.
Major news outlets report that Michael Cohen, who the president described as “my lawyer” just a few weeks ago, has vacuumed up several million dollars from businesses looking to understand and curry favor with the administration. The money was paid to Essential Consultants L.L.C., the same shell corporation that Cohen created to funnel $130,000 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and secure her silence about an alleged affair with Trump in 2006.
AT&T, whose $85 billion merger plan with Time Warner is under review at Trump’s Justice Department, acknowledged paying Essential Consultants $200,000 to secure Cohen’s “insights into understanding the new administration.” The company insists Cohen’s firm “did no legal or lobbying work for us.”
Cohen got another $500,000 from an American company, Columbus Nova, an investment firm that is linked to a company controlled by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The New York Times reports that Columbus Nova insists the money was a consulting fee that had nothing to do with Vekselberg.
There’s more, including nearly $400,000 paid to Essential Consultants by a U.S. subsidiary of Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, which frequently has business with federal regulators and spent more than $10 million on lobbying last year.
Cohen has no formal position in the White House or elsewhere in the Trump administration and no apparent expertise in the communications or pharmaceutical businesses of AT&T and Novartis. He’s also inexperienced in the aviation business of Korea Aerospace Industries, an aircraft manufacturer that paid him $150,000 last November, in the midst of its competition for a contract to supply training jets to the U.S. Air Force.
It’s clear all the firms were interested in Cohen solely because of his connections to Trump. Their payments to him were classic reflections of the capitol’s swampy, pay-to-play culture, in which companies and interest groups grease the palms of well-placed lawyers, retired senior military officers, congressmen-turned-lobbyists, and others with real or perceived connections to whoever happens to hold power in the White House and/or on Capitol Hill.
That’s the same swamp Trump promised his supporters he’d drain. There is no evidence that he’s done anything to keep that promise and ample evidence that the promise was a fraud.