Business, World Leaders Condemn Decision to Withdraw from Climate Agreement
Paris is burning. Trump announced on Thursday that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, weakening efforts to combat global warming and embracing isolationists who argued that the agreement was a threat to the economy and American sovereignty. The decision, which was championed by White House adviser Stephen Bannon and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, was roundly denounced by world leaders, the press and corporations. A chorus of heads of states around the world criticized Trump’s move, vowing they would not renegotiate the accord. Business executives from Apple’s Tim Cook to Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs voiced objections. The New Yorker magazine called the decision “Trump’s ‘screw you’ to the world.” The United States, the second-biggest climate emitter behind China, had committed to reducing its emissions by 26%-28% from 2005 levels by 2025 and to give up to $3 billion in aid for poorer countries by 2020. The U.S. joins war-torn Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations not participating in the deal. Nicaragua refused because it says the largely voluntary deal isn’t tough enough.
EPA buyouts. EPA employees received a memo about buyouts at the agency. Trump and Pruitt want to eliminate more than 3,200 employees and cut the budget by 31%. The EPA has about 15,000 employees. The buyout plan would need to be approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget. The EPA plans to set aside $12 million for buyouts and early retirements.
In the witness chair. Former FBI Director James Comey is expected to testify Thursday before a Senate panel investigating Russian meddling in the U.S. election. Trump could try to invoke some type of executive privilege to try to keep Comey from testifying. Comey has alleged Trump wanted him to shut down the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump is moving toward giving back Russia two diplomatic compounds near New York City and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore that Russians were kicked out of because of interference with the election.
Ethics waivers. The Trump administration may have skirted ethics rules by allowing White House strategist Stephen Bannon to communicate with editors at Breitbart News where he had been an executive. Trump granted five times as many waivers his first four months in office as Obama did. Seventeen waivers, which were made in secret, have been granted to White House staff including Bannon, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and counselor Kellyanne Conway. We don’t know how many waivers have been granted to other executive branch agencies.
Upward Bound. Trump’s Education Department will reconsider 77 applications that were rejected from a program that helps low-income and rural high school students prepare for college. The applications were rejected because of formatting issues such as not double-spacing the entire 65 page application.