January 9, 2020

President Trump announced plans Thursday to change National Environmental Policy Act rules in order to make it easier to build gas pipelines and construct mines and highways.

As written now, the regulations require federal agencies to determine the environmental impact of such projects, including effects on the climate. "These endless delays waste money, keep projects from breaking ground, and deny jobs to our nation's incredible workers," Trump said. "From day one, my administration has made fixing this regulatory nightmare a top priority."

Trump has long been a climate change denier, calling global warming "a hoax" created "by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." When asked by reporters on Thursday if he still believes climate change isn't real, Trump said, "No, no. Not all all. Nothing's a hoax. ... It's a very serious subject. The environment is very important to me. I'm a big believer in that word, the environment. ... I want clean air, I want clean water. I also want jobs, though."

Environmental activists have already decried Trump's proposal to change the National Environmental Policy Act, which has been used to delay and block the construction of projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement Trump is giving the fossil fuel industry "a gift," and "forcing federal agencies to ignore environmental threats is a disgraceful abdication of our responsibility to protect the planet for future generations." Catherine Garcia

12:41 p.m.

Former Vice President Joe Biden isn't bashful about the reason he's running for president.

Biden, though not bereft of policy plans, isn't leading a specific "movement" like some of his Democratic competitors, namely Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). In that sense, there doesn't appear to have been an ideological motivation that spurred the 77-year-old's decision to jump into the crowded Democratic primary last year, except for defeating the incumbent, President Trump, The New York Times reports.

In fact, Biden reportedly told The Times while campaigning in Iowa before the state's caucus kicks off the election process next week that he likely wouldn't even have launched a campaign if someone like Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was the one seeking re-election, amplifying Biden's message that Democrats and Republicans need not be in a state of "perpetual war" in a post-Trump America. It's Trump, and Trump alone, that compelled former President Barack Obama's right hand man to take one last crack at the Oval Office. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

12:41 p.m.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton has another ex-Trump official on his side.

Former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly spoke to a crowd in Sarasota, Florida, on Monday, where he was asked about Bolton's forthcoming book that reportedly says Trump spoke to Bolton about a Ukraine quid pro quo. "If John Bolton says that in the book, I believe John Bolton," Kelly said, per the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Kelly, a retired general, left the Trump administration more than a year ago, but a good chunk of his tenure overlapped with Bolton's. A Sunday New York Times report describes how Bolton's memoir reportedly describes how Trump told Bolton he wanted to withhold Ukraine's security aid until the country agreed to investigate his Democratic rivals.

Kelly said if the reporting was true, he believed Bolton. "Every single time I was with him ... he always gave the president the unvarnished truth," Kelly said of Bolton, calling him an "honest guy." Kelly then said "half of Americans think this process is purely political and shouldn't be happening, but since it is happening," Americans should "hear the whole story." "If there are people that could contribute to this, either innocence or guilt ... I think they should be heard," Kelly continued, per the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:22 p.m.

Andy Samberg's new movie just set a new record for biggest Sundance Film Festival sale ever, and when it comes to teeing up Twitter jokes, the sum sure didn't disappoint.

Palm Springs, the new Groundhog Day-esque comedy that Samberg stars in with Cristin Milioti, was purchased by Neon and Hulu for $17,500,000.69, making it the highest-selling film in Sundance history, Variety reports.

The previous record for biggest sale was set by The Birth of a Nation, the 2016 Nate Parker film that sold for $17.5 million, meaning the record was broken by exactly 69 cents.

Directed by Max Barbakow, Palm Springs stars Milioti as bridesmaid who, as Polygon explains, "attempts to tough out her sister's wedding without being noticed, until she accidentally gets stuck in an endlessly repeating day with an amiable slacker and his would-be murderer." Samberg produced the film with his Lonely Island partners, who said in a statement, "We spent over $85 million of our own money on this movie, WE ARE TAKING A BATH on this deal."

After earning a warm reception at Sundance, Deadline previously reported that Palm Springs was set to sell for closer to $15 million. But apparently, the opportunity to break the previous record and spawn more "nice" tweets than one could ever hope for was simply too good to pass up. Brendan Morrow

11:09 a.m.

Even Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wants to hear from John Bolton.

After a report indicated former National Security Adviser John Bolton's forthcoming book would describe President Trump calling for a Ukraine quid pro quo, Sen. James Lankford (R-Ok.) said Monday that senators "should get access to that manuscript to see what they’re actually saying." Graham agreed with Lankford's proposal in a Tuesday tweet, but added he would like the manuscript to be viewed "if possible, in a classified setting."

Bolton's manuscript had gone to the National Security Council for review before its publication, and according to a Sunday New York Times report, it describes how Trump told Bolton he wanted to withhold Ukraine's security aid until the country agreed to investigate his Democratic rivals. Lankford said Monday that "we may" need "witnesses and additional testimony and additional evidence" if "questions are not answered" by the manuscript, though he did say "there’s plenty of microphones all over the country" Bolton should use to speak out now. It's unclear if Graham agreed with that part of the statement. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:51 a.m.

Stocks in East Asia have taken a hit since the outbreak of the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China, and has since resulted in an increasing number of confirmed cases in several different countries, including the United States.

Investors are reportedly concerned the virus' spread could turn into a "longer event" and harm global growth. But one company that hasn't suffered in the wake of the contagion is Japanese face mask manufacturer, Kawamoto, which has seen a rapid spike in shares since the outbreak of the respiratory virus that is transmitted from person-to-person (though it's still unclear how).

What's really telling about Kawamoto's surge is the apparent escalation of fears about the virus, exemplified by the expediency in purchasing products that can serve as preventative measures against its spread even as governments and health experts try to urge a sense of calm. Tim O'Donnell

10:04 a.m.

Republicans have compared the Senate impeachment trial to the 2018 hearing to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The main parallels they see are the leaks from former National Security Adviser John Bolton's forthcoming book or the release of a secret recording of President Trump ordering the dismissal of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. These revelations, the GOP says, are akin to Christine Blasey Ford's allegations that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were high school students in the 1980s.

From this point of view, the Ford allegations and Bolton leaks are 11th hour attempts to "undermine" the Senate trial and have no bearing on the facts surrounding the confirmation and impeachment, respectively. But Republican critics have argued the GOP is off base, despite being right about similarities between the two cases.

It's not "Democratic gamesmanship" that's reminiscent of the Kavanaugh hearing, but rather "the power of stonewalling," Mother Jones reports.

The results of the confirmation hearing have left some observers doubtful that Democrats' efforts to bring in new information will be effective. In the Kavanaugh situation, former Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) looked like he would change the course of the process, but ultimately "didn't close the deal." Now, those observers say, if Democrats want to achieve their goals, they'll need lawmakers in similar positions to Flake — like Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) — to really follow through, otherwise there's a good chance Republicans will do what they can to keep things sealed as tightly as possible. Tim O'Donnell

10:02 a.m.

The John Bolton who worked in the Reagan administration probably never saw this coming.

According to Fox Business' Lou Dobbs, Bolton, who has never drifted from Republican politics in his 40-plus years in Washington, D.C., is now "a tool for the left." That's what a graphic on Dobbs' show declared Monday night, while a zany web connected Bolton to "foreign policy RINO" Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and former FBI Director James Comey.

Bolton was Romney's foreign policy adviser during his 2012 presidential run, and through Bolton, Romney is apparently connected to Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and his brother Col. Yevgeny Vindman, Dobbs' very simplified web map showed. Yevgeny Vindman is an attorney for the National Security Council, so Dobbs mirrored right-wing publications in alleging Vindman may have leaked the chunk of Bolton's book that reportedly implicates Trump in a Ukraine quid pro quo. Bolton also shares a book agency with Comey and fellow former Trump official Cliff Sims, which somehow apparently furthers the case that Bolton "has been reduced to a tool for the radical Dems," Dobbs said Monday.

Bolton, of course, was also Dobbs' Fox colleague for more than a decade before he left the network to become Trump's national security adviser. He worked in the three prior GOP administrations before that, and as The New York Times' Maggie Haberman noted, Fox owner Rupert Murdoch helped push Bolton over the edge when Trump was considering him for the national security spot. Kathryn Krawczyk

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