Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute and author of the best-selling bookClinton Cash, appeared on Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily to give a status report on President Trump’s efforts to “drain the swamp” of Washington corruption.
Unfortunately, Schweizer saw little sign of progress.
“I’m basically using two yardsticks. One is pushing for institutional reform, meaning that you’re pushing executive orders or laws that lead to some structural changes to get rid of cronyism and corruption,” he told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow. “That would be one measure. It’s pretty early for any president to measure them by that yardstick, so I think that one you can kind of give him a pass at this point. Let’s talk again in a few months and see if there’s any progress.”
“The second yardstick is personnel,” he continued. “What sort of people are you bringing in, and what kind of agendas do they have? There I think, in a way, we’ve kind of had a setback.”
“This is a place where you can bring in outsiders who are interested in pushing agendas that represent the broad interests of the American people, rather than special narrow interests. Here, if you look, it’s been somewhat disappointing. I think if people had said six, eight months ago that a Donald Trump presidency would be populated by as many people from, say, Goldman Sachs as it is today, people would be quite shocked because his rhetoric and certainly his platform was not conducive to bringing on managing partners from Goldman Sachs to run some very important positions in the White House,” Schweizer said.
“I want to talk about some of the key players – less so Trump’s family members, who we kind of had a sense of who they are and where they came from, but you are seeing this wing, this Democrat wing inside the White House, comprised of Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Gary Cohn. Also, Gary Cohn’s right-hand lady appears to be a lady named Dina Powell, who’s titularly, I guess, a Republican, or at least technically a Republican, but apparently is very moderate. What do you make of Gary Cohn? Who is he, and is he someone that this audience should be concerned about?” Marlow asked.
Schweizer replied that he was concerned about Cohn’s “institutional connections” and past work for Goldman Sachs.
“Goldman Sachs has a long history of serving the interests of Goldman Sachs, as you would expect with any institution,” he said. “The problem is that Goldman Sachs really has been around some of the largest financial risks, which have led to bailouts. Going back to 1993, you had the Mexican peso bailout, where Bill Clinton basically bailed out Goldman because they bought a lot of Mexican bonds. In 1998, you had a similar situation with the East Asian financial crisis. 2008, financial crisis again.”
“So you have this situation where investment bankers or people from Wall Street – like people from Goldman Sachs, like Gary Cohn – come in, and instead of pushing ideas and reforms and policies that support a free market, meaning, in other words, ‘Our goal here is to make sure that banks and financial institutions have a level playing field and they compete because that’s good for everybody,’ instead of doing that, you get people in there who are from Goldman, who want the federal government basically to bail out and to support large financial institutions like Goldman,” he lamented.
“There’s no evidence that Gary Cohn, or some of the other people you’ve got at Treasury and elsewhere, are interested in any kind of reform that holds large financial institutions on Wall Street accountable for their actions,” said Schweizer. “That phrase you remember from just a few years ago, ‘too big to fail,’ which has been ridiculed by so many people, which was the policy of the Obama administration – there’s no indication or evidence by the appointments, by the people now serving the Trump administration, that that is going to change one iota.”
“And that’s a surprise, I think, for a lot of people because the rhetoric and the language was very much geared towards the interests of Wall Street have been benefited at the expense of the interests of Main Street. Thus far, based on the people that are running these large financial institutions in the American government, that does not appear like it’s going to change at all,” he concluded.
Citing recent stories about Trump backing down from labeling China a “currency manipulator,” reversing himself on eliminating the Export-Import Bank, and saying Janet Yellen may remain in charge of the Federal Reserve, Marlow asked, “What the heck is happening, Peter?”
“Those are all major reversals,” Schweizer agreed. “Janet Yellen, for example – very much a strong supporter of the loose money policy. Why does that matter? Well, when you have an extremely low-interest rate, interest rates close to zero, the chief beneficiaries of that are the large financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, because now they can borrow money cheap for some of their leveraged investments, their leveraged bets.”
“Who does it hurt?” he asked. “It tends to hurt a lot of people that are middle class, who are older, who are retired. Why? Well, you can put your money into the bank, and you’re going to get really zero interest for that, for your retirement savings. What you are essentially forced to do in a way, to seek higher yields, is to invest in the stock market rather than in a savings account. The big losers there are the middle class.”
“You look at some of the other policies, the Export-Import Bank – lots of studies and research done here indicate the Export-Import Bank basically benefits a couple of American companies, chief among them, Boeing, the airplane manufacturer. It’s a prime sort of example of crony capitalism,” he said.
“And then when it comes to the currency manipulation issue, wherever one stands on free trade and these sorts of issues, there is no question in my mind that stepping back from accusing the Chinese of currency manipulation benefits large financial institutions like Goldman Sachs, like JP Morgan, because where is their big growing market? Where are they pouring a lot of money? Into China,” Schweizer observed.
“When you have sort of a currency crisis between the United States and China, that’s not a good thing for those institutions. All of these reversals you can look at directly, I would argue, as who is whispering in the president’s ear, who is advising on these issues? And it is people that have these ties to these large financial institutions,” he said.
Marlow turned to strained diplomatic ties with Russia, pronounced the worst relations in decades by both Washington and Moscow. He asked if the Trump administration might be pushing exceptionally hard against Russia due to sensitivity over the media narrative about Russian interference to benefit Trump in the 2016 election.
“People always try to read the tea leaves and see what the Kremlin is doing and why they’re doing it,” Schweizer noted. “The bottom line, what we have to keep in the back of our minds, is that the Russians always view themselves as rivals of the United States. They view us as the sort of hegemonic power that needs to be contested.”
“We also need to keep in mind that for Russia, really since the end of the Cold War, the posture they have adopted has always been one of essentially causing trouble,” he added. “Instability and confusion in the West is seen as a good thing, as far as Russia is concerned. That’s the view that I come from when it comes to the financial ties that the Russian government secured with the Clintons and their friends. That is certainly consistent with it. I think there’s no doubt that they meddled in the election. That’s something they are wont to do, and it needs to be taken seriously.”
“But I think any doubts that have been out there that Donald Trump was sort of the ‘Manchurian candidate’ for Russia, I think, has now been dispelled,” he contended. “Relations certainly aren’t at their lowest point in history – you could look at the Cuban missile crisis. You can look at the 1980s under Reagan where tensions were very, very high, and find other examples.”
“I think it’s very clear by what the secretary of state has said, and what American policy has been, is that the United States is going to protect its interests, and when we see Russia as doing bad things on the global stage, we’re going to act. I personally think that’s a healthy place for us to be,” Schweizer said.
Marlow turned back to Washington corruption and asked Schweizer for suggestions on what steps Trump could take to “drain the swamp.”
“We got off to a quick start, and the quick start was the president asking people that joined the administration to make a pledge that they would not lobby if they served in the Trump administration,” Schweizer responded. “The problem is, initiatives like that have no teeth. In other words, you’re basically asking someone who’s been in politics for a long time to sign a document and give us their word that they’re not going to lobby for five years after they’ve served. We have to take their word for it. It’s not something that can be enforced.”
“What we need is an ethics code that is tight, that is deep, and that can be reinforced,” he suggested. “Now, I recognize that means you’re going to need to pass a law, and you’re going to need to have Congress go along with you, but here’s the thing: this president, I think, came in with a mandate for draining the swamp. I would contest to people that really, the chief reason that he won, that he was elected, was because of revulsion towards the political class. I think even more than building the wall, more than the deregulation agenda, the thing that animated the most voters was the desire to drain the swamp.”
“We need to pass laws on lobbying reform, issues related to crony capitalism,” he urged. “We need to eliminate some government programs like the Export-Import Bank. We need to break up the ecosystem of Washington, DC, that is driving so many of these problems. People wonder, ‘Why does government keep getting bigger and more complex?’ Part of the reason is because there’s a business model connected with that. You need to have a very strong reform agenda.”
“This administration decided to start – their big legislative initiative was repealing Obamacare. I get why they did that, but I think it was a mistake. I think you need to begin with major institutional reform, and then that’s going to inform the policies that you get later on,” Schweizer said.
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