National security adviser H.R. McMaster and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speak at a White House news briefing Friday. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)
National security adviser H.R. McMaster denied Sunday that President Trump is reconsidering his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord but said the door remains open to a better agreement down the road.
“That’s a false report,” McMaster said of published reports over the weekend that the administration might not pull out of the deal after all and might seek new terms instead.
“The president decided to pull out of the Paris accord because it’s a bad deal for the American people and it’s a bad deal for the environment,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The Wall Street Journal and Agence France-Presse had cited a top European climate official as saying that the United States was seeking ways to remain a party to the deal. The White House denied those reports in a statement Saturday, and McMaster underscored the U.S. position Sunday.
“The president’s ears are open if, at some point, they decide they can come forward with an agreement that addresses the president’s very legitimate concerns with Paris,” McMaster said.
Trump had announced in June that the United States would begin a three-year process of withdrawal. He said then that he could revisit the decision if the United States could renegotiate terms he sees as unfair.
The U.S. withdrawal was seen as a policy victory for then-adviser Stephen K. Bannon and his deep suspicion of international agreements and obligations. McMaster’s disagreements with Bannon over matters of policy, access to Trump and other issues are well known, and McMaster acted to reduce Bannon’s role. Last month, Trump dismissed Bannon in a White House shake-up.
Fox host Chris Wallace noted during the interview the bad blood that had existed between McMaster and Bannon and asked McMaster whether the Trump administration is better off without Bannon.
McMaster answered carefully.
“The administration is better off when we can serve the president by integrating and coordinating across all of our departments and agencies with our key allies and partners and to present the president with multiple options and then, based on his decisions, to help the president implement these policies that prioritize protecting and advancing the interests of the American people,” McMaster began.
“And so what’s important is to have an inclusive process, not to try to manipulate into a particular decision or to advance your own agenda.”
Pressed on whether Bannon was guilty of such manipulation or ulterior motives, McMaster denied that there was an active feud between the two men and repeated his goal of open discussion of competing viewpoints.
“There were some who tried to operate outside that process for their own narrow agendas, and that did not serve the president well.”
On ABC’s “This Week,” McMaster appeared to leave slightly more room for a reconsideration of U.S. participation in the Paris agreement.
“What the president has said is that we are withdrawing from the Paris accord. He left the door open to reentering at some later time if there can be a better deal for the United States,” the national security adviser said.
“He’s open to any discussions that will help us improve the environment, that will help us ensure energy security and will advance our prosperity and the prosperity of American workers and American businesses,” McMaster added.
When host George Stephanopolous asked whether “it is possible the United States would stay in if you can get a new agreement,” McMaster replied, “If there’s an agreement that benefits the American people, certainly.”
On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson criticized the Paris accord as being “out of balance” for the United States and China but said the administration is seeking “other ways” to work with other countries on tackling climate change “under the right conditions.”
Tillerson said the administration is “willing to work with partners in the Paris climate accord if we can construct a set of terms that we believe is fair and balanced for the American people and recognizes our economy, our economic interests, relative to others, in particular the second-largest economy in the world, China. If you look at those targets in terms of the Paris climate accord, they were just really out of balance for the two largest economies.”
The plan, Tillerson said, is to “consider other ways in which we can work with partners in the Paris climate accord.”
“We want to be productive, we want be helpful,” he added.
Asked whether the United States could remain in the agreement, Tillerson also appeared to leave a small window of possibility.
“I think under the right conditions, the president has said he’s open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is a challenging issue,” he said.
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