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Morning Reads: Trump Appoints Climate Change Denialist to Head EPA; Trump Tweet About Union Head Leads to Threats

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

Morning Reads: Trump Picks Climate Change Denialist to Head EPA

Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma, speaks to the media in front of the US Supreme Court on March 4, 2015. (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Trump’s EPA pick –> The president-elect named Scott Pruitt, a climate change denialist and Oklahoma’s attorney general, as his choice to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. The New York Times describes Pruitt as “a key architect of the legal battle against Mr. Obama’s climate change policies.” Eric Lipton and Coral Davenport write that “energy lobbyists drafted letters for Mr. Pruitt to send, on state stationery, to the EPA, the Interior Department, the Office of Management and Budget and even President Obama, outlining the economic hardship of the environmental rules.” Environmental groups strongly denounced the pick. In a statement, Natural Resources Defense Council President Rhea Suh described Pruitt as a “man who has devoted much of his career to trying to block the agency from doing its job.”

In Pruitt, wealthy, polluting interests have a champion, Jane Mayer writes for The New Yorker: “In taking these anti-regulatory positions, Pruitt has clearly aligned himself with his right-wing campaign donors, including Charles and David Koch. Kochpac, the political-action committee of the brothers’ Kansas-based oil-and-chemical conglomerate, Koch Industries, contributed to Pruitt’s campaigns in 2010, 2013, and 2014. Pruitt has also been backed by several other billionaire oil-and-gas executives, who joined political forces with the Kochs during the Obama years, becoming ‘investors,’ as they called themselves, in the Kochs’ anti-regulatory, pro-business political movement.”

Trump’s other picks –> Linda McMahon, cofounder of the professional wrestling franchise WWE, will head the Small Business Administration, becoming the latest billionaire to join an economic team made up mostly of the ultra wealthy.

Trump named Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to serve as ambassador to China. It’s an interesting pick: Branstad is close with the country’s leader, President Xi Jinping, and has visited China six times. Trump, meanwhile, has ratcheted up his rhetoric against the country and antagonized it by upending 40 years of diplomatic norms by speaking on the phone with Taiwan’s president.

And Trump named retired Gen. John Kelly to lead homeland security. “Blunt-spoken and popular with military personnel, Gen. Kelly, 66, rose to run the United States Southern Command, which put him in charge of the military jail at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and exposed him to immigration, drug trafficking and other cross-border problems over a sprawling area that encompasses 32 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America,” Mark Landler and Maggie Haberman write for The New York Times.

One more way this administration will not be normal: “We now have three of the four top national and domestic security agencies of the government under the management of recently retired generals,” observes Josh Marshall at TPM, noting that each of these nominees in question spoke out against Obama administration policies. “…It’s a bad pattern to make generals locking horns with one administration become a vehicle for preferment in the next, if it is of the opposite party,” he writes.

“…the phone started to ring.” –> Danielle Paquette writes for The Washington Post that Chuck Jones, a United Steelworkers union leader who represents workers at the Indianapolis Carrier plant, criticized Trump’s recent speech announcing a plan to keep some of the plant’s jobs in America. In Trump’s speech, Jones pointed out, Trump said 1,150 jobs would be saved; in fact, only 800 would. Shortly afterward, Trump tweeted about Jones, calling him out by name and saying he has done “a terrible job representing workers. No wonder companies flee country!” Then Jones’ phone started to ring with people calling to leave vague threats. “Nothing that says they’re gonna kill me, but, you know, you better keep your eye on your kids,” Jones said later on MSNBC. “We know what car you drive. Things along those lines.”

The most important appointment? –> David Dayen at The Nation: “Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown tapped Congressman Xavier Becerra for attorney general, an appointment made necessary after current AG Kamala Harris won election to the Senate. This may be the most vital appointment of the transition period, and it wasn’t even Trump’s. The California attorney general is well-positioned to thwart the conservative agenda, a model we’ve seen in reverse throughout the Obama administration.”

What Democrats can learn from Trump’s speeches –> Mike Konczal, a fellow at the progressive think tank The Roosevelt Institute, has some takeaways from watching hours of Trump’s campaign rallies.

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Theresa Riley. 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.