Primer: While Trump Tweets, the EPA Chief Plots an Assault on Climate Science, and Other Things You Need to Know Today | News
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Monday, July 3, 2017

Primer: While Trump Tweets, the EPA Chief Plots an Assault on Climate Science, and Other Things You Need to Know Today

Posted by on Mon, Jul 3, 2017 at 9:33 AM

Hey, everyone. Given that this Monday is sandwiched between a weekend and a holiday and many of you are off, I’ll try to keep this roundup short and sweet. One caveat: for logistical reasons, I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, as opposed to early Monday morning, so if anything important breaks overnight and it’s not here, that’s why. Also, I wanted to give a quick shoutout to this week’s sponsor, Inner Engineering, a four-day course designed to give you the tools to create your life the way you want it. Classes are held in Raleigh on July 27–30. Click here to learn more. With that, let’s begin. —Jeffrey C. Billman

THE GIST: On Sunday morning, the president of the United States woke up and tweeted out a gif of himself body-slamming CNN to the ground. The hashtag: “#FraudNewsCNN.” The Washington Post’s headline: “Trump appears to promote violence against CNN with tweet.”

THE LEDE: “A day after defending his use of social media as befitting a ‘modern day’ president, President Trump appeared to promote violence against CNN in a tweet. Trump, who is on vacation at his Bedminster golf resort, posted on Twitter an old video clip of him performing in a WWE professional wrestling match, but with a CNN logo superimposed on the head of his opponent. In the clip, Trump is shown slamming the CNN avatar to the ground and pounding him with simulated punches and elbows to the head. Trump added the hashtags #FraudNewsCNN and #FNN, for ‘fraud news network.’”
  • Worth noting: Trump appears to have gotten the gif off of Reddit.
  • CNN responds: The president is “involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”
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IN CONTEXT: On Friday, the Post released a story about the president’s feud with Joe Scarborough and Mike Brzezinski that had this tantalizing nugget: his aides were worried that going to war with MSNBC distracted from his ongoing war with CNN, which they thought played better (bolding mine).
“CNN came under fire after publishing a story alleging ties between Russia and Trump transition official Anthony Scaramucci that was retracted because the network said it did not meet CNN’s editorial standards.

West Wing officials viewed CNN’s mistake as a public vindication that the Russia investigation—and its ensuing media coverage—is simply a ‘witch hunt,’ as Trump has labeled it. Trump and his aides also sought to publicize undercover videos released this week by a conservative group showing CNN employees saying disparaging things about the president and his supporters.

Some White House advisers said they were frustrated that the Brzezinski feud—which continued to unfurl throughout the day Friday with accusations and counteraccusations—overtook the president’s fight with CNN, which seemed in their eyes to have clearer villains and heroes.

And now a word from the president of the United States: “The fake media is trying to silence us. But we will not let them. Because the people know the truth. The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White House. But I’m president and they’re not.”

THE GIST: When Scott Pruitt became EPA administrator four months ago, there was little doubt that the former Oklahoma attorney general—who made a name for himself in right-wing circles suing the agency he now leads—would be nothing more than an industry shill. To date, he’s behaved exactly as expected, rolling back or dismantling some thirty Obama-era regulations and international agreements. A quick rundown, from The New York Times:
“Since February, Mr. Pruitt has filed a proposal of intent to undo or weaken Mr. Obama’s climate change regulations, known as the Clean Power Plan. In late June, he filed a legal plan to repeal an Obama-era rule curbing pollution in the nation’s waterways. He delayed a rule that would require fossil fuel companies to rein in leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from oil and gas wells. He delayed the date by which companies must comply with a rule to prevent explosions and spills at chemical plants. And he reversed a ban on the use of a pesticide that the E.P.A.’s own scientists have said is linked to damage of children’s nervous systems.”
  • Shot callers: To do all of this, Pruitt, who is also in charge of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, isn’t consulting the fifteen thousand career EPA employees, but rather Republican attorneys general and industry lobbyists.
Related: According to Sunday’s Post, Pruitt—again, the head of the Environmental Protection Agencyalso wants to lead a Trump-administration-wide charge to question the validity of climate-change science.

THE GIST: Joseph Neff at the N&O scoops that the Wake County Register of Deeds office is missing $600,000 in cash over the past two years, putting an even more ominous tone on the ongoing SBI investigation and seeming to put former register Laura Riddick—who quit April 1, the same time the investigation was announced, citing health issues—in the crosshairs. Indeed, the employee who delivered the cash to Riddick has admitted to taking $50,000 and is now cooperating with investigators.
  • Nut graph: Records obtained by The News & Observer show that Riddick’s office violated the most basic accounting rules. According to the records, an employee collected the cash from tellers, most of it uncounted, and delivered it to Riddick. She routinely was the first person to make a daily count and written record of currency received by her office. Earlier this year, top-level employees concerned about deposits being lower than expected took matters into their own hands, changing the process without telling Riddick. During an eight-day period, they counted the currency before delivering it to her, with surprising results: Each day, after the money left Riddick’s office, cash was missing, mostly $20 and $100 bills, a total of $200 to $800 a day, the records show. There was one exception: No cash was missing the one day Riddick did not go to work.”
WORTH NOTING: On March 31, the day the investigation was announced, District Attorney Lorrin Freeman and county manager Jim Hartmann made a point to say that Riddick’s retirement was due to her health issues, not the investigation. Given Neff’s reporting, that now seems much harder to believe.

THE GIST: A White House commission on voter integrity, helmed by Vice President Pence and Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach, sent a letter last week to all fifty states requesting detailed information on their voter rolls. By Friday morning, a handful of states had declined to cooperate, fearing (with good reason!) that the request was a prelude to vote suppression. On Friday morning, the INDY asked Governor Cooper where he stood. A few hours later, he sent out this statement:
  • "Integrity of our elections is critical, and a recent State Board of Elections investigation already found there was no evidence of significant voter fraud in North Carolina. My staff has told the State Board of Elections that we should not participate in providing sensitive information beyond what is public record as it is unnecessary, and because I have concerns that it is an effort to justify the President's false claims about voter fraud."
Soon after that, the SBE released a statement of its own, saying that would turn over the information that is publicly available but nothing else. Since voters’ names, address, political affiliations, demographic data, and participation records are available—and online for the viewing—these would be turned over. As for social security numbers, dates of birth, or driver’s licenses, no dice.

OTHER STATES’ REACTIONS: So far, at least twenty-nine states have either refused or pushed back on the commission’s request: Arizona, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington. and Wisconsin. You’ll notice one of those is Kansas, Kobach’s own state, which legally can’t release all the info he wants.
  • Quote of the week: Mississippi’s (!) Republican secretary of state told the commission to “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico.”
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