There are cracks in the curtains President Donald Trump tried to draw around the government early in his presidency, but the slivers of light aren’t making it easier to hold federal officials accountable for their actions.
Trump still refuses to divest from his real estate and hotel empire or release virtually any of his tax returns. His administration is vigorously pursuing whistleblowers. Among scores of vacant senior jobs in the government is an inspector general for the Department of Energy — led by Secretary Rick Perry, former governor of Texas — as it helps drive the region’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey.
Rebuilding from the deadly storm seems certain to be a $100 billion-plus endeavor involving multiple federal departments and an army of government contractors. If the ghosts of Katrina, Sandy and other big storms are guides, the bonanza of taxpayer dollars is a recipe for corruption. And that makes transparency and accountability all the more critical for a president who has bristled at the suggestion of either one.
“This is an administration that wants to do things their own way and a president that wants to do things his own way,” said Rick Blum, director of News Media for Open Government, of which The Associated Press is a member. “(Trump) is frustrated by the institutions our founders established. And he’s going to have to learn that the public deserves a free and independent press.”
To be sure, Trump has not backed off his fury with the media or his branding of reporters as “enemies of the people” who want to harm the country. He still calls revelations he doesn’t like “fake news.” And he tweets untruths himself, including that he witnessed Harvey’s devastation “first hand” during his first visit to Texas on the edges of the disaster zone.