A coalition of 17 states, led by California, sued the Trump administration this week over its plan to weaken Obama-era auto emissions standards, threatening a long legal fight over the White House’s aggressive effort to roll back environmental regulations. The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan would scrap rules requiring automakers to roughly double the average fuel economy for new vehicles by 2025. The states’ lawsuit argues that such a move violates the federal Clean Air Act and doesn’t follow the EPA’s own regulations. California is allowed to set its own fuel standards under the Clean Air Act, but it agreed to match its rules to the federal standard as part of a 2012 agreement that the Trump administration is now pulling away from. Some automakers that lobbied heavily against the new rules now fear that the White House may have gone too far, and that the administration’s actions threaten to split the country into two auto markets adhering by different rules.
Border agents began processing asylum applications this week after the arrival of a “caravan” of mostly Central American migrants that President Trump has pointed to as justification for hard-line immigration policies. So far, about 25 of the 150 migrants, mostly women and children fleeing gang violence, have been allowed to enter the U.S. to apply for asylum. The rest remain camped outside a border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico. The Justice Department said it has charged 11 caravan members with trying to cross the border illegally. The caravan had roughly 1,500 people when it set out in March. There have been similar crossings before, but the larger-than-normal caravan drew the attention of conservative media as a symbol of unchecked illegal immigration. The U.S. is bound by domestic and international law to consider asylum applications before deporting the migrants.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly pushed back against a report this week that he has repeatedly called President Trump “an idiot” and portrays himself to staff as the lone bulwark against presidential incompetence, dismissing the allegations as “total BS.” Eight current and former White House officials told NBC News that White House morale is slipping under Kelly, who has grown increasingly frustrated with Trump. Some expect Kelly to leave by July, his one-year anniversary in the role. Officials said Kelly has fumed over Trump’s ignorance of key policy details, especially on immigration. Kelly is said to have worked with conservative Republicans to keep Trump from striking a bipartisan deal to protect young immigrants from deportation. “He doesn’t even understand what DACA is. He’s an idiot,” Kelly reportedly said in a meeting. “We’ve got to save him from himself.”
Phoenix and Denver
Teachers in Arizona and Colorado last week became the latest to launch statewide strikes aimed at winning better pay and increased school funding. Schools were shut down for two days in Colorado as educators used personal leave to walk out en masse, with many attending huge protests at the state capitol. In Arizona, schools remained closed into this week as teachers dressed in red protested day after day outside the state capitol building. The Republican-dominated state legislature is now considering a funding plan that would give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020 and provide $371 million more in school funding over five years. Organizers have said they will call off the strike if the legislation passes, though many say the new measures don’t go far enough. “Our fight is not over,” said Rebecca Garelli, a Phoenix teacher and walkout organizer. “But it is time for us to get back to our students and get back into our classrooms.”
New York City
The Russian lawyer who met with Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in June 2016 admitted last week that she was acting as “an informant” to the Kremlin. Natalia Veselnitskaya—who met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and reportedly offered the campaign damaging information about Hillary Clinton—told NBC News that she’s been working with the office of the Russian prosecutor general since 2013. “I am a lawyer, and I am an informant,” she said in interview. In the past, Veselnitskaya had insisted that she was merely a private attorney and had no formal relationship with the Russian government. Emails obtained by NBC News showed that Veselnitskaya worked closely with prosecutor general Yuri Chaika, a top Kremlin official, to stop a U.S. Justice Department case against a well-connected Russian firm accused of money laundering.
Jackson: Out of a job
Ronny Jackson will no longer serve as President Trump’s personal doctor, following allegations about his professional conduct that also led him to withdraw from consideration for secretary of Veterans Affairs, Politico.com reported this week. Jackson, a Navy rear admiral, is now facing a Defense Department investigation into allegations by current and former colleagues that he mistreated employees, overprescribed medication, and was often drunk on overseas trips. He has called the accusations “completely false and fabricated.” CNN also reported this week that Vice President Mike Pence’s staff went to the White House with concerns about Jackson last fall. In internal memos, Pence’s personal physician accused Jackson of inappropriately intervening in second lady Karen Pence’s care and violating her privacy by sharing medical information with White House staff. The incident allegedly led an irate Jackson to confront Pence’s doctor, making him feel intimidated and “uncomfortable.” ■