WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has signed a wide-ranging public lands bill that creates five new national monuments and expands several national parks.
The legislation enacted Tuesday also permanently adds 1.3 million acres of new wilderness and reauthorizes the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which supports conservation and outdoor recreation projects nationwide. It’s the largest public lands bill Congress has considered in a decade, and it won large bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate.
More than 100 land and water conservation bills were combined to designate more than 350 miles of river as wild and scenic. Nearly 700,000 acres of new recreation and conservation areas were also created under the measure.
The new law also withdraws 370,000 acres in Montana and Washington state from mineral development.
White House Considering Derek Kan For Federal Reserve Board Seat
The White House is considering Derek Kan, an undersecretary at the Department of Transportation, for one of two open seats on the Federal Reserve Board, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Kan, who has been a senior adviser to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao since 2017, has served on the board of directors for Amtrak and was previously general manager of ride-hailing company Lyft Inc. He earned his MBA from Stanford University and studied economic history at the London School of Economics, according to a profile on the Department of Transportation website.
President Donald Trump has struggled to find candidates for the Fed that are acceptable to the senators who vote to confirm them. Trump has named four people for the two open seats on the board of governors. None of them has made it through the Senate, raising questions about the White House vetting process for his picks.
The White House declined immediate comment.
(Reporting by Bloomberg News)
Trump Nominates Patrick Shanahan To Secretary Of Defense
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will nominate Patrick Shanahan to be his second secretary of defense.
The former Boeing executive has been leading the Pentagon as acting secretary since Jan. 1, a highly unusual arrangement for arguably the most sensitive Cabinet position.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said “Shanahan has proven over the last several months that he is beyond qualified to lead the Department of Defense, and he will continue to do an excellent job.”
Shanahan, who is 56, has a depth of experience in the defense industry but little in government.
He replaced former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, a retired Marine general, who quit in December after clashing with Trump over the president’s call to withdraw American troops from Syria.
By nominating former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan to possibly permanently replace famed former Marine Gen. James Mattis as secretary of defense, President Trump may have found a like-minded advocate for the U.S. weapons industry.
Shanahan is a controversial choice. During Shanahan’s two-year stint as Mattis’s deputy defense secretary, Boeing has landed a series of lucrative military contracts worth $20 billion, on top of the Chicago company’s previous deal to build aerial-refueling tankers and naval fighters for the Pentagon.
Mattis’ resignation on Thursday came one day after Trump announced, via Twitter, that the terror group known as Islamic State is no longer a threat and the United States will withdraw all 2,000 of its troops from Syria.
Trump reportedly made his decision to quit Syria during a Dec. 14 phone call with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is eager to attack Kurdish groups in northern Syria who are strong allies of the United States. “You know what? It’s yours,” Trump reportedly said of Syria. He had a similar call with Erdogan on Sunday.
Lt. Col. Joe Buccino, a spokesperson for Shanahan, sent the following statement to the Daily Beast: “Mr. Shanahan is recused from any DoD decisions impacting Boeing, and the Department’s legal advisors have a screening process to ensure that Boeing-related issues are not routed to Mr. Shanahan. While the details of the Department’s FY2020 budget request remain pre-decisional, the screening process was in place throughout the budget review to ensure that any DoD programmatic decisions impacting Boeing were neither made nor influenced by Mr. Shanahan.”
Experts have warned that Islamic State is rebuilding in the Middle East. The Taliban likewise have gained strength in recent months. A U.S. pullout in Afghanistan could undermine peace talks with the Taliban. “I believe the Taliban will see this as a reason to stall,” said Bill Roggio, an Afghanistan analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C.
In his resignation letter, Mattis rebuked Trump for his flippant treatment of America’s allies. “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held,” Mattis wrote, adding that he would stay on until February to help with a smooth transition.
It’s unclear whether Shanahan would urge Trump to be more respectful of America’s alliances. But Shanahan’s statements on ISIS, during his confirmation, seem to contradict Trump’s own position.
“I would consider success in defeating ISIS to be when the threat the group poses has been degraded to a point where it is localized and periodic and when it can be addressed as a law-enforcement issue by partner nations and forces without extensive assistance from the United States,” Shanahan said.
But in Shanahan, he does have someone who is likely to share his interest in business. Trump has ordered diplomats to prioritize foreign sales of American-made arms. “Patrick has a long list of accomplishments while serving as Deputy, & previously Boeing,” Trump tweeted. “He will be great!”
(Reporting by Associated Press and The Daily Beast)
US Imposes New Sanctions On Iran As Tensions Escalate
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States is announcing new sanctions on Iran as tensions escalate between Washington and Tehran.
President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Wednesday announced new sanctions targeting Iran’s steel, aluminum, copper and iron sectors, which provide foreign currency earnings for Iran’s crippled economy.
Earlier Wednesday, Iran threatened to enrich its uranium stockpile closer to weapons-grade levels in 60 days if world powers fail to negotiate new terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. Trump pulled out of the deal a year ago, but European and other nations stayed in.
Iran’s move comes at a sensitive moment in the region.
The White House said it dispatched the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf over what it described as a new threat from Iran.
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