White House

Ivanka Trump loses climate battle as Bannon reemerges in White House

President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump were photographed recently as they walked on the South Lawn of the White House. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord was a defeat for Ivanka Trump.
President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump were photographed recently as they walked on the South Lawn of the White House. Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord was a defeat for Ivanka Trump. AP

President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement Thursday, delivering a blow to worldwide environmentalists, major European powers — and daughter Ivanka.

In the process, Trump also revealed that his controversial chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who appeared to have fallen out of favor in recent months, has regained some of his once-immense clout.

Ivanka Trump, a presidential adviser, had fought to keep in the United States in the agreement, leading a faction thought to include Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

But just two months after Trump downplayed Bannon’s role and declined to express his confidence in him, Bannon appeared to be back on top. Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, were nowhere to be seen Thursday when the president declared that he was pulling out of the Paris accord for the “well being of American citizens”

“This isn’t what they wanted,” said a former Trump adviser who remains in regular contact with White House officials said, referring to Ivanka Trump. “Not at all.”

Instead it was Bannon – the conservative former firebrand executive editor of the Breitbart website and CEO of Trump’s presidential campaign – who basked in the accolades from workers, veterans and other guests milling around the Rose Garden shaking hands and receiving back pats well after Trump had finished his speech and returned to the Oval Office.

“Clearly it shows you Steve Bannon is not going anywhere, the nationalist faction in the White House is really strong,” said a second former adviser who remains in regular contact with White House officials but did not want to speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the issue. “You can tell he has come back in orbit. He’s back on his footing.”

The person said this decision was about Trump keeping a campaign promise on the same day he was breaking one, at least temporarily – a pledge to move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Trump had repeatedly pledged during the campaign to back out or renegotiate the climate deal, but appeared to waver on the promise once taking office as top advisers wrestled over what to do.

The Paris pact obligates the United States – the world’s second largest emitter of planet-warming greenhouse gasses – to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025, compared to 2005 levels. The aim of the pact is to prevent global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, a level that scientists say could cause irreversible, catastrophic effects.

The pact, which went into force in November 2016, is considered the world's most comprehensive plan to date for fighting climate change.

Bannon pushed Trump to carry out his vow to “cancel” the agreement while Ivanka Trump lobbied her father for weeks to remain in the agreement, worried about possible diplomatic repercussions from pulling out of an accord only two other countries, Nicaragua and Syria, don’t accept. In December, Trump met at his daughter’s invitation with former Vice President Al Gore, a staunch environmentalist whose 2006 film about global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth” won an Academy Award for best documentary.

“I think one of Bannon’s key roles both in the campaign and the White House is to keep a focus on the campaign promises,” said Jonathan Felts, who served as White House political director for President George W. Bush and is close to people in the Trump White House. “This one seems pretty easy from my perspective in that, at the end of the day, President Trump was consistent on pulling out of the Paris accords throughout his campaign.”

Ivanka Trump’s arguments bumped up against her father’s campaign promises to create jobs, said the first former Trump adviser. “She had a bad case to defend,” the adviser said. “The president has brought in a lot of conflicting voices. Sometimes one side wins. Sometimes another side wins.”

In this case, it was Bannon who emerged on top as Ivanka Trump and Kushner have been consumed in controversy over news reports that Kushner had tried to arrange a secret communications channel to Moscow through the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. It was the latest in a series of possibly questionable interactions between Trump associates and Russian officials during the presidential campaign and transition. The White House has declined to confirm or deny that Kushner met with Kislyak in December.

Ivanka Trump and Kushner went to synagogue Thursday morning for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, according to the White House. Ivanka Trump later went home to observe the holiday with her young children while Kushner walked to the office to have a long-scheduled meeting with someone from out of town. The meeting was scheduled before Trump’s climate change announcement was on the calendar.

“He was fully involved with the process of the announcement,” said a senior White House official.

Those close to the White House say Ivanka continues to have a large, possibly historic, influence on the the president. Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist who worked for George W. Bush and is close to people in the Trump White House, said it’s to be expected that the president sometimes is going to disagree with his top advisers, even if they are family.

“I think that when you go to work as top adviser of the president, you understand you are putting self to a process where your views are competing with others,” Jennings said.

Franco Ordoñez: 202-383-6155, @francoordonez

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