2 Top GOP Officials Offer Mixed Messages On Future Of Paris Climate Deal

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President Donald Trump will announce a decision on whether to withdraw from the Paris Agreement next week, he said Saturday. But he already told confidants he plans to pull out of the historic accord, Axios reported Saturday night, making the United States one of just three countries to reject the global pact to reduce the planet-warming gas emissions.

But on Sunday talk shows, a White House Cabinet secretary said Trump’s decision is not yet final, and a top-ranking Republican senator urged the president to keep the U.S. in the agreement.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said Trump was “open” and “curious” about why the other members of the Group of 7 most industrialized nations ― Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom ― cared about combating climate change, which the president has dismissed as “a hoax.”

“I’m quite certain the president is wide open on this issue as he takes in the pros and cons of that accord,” Mattis said on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”

The assessment echoed National Economic Council director Gary Cohn, who said Friday that Trump’s views were “evolving.”

Trump did say the environment was important to him, Cohn told reporters, according to pool reports. “He talked about environmental awards he received in the past. So he didn’t want anyone to think he doesn’t care about the environment,” he added.

Aside from a prize issued by a golf association to Trump’s New Jersey golf course, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker team found no evidence of any environmental awards. 

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a rare outspoken GOP proponent of climate science, said he would advise Trump to remain in the voluntary agreement.

“If I were him, I’d stay in the agreement and make it a better deal for worldwide business centers to improve the climate and make it a better deal for business,” Graham said. “If he does withdraw, that would be a definitive statement by the president that he believes climate change is a hoax. Stay in the deal, make it a better deal, would be my advice.”

Quitting the Paris Agreement would cede diplomatic and economic ground to rival superpower China, which is aggressively courting trade with other countries and investing at least $360 billion in renewable energy over the next four years. Diplomats warn that exiting the deal would also relegate the U.S. to the status of a “rogue country” and a “climate pariah.” Only war-torn Syria and Nicaragua, the second-poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, have not signed the Paris Agreement. Withdrawing would mean “the leader of the Republican Party is in a different spot than the rest of the world,” Graham said.

“It would be taken as a statement that climate change is not a problem, not real,” he said. “That would be bad for the party, bad for the country.”

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