Set aside Michael Cohen’s guilty plea and allegation that he coordinated with President Donald Trump to cover up damaging information about alleged affairs with hush money. Set aside the guilty verdict for former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in Alexandria, Virginia, at the same time Cohen was entering his plea in New York.
Set aside that there’s another Manafort trial looming, or that it’s hard to imagine Cohen’s allegations don’t lead to serious congressional hearings. Those dramas tend to override all others day-to-day, particularly in the national media most closely covering the Trump administration.
But there are also daily reminders, like Tuesday’s announcement of a rollback of Obama-era coal pollution rules, that this presidency will leave its mark on many other facets of American life.
There’s a lot Trump can do (and is doing) even without the help of Congress, which did pass landmark permanent tax cuts for corporations and temporary ones for individuals, but hasn’t been able to execute on other high-profile priorities.
(That tax reform bill, by the way, could very well mean the government has a lot less money to spend, depending on how the US economy fares. And a lot of how Trump changes Washington will have to do with how Congress decides to spend the nation’s money).
But in ways big and small, many of them expressly intended to roll back actions of the Obama administration, Trump and his Cabinet are changing things to their liking. Here’s a spin around some of the policies (just a sampling, really) Trump’s administration has pursued enacting this summer:
From CNN’s Jeremey Diamond and Ellie Kaufman: “The EPA… formally unveiled the details of its new plan to devolve regulation of coal-fired power plants back to the states, one that is expected to give a boost to the coal industry and increase carbon emissions nationwide…. The move would reverse Obama administration efforts to combat climate change and marks the fulfillment of a campaign promise at the heart of his appeal in coal-producing states like West Virginia – an appeal embodied by Trump’s 2016 campaign stops in the coal country of West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, where Trump supporters waved “Trump Digs Coal” signs and where the President-to-be donned a coal-mining helmet.” (August 21)
It’s also worth reading this sidebar item on data that suggests this specific move by the EPA move will cause an additional 36,000 deaths per year.
Trump greatly prefers coal and has tried to prop that industry up. He dislikes renewable energy like, say, from wind turbines, which he dismisses as windmills that create a “killing field” for birds.
From CNN’s Katie Lobosco and Peter Valdes-Dapena: “The administration wants to freeze a rule mandating that automakers work to make cars substantially more fuel efficient. It called its plan a “50-state fuel economy and tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions standard for passenger cars and light trucks.” The administration also proposed a withdrawal of California’s Clean Air Act preemption waiver. California and about a dozen states that follow its rules account for about a third of all the passenger vehicles sold in the United States. California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, called the proposal “reckless.” (August 2)
Tariffs! Tariffs! Tariffs! And maybe a trade deal or two in the offing. The trade wars Trump has tempted with China, Canada, Mexico and the EU don’t seem like they’re going anywhere any time soon. Sure, the US and China were locked in negotiations, but the latest news is that a new round of tariffs against China is in the offing. That would likely lead to a new round of tariffs in response. The economic leverage Trump promised has not yet become clear. But neither has the world economy imploded. The administration has had to pivot to help some farmers being hurt by retaliations from other countries. Separately promised US tariffs on automobiles may be delayed during talks with Canada and Mexico on renegotiating NAFTA, a top Trump priority. Here’s a look at all of Trump’s tariffs. And a side note from McClatchy, which reports that Trump’s budget chief Mick Mulvaney is trying to protect his home state from tariffs.
Loans for students
From CNN’s Katie Lobosco: “Consumer groups blasted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos… over a new rule they say would make it harder for defrauded students to seek debt relief. Currently, students may be eligible for federal loan forgiveness if their college closed or was accused of fraudulent activity. More than 130,000 borrowers have applied since 2015, a majority of whom attended for-profit colleges.” (July 26)
Loans for veterans
From CNN’s Paolo Chavez: The Trump administration plans to eliminate routine audits of lenders for violations of the Military Lending Act, according to internal agency documents, The New York Times reported on Friday. Mick Mulvaney, the interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, plans to terminate the supervisory examinations of lenders, arguing proactive oversight is not laid out in the legislation, according to the report. (August 11)
Fair Housing rules
From the Wall Street Journal’s Laura Kusisto: The Trump administration wants to shift the way it enforces an aspect of fair housing around the US, pivoting away from efforts to integrate lower-income housing into wealthier neighborhoods in favor of promoting more housing development overall. … The Obama administration took steps to encourage the development of low-income housing in high-income neighborhoods. In an interview, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said he plans instead to focus on restrictive zoning codes. Stringent codes have limited home construction, thus driving up prices and making it more difficult for low-income families to afford homes, Mr. Carson said. (August 13)
From CNN’s Zachary Cohen: An informal council is exerting sweeping influence over the US Department of Veterans Affairs from President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, a former VA official confirmed to CNN, corroborating details first reported… by ProPublica. This group of three, led by Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, was very open about the fact that they had been “anointed by the President and had his full support to influence policy at the VA” despite never being appointed or installed as formal advisers, the source said. (Aug. 9)
The dominant immigration story from the summer has been the administration’s decision to separate children of undocumented from their families at the US border. Repercussions from that decision earlier this year, the decision to reverse course in June and the ongoing process to reunite children with their families has been a serious problem for the administration that has involved every branch of government from the HHS to the DOJ.
From CNN’s Tal Kopan: “White House adviser Stephen Miller is pushing to expedite a policy that could penalize legal immigrants whose families receive public benefits and make it more difficult to get citizenship, three sources familiar with the matter tell CNN. The White House has been reviewing the proposal since March at the Office of Management and Budget, which is the last stop for regulations before they are final. But concerns over potential lawsuits have delayed the final rule, and the draft has undergone numerous revisions, multiple sources say. The crux of the proposal would penalize legal immigrants if they or their family members have used government benefits – defined widely in previous drafts of the policy. (August 7)
From CNN’s Ryan Browne: Vice President Mike Pence called Thursday for the establishment of a Space Force by 2020, while also announcing immediate steps the Department of Defense would take to reform how the military approaches space… In June, President Donald Trump said he was directing “the Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” during a speech at a meeting of the National Space Council. (August 9)
The list certainly goes on. The federal government is a vast and creeping enterprise. If I’ve missed a key summer development, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @zbyronwolf.