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Washington Report June 2, 2017
02 Jun 2017

Washington Report June 2, 2017

French Toast … Not Really About the Climate … U.S. Climate Alliance … Behind the Scenes … What Mitt Said … Handing the Chinese a Gift … There is No Tax Bill … Infrastructure … Putting Lipstick on a Pig … and other news of the week.


Joyce Rubenstein
Capstone National Partners


FRENCH TOAST theSkimm THE STORY President Trump is taking the U.S. out of the Climate Accord. 10 SECONDS, REMIND ME Back in 2015, almost every country in the world agreed to cut carbon emissions in a historic climate change agreement that took decades to reach. It really only came together after the US – one of the largest polluters in the world – came to the negotiating table. As a part of the deal, developed countries like the US would contribute to a global fund to help developing countries like India meet their carbon targets.

What are the pros of leaving? The White House says this will save millions of jobs in the coal and oil industries. And that it’ll save billions of dollars by cutting off US contributions to the global fund. Trump also says he wants to renegotiate the deal “on terms that are fair” to the US. EU leaders say ‘that’s not possible,’ since the deal’s already in motion and too important to rework.

What are the cons of leaving? Scientists say that if the US continues polluting as much as it does now, it could make the effects of climate change even worse. This also risks having other countries – especially the ones that rely on the global fund – pull out too. Business leaders argue that leaving the deal is bad for the planet and makes the US less competitive. Other critics warn this could badly damage the US’s standing on the global stage. Yesterday, the EU and China reaffirmed their commitment to the deal.

SO … Even though this is a 180 from the last administration’s climate policy, it’ll still be a while until it’s official. Withdrawing from this deal is expected to take years – and will likely still not be finalized by the 2020 presidential campaign
“We’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair.” (-Trump)
FACT: Each country set it’s own commitments under the Paris Accord. He could uniliaterally change the commitments offered by President Obama, which is technically allowed under the Accord.

“China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020.” (-Trump)
FACT: This is false. The agreement is nonbinding and each nation sets its own targets. There is nothing in the agreement that stops the United States from building coal plants or gives the permission to China or India to build coal plants. In fact, market forces, primarily reduced costs for natural gas, have forced the closure of coal plants. China announced this year that it would cancel plans to build more than 100 coal-fired plants.”


WHY TRUMP ACTUALLY PULLED OUT OF PARIS Politico “Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement was not really about the climate. And despite his overheated rhetoric about the ‘tremendous’ and ‘draconian’ burdens the deal would impose on the U.S. economy, Trump’s decision wasn’t really about that, either. America’s commitments under the Paris deal, like those of the other 194 cooperating nations, were voluntary. So those burdens were imaginary.

“No, Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from this carefully crafted multilateral compromise was a diplomatic and political slap: it was about extending a middle finger to the world, while reminding his base that he shares its resentments of fancy-pants elites and smarty-pants scientists and tree-hugging squishes who look down on real Americans who drill for oil and dig for coal. He was thrusting the United States into the role of global renegade, rejecting not only the scientific consensus about climate but the international consensus for action, joining only Syria and Nicaragua (which wanted an even greener deal) in refusing to help the community of nations address a planetary problem.

“Congress doesn’t seem willing to pay for Trump’s border wall-and Mexico certainly isn’t-so rejecting the Paris deal was an easier way to express his Fortress America themes without having to pass legislation.”

TRUMP NEVER WAVERED Axios “The “debate” was mostly a charade. A source who spends a lot of time with President Trump has never heard him say a positive thing about the Paris climate accord. Ivanka Trump was optimistic to the end that she could change her father’s mind.But in retrospect, it turns out that the notion he was going to stay in the deal was always fanciful.

  • The bottom line: The speech Trump gave in the Rose Garden was the most full-throated expression of populist nationalism we’ve seen since his inauguration. This was campaign Trump, and he looked like he was loving it in the Rose Garden, with his supporters cheering his applause lines and a jazz band warming up the crowd in the sun.


THE NEW PARIS Politico “Washington, California, New York band together to form climate alliance” “In the wake of President Donald Trump’s announcement he will pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, the governors of California, Washington and New York have agreed to form an alliance aimed at meeting the U.S. climate goals. The new coalition, called the United States Climate Alliance, will serve as a way for states interested in dealing with climate change to coordinate. … The three states make up about a fifth of U.S. population and GDP. They also produced 11% of U.S. emissions in 2014, according to the Energy Information Administration.”


BEHIND THE SCENES WashPo “Silicon Valley titans, such as Apple chief executive Tim Cook and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk, contacted the White House directly, making clear just how seriously they viewed the issue of climate change — and how important it was to them that the president not withdraw from the international pact. European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, used a private summit of the Group of Seven world powers to repeatedly and urgently prod Trump to stay true to the climate deal. And Ivanka Trump … reached out to chief executives and urged them to call her father to make their pro-business case for staying in the accord. She even personally appealed to Andrew Liveris, the head of Dow Chemical, asking him to spearhead a letter with other CEOs — which ultimately ran as a full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal in May — directly appealing to Trump to stay in the agreement, according to a person familiar with the effort.”

(@SRuhle): “According to sources inside the WH…S Bannon & S Miller were the last to have the president’s ear before the announcement…he listened”.

“I do think it’s an actual mistake, both for the United States and for the world.” … “To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the president of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland. I call on them: Come here and work with us.” We all share the same responsibility. Concluding with, “Make our planet great again.”
– French President Emmanuel Macron, emerging as one of the loudest anti-Trump voices in Europe



“Many large companies said they wouldn’t change course … Companies are responding to customer and shareholder demands to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Many operate in states and countries that are putting in place climate rules and thus face pressures beyond the U.S. government. … Firms are buying natural gas and renewable electricity that emit less pollutants because they are becoming cheaper. And many are making long-term capital investments to reduce their carbon footprints with an eye toward future decades, not the current election cycle.” – Wall Street Journal

“U.S. regulations aimed at meeting Paris goals weren’t a burden for all. Exxon Mobil, for example, stood to benefit from at least three elements.” – Wall Street Journal

@elonmusk “Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world. — Elon Musk tweet (Tesla and SpaceX CEO)

“Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world. #ParisAgreement.”
– Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein tweet

As a matter of principle, I’ve resigned from the President’s Council over the #ParisAgreement withdrawal.”
– Disney Chairman and CEO Robert Iger tweet


IN FACT, TRUMP ABANDONED PARIS COMMITMENTS LONG BEFORE THURSDAY The Atlantic “When it signed on to Paris in 2015, the U.S. promised to cut its greenhouse-gas emissions 25% below where they stood in 2005. To meet these goals, the Obama administration advanced a slew of new executive policies, including the Clean Power Plan for the electricity sector, fuel-economy standards for cars, and a rule limiting how much methane could be freely vented from public lands.

In less than six months in office, the Trump administration has systematically rolled back these rules, ceded to court challenges against them, or signaled that it will not strictly enforce them. He has also asked Congress to cancel the subsidies for renewable energy, and his Department of Energy is pursuing policies that Chuck Grassley, a Republican senator from Iowa, has decried as “anti-wind.”

A TRILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY With those policy changes already taking effect, it seems unlikely that—even if the U.S. remained in Paris—it could still meet its commitments under the treaty. And that raises a broader question about the health—and ultimate fate—of the U.S. renewable-energy industry. Without support from the government, or access to the developing market through UN climate talks, American firms may be at a disadvantage negotiating with developing countries. It will make it far easier for China and Germany’s manufacturing sectors to dominate the renewable-energy industry, a trillion-dollar industry expected to more than quadruple in size.

JOBS OF THE FUTURE If solar and wind companies in the United States falter—and if this country hunkers down into a fossil-fuel-dominated economy in the 2020s—then it may permanently deprive the American economy of a massive global opportunity. It could also undercut the U.S. claim to a century of global leadership on scientific research and technological development. AND THEN THERE’S THIS … it will allow Germany and China to lead the world diplomatically on other issues, as well. At best, a Democratic president negotiating an international agreement which a Republican president then abandons will be interpreted as instability; at worst, it will throw other U.S. diplomatic commitments into doubt.” WHICH IS TO SAY: Trumps’ decision to withdraw from Paris matters insofar as it causes other systems — India’s participation in the treaty, the american solar and wind business, and U.S. diplomatic leadership in the world — to collapse. And it lets us glimpse what this spinning world will look like in the decades ahead: HOTTER, MORE ERRATIC, POLITICALLY FRACTURED, AND FACING TOWARD BEIJING.”

TRUMP HANDS THE CHINESE A GIFT NYTs “President Trump has managed to turn America First into America Isolated. In pulling out of the Paris climate accord, Mr. Trump has created a vacuum of global leadership that presents ripe opportunities to allies and adversaries alike to reorder the world’s power structure. His decision is perhaps the greatest strategic gift to the Chinese, who are eager to fill the void that Washington is leaving around the world on everything from setting the rules of trade and environmental standards to financing the infrastructure projects that give Beijing vast influence.

“It is still possible that Mr. Trump’s announcement on Thursday will amount to a blip in history, a withdrawal that takes so long — four years — that it could be reversed after the next presidential election.”


“Our tax bill is moving along in Congress and I believe it’s doing very well.”
-President Trump during his press conference on his decision to pull out of the Paris Accords

WHAT IS HE TALKING ABOUT? The thing is, there is, literally NO TAX BILL.

  • No tax bill has been introduced to the US House of Representatives.
  • No tax bill has been introduced to the US Senate.
  • The White House has not released a tax plan that is detailed enough for experts to assess its economic or fiscal impact.


COMING ATTRACTIONS … INFRASTRUCTURE Politico ” White House officials briefed representatives from more than a dozen conservative groups on Thursday, hoping to bring them into the fold as the administration readies to push its $1 trillion infrastructure vision forward. The meeting marks the start of what will be a lengthy campaign to sell the infrastructure package, which has already come under criticism from Democrats and some fiscal conservatives. People who attended the meeting said the White House is expected to unveil more details next week. Alex Herrgott, the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s associate director for infrastructure, held the meeting.


IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEEDPolitico “President Donald Trump has asked the Supreme Court to revive his controversial travel ban executive order … “In filings Thursday night, the Justice Department asked the high court to temporarily lift injunctions that bar officials from carrying out Trump’s directive to suspend visa issuance to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries and halt the flow of refugees to the U.S. from across the globe. The Trump administration also asked the justices to add the legality of the travel ban to the high court’s docket so the case would be ready for argument this fall.”


WHAT, I CAN’T HEAR YOU! Politico “The White House is telling federal agencies to blow off Democratic lawmakers’ oversight requests, as Republicans fear the information could be weaponized against President Donald Trump. At meetings with top officials for various government departments this spring, Uttam Dhillon, a White House lawyer, told agencies not to cooperate with such requests from Democrats, according to Republican sources inside and outside the administration.”


THE DEATH KNELL FOR AMERICA’S GLOBAL LEADERSHIP David Brooks NYTs “This week, two of Donald Trump’s top advisers, H. R. McMaster and Gary Cohn (national-security adviser and the director of the National Economic Council), wrote the following passage in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:

“The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a cleareyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”

That sentence is the epitome of the Trump project. It asserts that selfishness is the sole driver of human affairs. … This essay explains why Trump gravitates toward leaders like Vladimir Putin, the Saudi princes and various global strongmen: They share his core worldview that life is nakedly a selfish struggle for money and dominance. It explains why people in the Trump White House are so savage to one another. Far from being a band of brothers, their world is a vicious arena where staffers compete for advantage.” Worthwhile Read, Click Here.

PUTTING LIPSTICK ON A PIG The Atlantic …The op-ed originates as an attempt to tell a story of success about Donald Trump’s catastrophic first trip abroad. During that trip the president spoke at the dedication of a monument to NATO’s Article 5 pledge of mutual defense—but notably omitted to endorse Article 5 itself. That omission was heard loud and clear. Its power was only amplified by the shadowy Russian connections of Donald Trump, his family, and his entourage. In private meetings, NATO leaders were dismayed by Trump’s behavior and bearing, so much so that the ultra-cautious chancellor of Germany declared in a major speech shortly after Trump’s departure that Europeans could no longer completely rely on the United States. So that’s the pig on which McMaster and Cohn tried to put lipstick. How’d they do it.”


NATO ALLIES MULL A RESPONSE TO A CYBER ATTACK Defense News “NATO will not rule out invoking Article 5 of its charter should one or more member nations find themselves under a serious cyberattack that threatens critical military and civilian infrastructure. NATO officials told delegates at the International Conference on Cyber Conflict, or CyCon, in Estonia that the Western alliance would deliver a robust response in the event of a serious and prolonged attack on a member state in cyberspace. Article 5 provides for a united response by NATO states should a member nation come under attack.” ACCORDING TO PUTIN … the Russian government has never tried to hack the U.S. or Europe, though he didn’t rule out that some individual “patriotic” hackers might have.”


KEEPING IT ALL STRAIGHT The Fix “Running List: Trump Associates being investigated by Congress’:
Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney
Michael Flynn, former National Security adviser
Jared Kushner, Senior White House adviser and son-in-law and focus of the FBI’s Russian investigation
Paul Manafort, former campaign manager
Roger Stone, former adviser
Michael Caputo, former campaign communications adviser
Carter Page, former foreign policy adviser
Boris Epshteyn, former campaign adviser and assistant White House communications director
Full Details.


WAIVERS RAISING EYEBROWS theSkimm “Yesterday, the White House said that it’s given at least 16 staffers ethics waivers since President Trump took office. Reminder: President Trump campaigned on a promise to “drain the swamp” and rid Washington of so much influence by lobbyists. He’s also gotten a lot of side eye from ethics experts for potential conflicts of interests related to his family’s many biz ties. Now there’s this. The waivers let certain staffers work on issues that could affect their former clients or employers. Aka some former lobbyists now have a thumbs up to help shape Trump’s policies on issues they used to push. The White House says it’s done everything possible to help staffers avoid conflicts of interest and only given out a “limited” number of these waivers. Critics say this is a huge red flag.”


WHAT TO SAY WHEN YOU MISS YOU EXIT ON THE HIGHWAY? U-TURN. theSkimm “Yesterday, President Trump said the US embassy in Israel is going to stay put in Tel Aviv instead of moving to Jerusalem. … Olive branches all around.”


HOW WILL OUR GRANDCHILDREN JUDGE US Ezra Klein “… With America officially pulling out of the deal, other major polluters might decide there’s little reason to persist with the painful work of hitting their emissions targets, much less making those targets more ambitious. We often look back on past generations and wonder about their cruelty, their blithe dismissal of actions that seems to us, now, to be obviously moral, obviously right.

But imagine how future generations will look back on us. We knew all we needed to know about how climate change would likely affect our descendants, and we decided to let it happen anyway. And what will our excuse be? We were distracted? Doing enough would’ve been inconvenient? We … elect[ed] a president who thought climate change was a Chinese hoax because he seemed ready to “shake things up”? “Our grandchildren will not judge us kindly. (Just sayin …)

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