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Analysis: Newt Gingrich says Trump is done with ‘drain the swamp’; Lewandowski opens D.C. office

Corey Lewandowski, former campaign manager for President-elect Donald Trump, talks with reporters as he arrives at Trump Tower Nov. 29 in New York. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
By Aaron Blake Washington Post

There were two notable Trumpworld headlines Wednesday morning. One was the news that Corey Lewandowski – Donald Trump’s former campaign manager who remained part of his inner circle long after leaving that job – had just opened a “full service government relations and consulting firm” half a block from the White House.

The other was that Donald Trump is apparently over “drain the swamp.”

That’s according to Newt Gingrich, a top ally who told NPR in an interview that aired Wednesday morning that he was instructed not to use the phrase anymore because it has fallen out of favor with the president-elect.

“I’m told he now just disclaims that,” Gingrich said on “Morning Edition.” “He now says it was cute, but he doesn’t want to use it anymore.”

Gingrich said he had “written what I thought was a very cute tweet about ‘the alligators are complaining,’ ” but that “somebody wrote back and said they were tired of hearing this stuff.”

Gingrich actually drafted two tweets in recent days about draining the swamp – tweets that apparently earned him the rebuke.

“The alligators are unhappy about draining the swamp. That is the explanation for the nonsense about subverting the electoral college.”

“Watch the alligators lose today as the electors vote. Draining the swamp begins in January.”

But this should really come as no surprise. Trump himself has acknowledged his on-again, off-again relationship with the phrase. And it actually wasn’t a mainstay in the campaign until the final days.

Trump freely admitted that he never much liked the phrase, in fact. But he said that his crowds had prevailed upon him to embrace it.

“ ‘Drain the swamp.’ We put it in about two days ago. I said, ‘Drain the swamp.’ I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the expression: ‘Drain the swamp in Washington,’ ” Trump said Oct. 26 at a rally in North Carolina. “So I said it three days ago; the place went crazy. I said, ‘You know what? I’m starting to like that expression.’ And now it’s a hot – it’s like trending all over the world.”

As admissions of political expediency go, this is pretty forthcoming.

But it’s also worth noting here that Trump’s flip on this phrase seems to have come pretty suddenly. Just a day before Gingrich’s first tweet above, Trump promised in Alabama to “drain the swamp of corruption in Washington, D.C.” He said the same in Orlando the day before and in Hershey, Pa., the day before that.

So it’s not clear whether a specific story or cable news item – which have a tendency to draw instant Trump policy directives and declarations – might have influenced this change of course, if indeed it sticks. But what’s clear is that Trump’s efforts to “drain the swamp” have increasingly been derided and scoffed at as he has named a Goldman Sachs executive to head the Treasury Department and politicians and fellow billionaires to lead other departments. And then there are the many possible conflicts of interest.

Saturday Night Live a couple weeks back featured this well-written exchange:

ALEC BALDWIN-AS-TRUMP: Next I’m going to do what I promised to do my whole campaign, and I am going to build that swamp.

KELLYANNE CONWAY: Don’t you mean drain the swamp and build the wall?

BALDWIN-AS-TRUMP: No, that’s too many things. Just smush them together.

The sketch earned an immediate rebuke from Trump. It’s not clear whether he objected to this particular passage – his visage was compared in the sketch to a plate of mashed potatoes, after all – but you can bet Trump has noticed the derisive coverage of his pledge to “drain the swamp.”

Just as it was an attractive mantra on the campaign trail, it’s become an easily accessible counterpoint to Trump’s ongoing struggles with his business empire, conflicts of interest, and Cabinet picks that don’t really jibe with his promise to shake up Washington.

And given he never really liked the phrase, it should be no surprise he might be willing to drop it like a bad habit.