Shock: Officials Confirm Administration Waffling on Paris Climate Agreement

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged that President Donald Trump could be persuaded to reverse his June decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Obama-era Paris Agreement on climate change, speaking during a pair of appearances on Sunday morning shows.

Throughout his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump promised to “cancel” the Paris climate accord. On June 1, Trump enraged liberals and delighted his base when he announced he was “keeping the promises I made to the American people during my campaign for president” once again by announcing the United States’ withdrawal from “the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

But speculation swirled after The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that Trump administration officials publicly considered the idea of seeking some sort of compromise and remaining in the agreement during a climate summit in Montreal on Saturday.

"Multiple participants at the Montreal gathering said White House senior adviser Everett Eissenstat's approach, though it is likely to entail a significant reduction in the U.S.'s ambition to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, fueled optimism among proponents of the Paris deal," The Journal reported, adding that "[National Economic Council director and chief economic adviser Gary] Cohn was expected to reiterate Mr. Eissenstat's message in Montreal during an informal breakfast meeting to discuss international energy and climate issues with the world's top ministers."

The White House swiftly disputed the report in a Saturday statement, and McMaster and Tillerson addressed the confusion in their Sunday morning interviews.

"So what the president has said is that we are withdrawing from the Paris accord. He left the door open to reentering at some later time if there can be a better deal for the United States," McMaster said on ABC News' "This Week."

"This Week" host George Stephanopoulos countered McMaster, highlighting that Trump had been "very clear" in his June statement announcing the impending U.S. withdrawal from the agreement.

"So you're saying if you can renegotiate better terms before 2020, the U.S. will not withdraw?" Stephanopoulos asked.

McMaster replied, "I would just go back to what the president said. And, of course, he's open to any discussions that will help us improve the environment, that will help us ensure energy security and will advance our prosperity and the prosperity of American workers and American businesses."

Stephanopoulos cornered McMaster one more time, asking, "So it is possible the United States would stay in if you can get a new agreement?"

"If there's an agreement that benefits the American people, certainly," McMaster replied.

Trump's national security adviser also faced scrutiny on Fox News' "Fox News Sunday" when host Chris Wallace asked him about The Journal's report. Calling it "a false report," McMaster insisted that Trump still is "out of the Paris climate accord."

"The president decided to pull out of the Paris accord because it was a bad deal for the American people and because it was a bad deal for the environment," McMaster said. "It gave the worst polluters the ability to continue polluting and emitting carbon without significantly reducing those levels."

"[Trump's] out of the Paris Climate Accord. What he said, 'the door is open,'" McMaster added. "If you look at what he said on the day that he announced withdrawing from the accord, he said, at some point in the future, if there can be, if there can be an ideal that addresses these some fundamental flaws ... the president's ears are open."

Tillerson also found himself in the hot seat over the White House's seemingly conflicting messages during an interview on CBS News' "Face the Nation." When host John Dickerson asked him to explain the Trump administration's official position on the Paris agreement, Tillerson said that "the position's being led and developed by Gary Cohn over at the National Economic Council."

"And I think, if you recall, the president also said, 'Look, we are willing to work with partners in the Paris climate accord if we can construct a set of terms that we believe is fair and balanced for the American people and recognizes our economy ... our economic interest relative to others,'" he said.

"So I think the plan is for Director Cohn to consider other ways in which we can work with partners in the Paris climate accord," Tillerson added. "We want to be productive. We want to be helpful. The U.S. actually has a tremendous track record on reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions."

But Dickerson pressed the secretary of state further, asking him to confirm whether "there's a chance that if things get worked out" that "the U.S. could stay in the accord."

"I think under the right conditions," Tillerson confirmed. "The president said he's open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue."

White House policy regarding the Paris agreement may now be the next major indicator of whether Trump remains committed to his conservative-populist base or if he is shifting in the midst of intense liberal and globalist pressure. If Trump were to renege on his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement, it would be the latest instance in which he carried out a dramatic reversal from the policies he championed during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Most recently, many members of Trump's loyal base felt betrayed last week when congressional Democrats claimed that the president had cut an unofficial deal with them on amnesty for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Amnesty for the beneficiaries of the Obama-era Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act wasn't something Trump pushed during his campaign. When Democrats claimed that Trump struck a deal with them to grant permanent legal status to recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in exchange for unspecified immigration enforcement measures, many of the president's loyal supporters were enraged.

(photo credit, homepage and article images: Presidencia de la República Mexicana, Flickr)

Last Modified: September 17, 2017, 7:34 pm

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