Donald Trump backing away from 'Drain the Swamp,' Newt Gingrich says

Gabrielle Levy

President-elect Donald Trump is abandoning his "drain the swamp" mantra as he builds his administration and prepares to take the oath of office, according to Trump ally and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich, who throughout the campaign and since the election has taken on the role of a Trump ambassador, told NPR in remarks published Wednesday that he noticed the president-elect has shifted away from some of his campaign trail rhetoric.

The "drain the swamp" line – encapsulating Trump's plans to turn official Washington on its head – became a fixture of Trump stump speeches, while "lock her up" – referring to his opponent Hillary Clinton's long-simmering email server problems – was a favorite chant of Trump supporters.

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"I'm told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn't want to use it anymore," Gingrich said of the "drain the swamp" refrain in the "Morning Edition" interview. "I'd written what I thought was a very cute tweet about 'the alligators are complaining,' and somebody wrote back and said they were tired of hearing this stuff."

Trump also has noticeably backed away from a campaign trail promise to appoint a special prosecutor who, in the hopes of many of his supporters and allies, might produce a criminal indictment against Clinton in connection with her use of a private email server while secretary of state or her work with the Clinton Foundation. Federal prosecutors previously declined to pursue server-related charges against Clinton upon the FBI's recommendation that she not face any.

"I've noticed on a couple of fronts, like people chanting 'lock her up,' that he's in a different role now and maybe he feels that as president, as the next president of the United States, that he should be marginally more dignified than talking about alligators in swamps," Gingrich added. "I personally have, as a sense of humor, like the alligator and swamp language. ... I think it vividly illustrates the problem, because all the people in this city who are the alligators are going to hate the swamp being drained. And there's going to be constant fighting over it.

"But, you know, he is my leader and if he decides to drop the swamp and the alligator, I will drop the swamp and the alligator."

Critics say that, far from moving to rid influence peddlers from the White House's orbit, Trump's first wave of actions as president-elect – filling out his Cabinet and other senior staff positions – has instead done the opposite.

RELATED: Trump's official picks for cabinet and administration positions

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"I can't be bought," Trump said during the campaign. "I won't owe anybody anything."

Yet some Trump and GOP backers are cashing in: With a Cabinet collectively worth $13 billion and counting, the highest ranks of Trump's incoming administration include wealthy donors who helped bankroll his presidential bid.

All told, according to a Washington Post analysis earlier this month, six Trump picks – along with their families – together gave $11.6 million to Trump's campaign, his allied super PACs and the Republican National Committee.

The total includes $7.5 million tied to Linda McMahon, the World Wrestling Entertainment co-founder Trump has tapped to lead the Small Business Administration.