Trump administration lawyers plan to meet Monday to discuss the legal implications of remaining in the Paris climate change agreement, two people familiar with the meeting told POLITICO.
Critics of the 2015 accord have quietly been mounting a behind-the-scenes effort to convince President Donald Trump that sticking with the deal would pose legal hurdles.
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The meeting is expected to include lawyers from the White House, National Security Council, State Department and Justice Department, the sources said, though they said the list of attendees and timing could still change.
A Thursday meeting of Trump administration officials about the Paris agreement focused largely on legal issues. Critics of the deal, led by chief strategist Steve Bannon and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, have pushed several legal arguments, including that the Paris deal restricts countries from weakening their domestic emissions-reduction targets and that any decision to remain could be used in court to counter the administration’s bid to undo former President Barack Obama’s climate regulations for power plants.
The Monday meeting was organized after Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a proponent of remaining in Paris, called for a deeper assessment of those legal questions after the issue bubbled to the forefront on Thursday, sources said. Backers of the accord were surprised when the White House counsel’s office signaled during the Thursday meeting that it agreed with Pruitt’s legal concerns.
Current and former State Department officials strongly disagree with Pruitt’s contentions about the legal issues.
The debate over Paris has divided Trump’s team in recent months. While Bannon and Pruitt are mounting a campaign to withdraw, other advisers like Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster are said to support staying. Advisers who back remaining have taken a cynical view of Pruitt’s offensive, privately arguing that he’s trying to cloud the debate by raising legal concerns they see as invalid.
But conservatives inside and outside the administration remain shocked that the White House is even considering staying, noting that Trump promised during the campaign to “cancel” the deal.
Trump, for his part, said in a recent interview that he would make a final decision in a couple weeks. Though he hasn’t tipped his hand, he said in the interview that the U.S. is not getting a fair shake, arguing that other polluting nations aren’t forking over enough money to help countries cope with climate change.
A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.