Tap brakes on breaks
American business often finds deregulation delightful, but some industries worry that Donald Trump is taking it to extremes.
Bloomberg News reports the administration is readying a plan to end direct federal regulation of methane leaks from oil and gas facilities, casting aside worries about environmental damage. Are the energy companies thrilled? Not so much.
They have been pitching natural gas as a climate-friendly source of electricity, a cleaner-burning alternative to coal. Dozens of oil companies have made voluntary pledges to keep methane in check and see regulation as vital to maintaining the no-harm reputation.
It's not the only industry that wants deregulation reined in. Defying the Trump administration, four big automakers — Ford, Volkswagen, Honda and BMW — reached a deal with California to increase fuel economy and reduce emissions in their new vehicle fleets through 2026. Trump's EPA has been trying to undo the goals that were set during the Obama administration. A dozen states follow California’s lead on emissions rules.
But other Trump efforts are still winning applause from businesses they are intended to help. The American Petroleum Institute praised a planned weakening of the Endangered Species Act that would open up more land for mining, oil and gas drilling.
The trucking industry hailed proposed changes unveiled Wednesday by Trump transportation officials to relax rules that govern the length of time drivers can spend behind the wheel without rest. Safety advocates warn it could lead to more highway crashes as fatigued drivers stay on the road and companies coerce them to do so.
Federal data blamed at least 60 fatal crashes involving trucks in 2017 on drivers who were "asleep or fatigued" and safety officials believe the number is underreported. The issue drew national attention in 2014 when a Walmart tractor trailer driver who hadn't slept in 28 hours crashed into a limo on the New Jersey Turnpike, severely injuring comedy star Tracy Morgan and killing a comedy writer friend who was with him.
Bears come out of woods
How bad a day was it on Wall Street? Two hours into the 800-point Dow rout, the "I alone can fix it" president tweeted a plea from a Fox Business Network guest: "The Fed has got to do something!"
Stocks were sent reeling as a bond-market indicator fanned fears of a coming recession, which also could torpedo Trump's top argument for re-election. The trade war with China continues to shake confidence in the economy, along with slow growth, fading impact from Trump's 2017 tax cuts and the ballooning U.S. budget deficit.
Trump heaped abuse on the Federal Reserve chairman he chose, "clueless Jay Powell," for what's going wrong while simultaneously arguing that "Unlike others, our economy is strong!" and "We are winning, big time, against China."
Janison: Gridlocking ’em up
The closer it gets to next year's election — in which loyalists of both parties might prefer screaming for their causes to reaching solutions — the more difficult it becomes to see anything but the most modest compromises emerging from the White House and the divided Congress, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Trump tweeted the other day that Congress should shun any "final agreement" on election security without imposing strict mandates for voter identification on polling day. But House Democrats regard such GOP-pushed measures as a gimmick to suppress turnout from their constituencies and perpetuate myths of widespread voter fraud.
After the El Paso and Dayton massacres, there is a degree of bipartisan Senate support for so-called red-flag restrictions that can at least slow down the ability of dangerous people from legally obtaining firearms. But the question lingers as to how far Trump and other Republicans will go in risking the perception from the NRA that they sold out the Second Amendment. Health care and immigration are two more issues likely to get pushed off until 2021.
Stirred to violence
Trump disclaims any connection between his divisive rhetoric and acts of violence. But an ABC News review found 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault — on both sides.
In nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims, the report said. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. In another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant's violent or threatening behavior. Seven cases involved violent or threatening acts to show opposition to Trump.
ABC said it found no equivalent incidents in the name of former presidents Barack Obama or George W. Bush.
In one recent case, a man in Montana, Curt Brockway, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to assaulting and fracturing the skull of a 13-year-old boy who the suspect said refused to remove his hat during the national anthem at a rodeo. Brockway's lawyer said his client, impaired by a traumatic brain injury from a 2000 car crash, believed he was doing what Trump wanted him to do. “He certainly didn’t understand it was a crime,” Jasper said.
Pelosi's Irish up over Brexit
Trump has been cheering on the new British prime minister, Boris Johnson, in his drive to complete the U.K.'s exit from the European Union regardless of whether there's an agreement that preserves the open border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland. National Security Adviser John Bolton said in London that Britain would be "first in line" for a trade deal with the U.S.
Not so fast, says House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who pointed out Wednesday that a return to border controls could undo the peace agreement that ended three decades of bloody civil conflict in Northern Ireland. "If Brexit undermines the Good Friday accord, there will be no chance of a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement passing the Congress," a Pelosi statement said.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), a co-chair of the Friends of Ireland group in Congress, has said he would break with Trump on the issue if the open border is threatened by Brexit, calling it a "needless provocation."
What else is happening:
- The attorneys general from 13 states field a joint lawsuit against a Trump administration rule that would allow immigration officials to deny green cards to migrants who use such programs as food stamps or Medicaid. New York Attorney General Letitia James has said she also will sue.
- Trump immigration official Ken Cuccinelli's comment that the Emma Lazarus poem inscribed on the State of Liberty was meant for "people coming from Europe" doesn't hold up when it is read in full. “From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome,” she also wrote. A Lazarus biographer told The Associated Press that Cuccinelli got it wrong.
- Trump has been resisting top aides who have urged him to back Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters, Politico reported. But he may be worried about looking like he's doing nothing. Trump tweeted Wednesday night: "I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it. Personal meeting?"
- A petition on MoveOn.org calling on New York City officials to rename a portion of Fifth Avenue outside of Trump Tower in honor of Obama has garnered more than 135,000 signatures, amNewYork reports.
- A$AP Rocky, the American rapper whose jailing in Sweden drew protests from Trump, was found guilty of assault Wednesday but won't have to serve any more time. Trump unsuccessfully tried to intervene at the urging of Kim Kardashian West, among others.