Trump's trying to cram in as much damage as he can before leaving office


Trump has a long to-do list before Jan. 20.

Donald Trump is trying to implement as many damaging policies as possible in the lead-up to President-elect Joe Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration.

On Monday, Trump issued a "request for nominations" that asked oil companies to choose areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge they prefer for drilling oil, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.

"Trump is trying to lock in climate chaos and the extinction of polar bears and other endangered Arctic species on his way out the door," Kristen Monsell, a legal director with the group, said in a press release this week. "This is unconscionable. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge can't be replaced, so we can't let this lame-duck president give it away to Big Oil."

The move would also impact the indigenous Gwich'in and Inupiat communities, who reside in the sacred lands.

Jody Potts (Han Gwich’in), regional director of Native Movement, said in a press release that the lease sales "demonstrate the Trump administration's complete disregard for the human rights of the Gwich'in and Inupiat people and our ways of life that depend on the health of the Refuge's coastal plain."

"In the Arctic, our peoples are being heavily impacted by a climate crisis due to fossil fuel extraction, which we cannot afford to continue," she said. "As a Gwich’in person, I know my family's food security, culture, spirituality and ways of life are at stake."

Trump's wall is also being hurried along, before Biden takes office.

Builders contracted with the U.S. government who are tasked with constructing the wall are rushing to get as much wall up before January, when their contracts could be canceled.

"Every single day, the Department of Homeland Security continues to dynamite, to blow up these rugged mountains in order to clear a path for a wall that, in all likelihood, will never be built," Laiken Jordahl, who works with with the Center for Biological Diversity, told NPR on Monday.

"So now it's just destruction for destruction's sake."

Wildlife is also adversely impacted by that construction.

Scott Nicol, a Texas-based conservation activist, told the outlet that the Salineño preserve in Starr County — "2 1/2 acres of some of the best bird habitat" as he described it — had already been "acquired by the Army Corps of Engineers and is set to be destroyed for the border wall."

That particular sale, according to NPR, was completed on Election Day, but eventually canceled following public backlash. Customs and Border Protection officials, however, told the outlet that the land "is necessary for the execution of planned border barrier in support of U.S. Border Patrol's operational requirement in the Rio Grande Valley."

In the international realm, meanwhile, Trump is still trying to withdraw more U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan by Jan. 15, cutting the number down by about half, to 2,500, officials told the Associated Press on Monday.

Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, top U.S. commander for the Middle East, has pushed back against a premature withdrawal, warning that it could sabotage peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. McKenzie and other officials maintain that U.S. forces could also continue to suppress ISIS militants in the region.

Regarding immigration, the Trump administration is still aiming to make it harder for U.S. employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in "specialty occupations" by implementing stricter standards for H-1B visa program, Politico reported. The program helps employers "who cannot otherwise obtain needed business skills and abilities from the U.S. workforce," according to the Labor Department.

Business groups have already criticized the move. "This proposal will significantly disrupt the operations of many businesses by denying them access to the talent they need to grow and create jobs," said Jon Baselice from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, back when the visa changes were first proposed.

And on the education front, Trump has pushed repeatedly for schools to reopen amid the pandemic and has sought to redirect coronavirus relief money to parents affected by closures, allowing them to use the funds for private schools instead. According to Politico, Trump is weighing an executive order on the matter.

Trump allies say he needs to refocus his efforts on forcing these things through in the lame-duck period between now and Jan. 20, rather than expending all his energy fighting his election loss, which he has claimed baselessly is the result of a rigged vote.

"The Trump administration should be dotting its I’s and crossing its T’s on its priorities," energy CEO and Trump donor Dan Eberhart told the outlet. "The president is understandably focused on the ballot counting, but at some point soon, he needs to turn his attention back to the lame-duck session and putting a capstone on his first four years."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.