Alayna Treene

New EPA secretary Scott Pruitt says he'll defend states' rights

Carolyn Kaster / AP

New Environmental Protection Agency secretary Scott Pruitt — confirmed by the Senate 52-46 Friday — told the WSJ that he will vigorously defend states' rights, and pledged to keep the EPA's annual $7 billion budget — roughly half — that goes to the states as funds and grants.

Pruitt argues that his dedication to rebalancing power between Washington and the states departs from previous administrations, mainly Obama's. "This past administration didn't bother with statutes," said Pruitt. "They displaced Congress, disregarded the law, and in general said they would act in their own way. That now ends."

Pruitt's approach to also defies the stereotype of wanting to gut the agency, WSJ's Kimberley Strassel writes. At the same time, he's also been a target of members of the anti-Trump "resistance" who have threatened to bury Pruitt in lawsuits if he attempts to roll back their agenda. But Pruitt said he isn't too worried about his opponents. He argues that by sticking to the statues and ensuring that the state's get their fair share of power, the EPA will be protected from all rival factions.


Trump on the road: "That is one, beautiful airplane"

Susan Walsh / AP

Trump delivered remarks on jobs and the economy at Boeing's Charleston, South Carolina plant. As he approached the podium, he joined the crowd in chanting "USA! USA! USA!" He also applauded Boeing for their work on their new plane — the 787 Dreamliner — which he toured before speaking to the crowd. "That is one, beautiful airplane," he said. Other takeaways:

  • "We want products made in America, by American hands... Our goal as a nation must be to rely less on imports but on products made here in the USA."
  • We will stop other countries from their "tremendous cheating," and cut regulations and taxes so that the U.S. is on a level playing field.
  • There will be a "very substantial price to pay" for companies who fire their employees and move their facilities overseas.
  • "We are going to fully rebuild the military... we are looking seriously at a big order. We're also working on the Air Force One project, which was tough for previous administrations, but we're getting closer and closer."

The takeaways from Mitch McConnell's Friday presser

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's Friday press conference comes before the start of a week-long congressional recess. The highlights:

  • Russia contacts: When asked whether he believes Trump's denial that no one from his campaign has been in contact with Russia, he said "I don't know."
  • "I'm not a great fan of [Trump's] daily tweets. What I am a fan of is what he's actually been doing." He added that he's also not a fan of "the extra discussions that he likes to engage in. But we're going to soldier on."
  • Applauded Trump's Cabinet as "the most conservative" he's seen in his time in office and blasted "left-wing agitators" for delaying the confirmation of Trump's nominees. He hopes that "at some point here the other side will accept the results of last year's election."
  • Indicated that any bill intending to end DACA may not be popular among Republicans on the Hill, and there may be support for passing bipartisan legislation to protect them from deportation. Added that he's "very sympathetic" with the Dreamers.
  • Republicans will pass their health and tax agendas with or without Democratic votes.
  • Incoming infrastructure plan: Predicts legislation on the creation of a new infrastructure investment program will head to Congress soon, and he hopes it will draw bipartisan support.
  • Hopes Judge Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat before the start of the next congressional recess in mid-April.

Tillerson tells China to put pressure on North Korea

Brendan Smialowski / AP

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told China's foreign minister Friday that the country should "use all available tools" to confront North Korean provocations, per WSJ. Tillerson and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi met for an hour Friday morning in Bonn, Germany amid a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of 20 countries.

Tillerson's urging comes a week after North Korea launched a missile test into the Sea of Japan, which Tillerson and his Japanese and South Korean counterparts condemned on Thursday, promising a tougher international response.


Trump's 10 wildest quotes of the week

Greg Ruben / Axios

Trump had a wild week, as is the new norm since he became president 30 days ago. From his 80-minute press conference to his series of Tweetstorms... here is a week in Trump, as told by Trump.
Quotes below... in no particular order:

Japan races to build up its navy

Evan Vucci

Japan is planning to speed up its warship building program that will make two frigates a year to patrol the perimeters of the East China Sea north of Taiwan, an area that both Japan and China claim island ownership, reports Reuters.

Japan — which was originally building one 5k-ton class destroyer a year — will now make two 3k-ton class ships a year starting in April 2018. The country is also planning to produce a fleet of eight smaller, cheaper vessels, which may have mine-sweeping and anti-submarine capabilities.

Note: This is not the same thing as the South China Sea dispute.


GOP congressman: Trump unfit, dishonest

Gage Skidmore / Flickr cc

Mark Sanford, back in Congress after an infamous sex scandal while governor of South Carolina, unleashed a series of attacks on Trump in an interview with Politico's Tim Alberta.

  • Sanford says Trump has "fanned the flames of intolerance," emphasizing that the president has repeatedly misled the public with his false account of events — most recently the national murder rate and the media's coverage of terrorist attacks. "Truth matters. Not hyperbole, not wild suggestion, but actual truth."
  • Trump doesn't impress him. "... At some level he represents the antithesis, or the undoing, of everything I thought I knew about politics, preparation and life."
  • The president's lack of transparency is extremely concerning. "[It's] something our country cannot afford," said Sanford.
  • Many "rank-and-file" members of the GOP are afraid to criticize Trump, as he's someone who "has a proven record of taking people down." At first Sanford had hope for Paul Ryan, who pushed back on Trump during the election campaign, but was disappointed when the House Speaker resigned his fight once the election results came in. "At the end of the day, radio silence is not sustainable in being true to yourself," Sanford added.

FCC Chairman's plans for media

Susan Walsh / AP

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai discussed some of his plans for media ownership and enforcing explicit language rules in an interview with Fox Business Network The takeaways:

Media ownership: Pai said he wants to modify media ownership laws. One major rule he's looking to change prohibits local consolidation of multiple media platforms, like a local newspaper buying a local television station.

Pai emphasized that as the industry continues to be outpaced by the internet, it doesn't make sense to keep them bogged down with regulations.

Explicit language: When asked whether Adele cursing at the Grammy's or Kristen Stewart swearing on SNL is acceptable, Pai stated that he will respond to complaints of explicit language on television as they come. "As long as the rules are on the books we have to enforce them," he added. He didn't say whether he will open investigations into those incidents.


Trump's Labor Secretary nominee: Alexander Acosta

Alan Diaz / AP

Former U.S. Attorney Alexander Acosta will be President Trump's new Labor Secretary nominee, according to multiple media reports. NBC News and Fox News were the first to report the news, which Trump is expected to formally announce during his 12:30p.m. press conference. If confirmed, Acosta would be the first Hispanic in Trump's cabinet.

Acosta clerked for Judge Samuel Alito on the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in addition to a two-year term on the National Labor Relations Board. He was also appointed assistant attorney general for the Department of Justice's Civil Rights division by George W. Bush in 2003, making him the first Hispanic to serve in that position.

Other notable details:


Trump turns Cabinet announcement into fiery campaign speech

Evan Vucci / AP

Surprise! President Trump announced an impromptu press conference during a meeting with some of his biggest congressional supporters this morning. It was expected that he'd introduce his new pick for Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, but it turned into a stream of consciousness speech: tearing into the "dishonest media" and "the mess" he inherited as president, denying his campaign had contacts with Russia, and announcing he'll issue a new executive order on the travel ban next week.