In Trump's Washington, revolving door keeps on spinning

WASHINGTON --   The "60 Minutes" / Washington Post investigation of the opioid epidemic exposed the roles played by former drug regulators who went to work for the drug industry.

During the Obama administration, some Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials began running into roadblocks in their efforts to combat the opioid epidemic.

Former DEA attorney Jonathan Novak told "60 Minutes" and the Washington Post that former agency lawyers, now working for industry, were pressuring their old colleagues. As a result, DEA enforcement action slowed. Among other things, "60 Minutes" found 46 people who went from the DEA into drug industry roles, including lobbying. 

"Some of the best and the brightest former DEA attorneys are now on the other side and know all of the ... weak points," Novak said.

Special interests are part of the fabric of Washington. And despite President Trump's campaign promise, the revolving door between government and industry keeps on spinning. 

His frontrunner to be health and human services secretary is Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive. 

Mr. Trump also nominated Joseph Otting to serve as a top bank regulator. He used to be a bank CEO.

While Otting awaits confirmation, Keith Noreika -- who represented banks at his former law firm -- is filling in as comptroller of the currency. But he's designated as a "special government employee," exempting him from Mr. Trump's executive order restricting lobbyists who join the administration from working on anything they lobbied on for two years. 

That rule hasn't stopped the president from nominating a coal lobbyist as second-in-command at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where the agency's administrator, Scott Pruitt, has already begun rolling back Obama-era coal regulations

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President Trump's frontrunner to be health and human services secretary is Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive. Mr. Trump also nominated Joseph Otting to serve as a top bank regulator. He used to be a bank CEO.

CBS News


When he was Oklahoma's attorney general, Pruitt joined industry groups to sue the EPA more than a dozen times. 

Robert Weissman is the president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, which has found that nearly 70 percent of Mr. Trump's picks for top administration jobs have corporate ties. 

"We're seeing the total corporate takeover of the U.S. government on a scale that we have never seen in American history," Weissman said.  "You could say that the corporate foxes have knocked down the hen house and are gobbling up the chickens."

At the EPA, President Trump has also nominated a former consultant for chemical companies to lead an office that reviews chemicals and an energy industry attorney to lead the office of air and radiation. A Senate Committee is scheduled to meet on those nominations next week. 

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    Julianna Goldman is a CBS News correspondent based in the Washington bureau.