Jun 2, 2017

State Dept. goes silent on Paris deal

Ben Geman, author of Generate

Jacquelyn Martin / AP

You'd never know from yesterday's White House events that it's the State Department on the front lines of global climate diplomacy. At least historically.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his department offered no comment — nothing — in response to the decision to pull out of Paris or on Trump's claim that the U.S. hopes to negotiate an altered deal. It's a sharp contrast to John Kerry's highly public role as President Obama's top global climate diplomat when he was secretary of State.

Why it matters: The State Department's silence in contrast to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's high-profile role in the Paris decision suggest a fundamental realignment of internal power centers when it comes to the (now declining) U.S. role on the global climate stage.

Tillerson was in the "remain" camp in the internal administration debate on the Paris accord. Pruitt, meanwhile, was a vocal proponent of exiting. Pruitt spoke after Trump in the Rose Garden, and, as Jonathan Swan has reported, he worked directly with the White House on the withdrawal effort.

Good soldier: Another advocate of remaining in the agreement, Energy secretary Rick Perry, nonetheless praised Trump's move in a prepared statement, saying he "fully" backs it. To be sure, Perry's canned statement offered a more full-throated endorsement of low-carbon energy than the Rose Garden speeches by Trump or Pruitt.

Go deeper

Obama praises young protesters, urges mayors to pursue police reforms

Former President Barack Obama called on all mayors to review their use-of-force policies and commit to policing reform in a virtual town hall Wednesday hosted by the Obama Foundation's My Brothers Keepers Alliance.

Why it matters: Obama has addressed the killing of George Floyd and the nationwide protests that followed on social media and in a Medium post, but this was his first time speaking about the past week's events on camera. His voice will add weight to the growing pressure on local, state and federal officials to pursue policing reforms.

James Mattis condemns Trump as a threat to the Constitution

Mattis on Fox in Septemnber 2019 in New York City. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis condemned President Trump for making a "mockery of our Constitution" in a statement to The Atlantic on Wednesday, saying he was "appalled" at the president's response to mass protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

Why it matters: Trump’s former defense secretary had refrained from publicly criticizing his former boss since resigning in 2018.

American society is teetering on the edge

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The COVID-19 pandemic, record unemployment and escalating social unrest are all pushing American society close to the breaking point.

The big picture: Civilizations don't last forever, and when they collapse, the cause is almost always internal failure. Even in the midst of one of our darkest years, the U.S. still has many factors in its favor, but the fate of past societies holds frightening lessons for what may lie ahead.