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Trump Swamp: Interior Sec. Calls Corporations He Regulates ‘My Clients… My Former Clients’

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May 16, 2019 5:34 p.m.

The American Prospect’s David Dayen late last week noted what he called President Donald Trump’s “most nakedly corrupt tweet”: an appeal to Congress to reject a bill giving tribal sovereignty over 321 Interior-Department-controlled acres to the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in Massachusetts. Or as the President described it, “a special interest casino Bill, backed by Elizabeth (Pocahontas) Warren.”

The tribe wants to build a casino on the land, which would be just minutes away from two nearby competitor casinos. Those competitor casinos are operated by Twin River Management Group, which employs as a lobbyist the American Conservative Union chairman (and Conservative Political Action Conference host) Matt Schlapp.

Schlapp’s wife Mercedes Schlapp is White House Director of Strategic Communications. Matt and Mercedes pretend not to be “elites” but according to the Washington Post, Matt certainly has the President’s ear. Before the President’s tweet, the paper reported, he worked to frame the vote as “potentially giving [Elizabeth Warren] a win” on the issue, even though Warren wasn’t involved with this House bill.

Per the paper, “Trump was happy to attack the project once he learned it was a key priority for Warren.” (The bill ultimately passed the House Wednesday.) 

Elsewhere in the swamp, federal agents were reportedly probing Cindy Yang, who allegedly used her supposed proximity to Trump via his Mar-a-Lago club to sell access. Per the Miami Herald, the feds are looking into whether foreign donations may have illegally made their way from Yang’s associates to the President’s re-election campaign.

Separately, the Post reported on the re-opening of several West Virginia mines that had been shut down due to their encroachment on the habitat of endangered local crayfish. In a bureaucratic struggle between two Interior Department factions — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, charged with protecting endangered species and regulating their threats, and political appointees with loyalties to Big Coal — the obvious favorite won out.

Landon “Tucker” Davis is one such political appointee, a former coal representative who led Trump’s 2016 campaign in West Virginia before becoming a policy adviser in the Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.

Explaining why a study of coal mining’s impacts on human health had been canceled, Davis said, per DOI Office of Inspector General notes obtained by the Post: “Science was a Democrat thing.”

That attitude appears to have spread department-wide: At a hearing this week, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, another former fossil fuel lobbyist — he referred to the companies he regulates as “my clients… uh, my former clients” — said he hasn’t “lost any sleep” over the threat of climate change.

Finally, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt took plenty of heat during his tenure for the first-class flights he made taxpayers cover. Now, the department’s Office of Inspector General reports that those flights weren’t properly approved, nor was Pruitt’s justification for them valid. (Pruitt started flying first class to avoid people cursing him out in coach.)

“The agency could not provide documentation to support that the former Administrator’s life was endangered when flying coach class,” the report said.

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