WASHINGTON – Donald Trump has suggested he’ll move quickly on Keystone XL after taking office, with the incoming president expected to reverse his predecessor’s ban on the Alberta-to-Texas oil pipeline.
The president-elect made the comments in a lengthy interview with Fox News on Sunday.
It was just one remark on a news-filled weekend replete with stories about election-tampering from Russia, potential major changes to U.S. policy on China, fights over cabinet picks and the U.S. Congress passing a law that could reduce congestion at the Canada-U.S. border.
Trump brought up the pipeline himself during the interview with Fox News, while being pressed on whether his fossil-fuel-friendly administration would remain in the Paris climate agreement.
Trump said he would make a decision soon on Paris — then raised the pipeline.
“The Keystone pipeline, you’re going to have a decision fairly quickly,” Trump said. “And you’ll see that.”
After years of political wrangling, President Barack Obama announced he’d denied a licence for the pipeline to cross the border. The pipeline would have carried almost one-quarter of Canada’s oil exports to the U.S. It was delayed by protests and court fights, which could be rekindled by any attempt to revive the project.
It’s little surprise that Trump would favour the project — it was part of his platform. He’s also reportedly considering naming the CEO of Exxon Mobil as his secretary of state, who would be in charge of the file.
Oil man Rex Tillerson has long supported the project. He’s also expressed a preference for carbon taxes as his favoured form of climate policy, over cap-and-trade systems.
But that’s not the main reason his rumoured appointment drew so much controversy over the weekend. The source of that consternation was Tillerson’s years-long personal relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Marco Rubio suggested the Senate might resist the appointment: “Being a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState,” tweeted the senator, who sits on the foreign relations committee that would run the confirmation hearing.
The rumoured nomination lands in a frenzy of news about Russian interference in the U.S. election.
Several media have reported that intelligence agencies informed lawmakers that hackers, affiliated with the Russian government, worked specifically to get Trump elected by stealing emails from Democrats and sending them to Wikileaks.
The conclusion of a pro-Trump effort was based, partly, on intelligence findings that Russia also hacked into Republicans’ computers — but held onto that material.
The chairman of the Republican party, Reince Priebus, vigorously denied that the national party’s computers were hacked. In an interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press,” however, he did not confirm or deny the possibility Russians might have material from people linked to the Republican campaign.
Trump’s reaction to the news shocked many in Washington: He blasted U.S. intelligence officials, deriding them as the people who provided faulty intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
Several lawmakers from both parties have vowed an in-depth investigation of what happened in the election. That’s in addition to a quick study being conducted in the final weeks of the Obama investigation.
“Vladimir Putin is a thug, and a murderer, and a killer, and a KGB agent,” John McCain told CBS’s “Face The Nation.”
“It’s going to require in-depth (investigation). … You can’t make this issue partisan. It’s just too important. The fundamental of a democracy is a free and fair election. They’re doing this in other countries — not just this one.”
Trump has brushed off the issue.
He has suggested it’s being cooked up by his political opponents to undermine his presidency.
“They have no idea if it’s Russia or China or somebody. It could be somebody sitting in a bed some place. I mean, they have no idea,” he said.
Trump made other newsworthy remarks in the Fox interview.
He suggested the U.S.’s longstanding one-China policy, favouring the national unity of that growing powerhouse, could be revisited. He indicated it might become leverage in negotiations with China on other issues.
“I don’t know why we have to be bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade,” Trump said, listing currency devaluation, border taxes and hostile behaviour in the South China Sea as irritants.
He also made remarks that might interest U.S. military allies — disparaging the F-35 fighter-jet program. As countries like Canada debate their part in the program, the incoming commander-in-chief blasted it as an example of wasteful Washington cronyism.
“Look at the F-35 program with the money, the hundreds of billions of dollars,” Trump said.
“It’s out of control. And the people that are making these deals for the government, they should never be allowed to go to work for these companies. You know, they make a deal like that and two or three years later, you see them working for these companies that made the deal.”