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Obama Officials Are Living Large in Trump’s America

President Barack Obama with then-Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)

Since departing the White House in January 2017, Barack Obama has kept a conspicuously low profile, surfacing briefly to condemn the Trump administration’s violation of the Iran nuclear deal and offer a few, inadequate words about its child separation policy. During that time, he has grown fabulously wealthy, inking a $65 million book contract and a Netflix television deal and delivering speeches to Wall Street firms for several hundred thousand dollars a pop.

But the former president is hardly the only member of his administration to cash in on his time in office. As HuffPost’s Zach Carter and Paul Blumenthal report, numerous Obama officials are “riding out” President Trump’s term by enriching themselves through consulting and lobbying deals, many at “scandal-fraught” organizations.

One such official is former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. When he’s not denouncing child detention camps as “immoral and un-American” while simultaneously dismissing calls to abolish ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as “about as serious as the claim that Mexico is ‘gonna pay for the wall,’ ” Johnson serves on the board of directors at Lockheed Martin—the country’s biggest weapons manufacturer and a corporation that has incurred $767 million in fines for assorted misconduct since its formation in 1995. While Johnson’s precise level of involvement at the defense contractor is uncertain, HuffPost reveals that he earned as much as $290,000 as a director there last year.

Melody Barnes, previously Obama’s Domestic Policy Council director, has rebuked the Trump administration for showing “virtually no respect for constitutional principles, or often, basic human decency.” But she too works for a defense contractor, Booz Hamilton, investigated for criminal wrongdoing, in this case by the Department of Justice for alleged accounting irregularities. HuffPost reports that the company has received as much as $63 million in contracts from ICE, the government agency that has made headlines for allegedly denying essential care to pregnant women in its custody and for employing agents who have told asylum seekers, “Don’t you know that we hate you people?,” among countless other offenses.

Then there’s Timothy Geithner, Obama’s treasury secretary and current president of the private equity firm Warburg Pincus. That firm is the owner of a money lender called Mariner Finance, which according to a damning new Washington Post report preys on the country’s most vulnerable. As one former branch manager put it, “it’s basically a way of monetizing poor people.”

Geithner, who has blamed predatory lenders for their role in the 2008 financial crisis, declined to comment on the article, but Mariner Finance LLC documents indicate the company has $561 million in total assets.

There are many more examples: Former Attorney General Eric Holder, former Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, former White House press secretary Jay Carney, and Obama’s original Securities and Exchange Commission chair, Mary Schapiro, have all found lucrative second lives in the private sector.

“Elite Washington is comfortable with what it calls ‘the revolving door’―the movement of government officials into lobbying, contracting or consulting jobs where they can exploit government connections for profit,” conclude HuffPost’s Carter and Blumenthal. “But much of what passes for normal in Washington is considered grotesque in the rest of the country. If the Trump administration weren’t bumbling between different crimes against humanity, it’s hard to imagine anyone getting nostalgic for the era when these folks ran the free world.”

Jacob Sugarman
Jacob Sugarman is the acting managing editor at Truthdig. He is a graduate of the Arthur L. Carter Institute of Journalism whose writing has appeared in Salon, AlterNet and Tablet, among other…
Jacob Sugarman

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