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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days Have Been an Incredible Success…For Climate Change Deniers

Mother Jones

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Environmentalists were braced for President Donald Trump’s first 100 days. They expected the executive orders. They expected Congress to pass a flurry of bills rolling back agency regulations. But even the most seasoned veterans of green wars didn’t quite anticipate the scale and scope of Trump’s all-out attack on the environment.

Now, activists like Erich Pica, Friends of the Earth president with 20 years of experience in the environmental movement, use the word “unprecedented,” a lot.

Yet the sheer sweep and effectiveness of Trump’s achievements in undermining decades of progress in this issue has sometimes been obscured by the frenzied news cycles of the last 100 days, with a failed Affordable Care Act repeal, a confirmed Supreme Court nominee, the thwarted Muslim travel ban, his Russia scandal, and more.

“He’s done so many things simultaneously that I don’t think the environmental story has been adequately told,” Pica says. “I don’t think there’s been that one moment yet where a lot of people were impacted at one time.” But “collectively, he’s in the process of perpetuating one of the most devastating attacks on our environmental laws.”

On the campaign trail, Trump promised to ax any and all environmental regulation. “These ridiculous rules and regulations that make it impossible for you to compete,” he said to a crowd of coal miners in 2016, “so we’re going to take all that off the table, folks.”

Coal miners aren’t getting their jobs back, and Trump can’t change the types of fuels we rely on, which are driven by more complex economics than what the president controls. Even the things he could conceivably get done, like weakening climate change regulation, will take years of agency work, not to mention potentially protracted litigation.

Given his strident anti-environmental agenda, this has been the real so-called success story of Trump’s first 100 days: He’s still managed to deliver on his pledge to remake federal environmental policy and, in the process, will inflict long-term damage.

First and most obviously, there is his cabinet, which includes the former CEO of ExxonMobil as the Secretary of State, a pro-oil Texan in charge of the Department of Energy, and the anti-EPA lawyer now in charge of the agency he frequently sued. Trump has been slow to put forward any names for candidates to fill the many empty slots at these agencies. Many of the new appointments have already clashed with agency career staff, but nowhere has the animosity been more apparent than at the EPA, where the staff have described an atmosphere of confusion, secrecy, and distrust of administrator Scott Pruitt, which has stifled their work.

“I have worked under six Administrations with political appointees leading EPA from both parties,” a Seattle EPA worker Michael Cox wrote in his resignation letter addressed to Pruitt. “This is the first time I remember staff openly dismissing and mocking the environmental policies of an Administration and by extension you, the individual selected to implement the policies. The message we are hearing is that this Administration is working to dismantle EPA and its staff as quickly as possible.”

Retirements, buyouts, and the loss of prospective talent are not changes that can be easily undone by future administrations.

Mustafa Ali, the longtime head of the EPA’s Environmental Justice office, left the agency in March because Pruitt’s priorities did not include promoting environmental protection through the lens of combating racism and discrimination. In Trump’s budget, there is no funding for an Environmental Justice office. Even with Trump’s budget likely dead on arrival in Congress, the EPA can shift resources or stifle work in offices such as this one, along with climate adaptation efforts all across the government. Pruitt already has closed the EPA’s climate adaptation office.

Add to this the damage from legislation. Through the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn regulations by a simple majority, Republicans have rolled back a series of Obama-era regulations. Once overturned, the law stipulates that the replacement regulation cannot be substantially similar, which means the agency is permanently handicapped in how it approaches future rulemaking. Trump signed one bill that overturned a rule limiting coal debris in streams, and another that forced oil companies to disclose their payments to foreign governments. One of the obscure CRA bills that received little attention prevents the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management from updating its rule that outlines how the department collects input from the community on uses for federal lands. Efforts to overturn Interior’s rule limiting methane on public lands have fallen short of votes in the Senate and have stalled, but public lands remain vulnerable.

Then there are the executive orders, which range from wishful proclamations that are being challenged in court (such as Trump’s attempt to roll back two regulations for every one regulation put forward) to wide-ranging attempts to reshape the government’s mission. He’s directed agencies to draw up a list of climate regulations he could repeal across the government, for instance, and declare that climate change is no longer a national security threat despite statements to the contrary by his Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

Trump’s executive orders sends a clear message that resonates in policy: Climate change has no place in this administration. Nada Culver, BLM action director of The Wilderness Society, says, “What we could see in a year is that some of this filters down to concrete guidance” on using public lands to prioritize fossil fuels in its leasing decisions and planning.

The GOP’s attacks on science are just getting started, with bills moving through Congress to hamper the types of research the EPA can use to justify its rulemaking. Internally, Trump can cut off the public’s access to scientists and their research by changing communications policies, as was done during the Bush administration.

This is just a glimpse of Trump’s deeds in his first 100 days. The EPA has seen the most dramatic shift in a short period of time, but his directives have already put pressure on the State Department, Interior, Energy, and even the Pentagon to ignore the risks of climate change, even though his cabinet isn’t in lockstep on the issue. On the world stage, Trump is ensuring confusion and chaos for the recent Paris climate change agreement, even if he caves on his promise to officially pull the U.S. out, a decision that keeps getting punted past Trump’s promised deadline on the campaign trail.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country in the world that is officially promoting a policy of climate change denial, and this is just what we’ve seen in his first few months. If the first 100 days are any sign, Trump is just getting started.

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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days Have Been an Incredible Success…For Climate Change Deniers

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Trump Names Anti-Abortion Activist to Top Health Care Job

Mother Jones

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Charmaine Yoest, the former president and CEO of anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, has been tapped to be the assistant secretary of public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, the White House announced on Friday.

Yoest, a long-time anti-abortion advocate, has helped orchestrate some of the anti-abortion movement’s most significant legislative victories. From 2008 to 2016, Yoest headed AUL, a small but mighty law firm whose goal is to end all abortion in the United States. Under her leadership, AUL helped spur a wave of anti-abortion restrictions around the country, writing model bills and distributing them to state legislatures. In 2011, for instance, 24 of 92 anti-abortion laws passed around the country originated with AUL. Before AUL, Yoest was the vice president for communications at the Family Research Council (another conservative group focused on abortion and family policy), worked on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s 2008 presidential campaign, and in the Reagan administration.

Read Mother Jones‘ 2012 profile of Americans United for Life.

In 2016, Yoest left AUL to be a senior fellow at American Values, a conservative group focused on “defending life” and traditional values. In 2012, Yoest said that she hopes to help create a “post-Roe nation” and touted the claim that abortion causes breast cancer, despite medical consensus to the contrary. Yoest has also questioned whether contraception access reduces the abortion rate, and told the New York Times that she opposes birth control and believes that IUDs “have life-ending properties.” Under her leadership, AUL did not take a position on birth control. Yoest explained why on PBS in 2011: “It’s really a red herring that the abortion lobby likes to bring up by conflating abortion and birth control.”

As a top communications staffer at HHS, Yoest will be instrumental in shaping the public persona of an agency that oversees a number of programs that enable reproductive healthcare, including contraception. These include Medicaid—which many low-income women use to obtain non-abortion services at Planned Parenthood—and the Title X family planning program, which offers grants to states to help subsidize the cost of non-abortion services such as contraception, cervical cancer screenings, STI testing, and other medical procedures for low-income men and women. Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress have sought to curtail both of these funding streams for reproductive healthcare. Bills to prohibit the use of Medicaid by patients at Planned Parenthood were introduced in both the House and the Senate and are still awaiting a vote. A bill allowing states to withhold Title X family planning funds from health care providers that offer abortion, like Planned Parenthood, was signed into law by Trump this month.

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Trump Names Anti-Abortion Activist to Top Health Care Job

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After Only 3 Months Covering Trump, 63 Percent of White House Reporters Have Been Lied To

Mother Jones

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Politico has released its fourth annual survey of the White House press corps. Here’s an excerpt:

A full 63 percent of the press corps has been lied to by the Trump administration. It might even be as high as 88 percent. And that’s in just the first three months.

For comparison, the only other time Politico asked this question was in 2014. After six years of covering the Obama White House, 50% of the reporters said they had been lied to. That’s not exactly a result to be proud of, but I imagine that if Trump is still in office in 2022, his number will be hovering right around 99 percent.1

1The remaining one percent will be a reporter who had just been assigned to the White House beat the week before.

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After Only 3 Months Covering Trump, 63 Percent of White House Reporters Have Been Lied To

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Paul Ryan Isn’t Even Trying to Pass a Health Care Bill Anymore

Mother Jones

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The LA Times reports that House Republicans have steadfastly refused to reach out to Democrats in an effort to pass their health care bill. This is no surprise. They’re well aware of how they suckered Democrats in 2009, killing months of time in “talks” even though none of them ever planned to support Obamacare. They figure Democrats would do the same to them, and they’re right.

But then we get this:

And senior House Republicans and White House officials have almost completely shut out doctors, hospitals, patient advocates and others who work in the healthcare system, industry officials say, despite pleas from many healthcare leaders to seek an alternative path that doesn’t threaten protections for tens of millions of Americans.

….Health insurers, who initially found House Republicans and Trump administration officials open to suggestions for improving insurance markets, say it is increasingly difficult to have realistic discussions, according to numerous industry officials. “They’re not interested in how health policy actually works,” said one insurance company official, who asked not to be identified discussing conversations with GOP officials. “It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Another longtime healthcare lobbyist, who also did not want to be identified criticizing Republicans, said he’d never seen legislation developed with such disregard for expert input. “It is totally divorced from reality,” he said.

It’s increasingly obvious that Republicans aren’t actually trying to pass a health care bill. They just want to be able to tell their base that they tried. And President Trump wants to erase the taste of defeat from the first health care bill.

If House Republicans were serious, they’d engage with the health care industry. They haven’t. If they were serious they’d care about the CBO score. They don’t. If they were serious they’d be crafting a bill that could pass Senate reconciliation rules. They aren’t even trying. If Senate Republicans were serious they’d be weighing in with a bill of their own. They aren’t wasting their time.

In the beginning, I think Paul Ryan really did want to pass something, mainly so that it would make his tax cut plan easier to pass. But he’s given up on that. At this point he just wants a piece of paper that gets 218 votes and demonstrates that the Republican caucus isn’t hopelessly inept. He knows it will be DOA in the Senate, but at least it will get health care off his plate once and for all. Then he can move on to cutting taxes on the rich, which is what he really cares about. And he’ll have no trouble rounding up votes for that.

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Paul Ryan Isn’t Even Trying to Pass a Health Care Bill Anymore

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Arkansas Just Executed Its 4th Man in 8 Days—His Lawyers Said His Death Was “Horrifying”

Mother Jones

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Last night, Arkansas conducted the last of a series of executions in its rushed attempt to execute eight men in 11 days before its supply of midazolam, a controversial sedative that’s been behind several botched executions, expires at the end of the month. Kenneth Williams, a convicted murderer, was reportedly convulsing, jerking, lurching, and coughing for about 10 to 20 seconds after the officials administered the midazolam.

Kelly Kissel, a media witness, said he could hear Williams in the next room even after the microphone was turned off. J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, denied that the inmate had suffered and claimed that his movements were due to “involuntary muscular reaction.”

“There was no testimony that he was in pain,” he added. Davis was not in the execution chamber. Williams’ lawyers, however, are demanding an investigation; they described the execution as “horrifying.”

A series of legal setbacks halted four of the planned executions, but in the midst of public outcry, the state put four men to death in the span of eight days—three others have received stays, and one inmate received a stay after the parole board recommended clemency. Many of the men suffered from mental illnesses, were physically abused, and received substandard lawyering during their trials. Williams, who suffered physical abuse at the hands of his father was intellectually disabled and had an IQ of 70. At some point, doctors said he may have suffered brain damage. One expert noted, “His brain is not working the way it should.”

Williams escaped from prison in 1998, where he was serving time for the murder of Dominique Hurd. He first killed Cecil Boren and, during a police chase, he killed Michael Greenwood in a car crash. The family of Michael Greenwood, asked Gov. Hutchinson to spare his life. “I believe justice has already been served,” said Greenwood’s wife, Stacey Yaw. “He hasn’t been able to kill anyone else. Executing him is more of revenge.”

For his last meal, Williams asked to be served Holy Communion, and in his final statement, he apologized to the families of his victims he “senselessly wronged and deprived of their loved ones.”

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Arkansas Just Executed Its 4th Man in 8 Days—His Lawyers Said His Death Was “Horrifying”

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