In conversation with a young person recently, I mentioned that Washington, DC, had a lot of corruption when I lived there, e.g. if you couldn't get a building permit on the up and up, you could get one anyway through unethical practices. He remarked, "That's just the kind of problem Trump promised to solve during his campaign."

But I suspect corruption at the local level wasn't what Trump was bothered by.

And that left me with the question: What type of corruption did Trump focus on in his campaign?

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    Corruption by Democrats and poor people. – ohwilleke Apr 25 '18 at 14:31

Trump primarily appealed to his audience by stating what it wanted to hear. He said he'd 'drain the swamp' of all the lobbyists who had hurt the country’s working class. To the best of my knowledge, he didn't get much more specific than that except:

He also said he would impose a lifetime ban on top executive administration staff from lobbying ‘on behalf of foreign governments.’

Furthermore, Trump also wanted to stop foreign lobbyists from engaging in fundraising for American elections.

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    Actually, according to one source, he said "drain the swamp" because someone told him it would stick. The reliability of the source is questionable, though, as their statements have been proven false before. The source is Donald Trump; independent.co.uk/news/people/… – Peter Apr 20 '18 at 12:55
  • @Peter - What is meant by "stick" here? – aparente001 Apr 20 '18 at 15:29
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    @aparente001: In this context, 'stick' means that it would catch on as a common phrase. In other words, it's something simple that people could remember and support. – Giter Apr 20 '18 at 15:37
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    Trump took the phrase "Drain the swamp" from Reagan. – Dunk Apr 24 '18 at 17:50
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    How ironic is that little specific detail. – ohwilleke Apr 25 '18 at 14:32

Trump repeatedly referred to Hillary Clinton as corrupt. He called her crooked Hillary, called the Clinton Foundation the most corrupt enterprise in political history, and said the FBI investigation of her emails was rigged.

Whether or not this was correct is beyond the scope of this answer. But it is undeniable that Trump campaigned that way.

  • I think this answer could be improved by adding what type of corruption Trump was specifically refering to in the case of Clinton and the FBI. (I'm not sure if he ever made this explicit; I think Trump mostly meant "Something I don't like" when he said "corrupt" - the same way he uses "fake", etc; but if he did make it explicit, including that would definitely improve this answer; it would especially be interesting if the type of corruption Trump accused Clinton of is a different sort of corruption that the rampant corruption in the Trump business, campaign and administration) – tim Dec 24 '18 at 22:04
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    I don't think merits are relevant to this question. Another answer went into rather too much detail; I'm trying to avoid that, too. – William Jockusch Dec 25 '18 at 2:33
  • This is helpful. I still don't know what Trump meant with the word "corrupt," though.... – aparente001 Dec 27 '18 at 23:45

Every cycle conservatives campaign on a platform of smaller government, turning more control back over to individual states, reduced taxes/bureaucracy, etc.

And every cycle without fail government gets larger, taxes creep upwards or cut without commensurate cuts in spending by taking on public debt, power becomes more centralized, and bureaucracy expands to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.

This presents a problem for the conservative half of the electorate.

What it looks like is that they elect these guys, send them to Washington, and they talk tall while screwing around and not actually accomplishing anything. Washington is a "swamp" of people who've been corrupted by the system. These Washington types, apathetic or outright hostile to middle American interests depending on party, are the "corrupt" that Donald Trump wants to de-swampify. But realistically this is unlikely: every single conservative elected to the federal government, every single one, is either a turncoat or massively incompetent? Every single liberal/leftist, all of them, are coastal classist elitists?

It turns out that both Sanders and Trump were wrong: it isn't just bad people, governing is actually difficult. There are hard problems that don't have easy solutions. Which puts people that ran on simple solutions in quite a pickle. It's not like they can go back to their constituents and be all like "oops guess we can't really cut the funding to this thing without creating more problems than we solve. My bad."

So yeah. In the absence of the truth, various explanations about the "corrupting influence of Washington" make the rounds. Actual instances of corruption are exposed, sans context, and the salacious scandals reinforce the image with no mention of how endemic the problem really is or isn't.


There are several issues Trump referred to with regards to getting rid of corruption. In the context of the OP's young person they were referring to, this summarizes what the young person was referring to "Trump: This is our chance to end years of injustice, corruption and betrayal...That's because change has to come from outside of our broken and corrupt system...We will never solve our problems by relying on the politicians who created our problems...A vote for Trump is a vote to restore Democracy". To bad for Trump that he didn't fully realize how powerful the people behind the corrupt system really are.

One post mentioned the lobbyists but failed to mention specifically what Trump was referring to:

"Trump: So I've watched the politicians....they're controlled fully by the lobbyists, by the donors, and by the special interests, fully."

"Trump: It's the powerful protecting the powerful."

Here's just a few of the specific examples of corruption cited by Trump:

"Trump: In this future, we will have an honest government – and that includes an honest State Department, not Pay-For-Play. Government access and favors will no longer be for sale, and important email records will no longer be deleted and digitally bleached."

"Trump: As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton signed off on a deal allowing Russians to take an increased stake in a company called Uranium One....In exchange for signing off on the deal, some of the former owners of Uranium One gave the Clinton Foundation millions of dollars in donations. In addition, Bill Clinton received $500,000 for a speech to a Kremlin-backed investment firm that was a beneficiary of the deal."

"Trump: In 2009, Ericsson telecommunications came under U.S. pressure for selling telecom equipment to several oppressive governments...In June 2011, Hillary Clinton's state department began adding goods and service to a list that might be covered under expanded sanctions on Iran and other state sponsors of terrorism...During that time, Ericsson sponsored a speech by Bill Clinton, paying him $750,000 – his highest paying speech...In April 2012, the Obama Administration issued an executive order imposing sanctions on telecom sales to Iran and Syria –but those sanctions did not cover Ericsson's work in Iran." "Trump: No one will be above the law...We will have one set of rules for everyone. In Hillary Clinton's world, we have one set of rules for her – and another set of rules for everyone else."

"Trump: It's clear from the FBI report that Hillary Clinton lied about her handling of confidential information...On 39 separate occasions she said she couldn't recall details about her mishandling of classified information...It's also clear from the FBI report that Hillary Clinton and her top aides knowingly destroyed evidence and covered-up their actions. After her private server was revealed last March, her staff deleted all the emails and wiped it clean using a software designed to prevent any recovery, called BleachBit. They used hammers to destroy phones so they couldn't be turned over later. Hillary Clinton failed to turn over thousands of documents, then tried to shield her criminal conduct by having her chief-of-staff declare herself to be Hillary Clinton's private attorney."

"Trump: Hillary Clinton was using the State Department to dole out special favors and access to her friends and donors. It's called pay-for-play."

"Trump: she put the entire country at risk in order to cover-up her pay-for-play scandals as Secretary of State. These include scandals like giving up our uranium to Russia, doing favors for UBS bank, and selling contracts to friends and family in Haiti."

"Trump: Hillary Clinton has perfected the politics of personal profit and theft. She ran the State Department like her own personal hedge fund – doing favors for oppressive regimes, and many others, in exchange for cash. Then, when she left, she made $21.6 million giving speeches to Wall Street banks and other special interests – in less than 2 years – secret speeches that she does not want to reveal to the public. Together, she and Bill made $153 million giving speeches to lobbyists, CEOs, and foreign governments in the years since 2001. They totally own her, and that will never change."

Tangentially related examples of corruption/dishonesty mentioned by Trump:

"Trump: The Democratic Party has trapped millions of African-American and Hispanic youth in failing government schools that deny them the opportunity to join the ladder of American success. It is time to break-up that monopoly."

"Trump: Yet, our media culture often mocks and demeans people of faith."

"Trump: I have pledged to appoint judges who uphold the Constitution, to protect your religious liberty, and apply the law as written. [cheers and applause] We reject judges who rewrite the Constitution to impose their own person views on 300 million-plus Americans. "

"Trump: Clinton blames it all on a video, an excuse that was a total lie. Our Ambassador was murdered and our Secretary of State misled the nation – and by the way, she was not awake to take that call at 3 o'clock in the morning."

"Trump: We need to respond to this attack on America as one united people – with force, purpose and determination. But the current politically correct response cripples our ability to talk and think and act clearly."

"Trump: Nearly a year ago, the Senate Subcommittee asked President Obama's Departments of Justice, State and Homeland Security to provide the immigration history of all terrorists inside the United States. These Departments refused to comply."

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    TL:DR Hilliary Clinton only? – user9389 Apr 24 '18 at 20:08
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    "To bad for Trump that he didn't fully realize how powerful the people behind the corrupt system really are." The US's government is specifically designed such that the president cannot be unilateral in making decisions on how to run the country. I'm sure Trump would love to be able to kick out those who disagree with him from Congress and the like, but that's not how our government works, regardless of who is corrupt. – JAB Apr 25 '18 at 5:38
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    Can you please mention the source from which you copied all those statements? Please give credit where credit is due. Crediting sources also helps other people to find useful sources of information or judge if the information is trustworthy. – Philipp Apr 25 '18 at 8:49
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    @Dunk But where did you get that list from? Did you research all these quotes yourself? If so, respect, but then please tell us when and where he said these things so the reader can verify that you are not misquoting him or quoting him out of context. When you copied this list from a source, please credit that source so the reader can judge for themselves if that source is reputable and/or check if the source provides more information. – Philipp Apr 25 '18 at 14:20
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    @notstoreboughtdirt-Yes only Hillary Clinton and by implication those who helped and covered up for her. Keep in mind, he and pretty much his entire campaign team were all outsiders. He had no way of knowing who in the bureaucracy was involved. What he did know is what Hillary was involved in. Despite claims that Trump lies, the truth is that he is proven correct time and time again once the facts come in and limiting his claims at Hillary satisfied both the political goals and ensured he spoke the truth as he knew it. – Dunk Apr 25 '18 at 14:45

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