The Trump administration on Sunday continued its cryptic about-face on the Paris climate accord, with two top officials hinting President Trump is open to negotiations that would keep the U.S. in the international environmental pact.
“I think under the right conditions, the President said he’s open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on CBS News’ “Face The Nation.”
Tillerson said the administration wanted to remain “productive” and “helpful” with the other nations in the climate deal, and he did not say definitively whether Trump still intends to withdraw the U.S. from the accord.
Meanwhile, national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump would “certainly” consider an agreement for sticking with the deal if it “benefits the American people.”
Trump “left the door open to re-entering at some later time if there can be a better deal for the United States,” McMaster said on ABC News’ “This Week,” providing no specifics of what changes Trump would want.
Trump, who was busy tweeting anti-Hillary Clinton memes on Twitter Sunday morning, said nothing about the Paris deal.
McMaster and Tillerson did little to clarify where exactly Trump stands on the Paris accord after a report on Saturday muddied the waters on his intentions.
The Wall Street Journal reported the White House had signaled to environmental officials from 30 countries that the U.S. will not be pulling out of the Paris pact, even though Trump announced a withdrawal in June.
The White House quickly issued a statement saying there had been “no change” in Trump’s stance, and that he intends to withdraw “unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country.”
Trump in June seemed clear about his desire to leave the Obama-era accord — which is the first international agreement to cut down on greenhouse gas emission — because he branded it a bad deal for the U.S. economy.
But even his initial announcement left it unclear how his administration would follow through.
Trump said he was open to negotiating different terms for re-entering the pact — a proposal that leaders from France, Italy and Germany immediately shut down.
Based on the terms of the deal, the U.S. could not even withdraw from the agreement until November 4, 2020, one day after the next presidential election. That far-off date raised even more questions about how, if at all, the Trump administration planned to enact its withdrawal.
Protests erupt amidst President Trump pulling out of the Paris climate agreement
Trump’s cloudy thinking about the Paris deal comes during a two-week period that has seen him making stunning reversal on some of his signature policies and campaign promises.
Trump has recently suggested he will side with Democrats on protecting immigrants covered by the DACA policy, and that he will also lay off pressure on Congress to pay for his promised wall on the Mexican border. But Trump and several of his White House officials sent signals that he has still not made up his mind on these matters.
All of this comes ahead of Trump’s first address to the United Nations, which will happen Tuesday. World leaders will look at the address as another test of Trump’s diplomatic skills, after he berated and clashed with allied nations at the G20 and NATO summits in May.
Trump administration officials have said the President will discuss the nuclear threats from North Korea, and he is also expected to speak about the U.N.-backed Iran nuclear deal from 2015.
Trump has fiercely criticized the Iran agreement, calling it “a deal that should have never, ever been made,” and he faces an Oct. 15 deadline on determining whether he will support the deal. His U.N. appearance could give a clear idea of what he is likely to decide.