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Trump decided to hire the swamp, not drain it

If Mitt Romney becomes Donald Trump’s secretary of state, he’ll be far from the richest Cabinet member.
If Mitt Romney becomes Donald Trump’s secretary of state, he’ll be far from the richest Cabinet member. Bloomberg

Let them eat cake.

Specifically, let them eat Jean-Georges Warm Chocolate Cake.

But let them start with Young Garlic Soup with Thyme and Sauteed Frog Legs.

Let them follow with Diver Scallops, Caramelized Cauliflower and Caper-Raisin Emulsion.

And let them proceed to Niman Ranch Lamb Chops with Mushroom Bolognese and Pecorino, as well as Dry Aged Prime Sirloin with Citrus Glazed and Roasted Carrots, Miso Butter and Dill.

That’s what President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney ate when they met Tuesday night to discuss a job in the incoming administration. Compared with the billionaire Trump, Romney is a relative piker, with a net worth of a quarter billion.

Romney’s wealth would also be dwarfed by at least three billionaires in Trump’s Cabinet and sub-cabinet, including would-be education secretary Betsy DeVos.

Remember Trump’s talk about taking on the elites? Well, you can stick a sterling-silver fork in it.

Goldman Sachs was a bete noire of the Trump campaign, figuring prominently in his closing ad, widely seen as anti-Semitic, denouncing a “global power structure” controlling the country. Trump blasted Hillary Clinton’s speeches to the investment bank and deemed it a pillar of the corrupt establishment, saying it had “total control” over his opponents.

But Trump just named former Goldman Sachs partner (and Hollywood executive) Steven Mnuchin to be his treasury secretary. He’s reportedly in talks to hire Goldman’s No. 2 executive, Gary Cohn, to be his budget director. Both men are Jewish – a welcome sign Trump is dropping the sinister themes of his campaign, but no doubt a disappointment to the bigoted alt-right, who cheered Trump’s rise. (Alt-right ally Stephen K. Bannon, to be Trump’s White House strategist, also used to work at Goldman.)

Mnuchin, worth about $40 million, and Cohn, who according to Bloomberg News owns at least $175 million in Goldman stock, are lightweights on Trump’s Team of Oligarchs. But they are ahead of Trump’s pick for transportation secretary (Elaine Chao and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, are worth a paltry $22 million) and Health and Human Services. (Tom Price is a pauper at $14 million.)

These must be who Trump had in mind when he promised to help the “forgotten men and women.” They will profit hugely from his plan to reduce the top income tax rate to 33 percent from 39.6 percent.

Remember Trump’s vow to “drain the swamp,” and his boast that he’s too rich to be bought by donors?

Those who funded Trump are getting a good return on their investments: As the Washington Post reported, Mnuchin, Ross, Ricketts and their families gave hundreds of thousands to help Trump win. Foreign diplomats are flocking to the new Trump International Hotel in Washington to curry favor.

Trump made a core issue of Clinton’s conflicts of interest because of the Clinton Foundation. But his transition has been full of such entanglements, as he and his children mix affairs of state and business interests. Trump remains vague about how he will separate his presidency from the business ties he has to two dozen countries.

Trump’s inaugural extravaganza is shaping up to be a new standard for the pay-to-play politics he campaigned against. Those giving $1 million or more toward the $75 million party weekend will get perks including an “intimate dinner” with Vice President-elect Mike Pence and his wife.

No word yet on the menu for when these high rollers meet Trump’s billionaire appointees. But you can bet it will be rich.

Twitter: @Milbank.

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