The TAKE with Rick Klein
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The waters of the swamp are rising around Scott Pruitt. Yet the EPA administrator might yet get carried to safety.
He’s enmeshed in a widening, worsening, and weird ethics cloud, with few Republicans rushing to defend him, and a president who’s in a firing mood. Yet he’s also marching forward with the Trump agenda, rolling back car-emission regulations promulgated under President Barack Obama just this week.
The president said Tuesday of Pruitt, “I hope he’s going to be great.”
It might be read as a warning to Pruitt. But ultimately it’s Trump who needs to decide whether his “drain the swamp” pledges outweigh his regulatory agenda – and any personal rapport between the two men.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
After 15 months in office, President Trump has not been able to physically change the U.S.-Mexico border as much as he would like and that seems to be upsetting him.
Although the Department of Homeland Security says illegal crossings have plunged to some of the lowest levels in 40 years, the president is anxious to do more and is frustrated Congress has not given him a green light.
First, he thought about using Pentagon funds to build his wall, but that’s not how federal funding works. So now he says he plans to use soldiers to secure the border.
At first blush that seem monumental, but it is unclear what exactly the president means. The bold image he may be picturing is just not allowed under federal law.
While members of the U.S. military – especially the National Guard – can be used to support U.S. border patrol agents (both Presidents Obama and Bush sent thousands to do that), they cannot be used to arrest and detain.
From his off-the-cuff lines about pulling out of Syria, setting up meetings with foreign leaders, arming teachers in schools, or now this, the country and the world is once again left unsure about whether to take this president and his loose language seriously at all.
The TIP with Stephanie Ebbs
The Interior Department and National Park Service are scaling back a proposal to increase fees at some of the most popular national parks. The proposal would have more than doubled entrance fees in some parks to as much as $70.
But after the vast majority of public comments opposed the proposal, the department confirms it’s looking at a more moderate increase.
The higher fees would have generated more income for the Park Service to address a major backlog of maintenance at national parks but Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is now working with Congress to garner support for legislative proposals to provide more funding for maintenance.
“During the public comment period the National Park Service received more than 109,000 comments on the original peak-season fee proposal,” Interior spokesperson Heather Swift said in a statement. “We’ve taken the public’s suggestions seriously and have amended the plan to reflect those. The Secretary remains laser-focused on rebuilding our park infrastructure and this plan coupled with the bipartisan bill in congress will provide a historic investment.”
The Washington Post first reported this decision this week.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I’m dumbfounded that that’s controversial.” – EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in an interview with the Washington Examiner regarding the controversy over his living arrangements at a D.C. townhouse owned by lobbyists.
NEED TO READ
President Trump says he wants to pull troops out of Syria. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he is inclined to pull U.S. troops out of Syria soon. (Jordyn Phelps and Conor Finnegan) https://abcn.ws/2IqLdcc
Dutch lawyer sentenced in Mueller probe. Alex van der Zwaan, the Dutch attorney who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators, was sentenced by a federal judge to 30 days in jail and a $20,000 fine on Tuesday. (Trish Turner and Lucien Bruggeman) https://abcn.ws/2uIMvNU
EPA Chief Scott Pruitt facing more calls to investigate housing arrangement. The White House confirmed Tuesday that President Donald Trump talked to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday night, amid growing calls for investigation into questions about the ethics of Pruitt’s decisions as agency chief. (Stephanie Ebbs) https://abcn.ws/2GVS0xo
EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announces rollback of Obama-era auto fuel efficiency, emissions standards. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced today that his agency was rolling back Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards for automobiles, calling the move another step in President Trump’s “regulatory agenda.” (Arlette Saenz) https://abcn.ws/2q2TWum
Fact Check: Majority of Trump’s diplomatic vacancies because of him, not Democrats. President Donald Trump blasted Congress again in a tweet Tuesday for the hundreds of vacancies across his administration, blaming “Democrat obstruction and delay” in particular for a lack of “Diplomats to foreign lands.” (Conor Finnegan) https://abcn.ws/2uGhU3v
U.S. military on border would have limited role. President Donald Trump wants to deploy the U.S. military to protect the border with Mexico while the new border wall is built. (Luis Martinez and Serena Marshall) https://abcn.ws/2JeKVXa
Census staff warned of immigrant fears long before citizenship question. The Census Bureau warned last fall, that based on focus groups and pre-testing for the 2020 Census, its staff members were reporting increased fear among immigrants that the information they volunteered would be used against them and their families. (Emily Goodin) https://abcn.ws/2q2n980
Democratic challengers raise hefty sums for campaigns against Republican incumbents. As early fundraising figures begin to pour in, several Democratic challengers to incumbents appear to be raising hefty sums, the figures in a year in which some races are seeing eye-popping sums. (Soo Rin Kim) https://abcn.ws/2GTXuZS
Howard University students demand answers amid financial aid scandal. Howard University students are on their sixth day of protesting at the school’s administration building after revelations that six financial employees were fired for allegedly misusing institutionally-issued financial aid funds surfaced. (Erica King) https://abcn.ws/2q3kfRf
DHS observes possible cellphone-site simulators in Washington area. The U.S. government is publicly acknowledging for the first time that it picked up on what appears to be unusual and unauthorized surveillance activity in the nation’s capital last year from cellphone-site simulators – devices that can be used to intercept calls and text messages covertly. (Mariam Khan) https://abcn.ws/2H5Yvve
The Washington Post reports that Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III informed President Trump’s attorneys last month that he is continuing to investigate the president but does not consider him a criminal target at this point. https://wapo.st/2GS3WAd
President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are considering forcing votes that would cut billions of dollars in spending from the bipartisan funding deal they just passed last month, according to Politico. https://politi.co/2GwjrPc
The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.