According to the Hollywood trade paper Variety (Dec. 8, 2016), Donald Trump would remain as a paid executive producer of “Celebrity Apprentice” – the NBC game show he hosted for fourteen seasons that’s now returning with Arnold Schwarzenegger.  It was called “The Apprentice” during Trump’s reign, where the “candidates” from various business backgrounds lived communally in a New York “penthouse suite” all trying to win their corporation a place in one of Trump’s.   There was one loser per episode, whom Trump famously dismissed with the words, “You’re fired!”

That’s the scenario playing  out now at the EPA, an agency Trump said during the campaign he’d obliterate “in almost every form,” with only “little tidbits left.”  According to the transition’s communications director Doug Erickson, an internal vetting process is underway to determine what work EPA staff can share with the public.  “We’ll take a look at what’s happening so that the voice coming from the EPA is one that’s going to reflect the new administration,” Erickson told NPR.  Long-time employees are reportedly “coming to work in tears,” trying to figure out how to keep their jobs without compromising the issues they care about.

Judd Apatow, the executive producer of “Freaks and Geeks,” said in a recent interview that he thinks the White House will run much like Trump’s role in “The Apprentice.”  “Donald Trump sits in his office,” Apatow said.  “He sends his kids to watch the teams do their missions.  Then they come back and tell him what they think of it and then he makes an impulsive decision based on the information that Donald Jr. or Ivanka give him.”

Except it’s a lot worse than just “the kids.”  It’s the agenda, first and foremost, of Steve Bannon, the hard-right former exec at Goldman Sachs who ended up running Breitbart News.  He is Trump‘s top strategist inside the White House and reportedly prepared all those reactionary executive orders that Trump has been dashing off since assuming office.

Bannon has avowed that climate change is an invention of “pure scum” activists, university researchers and profiteers in the solar and wind industry.  Supporting alternative energy is “madness.”  His website ran numerous alt-fact articles about the global warming “hoax.”  It headlined an article about the Paris climate agreement among close to 200 nations “a Threat to U.S. Sovereignty.”

One of Breitbart News’ primary financial backers was a reclusive hedge fund billionaire named Robert Mercer, who’s said to have propelled Bannon to the top of Trump’s campaign last August.  Mercer has long been a major donor to climate change-denying conservative groups including the Heartland Institute, Cato Institute, and Heritage Foundation.

So it’s no surprise that Bannon drafted Trump’s proclamation about restarting the Keystone-XL pipeline (originating in Canada) without consulting the State Department – even though the order’s requirement that the builder needs to use domestic-made materials is in likely violation of various trade treaties. It’s a similar story with the border wall, which would require appropriations from Congress.

But this doesn’t matter when it’s all about staging, “the theatrics of autographing official-looking leather-bound documents in the Oval Office,” as Politico puts it.  As one person from the Trump campaign staff said: “He was determined to show people that he’s getting to work from day one.”

New York Magazine writer Eric Levin concludes a piece about this:”Either Trump hopes to strong-arm the federal bureaucracy and Congress into realizing Steve Bannon’s wildest dreams – or he just wants to execute some well-staged photo-ops while Mike Pence does all that slow boring of hard boards.  Which is to say: Either Donald Trump is the president, or he just plays one on TV.”

The frightening question is, who’s apprenticing to who?