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As national crises rage, Trump quietly delivers key conservative policy goals

As the November presidential election approaches, the Trump administration has been delivering on campaign promises to roll back environmental regulations, reduce legal immigration and eliminate financial protections. Yamiche Alcindor joins Amna Nawaz to discuss the details of these policy shifts -- and how Trump hopes they will give conservatives "something to feel good about."

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  • Amna Nawaz:

    Over the last few months, the global pandemic and worldwide protests for racial justice have dominated headlines.

    But at the same time, the Trump administration has been pushing through its campaign promises to roll back environmental regulations, scale back immigration, and scrap financial protections.

    President Trump held an event on the South Lawn today to tout his progress.

  • President Donald Trump:

    Before I came into office, American workers were smothered by a merciless avalanche of wasteful and expensive and intrusive federal regulation.

    These oppressive, burdensome mandates were a stealth tax on our people, slashing take-home pay, suppressing innovation, surging the costs of goods, and shipping millions of American jobs overseas. We ended this regulatory assault on the American worker, and we launched the most dramatic regulatory relief campaign in American history, by far.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    We want to take a step back now and take a deeper look at some those big policy shifts over the last few weeks.

    For that, I'm joined by our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

    Yamiche, it's good to see you.

    Let's start with what we reported just yesterday on the president rolling back a longstanding environmental regulation. What exactly happened there?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, we're really living through a chaotic and historic time, and the president has been laser-focused on trying to get conservative wins and really ticking off a conservative to-do list.

    And in that, what we saw was the president reversing some 100 environmental rules. So, just yesterday, he focused on the National Environmental Policy Act. Now, this is a policy that dates back 50 years. President Richard Nixon signed this law.

    And what it said was that federal agencies were required to look at how an infrastructure project would impact the environment and the climate before approving a project. President Trump said this was too much red tape. It led to a lot of delays, he said, for things like highways and pipelines and power plants. And, as a result, he's doing away with that rule.

    Opponents of the president's actions say that this is really bad, because communities, including low-income communities, they won't have a say on whether or not things like a highway rips through their neighborhoods, and maybe hurts the environment around them.

    But the president is adamant that deregulation is a top priority for him. And even today, of course, he's in the White House — on the White House lawn talking about how deregulation was a key part of why he should be reelected and why he felt like he was doing all the things that conservatives elected him to do.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yamiche, you just mentioned some 100 other environmental regulations? What else should people know about?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, the president has really been taking off so many things when it comes to environmental deregulation.

    But I want to focus on two. The first has to do with commercial fishing. This is an Obama era rule that was created. It was about 5,000 miles about 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. President Obama said that there should be no commercial fishing in that area. Environmentalists said that was to protect animals like whales and others from being hurt.

    But commercial fishermen really pushed back on that and said that this was about their livelihood. President Trump is now saying that that fishing can continue on, and that people should be allowed to fish in that area.

    The second thing I want to point to is another Obama era rule. And this had to do with Alaskan bears and how animals in Alaska can be hunted. So, the Obama administration said that you should not be allowed to bait grizzly bears with things like bacon-soaked doughnuts, or you shouldn't also be able to blind hibernating mother bears or their cubs and then shoot them, or even shoot swimming caribou.

    But the Trump administration is saying all of those things should be allowed. So, they're rolling back that policy. And hunters say that this is a good thing for them, because they see this as an infringement on their rights.

    But environmentalists say that this is really cruel to the animals and that the Trump administration is allowing things that are inhumane to happen to these animals.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So, there's another central campaign pledge from President Trump, and that was to reform immigration and our immigration system.

    What has he been doing, and what's the administration been doing on that front?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, of course, the president has made immigration a central part of his administration. And it is a central part of his reelection campaign.

    So, in this regard, the president has been looking at building the wall on the southern border. And the head of the Department of Homeland Security said that they are going to be bypassing some 26 or more environmental rules as they seek to build more and more of the wall.

    And, as a result, things like the Clean Water Act and other things are not going to be things that they're going to be looking at as they try to put new barrier up on the southern border.

    Opponents of this say that this is going to really hurt communities, it's going to hurt the environment to try to get this goal that President Trump has.

    Another thing that the president and the Trump administration is doing is looking at asylum seekers. So there's been a lot of talk from President Trump about illegal immigration, but this is targeting legal immigration.

    And in this case, they're using the coronavirus pandemic and saying that asylum seekers might be denied asylum in the United States if they're seen as a public health risk. That could mean that they went through a country that has an outbreak of the coronavirus.

    It is, of course, important to note that the United States is leading when it comes to coronavirus cases. And there are opponents of the president who say that this is really the president chipping away at legal immigration. He's done so much when it comes to asylum seekers, including making them remain in Mexico, as we have noted on this show.

    But this is focusing specifically on asylum seekers and their health.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    And, Yamiche, you have been tracking a number of other underreported policy changes in the last several weeks.

    What else do people need to know about? What else has changed?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    One other big change that happened is that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, they're doing away with this Obama era rule that said that these payday lenders — these are, of course, short-term high-interest loans that people take out if they're in need — that they — that these lenders will no longer have to look at whether or not the people they're taking out these loans, whether or not they will be able to pay these loans back, so looking at their income and their ability to pay back.

    Opponents of the president's actions say that this is going to put a low-income people and people of color and single parents, a lot of the people who take out these loans, that it's going to put them in a cycle of debt, because they're not going to be able to pay back these loans.

    And, as a result, they're going to have to take out another loan to pay that loan back. But people who are supportive of the president's rules and his changes, they say that this is going to allow more credit to be accessed to low-income people who need it.

    It is a controversial rule. It's something that Senator Elizabeth Warren pushed for to get, and now she's blasting the Trump administration for doing away with it.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yamiche, when you look at the body of all these decisions, all these changes, what can you tell us about why President Trump is making these moves?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    President Trump is focused on trying to give conservatives something that they feel good about.

    So the president has been facing all sorts of backlash on his handling of the coronavirus. Just recently, the Republican governor, Larry Hogan, put out a pretty scathing op-ed, where he said that the president is not taking care of governors all across this country. But, in this case, these rules are meant to kind of throw a little red meat to the base.

    Something else that's important is that this is all happening as the president is changing up his own administration and changing up his own campaign. In this case, he got a new campaign manager. And that's, in some ways, hinting at the fact that he's worried about his standing in the race, as we see polls in battleground states showing that the president is behind Joe Biden.

    Another thing to note is that the president is really trying to make sure that conservatives feel that he is being loyal to the things that he promised. This — deregulation was a big thing that the president promised, including judicial nominees.

    And he's — he has done some of these things that makes conservatives feel like, even if I don't like the brashness and the tweets, the president is in some ways doing what conservatives want him to do.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    All with just months to go before the election.

    That is our White House correspondent, Yamiche Alcindor.

    Thanks, Yamiche.

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