In a letter to the president-elect dated Tuesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) took aim at Donald Trump for choosing “Wall Street insiders” for top financial posts. Warren’s letter singled out three members of Trump’s transition team––David Malpass, Paul Atkins and Steve Mnuchin––with ties to Wall Street and “demonstrated records of failure during the 2008 financial crisis.” Malpass is a former Bear Sterns chief economist working on shaping Trump’s Treasury Department, and Mnuchin, an ex-Goldman Sachs partner, is the top candidate to lead it. Atkins is reshaping the ranks of financial regulatory agencies and was a former Securities and Exchange Commission commissioner during the George W. Bush administration.
“You made numerous promises to the American people in your election campaign, none bigger than the promise to ‘drain the swamp’ of Washington D.C. special interests rigged against the middle class,” Sen. Warren wrote. “The decisions you make with your transition team will shape the next four years of this nation. They will also reflect the strength of your character and your ability to truly lead–not just follow the marching orders of the special interests and Wall Street bankers you purportedly oppose.”
She urged Trump to appoint advisors who will fight for the best interests of the American public and warned him that a refusal to do so would likely result in confirmation battles in the Senate: “Let me be clear. Should you refuse, I will oppose you, every step of the way, for the next four years. I will champion the millions of Americans you will fail to protect. I will track your every move, and I will remind Americans, every day, of the actions you take that fail them. And I will not be the only one watching. The millions of Americans who voted for you – and the millions who didn’t – will all be watching you.”
Sen. Warren made similar criticisms while speaking at The Wall Street Journal‘s CEO Council Event yesterday, saying that the influence of corporate lobbyists directly contradicted Trump’s promise to purge Washington of its political establishment. “I think that the clearest point that comes out of this election is that the American people do not want Wall Street to run their government. They do not want corporate executives to be the ones who are calling the shots in Washington,” she said to an audience of corporate executives. “What Donald Trump is doing is that he’s putting together a transition team that’s full of lobbyists — the kind of people he actually ran against.”
Sen. Warren is not alone in her criticisms: Sens. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) have also voiced their concerns over the inclusion of lobbyists and industry executives on Trump’s transition team.
Sen. Sanders blasted the president-elect for going back on his promise to keep special interests out of Washington before even setting foot in the White House. “Mr. Trump described himself as a populist taking on the establishment, someone who would ‘drain the swamp,’” Sen. Sanders said. “Unfortunately what we’re beginning to see is what I feared, which is a lot of what Mr. Trump said to get votes is not what he intends to do as president of the United States.”
Sen. Whitehouse agreed: “It doesn’t look like they’re draining the swamp, it looks like they’re pouring the swamp into the transition,” he said. “If nothing changes, they’ll be pouring the swamp into the Oval Office as well.”
Both senators pointed to President Barack Obama’s executive order restricting lobbyists and special interests off his transition team and administration. The Obama executive order has not always been effective––the administration waived certain restrictions and allowed some lobbyists in––but it has worked to appease “watchdog groups” looking to reduce ethical lapses