Week In Politics: How Trump Announces Policy Changes And The Future Of The EPA

NPR’s Audie Cornish speaks with Vox co-founder and editor Matthew Yglesias and Politico reporter Eliana Johnson about embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt and the fear of a “blue wave” in Wisconsin.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now let’s talk about some of the ways President Trump is changing policy and Washington. We’re going to do that in our regular Week In Politics segment with Matthew Yglesias, columnist and co-founder of Vox. Hey there, Matthew.

MATTHEW YGLESIAS: Hi.

CORNISH: And Eliana Johnson, national political reporter for Politico, welcome to the studio.

ELIANA JOHNSON: Thank you.

CORNISH: So for a long time people were like, are policy tweets? Are tweets policy? Do we have an answer? Who wants to take this first?

YGLESIAS: Well, you know, I think you see on some of these issues that I think what the president is doing is using public statements to force members of his administration to start working on things that they’ve been trying to slow-walk. You saw that most obviously, I think, on the Syria issue where the president and the military commanders seem to have a different view about the merits of a long-term presence there. And he is trying to put pressure on them to actually draw plans to implement his kind of vision of these things. And, you know, he has a somewhat unusual style, but that kind of conflict between a president and military commanders isn’t new. President Obama had similar issues in Afghanistan even though he handled it very differently.

CORNISH: Eliana, for you?

JOHNSON: Yeah, I think Trump is not used to this slow – often painfully slow pace at which government works and at which policy is formulated. And so he was having discussions with his senior aides about deploying National Guard troops to the border, but the policy certainly wasn’t ripe when he announced it publicly, and the details weren’t hammered out. Where – are these troops going to be armed? How many of them are going to go? And so that did leave his closest aides scrambling to clarify these details. And, you know, as we heard, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen couldn’t do that. And we’ve seen that a lot in recent weeks.

CORNISH: I want to talk about another agency that people had a lot of conversation about this week, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the chief there, Scott Pruitt. Reports are piling up about a number of questionable decisions on everything from personnel to office furniture to his condo rental from a lobbyist. Here is Sarah Sanders being asked at the White House briefing today if President Trump continues to have confidence in Pruitt.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS: The president feels that the administrator has done a good job at EPA. He’s restored it back to its original purpose of protecting the environment. It’s gotten unnecessary regulations out of the way. And we’re continuing to review any of the concerns that we have. And I’ll keep you posted if there’s anything further on that front.

CORNISH: So he’s on the list of kind of resignation watch in Washington, I think, if I can put it gently. Eliana, for you, does this confidence equal safety in your gig?

JOHNSON: I don’t think it does. But this is a really interesting case. In the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen the president jump ahead of his advisers to fire the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and the secretary of Veterans Affairs, David Shulkin. But this is a case where everybody around the president is telling him that it’s time for Scott Pruitt to go, and the president is resisting. And I do think it’s a good case study of his contrarian nature where he’s resisting the advice of his advisers.

And in the previous…

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