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Weekly Primer: Meet The New EPA Boss, Only Slightly Different From The Old EPA Boss

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July 12, 2018 6:27 p.m.

Andrew Wheeler, the former coal lobbyist and new acting EPA chief, introduced himself to agency rank-and-file by borrowing a line from former administrator Scott Pruitt about listening to their concerns. (We’ll see.) The term “coal lobbyist,” Wheeler added, “has been used by some people in a derogatory manner, but I am actually proud of the work I did.” Some of Pruitt’s anti-transparency steps appear to be on their way out, as are some of his loyal aides.

“Now it’s time to focus on helping Republicans in November,” said one of them, spokesperson Jahan Wilcox. He once told Atlantic reporter Elaina Plott: “You’re a piece of trash.”

Multiple investigations into Pruitt’s behavior continue.

Wilbur Ross continues to admit to new failures to divest from the certain stocks after claiming last year that he’d done just that.

An NRA lobbyist turned Interior Department official may have violated the Trump administration’s barely enforced ethics rules by participating in meetings on issues that he’d advocated for as a lobbyist just months earlier. Also, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s socks probably violated the Hatch Act; the Office of Special Counsel has opened a case file.

The Trump administration reportedly threatened Ecuador and other nations over a World Health Organization breastfeeding resolution.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai continues to ignore questions, and deadlines for answering those questions, from senators over whether his agency lied about a supposedly malicious a cyber attack against its public comment portal during the net neutrality debate.

The Border Patrol agent who, for some reason, grilled a New York Times reporter about her travel habits and relationship with a Senate staffer, is now himself reportedly the subject of a DHS inspector general probe.

Speaking of inspectors general: The acting secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs — that most contested position — faced bipartisan condemnation after telling the department’s IG, “I am your immediate supervisor. You are directed to act accordingly.”

With an executive order, and following a Supreme Court ruling, President Trump changed the procedure for naming nearly 2,000 administrative law judges: They’ll now be appointed by individual agencies — and thus subject to ideological and corporate influences — rather than drawn from a central pool of applicants assessed by the Office of Personnel Management.

The government claimed Thursday that it had complied with a court order by reuniting 57 children under five years old with their parents, from whom they’d been separated at the border as a result of Trump administration policy. Except 103 children under five were initially covered by the ACLU’s lawsuit against the government over family separation.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, seen more as a bureaucratic agency than a law-enforcement one, will now issue vastly more “notices to appear [in immigration court]” having essentially been deputized to do what’s traditionally been Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s job. Expect more students and guest workers to be placed into deportation proceedings.

Finally, border agents have begun implementing Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ ruling that domestic and gang violence are not valid grounds to seek asylum.

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