- Carlos Barria/Reuters
Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s chief strategist, and EPA administrator Scott Pruitt have reportedly been waging a war against the Paris climate deal and those within the White House who support it – a group led by the president’s daughter, Ivanka, and son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
And they look poised to win their fight. Reports swirled on Wednesday that President Donald Trump had decided to withdraw from the agreement, which President Barack Obama entered into in 2015 along with nearly every country in the world in an effort to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming.
The president is scheduled to announce his decision on the matter on Thursday at 3 p.m.
While reporting in recent days has suggested that Trump his made up his mind to withdraw from the deal, he previously seemed undecided on the issue, reflecting a divide among his closest aides.
While Bannon, Pruitt and other conservative advisers and lawmakers have pressured Trump to pull out, Ivanka and Kushner have attempted to convince him to remain in the agreement while making modifications to it, according to recent reports in The New York Times and Politico.
“You had the New Yorkers against it, and all the campaign loyalists for it,” a Republican close to the White House told Politico, referring to the push to withdraw. “When the New Yorkers get involved, it gets complicated for Trump and everyone else around him.”
Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times while he was Oklahoma’s attorney general, is a fierce opponent of the Paris accord, which he told coal miners last month would hurt the economy by undermining the fossil fuel industry.
Bannon sees withdrawal from the agreement as the fulfillment of a key campaign promise, as Trump ran on his pledge to “cancel” the deal if elected.
Like the president, who has called climate change “an expensive hoax,” Pruitt and Bannon have publicly questioned the veracity of climate change science.
In April, Pruitt told Fox News the deal is “something we need to exit.”
Meanwhile, Ivanka has attempted to moderate their influence, inviting former Vice President Al Gore and other advocates for action on climate change to meet with her father over the last several months.
“Ivanka is doing what she can to get him to stay,” a White House official told Politico. “But that doesn’t mean he’s going to do it.”
To counter this, Bannon and Pruitt have brought in conservative leaders and Republican lawmakers to counter this viewpoint, according to Politico.
“We made very much the economic message argument,” David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, told Politico. His group wrote letters to the White House and spoke to senior staff about the deal.
“It was bad for the U.S. economy. It would stifle economic growth and the United States should withdraw,” McIntosh said of the arguments his group made.
Kushner has also advocated for the administration to stay in the agreement while loosening the nonbinding regulations on emissions that the Obama administration devised, according to the Times.
Kushner and others in his camp fear that retreating from the agreement entirely would harm the US’ diplomatic relations with allies around the world. If the US pulled out of the Paris agreement, the country would join Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations that rejected the deal. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly supports staying in the accord.
The pro-Paris team has argued that Trump could leverage the support he receives for remaining in the agreement to help redirect federal spending to the fossil fuel industry. Several major oil and gas companies, including Exxon Mobil, formerly run by Tillerson, support remaining in the agreement – Exxon called it “an effective framework for addressing the risks of climate change.”
The pope also counts himself a supporter of the agreement. Last week, Pope Francis gifted Trump a copy of his 2015 encyclical on protecting the environment during the president’s visit to the Vatican. European leaders also pressed the US to remain in the accord during the Group of 7 meeting in Italy.
Ivanka and Kushner reportedly hoped that the support for the agreement from other prominent world leaders and advisers would help sway Trump, according to Politico. And reports from earlier this year seemed to indicate that Bannon and other populists in the White House were losing influence with Trump.
But Trump still appears to be siding with Bannon and his allies, and the chief strategist might be able to count this as a victory for his nationalistic method of governing.