Jul 7, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Inside Trump's "Javanka Special" speech

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The president is giving a speech on the environment on Monday. And some people think that's a little weird.

What we're hearing: Two senior administration officials told Axios they were surprised when they first heard that President Trump would be giving a speech about his administration's "environmental leadership." Both said the president probably won't win a public debate on environmentalism, given he's spent much of his time in office proudly repealing President Obama's environmental regulations.

  • "I don't know why we'd spend any time talking about their issue," one of the senior officials told Axios. By "their," the source meant Democrats.
  • The other official described the speech as a "Javanka Special" (a phrase some conservative administration officials use to describe liberal moves they blame on Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump).

White House response: Judd Deere, a WH spokesman, pushed back on this characterization, saying there was "broad consensus at the leadership level" of the White House and the EPA "to put the facts out on the president's record and what this administration is doing. There should be no surprise about this speech. We've been discussing internally for weeks."

Behind the scenes: Administration sources with direct knowledge confirmed that Ivanka Trump encouraged the president to make a public case for his environmental record. These officials also said Brooke Rollins, a presidential adviser who is close to Kushner, has helped with Monday's speech.

Between the lines: Aides say we shouldn't expect Trump to do a backflip and declare that, suddenly, he's become deeply concerned about climate change. When Axios interviewed the president in October, he pooh-poohed the findings of his own government's scientists, who reported that human activities are the dominant cause of global warming observed since the mid-20th century.

  • Perhaps foreshadowing themes we might hear on Monday, Deere added: "We are the party of conservation, environmental protection and expanding responsible clean energy technologies while the Democrats' radical Green New Deal would outlaw cows, cars and planes, crippling America's economy and crushing the poorest communities across the globe that rely solely on fossil fuels to survive." (Fact check: The Green New Deal resolution does not outlaw cows, cars and planes.)
  • A senior administration official said the White House crafted the speech to present the president as pragmatic and to appeal to suburban women, a demographic that has moved away from him and which his advisers believe he needs to win back to be re-elected in 2020.
  • The official said the same political calculus informed Kushner's recent rollout of a "merit-based" immigration plan. (The plan seems dead on arrival.)

What to expect: One of the most common environmental talking points of Trump administration officials is that natural gas has lowered America's carbon emissions and is cleaning up the air for countries around the world importing U.S. gas.

  • Reality check: The Trump administration is correct on this point, but the truth is complicated. Scientists say that simply replacing coal with natural gas won't cut emissions nearly enough to seriously address global warming.
  • And Trump is trying to repeal regulations on methane, a potent greenhouse gas that’s emitted during oil-and-gas development.
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