Trump 101: He plans rapid, radical gutting of government regulations - Axios
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Trump 101: He plans rapid, radical gutting of government regulations

Photo illustration Lazaro Gamio / Axios

One of the most fervent, but least discussed, elements of President Trump's master plan is the deconstruction of the regulatory state — hobbling EPA, Interior, Energy and more in a bid to — as aides see it— "open up the animal spirits of the economy."

You might call his Cabinet secretaries of the domestic departments "the gutters." Internally, they are known by some as "deconstructors," the men and one woman (Betsy Devos at the Department of Education) tapped because of their shared view in eviscerating key pieces of the agencies they will run.

The blueprint became visible when we connected the dots in department-by-department and agency-by-agency conversations. And when top advisers talked about what animated the selections of very conservative, very anti-government picks for the agencies with big regulatory reach.

A senior transition source said: "This is an important area that has flown under the radar among Democrats, and even Republicans and conservatives. President Trump plans to attack the regulatory state from every angle. The government has been captured by elites, which gets to the very core of what animates the president."

How this will unfold: According to internal administration documents that we viewed, plans include withdrawing or suspending major Obama rules that were not finalized; reopening major rules that have been finalized if they have "highly negative economic consequences"; suspending "forthcoming grants to non-profit groups and universities pending review"; and suspending some hires in progress.

A Republican lobbyist told us after meetings in Trump Tower and the West Wing that the Trump plan is clever because it undermines the regulatory machine, which the president can do by executive action, rather than trying to dismantle the machinery, which requires congressional approval and would be difficult to achieve quickly.

The targets:

  • Environmental Protection Agency: Top priorities include unwinding Obama's Clean Power Plan and regulations for Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Trump insiders also want to reopen the process for determining the appropriate fuel economy standards (CAFE).
  • Department of the Interior: Re-open the so-called five-year leasing plan, which is used to determine the offshore areas available for energy exploration.
  • Department of Energy: Freeze on all regulations, loan guarantees, and deployment of energy technologies. The plan is to evaluate all of them on a case-by-case basis and unwind the elements of Obama's Climate Action Plan under the purview of the DOE.
  • Department of Education: There are two big potential actions that some of his education advisers are pushing. Creating a tax credit program to support the educational needs of students is one idea. Making Title I funding portable is another. Title I funding makes up the largest portion of federal education spending. Currently the funding – which goes to poor kids – is given to public schools to administer. Some senior Trump officials wanted to give that money directly to families to use as they see fit (which could mean private schools.) That act alone would be highly disruptive and would enrage progressives. Another major — and less discussed — priority is likely to be reforming Obama's federal loan programs for higher education. Trump insiders believe the federal government has gone way beyond its proper bounds as a loans provider.
The power behind the throne: Much like the nationalistic inaugural speech, and today's push for new immigration restrictions, the quick-strike, hard-line approach to gutting regulation was championed by strategist Steve Bannon and policy guru Stephen Miller, among others.
Previously in Trump 101:

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Freedom Caucus member resigns over health care collapse

Andrew Harnik / AP

Ted Poe of Texas has resigned from the conservative Freedom Caucus after the group refused to back the GOP health care plan, which he supported.

"Saying no is easy, leading is hard, but that's what we were elected to do," he said in a statement. Here's what he said yesterday about his Freedom Caucus colleagues:

Why it matters: The collapse of the health care bill showed that if conservatives hold out, and Trump can't win over Democrats, it will be very difficult to pass anything significant. Trump needs more on his party's right flank to break ranks and support his agenda.

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EPA chief: Paris climate pact is "a bad deal"

Susan Walsh / AP

Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, offered a glimpse into how the Trump administration views the Paris Climate accord on ABC's "This Week."

"What was wrong with Paris was not just that it was, you know, failed to be treated as a treaty, but China and India, the largest producers of CO2 internationally, got away scot-free. They didn't have to take steps until 2030. So we've penalized ourselves through lost jobs while China and India didn't take steps to address the issue internationally. So Paris was just a bad deal, in my estimation."

He said the Paris pact represented the "anti-jobs and anti-growth" Obama-era policies.

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Hundreds arrested at Russia anti-corruption protests

Evgeny Feldman for Navalny campaign via AP

Hundreds were arrested at large anti-corruption protests in Moscow and other Russian cities on Sunday, including opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

The protests came after Navalny leveled accusations of corruption against Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev. They appeared to be the largest demonstrations in Russia since 2012.

Also arrested was Alec Luhn, an American correspondent for the Guardian.

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NYT: "Knives are out" for Gary Cohn

Andrew Harnik / AP

The NYT's Maggie Haberman reports that the "knives are out" for Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president who now serves as one of Trump's top advisers. Politico's Ben White names a leading conspirator: Steve Bannon.

The feud between emerging White House factions (Jared, Ivanka, Cohn and Dina Powell on one side, Bannon, Priebus and Stephen Miller on the other) has been bubbling over into media reports.

Cohn has Trump's ear, but he's a registered Democrat who doesn't share Bannon's vision of economic nationalism and the "deconstruction of the administrative state", as well as a competitor for power.

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Trump dreams of Democrats

Susan Walsh / AP

White House aides are so doubtful about uniting warring factions of House Republicans that they now are debating how they could lure 15 or so Democrats to join Republicans on big measures:

  • The White House euphemism, as aides discuss the strategy internally: "a broader coalition."
  • The theory: If you could fold in a few Dems with moderate and establishment Republicans, you'd have a better chance of passing tax reform or a huge infrastructure bill.
  • A White House official: "Typically, tax reform would be something that could be bipartisan. That would really be our hope."
  • The road not taken: Some Trump friends think he has made a huge mistake since the inauguration by antagonizing Dems rather than courting them. Because of his tweets and rants, they're less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt than they were Jan. 20, and any ambitious Dem who tried to work with him would get fiercer blowback from the base.
  • Plan B? A longtime Trump confidant said the irony of the loss "is that there is a scenario where this path leads POTUS to realize that he is better off building a coalition with moderate Rs and some reasonable Ds ... [I]t is totally who he naturally is, and he would love the accolades and positive feedback and improving numbers."
  • Why it's unlikely: White House officials understand that Ds sense weakness and have no incentive to help bail out Trump.
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Trump reportedly gave Merkel a bill for £300 billion

Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump reportedly gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel an invoice for over £300 billion in what he deems to be owed contributions to NATO, per The Times of London.

Using 2002 as a starting point — the year Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schröder pledged to increase defense spending — U.S. officials allegedly calculated the extent to which German defense spending had fallen short of the 2% of GDP target that NATO requires, added the amount together, and then charged interest. Trump has also reportedly asked his staff to prepare similar calculations for all other NATO members below the 2% target.

Merkel is said to have "ignored the provocation", but has vowed to raise German defense spending gradually.

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Trump's 360 on Mark Meadows and the Freedom Caucus

AP

A new piece in the New York Times Magazine illustrates how confident President Trump was that he could get the Freedom Caucus and chairman Mark Meadows onside over health care, before the "30 guys in control of the government" tanked the plan.

Trump on March 7:

Mark Meadows is a great guy and a friend of mine. I don't think he'd ever disappoint me, or the party. I think he's great. No, I would never call him out on Twitter.

Trump this morning:

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Trump vs the Freedom Caucus

Alex Brandon / AP

Trump began his Sunday morning with a Tweet:

A top White House official said Trump is "deeply disappointed in the Freedom Caucus," and specifically with Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.).

The senior Republican operative said the hardline House Freedom Caucus "just proved that you have 30 guys in control of the government."

"They have been given power by the circumstances, and they're wielding it," the operative said. "Their view is: 'We got rid of a Speaker [Boehner], we're taking on another Speaker, and we stared down the president.'"

Good Cop was a flop: White House aides are debating whether they should have be more aggressive with the hardliners, including flying into their districts and threatening them with primaries.

"Something in this dynamic has to change," the operative said. "Nobody has taken them on or held them accountable or even mildly messed with them. One of the things you could do is say, on Twitter and in their districts: Obamacare is still the law of the land because of them."

Meadows responds on ABC's "This Week": If Democrats are applauding "they shouldn't... we are in a negotiation process."

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Priebus: We might work with Dems on Trumpcare

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus says it might be time to work with moderate Democrats on health care — and suggested it was a "warning shot" to conservative Republicans after the House had to pull the bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

"Everything's on the table. We'll give these guys another chance," Priebus said on Fox News Sunday this morning. "If we can come up with a bill that accomplishes the goals of the president and Republicans alone, then we'll take it and we'll move forward with it." But for now, Priebus said, the White House is moving on to tax reform and Trump's budget.

I think it's more or less a warning shot that we're willing to talk to anyone. We always have been.

House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady, however, said on Fox News' Sunday Morning Futures that the House is "turning-the-page" and that Obamacare's taxes will stay in place. A repeal-only bill, Brady said, would be a "show vote" because it would require eight Democrats in the Senate, and "that's not going to happen."

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Priebus: "I’m not in any trouble" over health care collapse

Alex Brandon / AP

Reine Priebus dismissed reports that he is on the chopping block over the failure of the health care bill on Fox News Sunday:

I'm not in any trouble. I've got a great relationship with the president, we talk all the time. Just before coming on the set he gave me a call…. This is gossip, and it's always going to happen.

His comments come after the New York Times reported that blame for the health care disaster was falling on the chief of staff's shoulders.