Enmeshed in controversy and lacking legislative victories, President Donald Trump announced in a punchy, dramatic Rose Garden ceremony that he's moving to remove the United States from the non-binding Paris Agreement reached in 2015 by just about all of the countries in the world to combat climate change.
“The United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord,” he said Thursday afternoon before vowing to try to negotiate a new agreement that he suggested could be fair to American taxpayers.
Then he launched into a tirade disparaging the agreement and trying to dismantle its broader points to justify his action, and he reminded, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
But since his election, Trump has failed to move any meaningful legislative victories and has been stalled by a crippling investigation into Russian meddling in the election.
In mid-April, White House officials fielded mounting questions about why the president was reversing himself on a number of key positions he took during the campaign that endeared him to populist conservatives. That included his indecision on whether to back out of the climate accord.
But a defiant Trump decided it was a bad deal.
In a trademark meandering speech, the president emphasized multiple times that the Paris Agreement is unfair to the United States. He excoriated its terms for putting extra economic burdens on Americans while doing little to protect the environment.
He ticked through outside research to claim the United States would lose 2.7 million jobs by 2025 and $3 trillion in GDP. And he lamented the “massive legal liability” it imposes.
“I cannot in good conscience live up to a deal that punishes the United States, which it does,” he said.
The drama of Trump's statement was a return to the bold, brazen mogul focused on the hard-right base during the 2016 campaign, and it was bookended by Vice President Mike Pence and EPA Director Scott Pruitt.
“Our president is choosing to put American jobs and American consumers first,” Pence said in his overture, punching up the messaging of an administration that has not been able to go on offense in months. And in the same kind of fist-bump style, Pruitt began his encore, “This is an historic restoration of American economic independence.”
Long before President Trump finished speaking, former President Barack Obama issued a statement of his own:
“The private sector already chose a low-carbon future. And for the nations that committed themselves to that future, the Paris Agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale. The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I'm confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we've got.”