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A Trump priority: Keep Grassley happy

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, listens to an aide. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

A senior administration official joked to me last week that the real EPA Administrator comes from Iowa, and his name is Chuck Grassley. The source made that wisecrack after Trump called EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt last week and told him to keep Grassley happy on the Renewable Fuel Standard.

After that call, Pruitt backed away from a plan to reduce how much biofuel — mostly corn ethanol — is required in gasoline. Pruitt's concession to Grassley and co. surprised approximately nobody.

The reality: Pruitt is one of Trump's favorite cabinet secretaries, has aggressively deregulated his agency, and was a key voice behind the president's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal.

  • But, but, but... Don't mess with Grassley. Perhaps no senator wields more power over Trump than the Judiciary Committee chairman. When Grassley wants one of his people appointed at an agency, it happens. Trump views him as a loyal supporter who helped him in Iowa. (Grassley even stuck by Trump after the Access Hollywood tape leaked!) The fact that Grassley chairs the Judiciary Committee, which confirms federal judges, is just one more source of leverage.

Go deeper on the policy and politics of ethanol with my colleague Amy Harder. In her column tomorrow morning she'll dive into this hot issue, with an interview with Grassley. To read Harder's column, sign up for our energy newsletter Generate.

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Trump: Transgender people "disqualified" from the military

SecDef Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford.
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford. Photo: Andrew Harrer-Pool / Getty Images

President Trump late Friday issued an order disqualifying most transgender people from serving in the military.

"[T]ransgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria -- individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery -- are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances."

Why it matters: Anything short of an inclusive policy for transgender troops will be viewed as a continuation of the ban Trump announced on Twitter in August.

Haley Britzky 21 hours ago
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Both Bush and Obama also requested line item veto power

Donald Trump.
Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Friday evening that to avoid having "this omnibus situation from ever happening again," he wants Congress to re-instate "a line-item veto."

Why it matters: This would allow him to veto specific parts of a bill without getting rid of the entire thing. Trump was deeply unhappy with the $1.3 trillion spending bill approved by Congress early Friday morning, but signed it anyway on Friday afternoon.