Brow Beat

Last Week Tonight Called Trump’s Head of Oil Rig Safety, Who Gives His Cellphone Number to Industry Executives

Last Week Tonight's John Oliver in front of a graphic reading "Drain the Swamp."

Donald Trump’s fondness for snappy mantras that his supporters can chant has been well documented, and on Sunday, John Oliver looked at one of those mantras in particular. “The odds are, if your whole political platform is just screaming random three-word phrases, one of them is bound to end up being good,” he said, throwing out examples like lock her up, build the wall, and all-dog zoo. “Stop, that’s actually a great idea. It took a while, but you finally threw out a good one.”

Another “good one,” at least in theory, is drain the swamp, the rallying cry to eradicate government corruption and corporate lobbying. Trump didn’t invent the phrase—by his own account, he didn’t even like it at first, calling it “hokey”—and certainly hasn’t lived up to it, populating his administration with plenty of corrupt officials and corporate lobbyists. One of those is Scott Angelle, former lieutenant governor of Louisiana and, more pertinently in this case, a former board member of oil pipeline company Sunoco Logistics Partners. In 2017, he also became director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which is responsible for regulating the oil industry.

Just how cozy is Angelle with oil industry leaders? The team at Last Week Tonight tracked down a speech that Angelle delivered last year at the Louisiana Gulf Coast Oil Exposition, in which he gives out his cellphone number and urges attendees to call him rather than text him, since his text messages are public record. “No one should ever call rather than text,” said Oliver. “I don’t care what the scenario is, if you prefer calling to texting, you’re a forking psychopath and you should be put in prison forever.”

The phone number in the video, which Angelle apparently gives out regularly, is really his. (“We know, because we called it,” said Oliver.) While there’s no way of knowing what is being said during those phone conversations, Angelle has used his position in the White House to promote policies that benefit oil companies financially by loosening offshore drilling regulations. Judging by the comments on Last Week Tonight’s segment, Angelle has now been getting calls from YouTube commenters, too. No wonder that, as of Monday morning, the number has been disconnected.