Ben Geman Mar 13
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Former Trump climate aide predicts Paris reversal

George David Banks at the Bonn climate conference.
Banks at the Bonn climate summit last year. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

George David Banks, who until recently was a top White House international climate aide, predicts President Trump will reverse his decision to abandon the Paris climate accord.

Why it matters: If borne out —a gigantic "if" — it would mark a major reversal for an administration that has abandoned or sought to reverse a suite of Obama-era global warming policies.

Banks predicted Trump will use the 2020 G-7 summit, which the U.S. is hosting, to announce that he's staying in, but with an emissions-cutting pledge that's weaker than the target President Obama set.

“I think it will be fairly easy for the president to agree that we are going to stay in, we are going to change the number, and then walk out of that summit arguing that he re-negotiated the Paris agreement and did something that no one thought he could do, and came up with a much better deal than what the previous administration presented."
— Banks speaking on the Columbia Energy Exchange podcast

Yes, but: As we we've written repeatedly (most recently here), there are no signs of concrete policy development behind Trump's vaguely worded openness to revisiting the Paris decision.

Banks left the White House last month, saying he was unable to get a permanent security clearance after admitting to smoking pot in 2013.

  • While in the administration, he was among the voices who fought to stay in the 2015 global deal, but with a pledge that's less aggressive than President Obama's vow to cut U.S greenhouse emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, a target Banks calls unrealistic and economically harmful.

Behind the scenes: Banks, on the podcast, offers some color about President Trump's June 1 Rose Garden speech where he announced that the U.S. would begin withdrawing from the Paris deal. He notes it came before John Kelly became chief of staff and imposed a more defined process.

“So I didn’t see the speech until maybe a few hours before the speech. I’ll never forget being asked by the comms folks, ‘Hey we need you to go out and defend the speech with the press corps.’ And then I came back and said, well I need to see the speech first in order to be able to prepare for that ... When I first looked at it, I think people who understand the issues recognize that maybe there were some things that didn’t quite reflect the reality of where some things are in the international climate process.”
Haley Britzky 2 hours ago
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DOJ eyeing tool to allow access to encrypted data on smartphones

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Photo: Win McNamee / Getty Images

The Justice Department is in "a preliminary stage" of discussions about requiring tech companies building "tools into smartphones and other devices" that would allow law enforcement investigators to access encrypted data, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: This has been on the FBI's mind since 2010, and last month the White House "circulated a memo...outlining ways to think about solving the problem," officials told the Times. Both FBI Director Christopher Wray, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, support finding ways for law enforcement to access data without compromising devices security.

Haley Britzky 2 hours ago
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Media tycoon Barry Diller talks #MeToo

 IAC & Expedia, Inc. Chairman & Senior Executive Barry Diller
IAC & Expedia, Inc. Chairman & Senior Executive Barry Diller. Photo: Cindy Ord / Getty Images for Yahoo

Barry Diller, chairman of mega-media and Internet company IAC, told the New York Times he thinks "all men are guilty," when it comes to "the spectrum" of the #MeToo movement.

"I hope in the future for some form of reconciliation. Because I think all men are guilty. I’m not talking about rape and pillage. I’m not talking about Harveyesque. I’m talking about all of the spectrum. From an aggressive flirt. Or even just a flirty-flirt that has one sour note in it. Or what I think every man was guilty of, some form of omission in attitude, in his views."

Why it matters: The #MeToo movement has rocked Hollywood and the media industry. Diller told the Times he sees the effects of this "in our companies, where the relationships between people are changing."