In this jan. 19, 2017, photo, Jeff Miller attends then Energy Secretary-designate Rick Perry's confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on Capitol Hill in Washington. President Donald Trump has talked frequently about 'draining the swamp' of inside dealers in Washington. But lobbyist Jeff Miller might be considered part of the new swamp. Miller, who is a close friend of Energy Secretary Rick Perry, is pushing the administration for a bailout worth billions of dollars for FirstEnergy Solutions, a bankrupt coal and nuclear power company. Miller has earned $3.2 million in just over a year as a lobbyist for clients that include several large energy companies. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WASHINGTON (AP) - At a West Virginia rally on tax cuts, President Donald Trump[1] veered off on a subject that likely puzzled most of his audience.

“Nine of your people just came up to me outside. ‘Could you talk about 202?’” he said. “We’ll be looking at that 202. You know what a 202 is? We’re trying.”

One person who undoubtedly knew what Trump[2] was talking about last month was Jeff Miller, an energy lobbyist with whom the president had dined the night before. Miller had been hired by FirstEnergy Solutions, a bankrupt power company that relies on coal and nuclear energy to produce electricity. His assignment: push the Trump administration[3] to use a so-called 202 order - named for a provision of the Federal Power Act - to secure a bailout worth billions of dollars.

Although Trump[4] didn’t agree to the plan - he still hasn’t - for Miller, a president’s public declaration of interest amounted to a job well done.

How a single lobbyist helped carry a long-shot idea from obscurity to the presidential stage is a twisty journey through the new swamp of Trump[5]’s Washington. Rather than clearing out the lobbyists and campaign donors that spend big money to sway politicians, Trump[6] and his advisers paved the way for a new cast of powerbrokers who have quickly embraced familiar ways to wield influence.

Miller is among them. A well-connected GOP fundraiser, he served in the past as an adviser to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and to Texas Gov. Rick Perry[7], also a close friend. He ran Perry[8]’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2016. And when Trump[9] tapped Perry[10] to lead the Energy Department, Miller shepherded his friend through confirmation, sitting behind him, next to the nominee’s wife, at the Senate hearing.

When Perry[11] came to Washington, Miller did, too. He launched his firm, Miller Strategies, early last year and began lobbying his friend and other Washington officials.

Besides Perry[12], Miller is close to other Trump[13]-era power players. He is among House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s best friends, their relationship dating back decades to Miller’s days in California. In more recent years, Miller developed a friendship with Vice President Mike Pence adviser Marty Obst.

Obst says the two began working closely together when Perry[14] and Pence held leadership roles at the Republican Governors Association several years ago. “He’s very influential in Washington, a leading fundraiser,” Obst said of Miller in a brief interview....

Now, after 14 months in business, the 43-year-old has collected more than $3.2 million from a roster of clients that includes several of the nation’s largest energy companies, among them Southern Co., a nuclear power plant operator headquartered in Atlanta, and Texas-based Valero

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