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Morning Reads: Trump Administration Tells Agencies to Shut Up; Keystone, DAPL Pipelines Rise From the Dead

A roundup stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Morning Reads: Trump Administration Tells Agencies to Shut Up

In the Oval Office, President Donald Trump displays one of five executive orders he signed related to the oil pipeline industry, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017. Trump took steps to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines while foreshadowing a "renegotiation" of terms and insisting that developers use U.S. steel. Photographer: Shawn Thew/Pool via Bloomberg

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Communications freeze –> “Multiple federal agencies have told their employees to cease communications with members of Congress and the press,” Sam Stein and Kate Sheppard report for The Huffington Post. “The freeze has startled aides on the Hill and people at those agencies, who worry that it could abruptly upend current operations and stifle work and discussions that routinely take place between branches of government.”

This is a big deal. Other, similar reports emerged in other media outlets. The Sunlight Foundation is compiling a complete list of agencies that have shut down some or all of their communication with the public. It includes the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, the Departments of the Interior and Energy, the Department of Transportation and the National Institutes of Health.

EPA clampdown –> The EPA has been ordered to take down its many pages providing information on climate change, according to two employees at the agency who spoke with Reuters’ Valerie Volcovici. “The employees were notified by EPA officials on Tuesday that the administration had instructed EPA’s communications team to remove the website’s climate change page, which contains links to scientific global warming research, as well as detailed data on emissions. The page could go down as early as Wednesday, the sources said. ‘If the website goes dark, years of work we have done on climate change will disappear,’ one of the EPA staffers told Reuters, who added some employees were scrambling to save some of the information housed on the website, or convince the Trump administration to preserve parts of it.”

Meanwhile, a series of tweets about climate change were sent Tuesday morning by a Twitter account for Badlands National Park in South Dakota and then disappeared. Tim Murphy writes for Mother Jones, “Because President Donald Trump has previously said climate change is a Chinese hoax, and because the administration has, apparently, banned Environmental Protection Agency employees from talking about anything, and because the main National Park Service Twitter account was recently censored by the White House for (gently!) mocking Trump’s small inauguration crowd size, Badlands’ tweetstorm quickly went viral. But four hours after the first one went out, the four tweets about climate change were deleted.”

Here comes the border wall –> “President Trump on Wednesday will order the construction of a Mexican border wall — the first in a series of actions this week to crack down on immigrants and bolster national security, including slashing the number of refugees who can resettle in the United States and blocking Syrians and others from ‘terror prone’ nations from entering, at least temporarily,” The New York Times reports.

More from The Huffington Post: “President Donald Trump is preparing to issue an executive order dramatically restricting refugee admissions to the US and denying visas to individuals from countries his administration deems high-risk, according to congressional and advocacy organization sources briefed on a draft.”

Zombie pipelines rise from the dead –> “Trump moved to push through the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, but it’s not a done deal. On Tuesday, he signed executive orders clearing the way for their construction. At the same time, he said, ‘We are going to renegotiate some of the terms.’ What will this mean on the ground? No one knows,” Lisa Hymas writes for Grist. “…But the Trump administration is sure to get sued as it tries to skip environmental reviews and force the projects through. Meanwhile, activists are pledging to double down in their fights against both pipelines.”

What if this isn’t a rocky start? –> The Washington consensus is that Donald Trump’s administration is off to a ruinous beginning. But when it comes to Donald Trump, that consensus has been wrong and wrong and wrong again. “What if the Trump presidency is actually off to a surprisingly effective start?” David Graham asks at The Atlantic. “For months, Trump has shown a perverse ability to overshadow his own message with chaos and disorder, and the first five days of his administration fit right into that pattern.” But despite blunders and his worrying disregard for facts, Graham writes, Trump, his administration and congressional allies are moving at a breakneck pace to implement his agenda.

Unsettlingly, “alternative facts” — lies — from the president don’t seem to be a problem for members of his party. The AP reports that the top three Republicans — Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, Texas’ John Cornyn and South Dakota’s John Thune — refused to challenge Trump’s claim that he would have won the popular vote had millions not voted illegally. (Millions did not vote illegally.) Meanwhile, Talking Points Memo reports that Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), head of the House Science Committee, which, under his stewardship, has waged a war on climate scientists, praised Trump on the House floor, saying, “Better to get your news directly from the president. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.”

Blue states fight back –> “During the Obama era, Republican attorneys general took on what they dubbed the ‘imperial presidency’ by fighting against executive overreach and an intrusion on state regulations,” Erik Larson reports for Bloomberg. “Texas frequently took the lead in rounding up packs of like-minded conservative states to sue federal regulators. Now, attorneys general in blue states such as New York, California and Connecticut find themselves defending the regulators.” The first step: 16 Democratic states are banding together to defend the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the agency created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to police banks and other financial businesses.

We’re not making this up –> Against the distressing backdrop described in the rest of this edition of Morning Reads, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook and Corey Lewandowski, former CNN commentator and Donald Trump’s hot-headed, on-and-off-again campaign manager, are teaming up for a lucrative speaking tour, Buzzfeed reports. Their booking agency promises an “entertaining pair.”

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!



We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.