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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Executive branch dissonance seen on climate, Saudis and spending

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before boarding

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before boarding Marine One at the White House on Nov. 20. Credit: Bloomberg/Andrew Harrer

The strange sight of a U.S. president contradicting officials of his own executive branch can be startling — no matter what you may think of Donald Trump's stances on climate, Saudi Arabia or budgets.

A major report released Friday by the administration warns of serious consequences from climate change. It says the economy could lose more than 10 percent of its GDP by 2100.  The first volume of the same report, released a year ago, found "no convincing alternative explanation" for the shifts other than "human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases."

Thirteen federal agencies under Trump's formal direction were involved in preparing the report, which was mandated by Congress. 

Imagining these findings to have resulted from a tight "deep-state" cabal seems especially far-fetched since more than 1,000 people, including top scientists from inside and outside government, helped craft it.

Still, the president, a proponent of burning coal and deregulating carbon emissions, offered mockery and jeers on the eve of its release. "Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS," he tweeted Wednesday. "Whatever happened to Global Warming?" 

Asked about the report on Monday, he said: "I don't believe it."

It makes you wonder if Trump even speaks for the Trump administration.

Bureaucrats said no White House effort was made to intervene in the report's preparation. That might be the amazing part.

Consider: If the president and his cadre are committed to some alternative science, you'd think they'd make a serious effort to persuade others, debate the matter and influence the assignment. 

Instead, the Oval Office offered comments afterward about how the report only addressed "the most extreme scenario" and failed to account for coming innovations that could cut the spewing of carbon into the atmosphere and offset damage.

All this happened to follow Trump's soft-pedaling the CIA's rather clear conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

For two years, the agency has been in this president's domain. He appointed Mike Pompeo its director and later, Gina Haspel to succeed him when Pompeo was promoted to Secretary of State.

And yet, Trump stated last week "we may never know" if the prince ordered the hit. "Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Does he really doubt the CIA's information?

The federal deficit has spiked during Trump's tenure, driven by big tax cuts, massive military budgets and big Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security expenses, all held harmless by the elected leadership.

But according to The Washington Post, Trump keeps pushing his subordinates for actions to reduce the deficit — leaving them befuddled and without guidance as to how. It sounds almost as if Trump has not been part of the process or dislikes the results of his own policies.

The president seems to treat himself as a privileged spectator on the playing field of his own government. Whatever the motive, or the results for the public, the disconnect is remarkable to see.

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