Trump signals he’s ready to exit Paris climate accord, but decision not final

Story highlights

Trump is expected to make a decision this week

The pact was agreed to under the Obama administration

Washington CNN  — 

President Donald Trump has signaled he’s ready to withdraw or dramatically alter the landmark Paris climate agreement ahead of an expected announcement this week, though he is still weighing a final decision amid new pressure from foreign governments, business leaders and members of his own party to remain committed to the carbon reduction pact.

In conversations with European leaders, western diplomats and aides during his first international trip, Trump indicated he was poised to honor his campaign commitments to either withdraw from the agreement altogether or make significant changes to the US carbon reduction goals that underpin its participation in the accord. The White House declined to say when Trump planned to make his intentions known, but officials familiar with the decision say an announcement could come as early as Wednesday.

Trump met Tuesday morning with EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to discuss the Paris climate agreement, press secretary Sean Spicer said. Pruitt has been a vocal proponent of withdrawing from the accord.

“He wants a fair deal for the American people,” Spicer said, adding Trump is spending a “great deal of time” considering the Paris agreement.

In his conversations with foreign leaders last week, Trump offered no final decision, saying he would take his counterparts’ arguments into account. And he did not specify what measures he might take to sever the United States’ pledge to the 195-nation agreement should he resolve to withdraw.

But there are virtually no signs he plans to remain in the agreement as it currently stands. Trump did not sign onto a joint statement at last week’s G-7 conference articulating support for the Paris accord. In the days since, he has lashed out at leaders who expressed disappointment in their climate conversations with him in Sicily. And according to aides, he has become increasingly convinced that taking formal steps to withdraw will demonstrate his commitment to an “America First” governing policy.

Trump tweeted as he departed the G-7 on Saturday that he planned to make a decision on Paris this week, and he has consulted with advisers and aides in the days since his return about the matter. Officials have laid out several options for him to decide between, including triggering a years-long withdraw process or putting the matter up for a vote in the US Senate.

Originally, the President had aimed to make a decision on Paris before arriving in Europe for his first summit talks with foreign leaders, but in mid-May the White House announced he was delaying a decision.

In talks with his foreign counterparts, the President kept an open mind on climate issues, according to his aides. But afterward, leaders said Trump offered few assurances he would uphold commitments to carbon reductions made under the Obama administration.

At the conclusion of his talks in Sicily, Trump declined to sign onto a pledge by all the other leaders to uphold the Paris carbon reduction commitments.

“The United States of America is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics,” read the summit’s joint statement.

Flying home, a senior administration official declined to elaborate any further on Trump’s climate thinking, saying only that “whatever the President does will make sure that we’re protecting American jobs.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said Trump was “reviewing” the Paris accord, and told reporters he’d urged Trump not to make a hurried decision during their first face-to-face talks in Brussels. But a French official, speaking anonymously to describe the two men’s conversation, indicted Trump offered few signs he was ready to remain in the Paris agreement.

Trump told Macron he is under “heavy” pressure back in the US on the climate accord and that “a lot of people in my country are against this agreement,” according to this official.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was more blunt, telling reporters she emerged from meeting with Trump disappointed in his views on climate change.

“The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying,” Merkel said after the session. “There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.”

Later, during a campaign stop, Merkel escalated her barbs against Trump, suggesting the US was no longer a reliable ally for Germany.

Back in Washington, Trump angrily shot back: “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military,” he wrote on Twitter. “Very bad for U.S. This will change.”

Trump’s message appeared to preface further acrimony between himself and Merkel, the most powerful politician in Europe and, increasingly, the most vocal Trump foil on the continent.

Trump’s decision this week will come after months of pressuring from competing interests. The issue has divided members of the West Wing, though legal questions and evolving viewpoints have blurred the lines between those advocating for a withdrawal and aides urging Trump to remain in the pact.

Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and senior adviser, has emerged as the most vocal proponent of maintaining some level of US commitment to the Paris accord. She’s worked to ensure her father hears pro-Paris viewpoints, including during a phone call with former Vice President Al Gore.

She has been joined by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has said withdrawing from the agreement could harm US negotiating power. Ahead of Trump’s foreign trip, Tillerson insisted the White House reschedule a meeting between advisers to discuss the climate agreement so that he could attend. Like Trump, the secretary of state has faced pressure from foreign diplomats to maintain US participation in the climate agreement.

Tillerson’s former employer Exxon Mobil, along with dozens of other US firms, have also been proponents of remaining in the agreement. Exxon’s CEO wrote Trump personally earlier this month urging him to remain in the deal, saying doing so means “a seat at the negotiating table to ensure a level playing field.”

Even some Republicans in Congress have argued for remaining part of the agreement. Sen. Lindsay Graham told CNN on Sunday that a withdraw “means that the leader of the Republican Party is in a different spot than the rest of the world.”

But other voices, including that of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and EPA administrator Pruitt, appear to have held more sway. Conservative Republicans in Congress have also begun a pressure campaign as Trump prepares his final decision, urging him to withdraw.

“I hope President Trump will take the opportunity before him to fulfill the commitment he made and withdraw America from the Paris Agreement,” Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas wrote in a CNN op-ed Tuesday.

As Trump mulls his decision, the White House offered few signs Tuesday that Trump was planning to soften his view of climate change.

Asked whether Trump – who once called climate change a hoax – believes human activity is contributing to global warning, Spicer said he wasn’t sure.

“I haven’t asked him,” Spicer said.