👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ The Trump administration will revoke California’s right to set stricter air pollution standards for cars and light trucks than those required by the federal government. In July, California reached an agreement with Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and BMW to support the state’s right to set its own fuel efficiency standards and to voluntarily produce cars averaging nearly 50 mpg by model year 2026. The rollback of California’s waiver will also affect 13 other states and the District of Columbia, which follow California’s emissions regulations. Last summer, the EPA proposed weakening fuel economy standards put in place by the Obama administration by freezing standards at roughly 37 mpg from 2020 to 2026. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state intends to strike back with a lawsuit, which is expected to go to the Supreme Court. (Los Angeles Times / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)
📌 Day 560: The Trump administration plans to roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards on new cars. Under the Obama administration, the EPA and the Transportation Department set requirements for new cars to average at least 35 mpg by 2020 and to continue improving efficiency up to 50 mpg by 2025. The policy was intended to combat global warming. Trump’s plan would freeze the fuel economy standards after 2021 at about 37 mpg and would revoke a waiver granted to California and 13 other states to set more aggressive tailpipe pollution standards. (Los Angeles Times / New York Times / ABC News / Washington Post)
📌 Day 943: The White House is attempting to block additional states from joining a pact with California and four automakers to oppose Trump’s rollback of auto emissions standards. Toyota, Fiat, Chrysler, and General Motors were summoned to the White House last month and pressed by an adviser to stand by Trump’s rollbacks. Meanwhile, Mercedez-Benz is preparing to join the agreement, which has reportedly “enraged” Trump. The five automakers account for more than 40% of all cars sold in the United States. (New York Times)
📌 Day 960: The Justice Department opened an antitrust investigation into four automakers who rejected the Trump administration’s relaxed air pollution and mileage regulations. Ford Motor Company, Volkswagen of America, Honda, and BMW instead struck a deal with California to reduce automobile emissions. Automakers have urged the administration not to drastically roll back Obama-era emissions levels, arguing that one national standard would be better than one weaker standard for most of the country and one tougher standard for California, plus the 13 other states that follow California’s lead. Those 14 states account for about 40% of the U.S. population. The Justice Department is investigating whether the deal could potentially limit consumer choice. (New York Times / Bloomberg / CNN)
2/ Trump ordered two former White House aides not to testify at a House Judiciary Committee hearing about Trump’s possible obstruction of justice. The White House asserted immunity for Rob Porter and Rick Dearborn, who were subpoenaed to appear in front of the committee today. Trump also ordered his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, not to answer questions about anything that happened after Trump was elected and to not provide any information beyond what is already in the Muller report. (CNN / Reuters / New York Times)
3/ Corey Lewandowski refused to answer dozens of questions about potential obstruction of justice during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on “Presidential Obstruction of Justice and Abuse of Power.” Lewandowski did confirm that Trump asked him to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions to limit the scope of the Russia investigation, but he claimed he was never asked to do anything illegal. As the hearing started, Lewandowski demanded that Democrats read him the section of the Mueller report they were referring to. Democrats then gave Lewandowski a copy, who proceeded to read directly from the report. Republicans, meanwhile, forced a series of procedural votes. (Associated Press / Politico / New York Times / NBC News)
4/ Trump administration officials suggested charging immigrants $975 to appeal an immigration judge’s deportation ruling and $895 to request the Board of Immigration Appeals reconsider a case, according to a draft Department of Justice regulation. The current fee to apply for each of these requests is $110. (BuzzFeed News)
5/ Construction of Trump’s border fence could damage or destroy up to 22 archaeological sites within Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The administration plans to convert an existing five-foot-high vehicle barrier to a 30-foot steel structure that could cause irreparable harm to the unexcavated remnants of Sonoran Desert people. (Washington Post)
6/ Some Air Force crews that stayed at Trump’s Turnberry resort in Scotland stayed for multiple nights and were given gifts during their stays. The resort gave high-ranking officers “Pride Pins,” which are reserved for VIP members. Low-ranking airmen received other gifts and welcome packages, including Scottish shortbread and other treats. Instead of being restricted to single-night refueling stops, Air Force crews sometimes stayed for multiple nights while the weather cleared up or their planes were repaired. (Politico)
7/ Trump wants to put a proponent of torture in charge of U.S. human rights policy. Marshall Billingslea, who currently serves as assistant Treasury secretary for terrorist financing, was involved in Bush-era torture as a senior Pentagon official. During this tenure, Billingslea advocated for the use of torture techniques against the advice of top military lawyers, dismissed protests against the use of torture by the Army’s Judge Advocate General, and advocated for Donald Rumsfeld to approve more torture tactics than Rumsfeld had already approved. If confirmed, Billingslea would become the top U.S. executive branch official directly responsible for human rights policy: undersecretary of State for civilian security, democracy and human rights. (Politico Magazine)
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