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Story highlights

President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord Thursday

Pruitt told Tapper: 'We owe no apologies to other nations for our environmental stewardship"

(CNN) —  

Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt on Thursday would not say whether President Donald Trump still considers climate change a “hoax.”

When flatly asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper, “Does the President believe climate change is a hoax?” the EPA administrator responded: “This is not about whether climate change is occurring or not.”

The interview immediately followed Trump’s announcement of his decision to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord.

“This is about making sure that America, as we negotiate CO2 reductions, that we do so with an ‘America First’ approach,” Pruitt said on “The Lead” Thursday.

Pruitt called the Paris agreement a “bad deal for this country,” and echoed Trump’s assertion that the deal puts the US at “an economic disadvantage.”

“We are leading the world with respect to innovation and technology at reducing our CO2 footprint. This agreement was truly about putting America second or last. It was not about learning from what America is doing, it was about putting constraints on the economy as the president talked about.”

Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economist, said later Thursday would not say if the President accepted the legitimacy of climate science.

In an interview on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer,” Cohn repeatedly dodged when asked if Trump still thought climate change was a hoax. Pressed for an answer on Trump’s past statements, Cohn said to ask him.

“You’re going to have to ask him,” Cohn said. “You’re going to actually have to ask him. I don’t know what he was believing when he did that or didn’t do that. I know what he believes today. I know what he believes in today about the economy and jobs and workers.”

Trump, who made the withdrawal announcement from the White House Rose Garden, has called global warming a “hoax” four times on Twitter.

“We should be focused on magnificently clean and healthy air and not distracted by the expensive hoax that is global warming!” he wrote on Dec. 6, 2013.

During the campaign last year, Trump expressed he was against the Paris climate agreement. The decision to leave the accord came despite pressure from foreign leaders, business executives and Trump’s own daughter Ivanka, who lobbied heavily for him to remain a part of the deal.

In his speech, the President said he would consider re-entering the Paris agreement or a new deal.

“We’re getting out,” he said. “And we will start to renegotiate and we’ll see if there’s a better deal. If we can, great. If we can’t, that’s fine.”

Pruitt emphasized Trump’s commitment to negotiating a new agreement.

“The President has said unequivocally that he is committed to continuing the discussions about CO2 reductions, but with America at the forefront of those discussions,” he said.

Pruitt suggested a new deal should have “a focus and attitude toward technology and innovation” so that “the rest of the world … can follow our lead.”

CNN’s Kevin Liptak, Jim Acosta and Eli Watkins contributed to this report.