A conservative legal group said Wednesday that elements within the Trump administration are hiding evidence showing government officials coordinated with outside lobbying groups while negotiating aspects of the Paris agreement on climate change.
Attorneys for the Department of State filed court documents Monday in response to an E&E Legal’s open records request for the agency’s correspondence with lobbying groups. Officials are withholding the information despite President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the non-binding climate accord.
The agency “sunk to new lows” to withhold and “stonewall the release of crucial documents” regarding the Obama administration’s dogged pursuit of the Paris deal, Matthew Hardin, an attorney for E&E Legal, said in a press statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The move to classify the communication was made more than a year after the documents first appeared, Hardin said, adding that the move was meant to hide from the group and public what he thinks are nefarious aspects of the negotiating process.
E&E Legal also criticized Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for allowing his agency to essentially do former President Barack Obama’s bidding. Obama signed the treaty last year, which obligated the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent within a decade.
Why is Tillerson still “playing such improper games to avoid releasing records which expose the previous Administration’s pursuit of an extreme ‘climate’ treaty, one that the new Administration has expressly rejected,” Hardin added. Tillerson, a former CEO for Exxon, was a supporter of the international treaty and believed it was an effective diplomatic tool.
White House adviser Jared Kushner was also in favor of staying in the agreement nearly 200 nations forged in 2015 to prevent the Earth’s temperature from exceeding 2.3 degrees Fahrenheit.
Kushner and Tillerson eventually lost out to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Trump’s strategic adviser, Steve Bannon, both of whom lobbied the president to leave the 194-member deal. Pruitt believed nixing the accord allows Trump to make permanent executive orders rolling back Obama-era climate regulations.
Tillerson, for his part, indicated in March that he would support the deal if Trump could reduce some of the objectives hammered out during the agreement. He told a congressional hearing earlier this month that Trump’s decision to back out did not alter his previous support for the wide-ranging deal.
Chris Horner, a senior attorney with E&E Legal, told reporters in May that, “President Trump should view State’s input here with great suspicion, taking note of its record on this matter.”
“President Trump’s Paris Treaty announcement was just the starting gun not the finish of this contest, and based on State’s continuing stonewalling of our case, it’s clear they hope to reverse the President’s decision between now and when he must submit a formal letter to the United Nations in November 2019,” he added.
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