A Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial in Scientific Research

An official at the Interior Department embarked on a campaign that has inserted misleading language about climate change — including debunked claims that increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is beneficial — into the agency’s scientific reports, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times.

The misleading language appears in at least nine reports, including environmental studies and impact statements on major watersheds in the American West that could be used to justify allocating increasingly scarce water to farmers at the expense of wildlife conservation and fisheries.

The effort was led by Indur M. Goklany, a longtime Interior Department employee who, in 2017 near the start of the Trump administration, was promoted to the office of the deputy secretary with responsibility for reviewing the agency’s climate policies. The Interior Department’s scientific work is the basis for critical decisions about water and mineral rights affecting millions of Americans and hundreds of millions of acres of land.

The wording, known internally as the “Goks uncertainty language” based on Mr. Goklany’s nickname, inaccurately claims that there is a lack of consensus among scientists that the earth is warming. In Interior Department emails to scientists, Mr. Goklany pushed misleading interpretations of climate science, saying it “may be overestimating the rate of global warming, for whatever reason;” climate modeling has largely predicted global warming accurately. The final language states inaccurately that some studies have found the earth to be warming, while others have not.

He also instructed department scientists to add that rising carbon dioxide — the main force driving global warming — is beneficial because it “may increase plant water use efficiency” and “lengthen the agricultural growing season.” Both assertions misrepresent the scientific consensus that, overall, climate change will result in severe disruptions to global agriculture and significant reductions in crop yields.

Samuel Myers, a principal research scientist at Harvard University’s Center for the Environment who has studied the effects of climate change on nutrition, said the language “takes very specific and isolated pieces of science, and tries to expand it in an extraordinarily misleading fashion.”

The Interior Department’s emails, dating from 2017 through last year and obtained under public-records laws by the watchdog group Energy and Policy Institute, provide the latest evidence of the Trump administration’s widespread attacks on government scientific work. The administration has halted or scaled back numerous research projects since taking office, including an Obama-era initiative to fight disease outbreaks around the world — a decision that has drawn criticism in recent weeks as a deadly coronavirus has spread globally.

[The New York Times]

Trump endorses far-right conspiracy theorist who lied about Ilhan Omar “partying” on 9/11

Terrence Williams is a pro-Trump social media personality known for pushing wackjob conspiracy theories, such as a fact-free attempt to link the Clintons to Jeffrey Epstein’s death and falsely claiming Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar partied on 9/11.

He was recently alerted by Facebook his page was at risk for being unpublished for pushing misinformation.

Donald Trump tweeted his support for Terrence because… of course he did.

Trump blasts wind turbines in Palm Springs at campaign event

President Donald Trump thinks the windmills in Palm Springs, California, are “rusty,” “rotting,” and “look like hell.”

Trump was talking about energy dependency and the use of wind turbines at a campaign event in Colorado Springs on Thursday, a day after he was in Palm Springs for a fundraiser, according to KESQ. That’s when he “spoke out against” the Palm Springs windmills.

“And they’re all over the place,” The Desert Sun reported Trump said. “You look at Palm Springs, California. Take a look. Palm Springs. … They’re all over the place. They’re closed, they’re rotting, they look like hell.”

He said the windmills are made in China and Germany, have an effect on the ozone layer and kill birds, KESQ reported.

“You know if you shoot a bald eagle they put you in jail for a long time,” Trump said, according to KESQ. “But the windmills knock them down like crazy.”

It’s not the first time Trump has been angry about the Palm Springs windmills. In 2012, Trump tweeted that Palm Springs had been “destroyed” by the “world’s ugliest wind farm.”

In 2016, Trump said Palm Springs was a “poor man’s version of Disneyland” on a radio show, The Desert Sun reported.

Palm Springs Mayor Geoff Kors fired back at Trump on Friday, praising the city’s mission to use only carbon-free energy, NBC Palm Springs reported.

“It is unfortunate that, at this critical time in our history, we have a president who lies about and denigrates clean green power while embracing and promoting dirty power such as coal and offshore oil drilling, which is destroying our planet,” Kors said in a statement to the news outlet.

[Sacramento Bee]

New White House personnel chief tells Cabinet liaisons to target Never Trumpers

Johnny McEntee called in White House liaisons from cabinet agencies for an introductory meeting Thursday, in which he asked them to identify political appointees across the U.S. government who are believed to be anti-Trump, three sources familiar with the meeting tell Axios.

Behind the scenes: McEntee, a 29-year-old former body man to Trump who was fired in 2018 by then-Chief of Staff John Kelly but recently rehired — and promoted to head the presidential personnel office — foreshadowed sweeping personnel changes across government.

  • But McEntee suggested the most dramatic changes may have to wait until after the November election.
  • Trump has empowered McEntee — whom he considers an absolute loyalist — to purge the “bad people” and “Deep State.”
  • McEntee told staff that those identified as anti-Trump will no longer get promotions by shifting them around agencies.

The backstory: Several administration officials have already been targeted in a post-impeachment blitz.

  • Barely 48 hours after Trump was acquitted in the Senate, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman — a key national security official who testified during the impeachment inquiry that Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “improper” — was “escorted” out of his White House post.
  • U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who also testified in the impeachment investigations, was fired the same afternoon.
  • Trump has also promoted or brought back several people he considers core loyalists — including McEntee, former White House communications director Hope Hicks, and U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell.
  • McEntee’s job already is being tested with Trump’s decision to tap Grenell, a staunch loyalist who has never worked for an intelligence agency, as the Acting Director of National Intelligence. Trump has said it’s only a temporary move until he names a new permanent director.
  • But his efforts to put a Republican congressman in that job, thereby plucking him out of a Senate race with a complicated GOP primary, aren’t going smoothly.

[Axios]

Trump dismisses reports of Russian meddling, labels them Democratic ‘misinformation campaign’

President Trump on Friday asserted that Democrats were behind recent news reports that intelligence officials informed Congress of Russian interference in the 2020 race to help his reelection, with the president dubbing it a “misinformation campaign.”

“Another misinformation campaign is being launched by Democrats in Congress saying that Russia prefers me to any of the Do Nothing Democrat candidates who still have been unable to, after two weeks, count their votes in Iowa. Hoax number 7!” Trump tweeted.

The president was reacting to news first reported by The New York Times that officials told House lawmakers during a classified briefing last week that Russia was interfering in the 2020 presidential election campaign in order to try to reelect Trump.

Trump reportedly lashed out at Joseph Maguire, then his acting director of national intelligence, after the briefing for allowing it to take place.

The president has previously cast doubt on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 election in order to help Trump and hurt his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. That assessment has been confirmed by investigations by Congress and the executive branch, including former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which Trump has repeatedly decried as a “witch hunt.”

The New York Times and Washington Post both reported Thursday on details of the closed-door intelligence briefing, as well as Trump’s subsequent anger at Maguire.

House lawmakers have not publicly released any details about the classified briefing.

The news reports came shortly after Trump announced that U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell would take over as his acting intelligence chief, a position Maguire was required by law to leave next month. Trump is now searching for a permanent replacement for the role, which requires Senate confirmation.

[The Hill]

Trump quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson, Suggesting He’s a ‘King’

The tweets of Donald J. Trump are sometimes inane, sometimes scary, and sometimes baffling. On Saturday he made two that are the latter. Only a few days after inexplicably sharing a clip from Curb Your Enthusiasm that clearly mocked his supporters, the president decided to post something even more Mad Libs-weird: He quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Technically he was quoting someone else quoting Emerson: a piece from his dreaded New York Times that dropped back in early February. The headline was, alas, not exactly flattering: “While Stained in History, Trump Will Emerge From Trial Triumphant and Unshackled.” The article itself, by Peter Baker, wasn’t complimentary about the president’s newfound confidence after getting impeached by the House but acquitted by the Senate. Perhaps Trump didn’t read the whole thing. But he did single out one passage.

“Ralph Waldo Emerson seemed to foresee the lesson of the Senate Impeachment Trial of President Trump. ‘When you strike at the King, Emerson famously said, “you must kill him.’ Mr. Trump’s foes struck at him but did not take him down,” the tweet read. “A triumphant Mr.Trump emerges from the biggest test of his presidency emboldened, ready to claim exoneration, and take his case of grievance, persecution and resentment to the campaign trail.” He then cited Baker, at-ed the NYT, and added one of his greatest go-tos: “The Greatest Witch Hunt in American History!

Trump’s out-of-context (but still far from positive) tweeting read as a boast, even if he was quoting a publication he routinely demonizes. The fact that the president was quoting someone quoting Emerson truly weirded some people out.

Others were horrified. After all, he was essentially referring to himself as a king, not a president.

Some pointed out that Trump had been reduced to quoting the “failing” (though actually thriving) New York Times.

[Uproxx]

Trump singles out Mitt Romney in post-acquittal Twitter-rant

President Donald Trump isn’t letting up on Sen. Mitt Romney during his post-acquittal victory lap.

Four days after the end of his impeachment trial, the president spent a sunny Sunday in D.C. continuing a weekend tweetstorm against the proceedings and his perceived foes — particularly targeting Romney, the lone Republican who voted to boot him from the White House.

The president retweeted assertions that Romney “stabbed Trump in the back” by joining Democrats in attempts to overturn the 2016 election, and that the Utah senator was connected to unsubstantiated claims that Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, was corruptly involved with the Burisma Holdings energy company in Ukraine.

“Mitt Romney is tied to Hunter Biden’s Burisma corruption. This is why he’s bent over backwards for the media with this show ‘guilty’ vote,” read a Trump retweet of the website Big League Politics’ post. “He doesn’t want this story EXPOSED!”

Neither the president nor Big League Politics offered any proof that Romney had been involved with Burisma or Hunter Biden.

The president also fired off his own anti-Romney tweets. “Romney hurt some very good Republican Senators, and he was wrong about the Impeachment Hoax. No clue!” he wrote based off a tweet that Romney’s real damage would be to Senate Republicans in tough reelection races.

He later pulled in Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a red-state Democrat who was considered to be a swing vote on impeachment and whom Trump labeled “weak & pathetic” after Manchin’s vote to convict.

“They are really mad at Senator Joe Munchkin in West Virginia,” the president wrote. “He couldn’t understand the Transcripts. Romney could, but didn’t want to!” This seemed to be a reference to a readout of the July phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president that led to the impeachment inquiry.

Trump’s 50-plus tweets and retweets on Sunday included criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for ripping up a copy of his State of the Union speech, and encouragement for Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin to find out “who started the Ukraine ‘collusion’ narrative.” The senators have pledged to investigate Hunter Biden’s business activities, even after the impeachment trial’s completion.

Appearing on “Face the Nation” on Sunday morning, Graham directly addressed Trump about the origins of the government’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election: “If he’s watching the show, here’s what I would tell the president: I’m going to get to the bottom of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] process, because it was an abuse of power at the Department of Justice and the FBI.”

[Politico]

Trump Just Called Climate Scientists ‘Foolish Fortune Tellers’

Despite a growing mountain of evidence that shows the world is careening towards a climate catastrophe, symbolized this month by the devastating bushfires in Australia, President Donald Trump thinks that “this is not a time of pessimism, this is a time for optimism.”

In his remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday morning, Trump spent the vast majority of his speech reeling off a laundry list of economic indicators that showed just how strong the U.S. economy is. But he finished his address by attacking climate change activists and scientists who have been raising the alarm about the plight of the planet.

“Fear and doubt is not a good thought process,” Trump said. “Because this is a time for tremendous hope and joy and optimism in action. But to embrace the possibilities of tomorrow, we must reject the perennial prophets of doom, and their predictions of the apocalypse.”

Trump once again repeated the lie that the U.S. has “the cleanest air in the world” when, in fact, his administration has made the air quality in the U.S. worse. According to the Environmental Performance Index, a metric from environmental scientists at Yale and Columbia, the U.S. ranks 10th when it comes to clean air quality.

Trump also said that today’s climate scientists are simply repeating errors of the past when “foolish fortune tellers…predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the 70s, and an end of oil in the 1990s.”

Climate change is a hot topic at Davos this year, and an hour before Trump took the stage, Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Swedish activist who the U.S. president has criticized for her outspoken opinions and “anger management issues,” told the world’s elite that they have done “basically nothing” to avert a climate catastrophe.

“Pretty much nothing has been done since the global emissions of CO2 has not reduced,” Thunberg said. “If you see it from that aspect, what has concretely been done, if you see it from a bigger perspective, basically nothing, it will require much more than this, this is just the very beginning.”

Trump labeled activists like Thunberg “alarmists” who are simply seeking “absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives.”

“We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country, or eradicate our liberty,” Trump added.

Thunberg said the world needed to pay attention to the findings of the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which shows that in order to have the best chance at keeping the rise in global temperatures to under 1.5 degrees, countries must limit carbon emissions to a collective 420 gigatons.

She added that people often assume that “future generations will somehow suck hundreds of billions of tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere, even though such technology doesn’t exist yet.”

One of those people appears to be Trump, who made a cryptic reference to some unknown scientific breakthrough that would solve the current crisis.

“We’re continuing to work on things that you’ll be hearing about in the near future,” Trump said. “You’ll be hearing about it but we have found the answers to things people said, would not be possible certainly not in a very short period of time.”

[Vice]

Trump to New York City: If a storm comes, don’t look at me, get a mop!

New Yorkers worried that global warming might flood the city should get mops, President Trump says.

The Queens native — famed for supporting walls that keep immigrants out — on Saturday ripped the idea of a seawall to protect the city from calamities like 2012′s Hurricane Sandy, which caused massive devastation.

“A massive 200 Billion Dollar Sea Wall, built around New York to protect it from rare storms, is a costly, foolish & environmentally unfriendly idea that, when needed, probably won’t work anyway,” Trump tweeted. “It will also look terrible. Sorry, you’ll just have to get your mops & buckets ready!”

A seawall is one of five proposals considered by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the greatest city in the world from storms that could become more frequent with climate change.

Besides the Mexican border wall, Trump is also fine with seawalls that protect one of his golf courses in Ireland.

Trump last year changed his official residency from New York to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. He hasn’t said whether he’d like a seawall to protect the oceanfront portion of that property.

[New York Daily News]

Trump moves to overhaul the National Environmental Policy Act

The Trump administration on Thursday unveiled significant changes to the nation’s landmark environmental law that would make it easier for federal agencies to approve infrastructure projects without considering climate change.

Many of the White House’s proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act have been supported by business groups that contend the law has delayed or blocked projects like laying out oil pipelines and building dams and mines, among other things.

Environmentalists said that the rules would endanger wildlife and lead to more carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, and contend that the regulations should be strengthened not weakened as the world copes with global warming.

If the proposals are enacted, it would be the first overhaul of NEPA in more than 40 years.

The plan, released by the White House Council on Environmental Quality, would no longer require any form of federal environmental review of construction projects that lack substantial government funding. The change would also widen the category of projects that will be exempt from NEPA regulations.

“We want to build new roads, bridges, tunnels, highways, bigger, better fast and we want to build them at less cost,” President Donald Trump said at the White House on Thursday.

The move is the latest effort by the Trump administration to roll back a slew of environmental regulations in place to curb greenhouse gas emissions and protect natural habitats from drilling and development.

The changes are expected to be published in the Federal Register on Friday. There will be a 60-day comment period and two open hearings before the final regulation is delivered.

The administration has argued that the law can increase costs for builders, block construction projects and threaten jobs for American workers and labor union members.

“The step we’re taking today, which will ultimately lead to final regulations, I believe will hit a home run in delivering better results to the American people by cutting red tape that has paralyzed common sense decision making for a generation,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said Thursday.

Jay Timmons, president and chief executive of the National Association of Manufacturers, said that the president’s plan is exactly what his group wanted.

“Our efforts should be used for building the infrastructure Americans desperately need, not wasted on mountains of paperwork and endless delay,” he said.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a senior member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, argued that the changes prioritize polluters and corporations over the environment.

“This NEPA rewrite favors big polluters and corporate profits over balanced, science-based decision making and would prevent Washingtonians from voicing their views on proposals ranging from siting a new fossil fuel pipeline in their backyard to building an open-pit mine that could destroy the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery,” she said in a statement.

“We need to make smarter environmental decisions, not roll back the safeguards we already have,” Cantwell said.

The administration’s proposed changes might not make it through court, according to Bruce Huber, an environmental law professor at Notre Dame Law School.

“The law requires federal agencies to report the environmental impacts of their actions that significantly affect ‘the quality of the human environment,’” he said. “If the regulations announced today drive agencies to diminish the extent or quality of their reporting, federal courts may very well conclude that their reports do not comply with the law.”

William Snape, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, said that the White House’s proposal is consistent with other environmental regulation rollbacks.

“This is all about the election and Trump getting out there and shoring up his base,” Snape said. “The Trump administration has been losing more cases than it’s winning in oil and gas – and this is a chance to blame someone else.”

[CNBC]

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