Trump jabs at Secretary of State for 2nd straight weekend over diplomacy

Developments on Day 261 of the Trump Administration:

Trump on North Korea: “Only 1 Thing Will Work”

Donald Trump renews his threat against North Korea while again jabbing at his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Trump used his favored medium Twitter to revive the spectre of a US attack to halt North Korean missile and nuclear programs:

Asked by reporters later to expand on the tweets, Trump used his standard tactic of whipping up drama while avoiding a firm commitment: “You’ll figure that out pretty soon.”

But Trump had already succeeded in restoring questions about a US strike, after almost three weeks of a relative lack of turmoil following his September 19 speech at the UN chiding North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “Rocket Man”.
And he had doubled down on his rejection of Secretary of State Tillerson’s efforts to emphasize diplomacy.

Last weekend, after Tillerson let it be known that the US was engaged in back-channel contacts to try and defuse the crisis, Trump tweeted: “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man. Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

The spat with the Secretary of State escalated during the week with the revelation from multiple sources that Tillerson had called Trump a “f****** moron” in late July. Tillerson later denied that he had thought of resigning, but did not refute the remark.

Meanwhile, Trump continued to bluster while being vague about any action. At a meeting with military commanders on Thursday, he spoke of “the calm before the storm” without explaining whether he was referring to his denunciation of Iran or to North Korea. Pressed over his intentions, Trump said: “You’ll find out.”

Similarly, on Saturday night Trump reacted to reporters’ questions as he left the White House, “Nothing to clarify.” Asked once more for any substance, he said, “Well, you’ll figure that out pretty soon.”

Commenting on Trump’s latest tweet, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said all options are still on the table and that she had nothing further to add.

Tillerson has made no response.

Courts Check Administration’s Stripping of Environmental Protections

Courts are hindering the attempts by the Trump Administration to remove environmental protections, many of them implemented during the Obama years.

In the latest ruling on Wednesday, a federal judge in northern California vacated a move by the Interior Department to delay compliance with rules on flaring, a technique used by oil and gas companies use to burn off leaking methane, which is blames for contribution to climate change and lost tax revenues from drilling on federal land.

On three occasions since July, the Environmental Protection Agency or the Interior Department has been found to have acted illegally. On three others, the Trump Administration stepped back after lawsuits were filed by environmental groups and Democratic State Attorneys General.

These included the reversal of rules to reduce asthma-causing ozone pollution, to deal with toxic mercury contamination in water supplies, and to require that state transportation departments monitor greenhouse gas emission levels on national highways and set targets for reducing them.

The methane rule reinstated by the federal court last week annually eliminates the equivalent of greenhouse gas emissions from about 950,000 vehicles.

But the Trump-era Interior Department insisted that the environmental benefits were not worth the costs.

“Small independent oil and gas producers in states like North Dakota, Colorado and New Mexico, which account for a substantial portion of our nation’s energy wealth, could be hit the hardest,” Katharine MacGregor, a senior Interior Department official, said in a statement this spring.

The federal court judges were not impressed. A three-judge panel said in July that the efforts of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt were “unlawful”, “arbitrary”, and “capricious”.

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