Trump's week was overshadowed by Russia
He did accomplish some things despite the distractions
President Donald Trump kicked off this week looking to move past his health care debacle and on to the other items on his agenda.
But early Monday, a new cloud of suspicion moved in over the White House over its role in helping House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes access classified information that the President later claimed partially vindicated his accusation that his predecessor “wiretapped” him.
That cloud of suspicion grew darker with the disclosure of previously undisclosed meetings between the President’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, and a Russian banker with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
More ominous still, former national security adviser Michael Flynn offered to testify before congressional panels to discuss the Russian suspicions in exchange for immunity from prosecution.
But even as the Russia controversy continued to swirl, Trump took several actions to alter US policy on regulatory, environmental and trade fronts this week – making good on several campaign pledges.
Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order that will unwind a chunk of President Barack Obama’s actions aimed at combating climate change. Trump argued the executive orders would help free up the coal industry from government regulations to help put miners “back to work.”
Energy and climate change
The executive order began the process of rolling back regulations enacted by President Barack Obama under the Clean Power Plan that aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The sweeping executive order was widely panned by environmental groups who sounded the alarm that it would dismantle systems put in place under Obama to aggressively address climate change. And while the order did not expressly address the Paris climate agreement, it made it made clear that the US is unlikely to meet the carbon emissions reductions the deal calls for.
Trump also signed four bills into law that continued his administration’s efforts to chip away at federal regulations.
Two of the bills nixed several federal educational standards added under the Obama administration, including accountability requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act and requirements for new teacher training programs.
The two other bills voided a regulation that required government contractors to disclose labor violations, including wage theft, unsafe working conditions and hiring discrimination, to the federal government; and scrapped a Bureau of Land Management rule that affected how it assessed requests for commercial uses of federal lands.
The bills followed several executive orders Trump has already signed to strip down the number of government regulations.
Trump made his latest move Friday in his effort to reshape US trade policies and address the US’ half-trillion-dollar trade deficit.
He signed a pair of executive orders aimed at identifying and targeting foreign trade abuses. One will commission a 90-day study of the US’ trade deficits with some of its largest trading partners to identify potential trade abuses and cheating. The study will serve as ammunition to a president intent on reevaluating free trade agreements and bolstering US manufacturing.
The second directive will order stricter and more effective enforcement of US anti-dumping laws to prevent foreign manufacturers from undercutting US companies by selling goods at an unfair price.
The moves come a week before Trump is set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose country Trump has argued contributes to the US trade deficit through unfair trading practices. Top Trump administration officials insisted there was no connection between the orders and the upcoming meeting.
Trump also launched a White House Office of American Innovation led by top aide and son-in-law, Kushner, aimed at reforming the federal government through private-sector solutions. The office adds to Kushner’s already expansive purview as one of the highest-ranking West Wing officials over everything from foreign and domestic policy.
Trump,Vice President Mike Pence and his top officials began encouraging House Republicans to tackle health care reform once again after Trump failed to rally Republicans around the Obamacare replacement bill he supported. Those talks so far are sputtering and, growing frustrated, Trump has taken to calling out members of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus on Twitter.
He shook up his West Wing staff. Top White House officials announced Friday that deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh will leave the administration and join America Policies First, a nonprofit group designed to support the President’s agenda from the outside that so far has done next to nothing to do so.
Kushner, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steve Bannon said they realized the need for more “air cover” after they failed to get Republicans on board to support the health care bill.
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.