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It’s Trump Against the World — and the President Likes It That Way

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Trump's exit from climate change accord sparks protests in US and overseas 3:07

Given all of the chaos and controversies that have surrounded President Trump’s first four months in office, his decision to exit to the Paris climate agreement might have been, well, his most predictable move in recent weeks. After all, it was a campaign promise he kept. In addition, those lobbying him to remain in the accord — either at home or abroad — probably didn’t vote for him or support him. And the groups and individuals who applauded Trump’s move were mostly fellow cabinet members, Republican lawmakers, and GOP outside groups.

But maybe the biggest takeaway is how yesterday’s climate move sets up another Trump vs. the World divide, and Trump is probably fine — and sometimes thrives — with that. On one side, you have Trump/Steve Bannon/GOP leaders/Jim Inhofe/even Joe Manchin. On the other, you have Barack Obama/Al Gore/major U.S. corporations/Angela Merkel/Emmanuel Macron. In other words, it was another Thursday in the Trump Era.

Now, does Trump’s decision to leave the Paris accord put unwanted political and business pressure on the White House? Sure. Does it lessen America’s global leadership? You can make a good argument for that. And does it a set an awful precedent of presidents upending global agreements that their predecessors negotiated? Absolutely. But remember, this kind of disruptive force is entirely within Trump’s comfort zone.

'The world is going to move on'

But when it’s Trump vs. the World, the rest of the world (and large parts of the United States) can still move on without him. NBC News: “The same week President Donald Trump put America on a rogue path on climate change policy by withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Accords, California's political leaders moved aggressively in the opposite direction. State legislators approved more ambitious carbon reduction goals and Gov. Jerry Brown prepared to go overseas to lead America's anti-global warming agenda.”

On NPR, Canada’s environmental minister declared, “The world is going to move on.” Indeed, notice what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted after Trump’s decision: “We are deeply disappointed that the United States federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.” Repeat: “the United States federal government” — not the United States at large.

Fact-checking Trump’s speech on exiting from the Paris accord

  • CLAIM: “The economy is starting to come back, and very, very rapidly.”
  • IN FACT: The economy has added jobs for 80 consecutive months and counting, and the pace of job creation has been pretty consistent since 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The economy added 138,000 jobs in May.
  • CLAIM: "[T]he United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country
  • IN FACT: Trump is correct that the Paris accord is non-binding, so that makes this second claim puzzling — if it’s non-binding, how does it impose “draconian financial and economic burdens”?
  • CLAIM: “So we’re getting out. But we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”
  • IN FACT, per NBC’s Jane Timm: France, Germany, and Italy all announced Thursday that the Paris accord can’t be renegotiated.
  • CLAIM: “Compliance with the terms of the Paris Accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025 according to the National Economic Research Associates.”
  • IN FACT, per the New York Times: “Critics dispute the methodology of that study, by the National Economic Research Associates. They note that it was conducted for the American Council for Capital Formation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — both vocal opponents of climate regulations. Economists argue that the projected job losses in the study assume the American economy will not use innovation to adapt to the new regulations.”
Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross: Trump is an environmentalist 4:00

Three big developments in the Russia story

Outside of yesterday’s Paris climate news, there were three BIG developments in the Russia story:

  • Putin said “patriotic” supporters did the hacking in the 2016 election: “Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that although the Kremlin has never used state-sponsored cyberattacks to meddle in other countries’ elections, some ‘patriotically minded’ volunteer hackers may have acted on their own to defend Russian interests,” the Los Angeles Times says. “‘If they woke up today, read that there is something happening in interstate relations,’ he said. ‘If they are patriotic, they start contributing, as they see it, in the fight against those who do not speak well about Russia.’”
  • Trump White House and Russian bank have VERY different explanations for secret meeting: “The bank maintained this week that the session was held as part of a new business strategy and was conducted with Kushner in his role as the head of his family’s real estate business,” per the Washington Post. “The White House says the meeting was unrelated to business and was one of many diplomatic encounters the soon-to-be presidential adviser was holding ahead of Donald Trump’s inauguration.” Bottom line: Someone isn’t telling the truth here.
  • Team Trump sought to lift U.S. sanctions on Russia: NBC’s Ken Dilanian: “The Trump administration was gearing up to lift sanctions on Russia when the president took office, but career diplomats ginned up pressure in Congress to block the move, two senior former State Department officials told NBC News Thursday. It's the latest evidence that President Trump moved to turn his favorable campaign rhetoric about Russia into concrete action when he took power. Daniel Fried, who served as a senior diplomat until he retired in late February, said he became aware of the sanctions effort in the early weeks of Trump's presidency. Fried appeared on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow show Thursday, shortly after the story was first reported by Yahoo News.”

What Republican operative thought it was a good idea to use that Kathy Griffin stunt in a political ad?

If everyone was disgusted by that recent Kathy Griffin depiction of President Trump, why is a Republican Super PAC using it in a TV ad in the GA-6 special election? We’re not even going to link to the ad. But if the image was horrible to the president’s son, what Republican operative thought it was appropriate to use in a political ad? Does the White House approve of the ad? What about House Speaker Paul Ryan, since the Super PAC — the Congressional Leadership Fund — is aligned with him?

In Virginia’s upcoming Democratic primary, it’s national Dems (Perriello) vs. state Dems (Northam)

We’re now less than two weeks away from Virginia’s gubernatorial primaries, and maybe the best way to look at the Democratic race is through this frame: national Democrats (for former Rep. Tom Perriello) vs. state Dems (for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam). After all, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, John Podesta, and former Obama alums are behind Perriello, while Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are for Northam. As FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten suggests, this state-vs.-national divide pretty much played out in Virginia's Democratic Senate primary back in 2006, when Jim Webb (running on a more national platform opposing the Iraq war) beat Harris Miller. But that was for federal office. And the Northam camp believes that a state-focused contest is better suited for a gubernatorial campaign, even as Northam has referred to President Trump as a "narcissistic maniac" in his advertising.