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Trump says he's draining the swamp as he fills Cabinet with ex-lobbyists

Is Trump really "draining the swamp"?

President Trump campaigned on draining the swamp, and says he's doing just that, although it's unclear at times what his definition of "the swamp" is. 

"We're draining the swamp," President Trump told his exuberant crowd in Orlando as he launched his reelection campaign Tuesday night, hours after announcing former Raytheon head lobbyist Mark Esper would replace former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan as acting defense secretary. 

Mr. Trump, who pledged to drain the swamp of special interests, has filled his Cabinet with a number of former representatives of special interests. Esper, who has been serving as the Army secretary, was next in line to take over as acting defense secretary with Shanahan out after news of past domestic violence involving his family complicated his intended nomination. The choice of Esper was not lost on good government advocates and critics of the administration. 

"Already this week, Raytheon has won multiple government contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars," Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement Tuesday. "While Esper may not have had sway over these types of deals as secretary of the Army, as acting secretary of defense he will have potential influence over such deals, as well as over the controversial proposed merger of Raytheon and UTC to become the second largest defense company in the US. His ethics agreement—and his ability to follow it—will be something we will be watching closely."

Although Esper's current ethics agreement requires him to divest his stock in Raytheon, which he has done, it allows him to continue to receive his deferred compensation from the defense contracting company. That deferred compensation, according to his most recent financial disclosure, is valued between $1 million and $5 million, to be paid out over a 10-year period starting in 2012. His most recent financial disclosure says, however, that he received either none or less than $201 dollars from that deferred compensation in 2018. Esper's most recent ethics agreement from July 2017 says he will not participate "personally and substantially" in any activities related to Raytheon for one year, which has already passed. CBS News has reached out to the Army for comment. 

Esper is one of several former lobbyists Mr. Trump has tapped to help lead his administration. 

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for the coal and gas industry. 

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler is a former lobbyist for, among other interests, the coal industry. 

And Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is a former former drug company executive who oversaw lobbying efforts, although he was not a registered lobbyist. 

In the first weeks of his administration Mr. Trump signed an executive order requiring all of his political hires to sign a pledge saying they wouldn't never lobby foreign interests, and they would engage in other lobbying for five years. But former administration officials have found ways around that rule. As of February, Pro Publica identified 33 former officials who were connected to lobbying in some capacity. 

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, for instance, joined lobbying firm Turnberry Solutions, a firm established by former Trump campaign aides. 

It's unclear at times exactly what Mr. Trump definition of the swamp is. On Twitter, he often references "the swamp" in the context of the Russia probe and Democrats' various investigations into his administration. 

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