05 trump environmental policy 0109
Washington CNN  — 

The first full week of January will be remembered for the military confrontation with Iran and the preparations for the upcoming Senate impeachment trial.

But it’s been a busy week for President Donald Trump even aside those momentous events. Here’s a look at what you may have missed.

Climate regulation overhaul

The Trump administration plans to rewrite decades-old regulations to make it easier to build major infrastructure such as pipelines, which would have the effect of relaxing government efforts to fight the climate crisis.

Trump announced on Thursday morning the changes to the rules of the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impact of projects such as the construction of mines, highways, water infrastructure and gas pipelines.

Environmental activists and others have used NEPA to delay or block infrastructure and drilling projects, like the Keystone XL pipeline. In 2018, a federal judge halted construction of the pipeline, finding that the US government’s use of a 2014 environmental review to justify issuing a presidential permit for construction of the cross-border pipeline violated NEPA, among other laws.

The new regulations are guaranteed to face legal challenges from environmental groups.

Border wall funding

A federal appeals court on Wednesday allowed the administration to use a certain set of Defense Department funds for the construction of the border wall after a lower court blocked the administration from dipping into them last month.

In a 2-1 ruling, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay of a Texas judge’s order, which the administration had appealed. The case is still ongoing.

The ruling marks a victory for Trump, who has sought to shore up funds for his signature border wall. The money is separate from other funds that the Supreme Court allowed to be used last year.

The use of Defense Department funds for the President’s border wall has received pushback from numerous groups and states, which have argued the administration circumvented Congress to shore up wall funds.

US moves closer to sending asylum-seeking migrants to Honduras

The Trump administration is pushing to implement an agreement with Honduras that would allow the US to send some asylum-seeking migrants to the Central American country.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf will travel Wednesday to Honduras for a bilateral meeting on regional migration and security, according to Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Heather Swift, who added that the US continues to “make progress on a joint implementation plan.”

The agreement with Honduras, which was signed by Wolf’s predecessor, Kevin McAleenan, is the latest move by the Trump administration to force asylum-seeking migrants who have arrived in the United States to seek humanitarian protection elsewhere. The US struck similar accords with Guatemala and El Salvador, but so far only the deal with Guatemala has been implemented.

Trump declares national emergency in Puerto Rico

Trump on Wednesday declared a national emergency in Puerto Rico to deal with the aftermath of the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck the island – though he hasn’t spoken or tweeted about the disaster that took place on the US territory.

The earthquakes have left roughly two-thirds of the island without electricity and 32 of the subsequent temblors have been a magnitude 4 and above. On Wednesday, Trump approved an emergency declaration on the US territory, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist. A public health emergency was also declared by Health and Human Services.

The White House press office, which did put out a statement on the earthquakes, said they speak for the President when asked why Trump hasn’t said anything publicly himself about the disaster.

Judge shoots down Trump’s attempt to dismiss defamation suit brought by sexual assault accuser

A New York state judge on Thursday denied Trump’s effort to dismiss a defamation lawsuit against him by arguing his residency in Washington, DC, should preclude him from being sued in New York.

The judge’s ruling will allow the lawsuit by longtime magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll to move forward. In November, Carroll sued Trump for defamation over what she has said were his lies denying her public accusation months earlier that he sexually assaulted her in a dressing room at luxury Manhattan department store Bergdorf Goodman in the 1990s.

After Carroll went public with her account, Trump denied the incident had occurred, calling it “totally false,” and said of Carroll that he “never met this person.” Those claims, the lawsuit said, were “false” and “defamatory.”

On Thursday, New York state Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan not only denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the case, but faulted him for failing to include a written statement to support his effort.

Prosecutors recommend six-month sentence for Michael Flynn

Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn should serve up to six months in jail, prosecutors told a federal judge on Tuesday, saying Flynn has failed to accept responsibility for his actions and undermined a separate criminal case.

The sentencing memo shows just how harshly the Justice Department has responded to Flynn’s recent attempts to unravel his guilty plea in the Mueller investigation and says that he sought to thwart the government’s investigation into his former business partner, an abrupt turn from Flynn’s months of cooperation and public reticence during the special counsel’s probe.

“It is clear that the defendant has not learned his lesson,” the Justice Department wrote. “He has behaved as though the law does not apply to him, and as if there are no consequences for his actions.”

Flynn, 61, is set to be sentenced on January 28, more than two years since he pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators.

Los Angeles mayor asks Trump administration for federal funding to help with homelessness

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has formally asked the Trump administration for federal funding to help address the city’s homelessness crisis.

In a letter sent on Thursday, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, Garcetti said the following to President Trump and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson:

“I write to request federal assistance that would aid Los Angeles with the urgent work that our City is doing to move our unhoused neighbors into shelter, build permanent housing, and supply the services they need to stay housed for good.”

Carson acknowledged the request and signaled a new spirit of cooperation with the city of Los Angeles by tweeting, “The homelessness crisis in California has been an entrenched problem for a longtime. Per the request of @MayorOfLA & @kathrynbarger we look forward to a new partnership that will benefit our fellow citizens.”

American Cancer Society rebuffs Trump’s claim

Trump insinuated in a tweet on Thursday that his administration played a role in the US cancer death rate hitting a record low in 2017, but the American Cancer Society says that’s not true.

“U.S. Cancer Death Rate Lowest In Recorded History! A lot of good news coming out of this Administration,” the President said.

The tweet appeared to be referring to the findings of an American Cancer Society report released on Wednesday, which said the rate of people dying from cancer in the United States declined in 2017 for the 26th year in a row. Trump took office in January 2017.

Gary M. Reedy, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society and American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, told CNN that the 2017 findings are not connected to the actions of the Trump administration.

“The mortality trends reflected in our current report, including the largest drop in overall cancer mortality ever recorded from 2016 to 2017, reflect prevention, early detection, and treatment advances that occurred in prior years,” Reedy said in a written statement on Thursday.

“Since taking office, the President has signed multiple spending bills that have included increases in funding for cancer research at the National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute – though the impact of those increases are not reflected in the data contained in this report,” Reedy said.

CNN’s David Shortell, Katelyn Polantz, Priscilla Alvarez, Maegan Vazquez, Betsy Klein, Veronica Stracqualursi, Dan Berman, Geneva Sands, Erica Orden, Dan Simon and Sarah Moon contributed to this report.