I’ve long said that Donald J. Trump would remain U.S. president as long as the Koch brothers deemed it so. After all, the billionaire siblings and political pooh-bahs all but own the House of Representatives, being largely responsible for electing the Republican majority in 2010. In our system of government, any plausible effort to remove the president from office begins with the House, the only body that can issue articles of impeachment. In short, Trump needs the Koch brothers in his corner if he’s to avoid that fate. Having signed their top priority—massive tax cuts—into law, he’s a little vulnerable now.
In 2016, both Charles and David Koch, principals in Koch Industries and builders of a vast, right-wing political infrastructure, made a big show of their contempt for Trump. Charles compared the choice of either Trump and Hillary Clinton to one between a heart attack and cancer. David declined to attend the Republican National Convention, to which he had served as a delegate in 2012, when he hosted a big party.
Whatever one thinks of Paul Manafort, the former manager of Trump’s presidential campaign who has since been indicted for conspiracy against the United States, he exercised keen political judgment when he pushed Trump to offer Koch toady Mike Pence the running-mate slot, even after the Republican standard-bearer had reportedly promised it to Chris Christie, who was then the reviled governor of New Jersey. That ensured a measure of Koch support for Trump in the general election. But it also provided the Kochs with an insurance policy of their own: Should Trump get out of control, the Koch brothers not only had a Congress that would likely serve up impeachment papers should they give the signal; they had a doer of their biddings in line to take Trump’s place.
With his pick of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump shows once again that he knows on which side his bread is buttered. Pompeo joins a cabinet that is already heavily sprinkled with Koch acolytes and pals, including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, a Koch network donor; Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, friend of David Koch; and Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, the former congressman who is determined to make it possible for Koch Industries to mine uranium on public lands. But Pompeo holds the distinction, in his former guise as a member of Congress, of being described by OpenSecrets.org in a 2016 tweet as “the #1 all-time recipient of #KOCH Industries $$$.”
Joe Romm of ThinkProgress describes it this way:
In just four election cycles, 2010 through 2016, Pompeo received: $335,000 from Koch Industries employees (including $92,000 just from the Koch family); $69,000 from the Koch Industries PAC; $417,175 from Americans for Prosperity (which is the right-wing advocacy group founded by the Koch brothers); plus another $87,532 from “Other outside groups heavily funded by the Kochs.
That’s over $900,000 to buy one Congressman.
So now, we’re about to have a secretary of state who denies the role of human activity in climate change, which is just as the Koch brothers, who rule over a conglomerate rooted in fossil fuels, would have it. And Trump just bought himself that much more insulation against any possibility of a Republican-majority House of Representatives turning on him.
This is what’s a stake in the 2018 midterms. For Trump, it’s not about what legislation he passes or doesn’t. It’s about survival in office, and his ability to use the executive branch to turn federal agencies into deregulatory, stunted bodies for the benefit of himself and a handful of his wealthy pals. The Plunder Project™ continues.