Status: Some action, much of it potentially detrimental
Trump promised that one of his first actions as president would be to propose a constitutional amendment imposing congressional term limits. He has failed to do so, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said it won't happen.
The president used executive authority to institute some of the ethics reforms he promised from the campaign trail, imposing a lifetime ban on White House staffers lobbying for foreign governments and imposing a five-year ban on lobbying for domestic clients.
But he also weakened an Obama-era lobbying restriction that barred lobbyists from taking a job within an agency they had tried to influence in the last two years, which gives lobbyists more power to take jobs in the Trump White House as soon as they quit from their lobbying roles.
Meanwhile, the swamp has hardly vanished: Dozens of lobbyists were found in Trump administration hiring rolls by ProPublica, who also discovered three hires working on the issues they’d lobbied on previously, like Shahira Knight, a former Fidelity lobbyist who had lobbied on retirement and tax issues and now is the president’s special assistant for tax and retirement policy. The White House may have given Knight a waiver, the investigative outlet reported, but there’s no way to know because the administration has also ended the government’s publication of those waivers through the Office of Government Ethics.
Trump spent the months of his transition touting the fact that the president is exempt from conflict of interest legislation and defending himself against critics who said his continued ownership of his corporation created an ethical quagmire.
His transition team was initially riddled with lobbyists, who were later announced to all be axed, then later found to still be involved. The GOP created a headache right off the bat for this goal when they attempted to gut the Independent Office of Governmental Ethics by putting it under Congressional control ahead of Trump's inauguration, earning outrage from critics.
Eventually, Trump tweeted his disapproval, and the effort failed just hours later.
Campaigning as an outsider bent on tossing out the old, corrupt system and starting fresh, Donald Trump pitched himself as a reformer who could restore Americans' trust in the government with a package of ethics reforms.
His plan to “drain the swamp” in Washington, D.C. included placing restrictions on executive officials becoming lobbyists after leaving the public sector, something he accomplished in the first days of his administration with an executive order, and setting term limits for Congress, something that will prove much harder, if not impossible, to accomplish. He vowed to bring businesslike efficiency to the federal government, and said he would prosecute rival Hillary Clinton. He has since walked back that promise.
We'll watch to see whether Trump can restore trust in a government he derided while navigating his own conflicts of interest arising from his businesses. We will also look to see if he can root out corporate and lobbyist influence while keeping an eye on how government responds to things like his federal hiring freeze.