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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

News items track an undrained swamp in Washington, D.C.

The United States flag flies over the White

The United States flag flies over the White House in Washington on March 22. Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

Ethics scandals and charges of misconduct involving top Washington figures persist despite the "drain-the-swamp" patter of the last presidential campaign.

Last week, a jury found former national security adviser Michael Flynn's business partner Bijan Rafiekian guilty of lobbying illegally at Turkey's behest.

Assistant Attorney General John Demers said after a weeklong trial: "Mr. Rafiekian attempted to deceive the public and influence key leaders on behalf of Turkey. The Department of Justice treats these crimes with the gravity that they deserve.”

Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to the FBI about Russian contacts and still awaits sentencing.

Also last week, Bloomberg News reported that President Donald Trump's former Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, consults with private clients in the mining and drilling industries that his former department regulates. 

For one, Zinke joined the board of U.S. Gold Corp., based in Nevada, and is set to receive $90,000 in consulting fees, according to filings cited by the news organization.

Zinke left the Cabinet post under pressure from ethics probes.

Of course, the family at the very zenith of the government might cash in.

Trump and family sound interested in having the United States host the G-7 leadership summit next year. Their 800-acre Doral luxury golf resort in Florida ranks among the finalists, according to The Washington Post.

A private adviser looking reduce the Trump Organization's tax bill told local officials the Doral's net operating income shrank last year, with its occupancy rate lower than that of competing resorts, the Post reported.

Last month, it was announced that William Wehrum, the Environmental Protection Agency’s air pollution chief, would step down amid a congressional ethics probe into his ties to former industry clients.

He had been assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Air and Radiation.

Earlier, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce began exploring charges that Wehrum and a top deputy used their posts to help utilities they'd worked for at their former law firm. Now the EPA is performing an internal investigation.

Last Tuesday, former Raytheon Co. executive Mark Esper took the oath to become Trump's latest defense secretary. Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said: “In Patrick Shanahan, President Trump had an acting Secretary of Defense whose decisions were overshadowed by his previous senior position at Boeing. His successor will likewise risk being tainted by his previous work for a major defense contractor."

Office of Government Ethics Director Emery Rounds, meanwhile, warned in a memo to Trump political appointees they cannot change their agreements with his office without his signing off on them. Rounds cited his power to impose disciplinary action.

The impact of such warnings is unknown.

Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway, for one, has thumbed her nose at repeated findings by another presidential appointee that she violated the Hatch Act, which bars U.S. employees from engaging in certain political activities.

Also, Trump's transportation secretary, Elaine Chao, assigned a special liaison to help with grant applications from the home state of her spouse, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Politico reported.

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