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US Senate panel approves controversial EPA nominees

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The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday approved four nominees to key posts at the Environmental Protection Agency, including one appointee with ties to the chemical industry who will head the agency’s office of chemical safety.

Senator Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the committee, said two of the nominees were of “grave concern”: Bill Wehrum, nominated for assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, and Michael Dourson to head up the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

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Carper called Dourson “one of the most troubling nominees I have ever considered during my time on this committee.”

Senator James Inhofe of oil-producing Oklahoma, the panel’s senior Republican, praised the passage of the nominees and urged the full Senate to quickly confirm them so they can “improve public health within the scope of the EPA’s authority.”

Republicans say the EPA under former President Barack Obama overstepped its authority to regulate. Scott Pruitt, President Donald Trump’s EPA administrator, has said the agency had an “activist agenda” under former President Barack Obama.

Pruitt has worked to do away with regulations pushed through by the Obama administration, and has proposed scrapping the landmark Clean Power Plan that sought to curb emissions linked to climate change. Pruitt sued the agency more than a dozen times when he was Oklahoma’s attorney general.

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Jeff Holmstead, a former head of the EPA air and radiation office under former President George W. Bush, said Wehrum is the “ideal person to shepherd Administrator Pruitt’s reforms through the regulatory process.”

Environmentalists called on the full Senate to reject the nominees. “All four of these nominees, especially Wehrum and Dourson, would accelerate Scott Pruitt’s mission to dismantle the EPA from the inside,” said Sara Chieffo, vice president for government affairs at the League of Conservation Voters.

The other nominees approved by the panel are Matthew Leopold for assistant administrator for the Office of General Counsel, and David Ross, for the Office of Water.

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(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)


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Corey Lewandowski: Who cares if Trump asked me to obstruct justice — I went to the beach instead

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Following his hours-long hostile back-and-forth with the House Judiciary Committee, President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski appeared on Fox News to downplay the most serious revelation from the testimony — his confirmation of former special counsel Robert Mueller's report that the president ordered him to tell former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to shut down the Russia investigation.

This fact increases the evidence that Trump obstructed justice — but as far as Lewandowski was concerned, it was no big deal, and he explained why to Fox anchor Martha MacCallum.

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WATCH: Corey Lewandowski goes down in flames when faced with his own lies

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Much to the chagrin of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, Democrats allowed staff to ask questions of Corey Lewandowski. Republicans had done the same thing during the questioning of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when she testified during the Senate hearing for then-Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

When faced with his own words, Lewandowski was forced to admit that he lies on television constantly. Committee staffer Barry Berke showed clips of Lewandowski on cable news shows saying that there was nothing he was afraid of talking about because he knows he never did anything wrong. He told hosts that he had no intention of declaring his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Yet, when faced with questions about

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‘Really, really damaging’: CNN legal analyst breaks down how the Lewandowski hearing was a disaster for Trump

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President Donald Trump, by all accounts, loved his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski's performance in the House Judiciary Committee testimony on Russia and obstruction of justice — as did many of the grandstanding Republicans at the hearing like ranking member Doug Collins (R-GA).

But as Lawfare Institute general counsel and CNN legal analyst Susan Hennessey stated on "The Situation Room," the hearing was actually incredibly damning to the president.

"Lewandowski was performing for the president," said political analyst Gloria Borger. "He was performing for Republicans in the state of New Hampshire. If he decides to run for the Senate. And Republicans did get an opportunity today ... to sort of shove it back to the Democrats and say, look, you guys, Barack Obama knew about the Russian meddling, why didn't you tell us."

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