- Lee Fanginvestigative journalist at The Intercept covering the intersection of money and politics.
Donald Trump may have run as an economic populist, but journalist Lee Fang examines how he has surrounded himself by corporate lobbyists. Fang reports in The Intercept that Trump’s transition team includes Michael Catanzaro, a lobbyist for Koch Industries and the Walt Disney Company; Eric Ueland, who previously lobbied for Goldman Sachs; and William Palatucci, whose lobbying firm represents Aetna and Verizon.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let me just ask Lee Fang—you wrote a piece, “Donald Trump Recruits Corporate Lobbyists to Select His Future Administration.” Can you explain who he has recruited?
LEE FANG: Well, Governor Chris Christie, who played a big role in helping Donald Trump win the Republican primaries, is leading the transition effort. And if you look closely at the transition effort, it’s completely—
AMY GOODMAN: And just to say, of course, Chris Christie’s two top aides were just criminally convicted on all counts around Bridgegate, the closing of the George Washington Bridge to retaliate against a Democratic mayor, the mayor of Fort Lee, for not endorsing Chris Christie for governor.
LEE FANG: Yeah, I should add that the two reporters who helped break that story were just laid off last week, talking about the complete destruction of hard reporting in this country.
But looking at the transition effort, Donald Trump constructed a very convenient, a very seductive political image, spending the last two years promising that he would reject lobbyist donations, that he would reject the support of super PACs, that he would drain the swamp and take on the political establishment. I mean, he said that from the very beginning. In his closing ad, that ran last weekend, he promised, in that ad, that his main goal would to—be to take on the political establishment and fight lobbyists. But if you look at his transition team, it’s a massive effort run completely by corporate lobbyists. These are folks that represent the pharmaceutical industry, that represent Walt Disney. The energy adviser who’s setting the Donald Trump energy policy and helping him select his appointees for the EPA and other agencies is a Koch Industries lobbyist. These are folks that are deeply ingrained in the Washington establishment. They’ve been having weekly meetings at the law firm Baker Hostetler. They’ve had regular meetings with the Financial Services Roundtable, which is the trade association that represents JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and other large banks. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that rather than drain the political swamp in Washington, Donald Trump is perfectly merging in to the kind of orthodox Republican campaigns and political power establishment that have defined the Republican Party for decades.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break, then come back to this discussion. That’s Lee Fang of The Intercept, and we’ll link to that piece he wrote. We are also talking to Nikole Hannah-Jones of New York Times Magazine; Jose Antonio Vargas, Define American; Linda Sarsour of MPower; and John Nichols of The Nation. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.