By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, May 17, 2013 - 0 Comments
The sixth floor atop the grand Canadian Embassy on Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue has some of the best views for watching the pomp of Washington, DC, from Inauguration Day parades to Fourth of July fireworks. And now it also has some very cool art. In honour of Canada taking over chairmanship of the Arctic Council this week, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Gary Doer, recently transformed the sixth floor’s “Large Salon” into an “Arctic Room.” Always great to view Canadian art in Washington:
“North (Walrus)”, 1998 – Renée Duval, from the Collection of the Canada Council Art Bank
“Lone Polar Bear”, 1988 – Marvin Luethe, from the Collection of the Canada Council Art Bank
More photos from Arctic Room unveiling and Embassy reception for the President of Iceland. The Embassy also has an art gallery featuring photos of the Arctic.
All photos by Keegan Bursaw.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 1:55 PM - 0 Comments
Speaking at the Council of Foreign Relations today, where he made the case for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, the prime minister took a jab at Washington’s economic stewardship:
“We know that for our country to realize its potential, the U.S. has to do better. I am encouraged by growth signs I see in the United States. I am an enormous admirer of this country, despite of the fact that I value the differences we have as Canadians, I am enormous admirer of this country. I have enormous faith in the American people, and particularly the American business community, to always find opportunity, always seize it, and always create a better future. That’s been the history of this country.
I think it requires a hell of a lot of effort by everybody in Washington to make that not true. I just don’t think they can sustain that effort indefinitely. [laughs]“
This seemed to take the moderator, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, by surprise: ”Boy, well… that’s uh… That, Prime Minister, is very well said. I hope your bet on their inability to maintain that indefinitely turns out to be right.”
Later in the conversation, talking about foreign policy, Harper softened his tone:
“All joking aside about Washington, I have a really good relationship with the president. I think that within the constraints of the American system, he’s doing what he can do on all kinds of issues. On Syria, I see a lot of criticism about inaction. I look at Syria over the last couple of years and I would urge the president and everybody extraordinary caution on jumping into this situation.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 12:02 PM - 0 Comments
1) One head rolls: As the Internal Revenue Service came under fire for singling out Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny and audits, the acting IRS commissioner announced his resignation at the request of the Treasury Secretary. Obama had not appointed a permanent IRS commissioner but now reportedly plans to do so this week.
2) One document dump: While controversy raged over whether the State Department and/or White House role in doctoring talking points about the fatal attacks against a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya last September, the White House released emails last night showing the back-and-forth between government officials over how the event should be portrayed to the public. The emails are here. Republicans say they emails contradict statements by White House spokesman, Jay Carney, who had minimized the role of the State Department in changing wording put out by the CIA. Some critics are also calling for Carney to step down.
3) One legislative initiative: Amidst outrage over Justice Department seizures of extensive telephone records of journalists at the Associated Press in connection with a leak investigation, the administration yesterday asked lawmakers to pass a media “Shield Law” that would give reporters more power to protect their sources.
The moves show that the White House recognizes the seriousness of the collective controversies now sucking most of the oxygen out of Washington, DC. But they won’t end them. The first congressional hearing into the IRS actions will be held on Friday, adding new fuel to that fire. The emails around Benghazi have raised new questions and put additional pressure on the White House spokesman. And media organizations are demanding to know whether other journalists, beyond the AP, have had their phone records seized and scrutinized by the government without their knowledge.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 4:05 PM - 0 Comments
The President released his financial disclosure forms today. He still owes between $500,000 and 1 million on his home mortgage. His rate is 5.625%. Guess he’s been too busy over last few years to notice this.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
There is a cliché in presidential politics of a second-term curse. Watergate, Iran-Contra, Monica, were all second-term debacles. And here is a piece I wrote during George W. Bush’s second-term woes. (Remember Scooter Libby? Harriet Miers? Katrina?)
Obama now faces three firestorms. Some Republicans are already talking impeachment.
First, the Obama administration came under fire yet again last week over last September’s deadly attacks on a consulate in Benghazi, Libya. A U.S. diplomat who worked in Benghazi told Congress he was demoted after questioning the administration’s explanations of what happened. He also said he was dressed down by the chief of staff to Hillary Clinton after he met with a Republican congressman in Libya without a State department lawyer present. In addition, there is controversy over the motivation of administration officials who heavily rewrote talking points about the attacks to exclude mention of terrorist groups. The administrations says the facts about the attacks weren’t yet clear at the time; critics say they were trying to protect Obama’s image. So far Clinton has not been personally implicated, but poll suggest she is by far the leading Democratic presidential contender in 2016, so Republicans have every incentive to continue to investigate the issue and fan flames of controversy.
Next came news that the IRS was singling out Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny and audits when they applied for non-profit status. Republicans were furious. Obama himself called the actions “outrageous.” A criminal investigation has been launched. House Speaker John Boehner is already calling for “jail time.” The controversy comes at time when campaign finance watchdogs have been calling on the IRS to take a closer look at advocacy groups that apply for non-profit social-welfare groups status –- which allows them to accept unlimited dollars from anonymous donors. Watchdog worry that they are becoming vehicles for funneling big money into politics and subverting campaign finance laws. These include conservative groups, as well as a recent group created by former Obama aides to advocate for his agenda, called Organizing for Action. In the course of researching this story on OFA, I spoke with Public Citizen’s campaign finance lobbyist, Craig Holman, who said the IRS was afraid of going after groups who register as non-political groups but then use their unregulated donations to run political ads or support candidates:
“We’ve gone through two election cycles in which non-profits have been extensively abused, and the IRS hasn’t taken action against a single one. The IRS is afraid of political forces. If you or I try not paying our taxes, they’ll be right on us. When it comes to political insiders breaking Internal Revenue Code, the IRS is frightened of [taking action.]”
It appears that the IRS was not afraid to go after small Tea Party groups. But we have yet to hear of what scrutiny they applied to bigger players. Holman says the IRS should have been even-handed in its work. But he fears the result of the Tea Party controversy will be that they will stay away from scrutinizing these groups altogether.
“This controversy means they will never enforce the tax code,” he told CNN. “We are going to see the IRS hide.”
And a third controversy erupted with news that Obama’s Department of Justice had seized telephone records of several offices of the Associated Press as part of an investigation into a national security leak. The details are dramatic: all incoming and outgoing phone calls made by reporters from 20 phone numbers in May and June of 2012 are now known to the government. The AP’s sources on all kinds of subjects had have been revealed. The news organization was notified only after the fact, so it had no opportunity to contest the seizure in court. Personal cell phone records of reporters were also turned over to the government. The move came in the broader context of the Obama administration’s record of prosecuting more national security leaks to journalists than all past administration’s combined. (One government official was prosecuted under George W. Bush for leaking; under Obama, there have already been six leak-related prosecutions.) Although some Republicans are now expressing outrage, some Senate Republicans had long been calling for a tougher crackdown on national security leaks.
It’s unclear whether this is a result of a deliberate Obama policy of aggressive prosecution or whether technology has simply made it easier for investigators to finger sources and bring indictments. In any case, it has provided Obama with an angry new adversary: the working press.
Curse or not, the investigations and recriminations are consuming Washington, making it harder for Obama to push his own agenda. And by going after the press, he’s going to have a very hard time changing the headlines and the subject.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 11:44 AM - 0 Comments
As she takes over chairmanship of the Arctic Council, Aglukkaq spoke with Luiza Ch. Savage on her new role, her childhood in Nunavut and her take on the European Union’s bid for observer status:
Q: As someone who is of the North, who grew up there, how does that shape the perspective you bring to chairing the Arctic Council?
A: I was so very thrilled when the Prime Minister asked me if I would consider the chairmanship. I’m from the Arctic, I work in the Arctic, I live in the Arctic. Sometimes I feel—not just at the Arctic Council but at other forums—that there are people talking about the Arctic, the wildlife, the climate, without ever having ever set foot on the ground and met the people who live there year in, year out, for years and years. I am hoping that, during my time at the Arctic Council, I would be able to bridge some of those gaps and put a voice to the people who live in the Arctic.
Q: What was it like growing up in the Arctic? I understand you didn’t have electricity until you were eight years old.
A: It was peaceful. We lived off the land. My family lived around the Thom Bay area, north of Taloyoak [in Nunavut]. We moved into the community of Spence Bay in the 1970s, and that was the first time I saw structures—buildings, power, power plants. We didn’t have cars. We didn’t have roads. We walked on the tundra from the Thom Bay area to the community with our dogs and our supplies.
On Canada’s changing aid to Haiti, the merger of CIDA and DFAIT, and the role of the private sector in development
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, May 10, 2013 at 11:19 AM - 0 Comments
Julian Fantino, a former police chief of Toronto, has been Minister of International Cooperation since July 2012. In that short time, he has presided over major changes in Canadian development policy: the merger of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Development (DFAIT) announced in the recent federal budget; and changes to Canadian foreign expenditures, including the unilateral withdrawal of Canada this year from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, and an announced freeze of new spending on aid projects in Haiti, a major recipient of Canadian aid. He spoke with Maclean’s while in Washington, where he attended international meetings, including with Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe and other donors to Haiti.
Q: In your meeting with the Haitian Prime Minister, what did you say?
A: We all got the same feedback from the Prime Minister that he wants to work closely with us to help the Haitian people out of their predicament. At the same time for us, as well as other countries, there is a concern about making sure that we are accountable for the tax dollars that are expended. There was consensus on all sides that we want to work cooperatively together. They obviously have huge challenges. The earthquake didn’t help.
Q: But you had said you didn’t want Canada to be a “blank cheque” for Haiti. Did you hear anything at the meeting that would lead you to want to start new aid projects in Haiti?
A: What we also said is that the humanitarian assistance—we never cancelled any programs that were ongoing. But certainly, there was a need to refocus going forward.
Q: What can we expect going forward on policy and aid toward Haiti?
A: You can expect two things: our response on humanitarian assistance will continue uninterrupted. In fact, we announced four-and-change million dollars of aid going to Haiti. And going forward, new initiatives will be better coordinated, and a closer relationship with the Haitian government to ensure that we are all working in sync to help the people of Haiti. And making sure we expend Canadian tax dollars in the most efficient way possible.
Q: So that suspension [you announced] had an impact then? It led to some kind of result?
A: I don’t want to go there. The “suspension” wasn’t really a suspension because we didn’t suspend anything. We just didn’t dedicate any new funding. That will now come. But it will come by way of a new focus on our Haiti strategy.
Q: But you did send a message. There was a message received . . .
A: What I said, I said. I can’t say how it was received. But I made a determination on behalf of Canada that we were going to do things differently going forward.
Q: This merger of CIDA and DFAIT, what does it mean for development policy? What actually changes?
A: What changes primarily is the embodiment of the ministry in law and the role of the minister.
Q: So are you in charge? Is [Foreign Affairs Minister] John Baird in charge?
A: That’s a good question, because we are equals under the tent. We now have three streams of foreign policy: Minister Baird is responsible for diplomacy, Minister [of International Trade, Edward] Fast, for trade, and yours truly for development. So we are expected to—and we hope we will—work well together. There is not—how can I put it to you—an “in-charge,” per se, minister. We are all working together to achieve the best possible outcomes on behalf of Canadians.
Q: A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson, wrote that the merger was a good thing because CIDA had become “a policy centre with a network of clients who, in turn, developed a sense of entitlement.” He added that “the direction was not always congruent with our foreign policy. In the development world, there is a tendency towards moralism and a disdain for the urgencies of realpolitik.” Is there any truth to that? Was there a problem?
A: There was no problem. I think that there is a very fundamental need for us to coordinate our efforts with respect to what Canada does. We heard it here time and time again from the international community. You’ve got DFAIT working on projects in the same country and same location as what CIDA does, so there is a need to coordinate our efforts.
Q: So what will this mean on the ground?
A: We will create a united front on how we spend Canadian tax dollars in areas of development. It will mean more efficiencies and effectiveness. It will also mean that development will now be entrenched in Canadian law.
Q: When Canada pulled out of the UN Convention on Desertification in March, Baird called it a “talk fest.” You said that “it showed few results, if any, for the environment.” Are there other areas that Canada is reviewing our participation in that maybe we don’t need to be spending money on?
A: Let me first say that we partner with the UN on so many initiatives. This particular one was one where an evaluation was done and it did not result in very positive outcomes for how it is that we expended, I believe, 300,000-and-change Canadian taxpayer dollars. The results, the productivity, was negligible and could not be justified. And so, therefore, we feel that money can be better spent helping those in need in a much more meaningful way.
Q: Can we expect Canada to be pulling out of any other projects?
A: I haven’t embarked on any of that. But if they come to my attention, we’ll deal with them.
Q: You also announced plans for CIDA to partner with private industry in development. How is that working on the ground?
A: We are looking for partners who can help us achieve our mission, which is to alleviate poverty and lift countries out of poverty. If that can be done with wholesome partnerships where we don’t compromise our focus and our mandate, then I feel it’s just another resource we can utilize to effect our mandate: to lift people out of poverty.
Q: But there have also been incidents of corporations that have been involved in conflicts with local communities, human rights abuses, environmental damage. How is that being accounted for? What safeguards do you take?
A: All the due diligence in the world sometimes will not result in the most positive outcomes. But we have been extremely diligent, making sure that whoever it is that we partner with or engage does in fact fulfill all the expectations. Partnering with private industry, if that can achieve our goals and objectives to alleviate people out of poverty, while making sure all the ethical checks and balances are in place, I don’t see a problem with that.
Q: You were a police chief before this line of work. How does that experience affect your view of development?
A: I was involved in international issues dealing with public safety, dealing with situations in poor, developing countries, exchanges of training, other opportunities for law-enforcement people in those countries. I believe I have a pretty good handle on what the situations are like in some of these difficult, poor countries, having been there and having interacted with some of their officials.
Q: What perspective does that give you?
A: When I go to these places, I make it an absolute requirement that I meet with not only the political people, but I meet with civil society, businesspeople, human rights people, I meet with police chiefs or police commissioners, I meet with NGOs, people who are receiving services and aid. I meet with media people. I think I do my homework very well.
This interview was published in the May 6, 2013 iPad edition of Maclean’s.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, May 9, 2013 at 3:01 PM - 0 Comments
U.S. prosecutors have charged a third man, Ahmed Abassi, in connection to the alleged plot to attack a passenger train between the U.S. and Canada. He is accused of fraudulently applying for a work visa in order to stay in the U.S. to pursue terrorist activity. Prosecutors also say he “radicalized” one of the other men in the alleged plot, Chiheb Esseghaier, a Tunisian-born Montreal-resident, who was previously arrested in Canada.
From the FBI’s press release:
Abassi, who previously resided in Canada, traveled to the United States in mid-March 2013, where he remained until his arrest. While in the United States, Abassi, who was under surveillance by law enforcement agents at all times, maintained regular contact with an FBI undercover officer (the UC) and also met with Chiheb Esseghaier in New York City. Esseghaier, who was recently arrested in Canada and is currently incarcerated there on terrorism charges, was previously radicalized by Abassi. During Abassi’s discussions with Esseghaier and with the UC, which were recorded by the UC, Abassi discussed his desire to engage in terrorist acts against targets in the United States and other countries and his intention to provide support and funding to organizations engaged in terrorist activity—including the al Nusrah Front, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of State as an alias for Al Qaeda in Iraq—and to recruit other individuals for terrorist plots. In particular, Abassi discussed with the UC a number of individuals known to Abassi and/or to his associates, whom he described as like- minded and who, in his view, would be willing to engage in terrorist activity.
On April 12, 2013, Abassi and the UC discussed Abassi’s efforts to recruit others for terrorist plots and that he might be able to obtain immigration documents to remain in the United States, purportedly in order to work for the UC’s U.S.-based company. In reality, Abassi made clear that he wanted to obtain immigration documents and to remain in the United States so that he could engage in “projects” relating to future terrorist activities, including recruitment. Thereafter, Abassi made false statements on two immigration forms, under penalty of perjury, and subsequently mailed those forms to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for processing.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 12:19 PM - 0 Comments
Canadian foreign service officers who are in a labour dispute with Treasury Board have announced a plan to picket Canada’s Embassy in Washington, DC. The Embassy sits in a prominent location along Pennsylvania Avenue, near Capitol Hill.
Below is the press release:
Canadian Foreign Service Officers to picket at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, DC
April 30, 2013– Canada’s Foreign Service Officers have been without a contract since 2011, and have been in a legal strike position since April 2nd, 2013. Despite repeated requests by the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO), the Government of Canada has refused to resume negotiations.
‘Information Pickets’ took place April 24th – 26th in Ottawa, and will continue at Canadian Embassies around the world. The first of these will take place at the Embassy of Canada to the United States in Washington, DC (501 Pennsylvania Avenue NW) at 12pm on Friday, May 3rd, 2013.
The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (PAFSO) represents Canada’s 1350 Foreign Service Officers. The key negotiating issue is PAFSO’s request for equal pay for equal work. The union is seeking wage adjustments to keep compensation for Foreign Service Officers in line with comparable employment groups in the Government of Canada.
PAFSO members have begun a work-to-rule campaign both at headquarters and at missions around the world. Information pickets are the next step in the campaign and will continue until the Government of Canada agrees to return to negotiations.
Canada’s Foreign Service officers are Canada’s representatives to the world, providing critical support to Canadian citizens and businesses, promoting Canadian values and interests, and providing the front line support to Canada’s immigration system.
PAFSO President Tim Edwards will be available for comment during the information picket and can be booked for interviews throughout the week.
For further information, please contact:
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 7:48 AM - 0 Comments
Obama said at a press conference on Tuesday that he is recommitting to his failed promise to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo. There has been much confusion over who is responsible for his failure to do so — the president or Congress? The Pentagon has asked for $200 million to build permanent structures to replace deteriorating facilities there, suggesting that while the politicians debate, the once-temporary facility could be made permanent.
Here are 5 things to know about what is happening:
1. Detainees are on hunger strike
Obama renewed his call to close the prison amid a detainee hunger strike. The specific spark that set it off in February is disputed, but both detainee lawyers and U.S. military officials agree on its underlying cause: growing desperation and hopelessness among the detainees – many of whom have been held for over 11 years without trials, and over half of whom have been designated for transfer for more than three years – that they will never be allowed to go home.
2. Most can never get trials
The most difficult problem is what to do with those detainees who are deemed to dangerous to release but not feasible to prosecute. It is not possible to give the vast majority of the detainees trials. They are being held essentially as Prisoners of War because the government believes they were simply part of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and the U.S. continues to be at war with those organizations. But most of them are not linked to any specific terrorist attack – i.e. a crime for which they could be prosecuted. Moreover, for a variety of reasons, vaguer charges like providing material support for terrorism do not apply to most of them.
3. Some detainees were designated for release in 2009 but are still there
Most of the focus right now is on 86 of the 166 Guantanamo prisoners. This is the group that has been designated for transfer to other countries if certain security conditions can be met. They are not “cleared” – unlike some other former Guantanamo prisoners, they did not win a court order finding that they were not part of al-Qaeda or the Taliban at all and so must be released. Rather, a group of U.S. government national security agencies unanimously found in 2009 that they were low level enough that they could potentially transferred away if the receiving country could provide credible security assurances that it would keep an eye on them and prevent them from “returning to terrorism.” The outward trickle of this group stopped after January 2011 when Congress restricted transfers to countries with troubled security.
4. Obama’s plan would bring them to the U.S. for more indefinite detention without trial
Defenders of the Obama administration blame Congress for the failure to shut down Guantanamo because Congress blocked the president’s plan. But Obama’s plan for emptying the prison was not to release all the detainees who could not receive trials. Instead, he wanted to bring all the remaining detainees to a “Supermax” prison inside the U.S., where they would continue to be held indefinitely without trial as wartime detainees. Congress forbid the transfer of any more detainees onto U.S. soil. But even if Obama persuaded them to lift that restriction, the underlying issues of perpetual confinement without trial that are driving the current hunger strike would still persist.
5. Obama has been sitting on his hands
Obama could have been doing more to winnow the population at Guantanamo than he has been. Although Congress essentially halted all transfers of low-level detainees to countries with troubled security throughout 2011, since January 2012 lawmakers gave the Pentagon the power to waive most of the security restrictions on a case-by-case basis and transfer detainees anyway. The Obama administration has not used that authority. Obama himself banned any further repatriations to Yemen – where 56 of the 86 low-level detainees designated for transfer are from – even before Congress imposed its restrictions. Earlier this year, the administration reassigned and did not replace, the high level diplomat whose job had been to negotiate detainee transfers. Essentially the administration has had a stated policy that it wants to close Guantanamo but has for some time not been doing anything to implement that policy. Yesterday, Obama said he would “review” what could be done administratively and try again to persuade Congress to facilitate closing the prison.
Below are the president’s remarks:
Q: Mr. President, as you’re probably aware, there’s a growing hunger strike on Guantanamo Bay among prisoners there. Is it any surprise really that they would prefer death rather than have no end in sight to their confinement?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it is not a surprise to me that we’ve got problems in Guantanamo, which is why when I was campaigning in 2007 and 2008, and when I was elected in 2008, I said we need to close Guantanamo. I continue to believe that we’ve got to close Guantanamo.
Well, I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.
Now, Congress determined that they would not let us close it — and despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country.
I’m going to go back at this. I’ve asked my team to review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively. And I’m going to reengage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interest of the American people. And it’s not sustainable.
The notion that we’re going to continue to keep over a hundred individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity, even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, we’re having success defeating al Qaeda core, we’ve kept the pressure up on all these transnational terrorist networks, when we’ve transferred detention authority in Afghanistan — the idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.
Now, it’s a hard case to make because I think for a lot of Americans the notion is out of sight, out of mind. And it’s easy to demagogue the issue. That’s what happened the first time this came up. I’m going to go back at it because I think it’s important.
Q Meanwhile we continue to force-feed these folks –
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t want these individuals to die. Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. But I think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this? Why are we doing this? We’ve got a whole bunch of individuals who have been tried who are currently in maximum security prisons around the country. Nothing has happened to them. Justice has been served. It’s been done in a way that’s consistent with our Constitution, consistent with due process, consistent with rule of law, consistent with our traditions.
The individual who attempted to bomb Times Square — in prison, serving a life sentence. The individual who tried to bomb a plane in Detroit — in prison, serving a life sentence. A Somali who was part of Al-Shabaab, who we captured — in prison. So we can handle this.
And I understand that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, with the traumas that had taken place, why, for a lot of Americans, the notion was somehow that we had to create a special facility like Guantanamo and we couldn’t handle this in a normal, conventional fashion. I understand that reaction. But we’re now over a decade out. We should be wiser. We should have more experience in how we prosecute terrorists.
And this is a lingering problem that is not going to get better. It’s going to get worse. It’s going to fester. And so I’m going to, as I said before, examine every option that we have administratively to try to deal with this issue, but ultimately we’re also going to need some help from Congress, and I’m going to ask some folks over there who care about fighting terrorism but also care about who we are as a people to step up and help me on it.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 12:42 PM - 0 Comments
The U.S. Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, today told journalists traveling with him in the Middle East, that U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed “with varying degrees of confidence” that Syria has used small amounts of chemical weapons. Hagel said the weapons may have included the nerve gas sarin. A UN investigation in underway.
On March 20th at a joint press conference on with Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama said his administration was trying to establish whether reports were of chemical weapons use were true. Obama said:
Once we establish the facts I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a gamechanger. And I won’t make an announcement today about next steps because I think we have to gather the facts. But I do think that when you start seeing weapons that can cause potential devastation and mass casualties and you let that genie out of the bottle, then you are looking potentially at even more horrific scenes than we’ve already seen in Syria. And the international community has to act on that additional information.
Earlier, in a March 4 speech to the AIPAC policy conference, Obama said:
Because we recognize the great danger Assad’s chemical and biological arsenals pose to Israel and the United States, to the whole world, we’ve set a clear red line against the use of the transfer of the those weapons.
Does it matter that the weapons were used in “small amounts,” as Hagel said? What does “the international community has to act” translate into?
Recently, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee joined Republicans such as John McCain in calling for a direct intervention in Syria – including establishing a no-fly zone and direct arming of rebel fights.
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney gave a vague answer about how the administration would respond to chemical weapons use by Syria:
Well, I’m not going to speculate about consequences. What I will say is that the President made clear that the use of or transmission of chemical weapons, including the transmission of chemical weapons to non-state actors, would be unacceptable in the President’s view, unacceptable to the United States.
The New York Times reports today that the Pentagon is considering its options:
Administration officials said that the Pentagon had prepared a menu of military options for Mr. Obama if he concluded that there was incontrovertible evidence that chemical weapons had been used. Those options, one official said, could include missile strikes on Syrian aircraft from American ships in the Mediterranean or commando raids.
UPDATE: On a conference call this afternoon with reporters, a senior White House official speaking on background, emphasized that the Obama administration is not taking the “intelligence assessments” at face value – but will continue to investigate to corroborate the facts. The official said the evidence is based on a “broad mosaic of information” which includes “physiological samples,” but added that the “chain of custody is not clear” for the samples, and administration “cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions.”
Alluding to the mistaken assessments about weapons of mass destruction in pre-invasion Iraq, the official said “intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient” and that more investigation was needed because “only corroborated facts can guide our decision-making.”
“Given our own history with intelligence assessments, including assessment of weapons of mass destruction, it’s very important that we are able to establish this with certainty, and that we are able to present evidence that is air-tight in a public and credible fashion to underpin all our decision-making. That is the threshold that is demanded given how serious this issue is. But nobody should have any mistake about what our red line is. When we firmly establish that there has been chemical weapons use within Syria, that is not acceptable the United States, nor is transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist organizations.”
Hagel’s comments reflected the contents of a letter sent to U.S. senators who asked whether the Assad regime had used chemical weapons.
The official said that while a UN investigation is underway, the administration is “seeking to make it more comprehensive.” If chemical weapons were used, the administration believes they were used by Assad: “We are very skeptical that the reports of use of chemicals weapons could be attributed to anyone other than Assad regime given our belief that they maintain custody of those weapons. If it is established in a credible way, we do believe Assad is ultimately accountable,” the official said.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at 11:54 AM - 0 Comments
A question for historians: Has any Canadian government ever pushed so hard for a private sector commercial project in the U.S.? (The Detroit-Windsor bridge doesn’t count.)
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is in Washington, DC to press the case for U.S. approval of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. He gave a tough speech that boiled down the script that Canada and Alberta have been bringing here for a while: That the pipeline is good for jobs and for energy security. Oliver said that the combination of the domestic tight oil boom in the U.S. and Canada’s oil sands, North American energy independence is possibly within 20 years.
At a speech this morning to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a foreign policy think tank, Oliver also made a full-throated defense of Canada’s environmental record, emphasizing that Canada is doing more to combat climate change than any other major oil supplier to the U.S. He stressed that that oil sands production is less than 8% of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and that steps being taken to reduce emissions from coal fired power plants should be taken into account when assessing Canada’s overall record.
Oliver also emphasized that the proposed pipeline would carry Canadian oil to refineries in Texas that face declining supplies of heavy crude from Mexico and threats of supply cuts from Venezuela.
He warned that a denial of the pipeline would mean a “serious reversal in our long-standing energy relationship” and would have “dire implications for economy and lives of citizens.” On the other hand, he claimed, that denying the permit would not be a “body blow to the oil sands” because the oil would be exported via rail, and in the longer term, via pipelines to countries in Asia.
Then there was this striking exchange with an environmentalist in the audience:
Q: Canada has a very good record as far as environmental protection issues and everyone in this room appreciates that. But how do you square that fact with your government’s intentions to exploit tar sands in view of that fact that Dr. James Hansen, recently retired from NASA, and probably the world’s preeminent climate scientist, has said, that tar sands has to remain in the ground to preserve a stable climate?
Oliver: First of all, let me address a point on terminology. There is no tar in the oil sands, that’s why we refer to it as oil sands. Secondly, with respect to James Hansen, recently with NASA, I mean, he was the one who said, I think four years ago, that if we go ahead with the development of the oil sands it’s “game over for the climate.” Well, this is exaggerated rhetoric. It’s frankly nonsense. I don’t know why he said it, but he should be ashamed of having said it. It’s one-one thousandth of global emissions. Coal fired electricity in the U.S. is well over 30 times that. I wonder why the focus on an area when there are 999 more important areas to focus on. Quite frankly, I think that kind of exaggerated rhetoric, that kind of hyperbole, doesn’t do the cause any good at all. People are sensible. Americans and Canadians are logical people. When they are presented with predictions four years ago that in four years we are doomed – and we’re not — it frankly undercuts an issue that is very important.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 5:30 PM - 0 Comments
Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver arrives in Washington, DC, Wednesday morning at a delicate moment in the battle to obtain a presidential permit to build the cross-border Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the Texas coast.
Supporters of the pipeline, worried by President Obama’s tough talk on climate change in his State of the Union speech in February, had breathed a sigh of relief last month when the State Department, in charge of reviewing the permit application, issued generally positive draft environmental impact statement that concluded that the project would not not substantially increase greenhouse gas emissions or contribute to climate change because the oil would be produced and exported in some fashion — either through alternative pipelines of by rail.
Yesterday, they had new reason for concern as the Environmental Protection Agency weighed in with a letter finding fault with the State Department’s analysis. The EPA rated State’s environmental report as insufficient: “Based on our review, we have rated the DSEIS as E0-2 (“Environmental Objections- Insufficient Information.”)
The EPA emphasized that, “oil sands erude is significantly more GHG intensive than other crudes, and therefore has potentially large climate impacts.”
The EPA letter also said that the State Department was too quick to conclude that if the pipeline is not built, the oil will be extracted and exported via pipeline or by rail. The EPA recommended “a more careful review of the market analysis and rail transport options”:
This analysis should include further investigation of rail capacity and costs, recognizing the potential for much higher per barrel rail shipment costs than presented in the DSEIS. This analysis should consider how the level and pace of oil sands crude production might be affected by higher transportation costs and the potential for congestion impacts to slow rail transport of crude.
The EPA also recommended that State outline ways the U.S. could work with Canada to reduce emissions from the oil sands:
EPA recommends that the Final EIS complement this discussion with an exploration of specific ways that the U.S. might work with Canada to promote further efforts to reduce GHG emissions associated with the production of oil sands crude, including a joint focus on carbon capture and storage projects and research, as well as ways to improve energy efficiency associated with extraction technologies.
The EPA also wrote that recent spills show that oil sands crude, known as diluted bitumen (dilbit), behaves differently than conventional oil. For example, in an Enbridge pipeline spill in Michigan,the EPA wrote, “oil sands crude sank to the bottom oft he Kalamazoo River, mixing with the river bottom’s sediment and organic matter, making the oil difficult to find and recover.”
As a result, the letter states:
We recommend that the Final EIS more clearly recognize that this characteristic of dilbit is different from the fate and transport of oil contaminants associated with conventional crude oil and refined product spills from pipelines. For that reason we recommend that as a permit condition TransCanada be required to develop a plan for long term sampling/monitoring in the event of an oil discharge to assess and monitor these impacts as part of the spill response plan.
Whether the EPA’s letter will have any impact on the State Department’s “national interest determination” and final recommendation to the president, is hard to know. Notably, the Washington Post writes that the letter matters “a lot.”
Meanwhile, in the State Department’s public comment period that just closed, anti-Keystone activists at the environmental group 350.org said they count over one millioncomments submitted to the State Department against the project. Last, week the State Department held a public hearing in Nebraska to solicit comments on an new alternative route that would avoid the state’s sensitive Sand Hills region – though it would still cross an aquifer there. The hearing was a rallying cause for opponents of the pipeline.
TransCanada’s CEO, Russ Girling, has disputed the EPA’s conclusions that construction of the pipeline would increase the pace of development of the oil sands in an interview with the Globe and Mail ahead of his company’s annual meeting this week:
The Keystone project “has become this symbol of everything that’s wrong with the fossil fuel energy industry. And it’s not,” he said. “It transports products from A to B, and it does that safely. It has no material impact on refining markets or supply.”
Meanwhile, last week another spotlight was shone on the issue of pipeline safety as the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting was awarded to journalists Lisa Song, Elizabeth McGowan and David Hasemyer of the Brooklyn-based non-profit, InsideClimate News, “for their rigorous reports on flawed regulation of the nation’s oil pipelines, focusing on potential ecological dangers posed by diluted bitumen (or “dilbit”), a controversial form of oil.”
InsideClimate News has been giving Keystone XL a lot of attention. Recently, it disputed Alberta premier Alison Redford’s recent claim in a speech in Washington, DC that denial of the project would cause the province budget woes because of the discount on the price of bitumen that can’t reach Gulf Coast refineries. The article emphasized, instead, “the way Alberta has subsidized the oil industry by charging next to nothing in royalties for the oil.”
Oliver is scheduled to speak at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, DC think tank. He will also meet with Sally Jewel, Secretary of the Interior; Robert Hormats, State Department Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment; Senator Robert Wyden, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee; and Representative Fred Upton, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
It will be his fourth visit here and he still has his work cut out for him.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 2:43 PM - 0 Comments
Here are four ways the Boston bombings are reshaping the political debates in Washington:
1. It has revived debate over the handling of U.S. citizens accused of terrorist acts on U.S. soil.
There is a political debate about what to do with the surviving suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, should he recover from injuries. The Obama administration has said it will interrogate him for a period without first warning him of his right to remain silent and have a lawyer present, as an ordinary criminal defendant would be treated. This has upset civil libertarian groups.
Meanwhile, some Republican lawmakers want him pulled out of the criminal justice system and held by the military as an “enemy combatant” as long as it takes to extract intelligence. Senators Lindsay Graham, John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, and congressman Peter King, who chairs House subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, said the following approach in a statement on Saturday:
“A decision to not read Miranda rights to the suspect was sound and in our national security interests.
“However, we have concerns that limiting this investigation to 48 hours and exclusively relying on the public safety exception to Miranda, could very well be a national security mistake. It could severely limit our ability to gather critical information about future attacks from this suspect.
“We should be focused on gathering intelligence from this suspect right now that can help our nation understand how this attack occurred and what may follow in the future. That should be our focus, not a future domestic criminal trial that may take years to complete.”
Although the Obama administration’s approach is being criticized from both the left and the right, there is little reason to expect the Obama administration to change its approach. The administration has long said that American citizens suspects of crimes on U.S. soil will remain in the civilian court system. Moreover, there is no indication the suspect has links to an entity that the U.S. is at war with (Al Qaeda or the Taliban) that would be legally necessary in order for the laws of war to be invoked.
Indeed, Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in response to the senators in a statement Saturday that he didn’t seen “any legal basis” for a military process:
“I am not aware of any evidence so far that the Boston suspect is part of any organized group, let alone al Qaeda, the Taliban, or one of their affiliates — the only organizations whose members are subject to detention under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, as it has been consistently interpreted by all three branches of our government. In the absence of such evidence I know of no legal basis for his detention as an enemy combatant. To hold the suspect as an enemy combatant under these circumstances would be contrary to our laws and may even jeopardize our efforts to prosecute him for his crimes.”
2. The bombings may slow momentum for comprehensive immigration reform.
On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators unveiled long-awaited proposed legislation that represents a hard-fought compromise to overhaul the U.S. immigration system – including a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. President Obama had hoped to make the reforms the centerpiece of his second-term domestic agenda, while potential Republican presidential candidate, senator Marco Rubio of Florida, took a high-stakes gamble in aligning himself with reformers.
But the disclosure that the alleged bombers were immigrants of Chechen heritage brought to the U.S. from Kyrgyzstan and Russia by their father who claimed asylum by the U.S. in 2002, had led to calls to slow the legislation just as momentum was building to push it through. Several Republicans said the immigration system should be scrutinized to see whether more could be done to screen potential terrorists.
For example, Republican Senator Dan Coats of Indiana told ABC’s This Week that he wanted to “push back” the debate over immigration:
“I’m afraid we’ll rush to some judgments relative to immigration and how it’s processed so let’s do it in a rational way,” he said. “Just push it back a month or two… We’re talking months here, not years.”
But one of the policy’s authors, Democratic senator Chuck Schumer of New York, vowed not to let critics use the Boston bombings to delay the reforms:
“If they have a reason – a suggestion – as to how to change it [the bill] based on what happened in Boston, we’ll certainly be open to it. But we’re not going to let them use what happened in Boston as an excuse because our law toughens things up.”
3. The bombings will create debate about Obama’s national security record.
In his speech after the killing of Osama bin Laden, Obama said the U.S. would continue to work to dismantle terrorist networks, and would “remain vigilant at home and abroad.” There is now a debate over whether enough was done on that front.
In particular, there are questions about the role of the FBI – who had interviewed the deceased suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in 2011, at the request of the Russian government, who suspected him of extremism. After their interview, the FBI said it “did not find any terrorism activity,” either domestic or foreign.
According to an FBI press release:
“In early 2011, a foreign government asked the FBI for information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The request stated that it was based on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer, and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground groups.
In response to this 2011 request, the FBI checked U.S. government databases and other information to look for such things as derogatory telephone communications, possible use of online sites associated with the promotion of radical activity, associations with other persons of interest, travel history and plans, and education history. The FBI also interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and family members. The FBI did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign, and those results were provided to the foreign government in the summer of 2011. The FBI requested but did not receive more specific or additional information from the foreign government.”
According to the New York Times, the FBI did not follow up on him after he returned from his trip last year to Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan.
(The record of FBI interview is reportedly the reason why Tamerlan Tsarnaev was denied U.S. citizenship, while his younger brother was naturalized.)
There will be scrutiny of the FBI’s actions. Republican congressman Peter King of New York today blasted the FBI during an interview with Fox News:
“This is the latest in a series of cases like this…where the FBI is given information about someone as being a potential terrorist. They look at them, and then they don’t take action, and then they go out and commit murders.”
King also called for increased scrutiny of Muslims in the U.S.: “If you know a threat is coming from a certain community, you have to go after that.”
4. The Boston Marathon bombings add new fodder to the gun control debate.
Proposed legislation to expand criminal background checks to all commercial sales of guns, as well as a proposed ban on assault rifles and large capacity magazines, were defeated in the Senate on Monday, despite campaigning by President Obama and family members of victims killed in the Newtown, CT shooting in December.
But with scenes of a lockdown and manhunt in Boston unfolded, supporters of gun rights cited the danger in Boston an example of why ordinary civilians are justified in seeking powerful firearms. Said a Republican congressman from Texas, Louie Goehmert:
“If you’re sitting in your home and you know there are only two possibilities for people coming to your door: one is law enforcement and the other is somebody who has already killed Americans and continues to do so, how many rounds do you want to be limited to in your magazine as you sit in your chair and wait?”
Meanwhile, gun control advocates say they will press on.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, April 19, 2013 at 10:27 AM - 0 Comments
Former classmates of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who is still at large, say he was “sweet” and “laid back”. Classmates tell Buzzfeed that he was on the wrestling team at Boston-area public school, and is now a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
“I didn’t know Jahar extremely well but he was literally among the sweetest, most laid back guys I’ve ever known,” said another student at Harvard who went to Cambridge Rindge and Latin and spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Always friendly and welcoming, I always felt comfortable hanging out with him.”
The Boston Globe has his Russian-version-of Facebook profile.
The site lists his world view as “Islam,” and personal priority as “Career and money.”
The brothers came to the US about ten years ago, said their uncle.
As young children, the brothers lives in in Makhachkala, the capital of Russia’s Dagestan region near Chechnya. Foreign Policy has details about the violence there:
“The Caucasian Knot website recorded378 insurgency-related deaths and 307 people wounded in the republic in 2010 (compared with Ingushetia with 134 deaths and 192 wounded, and Chechnya with 127 and 123). In Makhachkala, the militants — operating from safe houses and mountain bases — shoot and bomb the cars of police and officials. People calmly follow the plumes of smoke to take a look and film the scorched remains on their cell phones.”
Their father still lives there, according to AP:
Anzor Tsarnaev spoke with The Associated Press by telephone from the Russian city of Makhachkala on Friday after police said one of his sons, 26-year-old Tamerlan, had been killed in a shootout and the other, Dzhokhar, was being intensely pursued.
“My son is a true angel,” the elder Tsarnaev said. “Dzhokhar is a second-year medical student in the U.S. He is such an intelligent boy. We expected him to come on holidays here.”His brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a shoot-out with police overnight. He was a competitive boxer who aspired to compete for the U.S. in the Olympics.Photographer Johannes Hirn has put together a remarkable photo profile of the boxer entitled “Will Box for Passport”, along with an interview:Originally from Chechnya, but living in the United States since five years, Tamerlan says: “I don’t have a single American friend, I don’t understand them.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 5:32 PM - 0 Comments
Photos and videos are on the FBI website, here.
The FBI is asking for help in finding the two men in baseball caps and asks anyone with information about them to call 1-800-CALL-FBI.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, April 18, 2013 at 12:29 PM - 0 Comments
The president says it’s only Round One.
As families of victims of the mass shootings in Newtown, Tucson, and Virginia Tech looked on yesterday, the most modest of the gun control proposals put forward in the U.S. Senate could not muster the 60 votes needed to get over Republican opposition. A bipartisan amendment that would have required background checks of all commercial sales of guns (aimed at closing the loophole that had excluded gun shows) was defeated on a vote of 54-46.
Polls suggest that an overwhelming majority of Americans support background checks, but that did not translate into more votes in the Senate where Democrats have a slim majority. Four Democrats from conservative states voted against the measure: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Max Baucus of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. Heitkamp said in a statement that the background checks would “put an undue burdens on law-abiding North Dakotans” and said she would favor measures that focused on mental health policies rather than guns. “This conversation should be about what is in people’s minds, not about what is in their hands,” she wrote. (Majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada also voted against the measure, but for “procedural reasons” that will enable it be taken up again at a later time. See technical explanation here.)
Overall, the votes were a dramatic victory for gun rights and the National Rifle Association. Only 40 senators voted in favor of an assault-weapons ban, and only 46 voted in favor of limits on the size ammunition magazines. In contrast, 57 senators voted in favor of loosening gun restrictions by allowing people with concealed weapons permits to carry them in other states.
In emotional remarks from the White House Rose Garden, Obama called the outcome “a pretty shameful day for Washington” and vowed to press on. Mark Barden, whose 7-year-old son Daniel was killed in the Newtown shooting, also spoke:
“We’ll return home now, disappointed but not defeated. We return home with the determination that change will happen — maybe not today, but it will happen. It will happen soon. We’ve always known this would be a long road, and we don’t have the luxury of turning back,” he said.
Having learned in the first term the limits of his official powers when it comes to passing domestic legislation, Obama is trying a different approach. After his reelection, he launched a grassroots organizing effort called “Organizing for Action”, building on the infrastructure of his presidential campaign machine, aimed at mobilizing grassroots support for his legislative agenda. While some said yesterday’s defeat suggests the failure of his experiment, it’s simply too early to judge whether it will make an impact.
Obama has given every indication he will keep pushing to mobilize his supporters to put pressure on Congress. White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said today: “I think we’re pretty close to a consensus on this just as about everywhere except in the United States Congress. And as the President alluded to yesterday, I think that is an indication of the pernicious influence that some special interests have in the United States Congress. And that is going to require a vocalization of public opinion to overcome it.”
But as he does so, Obama has to keep relations cordial with those same Republican lawmakers whose support he needs to pass his other domestic priority of his second term: immigration reform.
Yet it hasn’t been all defeat for the gun control lobby. Since the Newtown shootings, which left 20 children and six adults dead four months ago, four states have passed stricter gun laws. On the other hand, another twelve have loosened them.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 1:58 PM - 0 Comments
Today, the Obama administration released its Fiscal Year 2014 budget proposal to Congress.
Apparently, Canadian opposition to an earlier sea-and-air border crossing fee (inserted into a legislation on a U.S.-Columbia trade deal) didn’t make much of an impact on their policy making.
Today’s budget includes a section calling for the administration to study a fee for crossing the land border as well.
From the budget’s section for the Department of Homeland Security:
SEC. 544. (a) The Commissioner of the United States Customs and Border Protection shall:
(1) conduct a study assessing the feasibility and cost relating to establishing and collecting a land border crossing fee for both land border pedestrians and passenger vehicles along the northern and southwest borders of the United States; the study should include:
(A) the feasibility of collecting from existing operators on the land border such as bridge commissions, toll operators, commercial passenger bus, and commercial passenger rail;
(B) requirements to collect at land ports of entry where existing capability is not present; and
(C) any legal and regulatory impediments to establishing and collecting a land border crossing fee; and
(2) complete the study within 9 months of enactment of this Act.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 1:28 PM - 0 Comments
Republicans in the House of Representatives today held a hearing on legislation that would do just that in the event that Obama denies a permit for the proposed pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast..
Could they get away with it?
Maybe, reports the Washington Post in an interesting article.
Such a move would raise constitutional division-of-powers questions:
The Congressional Research Service has examined this question in two separate reports, and in a 2012 report, it suggests Congress has just as much a right to weigh in on international pipelines as the president.
That report notes, “Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution authorizes Congress to ‘regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.’ Whereas any independent presidential authority in matters affecting foreign commerce derives from the President’s more general foreign affairs authority, Congress’s power over foreign commerce is plainly enumerated by the Constitution, suggesting that its authority in this field is preeminent.”
Now, just to complicate matters, a 2013 CRS report notes that a 2010 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota found the president had the right to issue international pipeline permits because Congress had not challenged this authority over a period of several years.
Such a move would trigger lawsuits. And, of course, Obama can veto any legislation out of Congress. So is there enough support in Congress to override a presidential veto with a super-majority vote? Not yet. Notes the Post:
…on March 22 the Senate approved a non-binding resolution in favor of building the project by a vote of 62 to 37, with 17 Democrats voting in favor.
So in the end, can Congress grant a permit to the pipeline even if Obama rejects it? It appears proponents may be able to force the project through, if they can attract a few more Democrats to their side, but they would still have to fight in federal court to seal such a victory.
Full story is here.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 at 4:33 PM - 0 Comments
Alberta premier Alison Redford is in Washington, DC today to speak about her province’s energy resources and environmental policies as the Obama administration continues to review the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
She is having meetings on Capitol Hill and gave a speech to the Brookings Institution, in which she made the case that if the cross-border pipeline is rejected, the winner will be Venezuela. Said Redford:
“The opponents of Keystone are, in effect, tilting the playing field in favor of Venezuela, which would be the biggest beneficiary in the absence of Keystone. If it is not Canadian oil sands in those US refineries, it will be Venezuelan heavy oil. Yet Venezuela’s oil has the same carbon footprint, while Venezuela has little of the environmental policies and commitment that we do in Alberta. And importing oil from Venezuela does far less for the US economy and US jobs than Canadian imports.”
I asked her about reports that her government is planning to raise Alberta’s $15 per tonne carbon price to $40 per tonne as a means to getting American approval for the pipeline project — a price that environmental critics say would be still too low. Below are highlights of our conversation:
Q: Washington, DC is very polarized on the issue of oil sands and Keystone XL. So who is left for you to persuade here on your trip?
A: It’s funny. This is my fourth trip down here in the last 18 months. I was thinking about it on my way down yesterday that in some ways the conversation hasn’t changed. But this happens to be a point in time when people are very focused on this issue. So from our perspective, it’s not about a roster of people we are trying to convince. It’s to make sure that we are present in the discussion. So that as the dialogue changes and more people get engaged, we have more of an opportunity to talk about the issues related to the project.
This is an issue about Keystone but we never come to say, ‘We are proponents of Keystone and please approve the project.’ We come to say, ‘We know that in your considerations with respect to this project you are asking questions about Canada and Alberta – what does environmental sustainability look like? How do you balance environmental sustainability and economic development? What are the priorities for Canada and the U.S.?’ For me, part of that dialogue is to have thoughtful conversations with people so that they understand that we are thinking about the same issues, that our values as Canadians are not different than the values of people who are involved in these issues in the United States.
Q: What is the question you get asked most often?
A: I think that the approach that we’ve taken, which gets a very good response, is we don’t ever have people sit down and interrogate us. But what we say is we’re here to talk about what our environmental record has been in Canada. We have a commitment to ensuring that we are reducing greenhouse gas emissions; that we understand that climate change of course is real; and that there are different approaches to deal with this. You have to ensure that you are developing your energy resources in a sustainable way, you have to ensure you are investing in technology, ensure that your extraction is sustainable; that integrated land use management is important and we understand that you need to have a strong regulatory process with respect to water usage, land management, air quality; that communities matter, and that First Nations matter. We want to be able to talk about the fact we have an integrated approach and have had for well over a decade.
Q: It has been reported that you have a carbon tax plan – the 40/40 plan. Is that a part of your effort to get Keystone XL passed?
A: There are two separate pieces to this. One is that Keystone is a particular project and because people are making a decision around that project, they are looking to see what Canada and Alberta are doing around their environmental record, and so we come and talk about that. This story about 40/40 is sort of – how would I say it – it was reported as ‘news.’ It’s actually part of the work we just do on an ongoing basis with the federal government. This happens to be a point in time when Alberta and Ottawa are working intensely on what our new oil and gas regulations will look like with respect to emissions. So 40/40 isn’t a number that we’ve in any way landed on or proposed. I know that is the story out there. But that’s just a story. It’s very much around what are we doing to make sure we continue to be competitive – that we ensure that we are putting in place an integrated approach to economic development and energy.
This can never be a quid pro quo. This isn’t about saying [to the Obama administration], ‘If we were to make changes, please approve the deal.’ That’s not right. That’s not good public policy. In fact, we have never taken that approach with respect to the work that we do on environmental sustainability. So even though it’s been reported as a particular step or a point in time, nothing has dramatically has shifted. It really is just an evolution, an ongoing dialogue we have with the federal government and industry about what we can do to make sure we are still able to achieve our targets in a competitive way.
Q: So you are saying this did not come out of the effort to approve Keystone?
Q: So what was the genesis?
A: There was not a genesis. We have a minister of environment and a minister of energy who meet with their federal counterparts to make sure we are putting in place policies and approach to environmental sustainability that make sense for Canada and Alberta. So it’s not as if there was a point in time that people sat down and said it’s time to make a decision to go in a different direction.
Q: What have you heard from the U.S. administration – how explicit or blunt or vague have they been in saying, “Look, we can’t approve this unless you do more on emissions?” Have you ever heard a message like that?
A: No. I haven’t had any either pointed or vague conversation with respect to these issues that is any different than if I’m sitting in Edmonton and talking to people at a coffee shop. This is what we talk about now, as citizens of the world.
Q: Is 40/40 a specific proposal or a jumping off point? Some environmentalists say you would need $100 per tonne, or $150 per tonne to really get the remissions reductions…
A: But that’s the point. This isn’t a specific proposal. This is part of an evolution with respect to what we do around policy. We’re not negotiating on specifics with environmental groups, we’re not negotiating with anyone. We’re not negotiating on this issue. We are simply developing a policy approach — because at the end of the day, that’s what matters. It has to be sustainable. It has to make sense for Canada’s economy. It has to make sense for Alberta.
Q: So the 40/40 thing is not a policy, it’s just an idea put out there for discussion.. So at the end of the day, it could not happen at all, or it could be a different number?
Q: So you are collecting input into this?
A: Everyone is. If you were to sit down right now with industry in Alberta they would tell you they run numbers like this all the time. It’s not even related to environmental issues. It could be numbers with respect to this issue or with respect to pipeline capacity or how many rail cars they need to be able to contract to export product.
Q: Is it your expectation that at some point the carbon tax in Alberta will be raised from where it is now?
A: I don’t know. And it’s not a carbon tax, it’s a price on carbon – and that’s different. A carbon tax is when you tax emitters and use the money for whatever government may choose to do. We don’t do that. We have a price on carbon, of $15 per tonne, that goes into a technology fund that is then used to invest in projects that will allow for more sustainable development of the resource. It’s not a carbon tax, it’s a price on carbon. There is a difference.
Q: So do you expect to change that $15 – maybe not to $40, but to something else?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Is there some timeline at which these decisions are being made?
Q: So it’s been reported as a new policy but really it’s just an internal conversation?
A: Think about what politicians do every single day, what governments do. We continually try to get ahead of public policy issues.
Q: So this is an internal policy discussion?
A: It’s not even internal. We are talking to industry they are talking to the federal government, and the federal government is talking to us. This is our job. This is what we do.
Q: So you don’t have a particular vision of where this might go?
Q: Will you be discussing it here [in Washington, DC] while you are meeting with people?
A: What we’ve talked about is the fund we have in place. There are still a lot of people here who are surprised by the fact that we have legislation that has put a price on carbon. The governor of Colorado was visiting two weeks ago and I had a chat with him, and he said he didn’t know we had a price on carbon. And it’s important for people to know that.
We’re not down here to pitch a project and say, ‘Boy, if you approve this project, we’ll do all these things.’ What we are here to do is say, ‘We want to tell you what we’ve done because we are proud of what our record has been.” The technology fund, carbon capture and storage, integrated land use planning, ensuring that land, air and water are developed in a sustainable way, an independent monitoring agency that provides real time data, a strong regulatory process. These are all things we’ve already done and we want to make sure people know that.
Q: Do you expect to be coming out with in the next months or a year new steps to get closer to meeting emissions targets?
A: Well, we’re very confident with respect to where we are going already. If there are innovative approaches that allow us to do more, that’s great.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 1:53 PM - 0 Comments
Politico has an interesting profile today of Tom Steyer, a billionaire who is using his wealth to press Democratic politicians on environmental issues, including TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline:
The former hedge fund trader-turned-philanthropist is bankrolling a far-flung political operation pushing environmental causes and candidates, including his pricey effort to torpedo the Keystone XL oil pipeline. He’s increasingly drawing scrutiny for trying to take down the Senate candidacy of Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch, a Democrat who has expressed support for Keystone. Steyer is signaling that his efforts against Lynch are just the beginning of an aggressive political expansion that could target Democrats in other races who go against environmental causes.
He’ll be giving Obama an earful tonight:
Steyer and his wife are hosting Obama at their San Francisco home Wednesday night for a $5,000-a-person cocktail reception that will benefit the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The event will be filled with environmental and green-energy donors, who Steyer said won’t hide their feelings about Keystone from the president. “We will certainly talk about what we care about,” said Steyer…
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is in the process collecting public comment on their latest environmental impact review of the pipeline, which was considered friendly to the pipeline. The public comment deadline runs until April 22, and includes a public hearing in Nebraska on April 18. After State Department issues a final environmental impact statement, the State Department will have another 90 days to come up with a National Interest Determination. Other departments will then have another 15 days to weigh in, before President Obama makes a final decision on whether or not to issue a permit for the cross-border portion of the pipeline that is to run from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
And Alberta premier Alison Redford is expected in Washington, DC next week. According to the Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC think tank:
On April 9, the Energy Security Initiative at Brookings will host Alison Redford, the premier of Alberta, for a discussion on the the Alberta-U. S. energy relationship, environmental efforts undertaken by her administration, and the Keystone XL pipeline.
Senior Fellow Charles Ebinger, director of the Energy Security Initiative, will provide introductory remarks. Brookings Trustee Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, will moderate the discussion with Premier Redford to include questions from the audience.
The event will be webcast and can be live Tweeted at hashtag #AlbertaUS.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, April 1, 2013 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
As Republicans launch a new effort to recruit more candidates among racial minorities, one is already emerging into the national spotlight: a brain surgeon who happens to be African American.
Dr. Benjamin Carson is retiring as the head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, where he has drawn international acclaim as an expert in separating conjoined twins. He has dozens of honorary degrees, a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a life story that is the stuff movies are made of: Cuba Gooding, Jr. played Carson in a 2009 film version of his rise from an impoverished childhood in Detroit’s inner city, where he was raised by a single mother with only a third-grade education but the highest expectations for her sons. Today, his foundation funds thousands of scholarships and reading rooms in poor schools.
Earlier this year, Carson electrified Republicans with a rousing speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington that mixed his gospel of personal responsibility (“I came to understand that I had control of my own destiny”) with conservative policy. He advocated replacing Barack Obama’s universal health insurance with individual health savings accounts and swapping the progressive income-tax system for a Biblically inspired flat tax. (“When I pick up my Bible, you know what I see? I see the fairest individual in the universe, God, and he’s given us a system. It’s called a tithe.”)
As the Obamas sat nearby, he implicitly criticized their choice of careers—saying there were too many lawyers running Washington. “I’ve got news for you: five doctors were involved in signing the Declaration of Independence. We need doctors, scientists and engineers—we need all those people involved in government.” At the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of Republicans, he got a standing ovation for his speech.
Not all his views align with GOP dogma. For example, he opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he has influential boosters. The conservative Wall Street Journal enthused, “Ben Carson for president.” Fox News host Sean Hannity said he’d vote for him. Rush Limbaugh said he’d scare Democrats. Carson has allowed that he’d run “if the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it,” but later said the chances are “small.”
Of course, a presidential run is a tough place to start—just ask the last black Republican presidential hopeful, Herman Cain. Conveniently, a U.S. Senate seat in Carson’s native Michigan will be up for grabs in the 2014 mid-term elections, and a Carson campaign would draw a flood of national media attention and cash. According to Detroit News columnist Nolan Finley: “Carson would help a party addicted to white suburban candidates intrigue young and urban voters, black and white, who grew up looking at his picture hanging on their classroom walls.”
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Monday, March 18, 2013 at 5:06 PM - 0 Comments
Today the Republican National Committee released a 100-page report on how to fix its losing streak. The tone was blunt: the party is “increasingly marginalizing itself” and has lost the popular vote in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections, the report states.
“We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”
The party appears “out of touch” to voters under age 30, and alienates ever-more-important Hispanic voters with its tone and rhetoric. And it cannot afford to be perceived as the party that “doesn’t care.”
“Our ideas can sound distant and removed from people’s lives. Instead of connecting with voters’ concerns, we too often sound like bookkeepers,” the report states.”Low-income Americans are hardworking people who want to become hard-working middle-income Americans. Middle-income Americans want to become upper-middle-income, and so on. We need to help everyone make it in America,” the report states.
The report lays out a broad variety of steps and strategies, from cutting down the number of candidates’ debates, to recruiting more women candidates to embracing immigration reform and aggressively courting Hispanic voters from the moment they take the citizenship oath. (Maybe they’ve been talking to this guy?)
Here is the 100-page report: 130960510-Growth-Opportunity-Project
The text of Chairman Reince Priebus’ speech announcing reforms is here.
Here are a few interesting bits from the report:
- Communicating, organizing, and winning the women’s vote should be part of all activities that the RNC undertakes. Women are not a “coalition.” They represent more than half the voting population in the country, and our inability to win their votes is losing us elections. While the Co-Chair of the RNC should continue, as has been the case, to lead the effort to create and implement programs to connect with female voters and help female candidates, this effort should not be restricted to the Co-Chair’s office. It should be a mandate for all relevant departments in the building.
- The RNC should implement training programs for messaging, communications, and recruiting that address the best ways to communicate with women. According to the liberal group Center for American Progress, the No. 2 issue for female voters this election was “a candidate who will fight for them.” Our candidates, spokespeople and staff need to use language that addresses concerns that are on women’s minds in order to let them know we are fighting for them.
- The RNC should develop a surrogate list of women based upon areas of policy and political expertise. The media affairs team at the RNC should be focused on booking more women on TV on behalf of the party and be given metrics to ensure that we aren’t just using the same old talking heads. This list should not be limited to outstanding national surrogates such as Governors Nikki Haley and Susana Martinez, Senator Kelly Ayotte, and Congresswomen Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Marsha Blackburn (among many other excellent surrogates), but should also include mayors, county officials, and state legislators.
- The RNC should hire field staff within Hispanic communities nationally to build meaningful relationships. This cannot happen every four years but needs to be a continuous effort.
- Promote forward-looking positive policy proposals to Hispanic communities that unite voters, such as the Republican Party’s support for school choice.
- The RNC must rebuild a nationwide database of Hispanic leaders.
- The RNC must rebuild a Hispanic surrogate list to promote a high-level presence in both Hispanic and mainstream media.
- Establish swearing-in citizenship teams to introduce new citizens after naturalization ceremonies to the Republican Party.
- Establish a presence in African American communities and at black organizations such as the NAACP. We are never going to win over voters who are not asked for their support. Too many African American voters have gotten in the habit of supporting Democrats without hearing anyone in their community making a case to the contrary.
- The RNC should create a program that is focused on recruiting and supporting African American Republican candidates for office.
- Engage historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with the goal of educating the community on Republican ideals and the Party’s history.
- On messaging, we must change our tone — especially on certain social issues that are turning off young voters. In every session with young voters, social issues were at the forefront of the discussion; many see them as the civil rights issues of our time. We must be a party that is welcoming and inclusive for all voters.
- We also need to communicate with young voters where they get their information. We can’t use old communication tools for young voters. Technology is second nature to young voters. Using social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram is important, but we also need to be actively looking for and utilizing the newest and most cutting-edge social media platforms to engage this generation.
- Republican leaders should participate in and actively prepare for interviews with The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, MTV and magazines such as People, UsWeekly, etc., as well as radio stations that are popular with the youth demographic.
Creating a Data Analytics Institute:
- Recruit and competitively compensate talented and committed long-term data staff at the RNC. The Data team at the RNC is too small to adequately provide strong data and analysis of data for all state parties, candidates and organizations. The RNC is a national party and must have the staff resources available in this area to assist all 50 states, not just battleground states. The RNC should immediately expand the strategic/data staff to prepare for upcoming elections in 2013. More staff will be needed in an election year.
- Conduct a national road show to ensure that state parties and campaigns at all levels of the ballot understand how data can benefit them, and train them in the tools made available to them. This is essential to building confidence throughout the Party and its consultant class and getting the most out of our investment.
- Related to this concern was a strong belief that we must develop a deeper talent pool that understands and can deploy data and technology/digital campaigning in decision-making processes and targeting efforts. More active recruiting on college campuses, providing internships and scholarships, and recruiting from commercial firms that may harbor talent with relevant skills sets is critical in providing the talent for future campaigns. The RNC should strive to establish working relationships and open lines of communication with thought leaders in Silicon Valley to ensure the Party is at the forefront of new developments and trends in digital technology. The Party can and should play an important role in building bridges between its digital operatives and the best minds in the Valley and elsewhere.
Reforming debates and primaries:
- Identify a team of strategists and funders to build a data analytics institute that can capture and distill best practices for communication to and targeting of specific voters. Using the GOP’s data, the data analytics institute would work to develop a specific set of tests for 2013 and 2014 — tests on voter registration, persuasion, GOTV, and voter mobilization — that will then be adopted into future programs to ensure that our voter contact and targeting dollars are spent on proven performance. These tests should be the first order of business of the analytics team and should incorporate pollsters, data managers, and messaging professionals at the table developing a variety of approaches that would be subject to measurement.
- The number of debates should be reduced by roughly half to a still robust number of approximately 10 to 12, with the first occurring no earlier than September 1, 2015, and the last ending just after the first several primaries (February – March 2016).
- To facilitate moving up primary elections to accommodate an earlier convention, the Party should strongly consider a regional primary system or some other form of a major reorganization instead of the current system. The current system is a long, winding, often random road that makes little sense. It stretches the primaries out too long, forces our candidates to run out of money, and because some states vote so late, voters in those states never seem to count. Such a change would allow for a broader group of Republicans to play a role in selecting our nominee.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall is in Washington today to press the case for the Keystone XL pipeline and to try to burnish Canada’s green credentials.
“We’re here principally to make the environmental case,” said Wall, who has been meeting with U.S. officials and lawmakers. The premier is giving speeches promoting Canada’s environmental record and touting Saskatchewan’s clean-coal project which will capture carbon emissions from a coal-fired plant in North Dakota and pump it underground. (Carbon emissions from coal-fired plants are a leading source of carbon emissions in the U.S. “There is one coal-fire plant in Georgia that media reports say generates as much greenhouse gases as three-quarters of the oil sands,” said Wall.)
Wall said the U.S. State Department’s environmental report released Friday suggested “we are close to approval,” adding that Canada could give the president more leverage.
“We need to give them as much environmental elbow room as possible,” he told reporters at a breakfast near Capitol Hill this morning. “So to help with that elbow room, we are talking about our record in Saskatchewan.” He also mentioned Alberta’s carbon tax and the federal government’s promised emissions regulations for the oil and gas sector, which have not yet been announced.
He said Canadian advocates should shift from making economic and energy security arguments for the pipeline. ”We really need to make more of an environmental case for this project,” he said. “There is a record that I would argue that is as aggressive, or maybe more than you would find here, in terms of energy and the environment, but we haven’t talked about it much.
“If the president can’t point to the fact [and say,] ‘Look, here’s what Canada’s doing. In many respects it’s more than is happening here, and more than what is happening in many countries in the world,’ then I think it helps the administration make a decision that I think now is lacking a lot of barriers,” he said. “I think that’s maybe some of the environmental elbow room we can give to the administration to make the decision; [that is,] to say we care about the issue — and we are putting our money where our mouths are,” said Wall.
Saskatchewan doesn’t have oil sands, but Wall says the province is directly affected by the project because it produces conventional oil that would be carried in the pipeline. Without access to the pipeline, Saskatchewan oil currently sells at a discount of 19 per cent, costing the provincial Treasury $300 million in lost revenue, Wall said. He emphasizes that up to 15 per cent of the oil in the proposed pipeline would be conventional oil.
But linking the decision to Canadian environmental policy is a delicate task. Afterall, it was Wall who responded with indignation when U.S. ambassador David Jacobson gave a speech implying Canada could make the decision easier for Obama by taking more climate action of its own. Wall penned a letter to Jacobson questioning those remarks. Today Wall said the ambassador’s comments seemed to imply a “quid pro quo” exchange of pipeline approval for tougher domestic regulations. “That kind of linkage — I don’t think it’s helpful,” he said. “We got a response back from ambassador and we’ll take them at their words that is not the case.”
Wall added that Canada must do more to publicize existing policies. “It’s not a quid pro quo. This is what we’re doing already. (…) These things are happening not because we’re trying to get Keystone approved,” he said. “We haven’t done a good job of talking about them. I freely admit we should have been doing a better job in this city, this country [saying] — here’s the economic case, here’s the energy security and oh, by the way, we care about the environment and here’s what we’re doing with respect to the environmental piece of this. We should have been on it sooner, but we’re on it now.”
Yesterday, he met with members of Congress, mostly Republicans who support the pipeline. But he did have a 10-minute “hallway meeting” with Massachusetts congressman Ed Markey, a leading Democratic climate hawk in the House of Representatives. He said Markey asked if the pipeline was really aimed at exporting Canadian oil beyond the U.S. (Wall says most of the oil would stay in the U.S. but some refined products would be exported.) Today, Wall gives a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center (video), and meets with Democratic senators and Kerry-Ann Jones, the assistant Secretary of State, who has been leading the Keystone XL review. He’s inviting them all to Saskatchewan.
By Luiza Ch. Savage - Friday, March 1, 2013 at 4:32 PM - 0 Comments
Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Kerri-Ann Jones just wrapped up a briefing for reporters on the latest Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement on Keystone XL. Here are a few highlights:
1. This is not a decision:
“This draft SEIS is a technical review of potential environmental impacts,” she said. “This draft is not a decision on presidential permit application.”
In about a week, the department will begin a 45-day public comment period on the draft, she said.
During that time, State will hold another public meeting in Nebraska, where an alternative route has been proposed. Then, after reviewing comments, the department will write a final version of the report. Then the State Department will begin to consider whether the project is in the “National Interest.”
TransCanada will be waiting a few more months for a final decision on whether or not there will be a presidential permit to go ahead with the construction of the cross-border section of the pipeline.
2. State concludes that Keystone XL itself will not drive growth of oil sands production.
Asked about how the project would impact greenhouse gas emissions, Jones said that contrary to what many environmentalist critics of the project have been arguing, ”We find that approval or denial of any one transport project really remains unlikey to significantly impact development of oil sands.”
3. This conclusion is not set in stone.
“But let me reiterate this is a draft document and we are anxious to get input from the public,” she said.
4. State did not reach conclusion on environmental soundness of project.
Asked how Keystone XL would impact greenhouse gas emissions, she said: ”It’s premature at this point to come down with strong conclusions as we want to make sure we get a lot of comments on this and have a full public debate on this document.”
However, she did make a point that the Canadian government has been stressing in support of the pipeline — that the Alberta bitumen would be replacing heavy crude from other countries: ”In some cases the oil is coming in and replacing oil already in US system from other sources so the question is, so how much difference does it make?”
5. This fight is hardly over.
“We’re not going to come out and make conclusions at this point until we engage with public and get some feedback,” she said.