Trump Can’t Block His Critics On Twitter, Judge Rules

  President Donald Trump violated the US constitution by blocking Twitter users who disagree with him, a federal judge ruled

 

President Donald Trump violated the US constitution by blocking Twitter users who disagree with him, a federal judge ruled Wednesday in a case closely watched for implications for online free speech.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said the blocking of Trump critics — which prevent them from seeing and interacting with the president’s tweets — violated the free speech rights of those users guaranteed in the Constitution’s First Amendment.

In a 75-page opinion, the New York federal judge said the users “were indisputably blocked as a result of viewpoint discrimination” and that this was “impermissible under the First Amendment.”

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of Twitter users and the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.

The lawsuit contended that because Trump uses Twitter for a variety of policy announcements, his Twitter account is “a designated public forum” that cannot exclude people due to their political views.

The judge acknowledged that even though the president has certain free speech rights, he cannot violate the rights of other Twitter users.

“While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the president’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him,” she said in her opinion.

Buchwald stopped short of accepting the request for an injunction against Trump and his social media aide, Dan Scavino, who was also named in the complaint, saying she expected the White House to abide by her “declaratory” ruling.

“Because no government official is above the law and because all government officials are presumed to follow the law once the judiciary has said what the law is, we must assume that the president and Scavino will remedy the blocking we have held to be unconstitutional,” she wrote.

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Jimmy Carter Ribs Trump Over Size Of Commencement Crowd

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 26, 2018, former US President Jimmy Carter smiles during a book signing

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 26, 2018, former US President Jimmy Carter smiles during a book signing event for his new book ‘Faith: A Journey For All’ in New York. AFP

 

 

Former US president Jimmy Carter got a mischievous dig in at Donald Trump on Sunday, telling a commencement audience at a Virginia college that he had drawn a bigger crowd than the current president.

Looking out at a Liberty University stadium holding an estimated 20,000 graduates, friends and family members, the 93-year-old Carter said, “It’s even bigger — I hate to say this — than it was last year,” when Trump delivered the school’s commencement speech.

“I don’t know if President Trump would admit that or not.”

Carter’s smiling gibe drew good-natured laughs from the crowd at Liberty, a Christian university whose president, Jerry Falwell Jr., has been a vocal supporter of Trump’s.

The quip from the 39th president took aim at Trump’s reaction in January 2017 when television news programs showed pictures of his inauguration crowd that were visibly smaller than those present when Barack Obama was first sworn into office in 2008.

Stung by the comparison, Trump directed spokesman Sean Spicer to push back.

Reporters were stunned when Spicer, in his first White House briefing, argued aggressively, and in the face of contrary evidence, that “that was the largest audience to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

The Washington Post gave Spicer’s assertion a mega-whopper rating of four Pinocchios, suggesting it should not have been a surprise that Trump’s crowds were smaller in a Democratic stronghold like Washington, which gave him only 4 percent of its vote.

Staunch Democrat that Carter is, he has not always been critical of Trump. At one point he suggested that Trump’s approach on immigration might produce positive results; he also expressed a willingness last year to serve as a special presidential envoy to North Korea.

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Buhari bad business for corrupt politicians, civil servants – Presidency

A presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, says the Buhari government is bad business for a number of parliamentarians, civil servants and

A presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, says the Buhari government is bad business for a number of parliamentarians, civil servants and security agents.

Mr Shehu said corrupt politicians, public officers, police officers, Customs and Immigration officials who hitherto benefited from corrupt practices during previous administrations were uncomfortable with the Buhari administration.

Mr Shehu, who is the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, stated this in a special feature titled: “The Real Price of Changing the Change (1)’’, issued in Abuja on Sunday.

According to the presidential aide, as Mr Buhari is busy fighting corruption, the corrupt politicians and civil servants are equally busy praying for return of the old order where they had their days illegally amassing public wealth.

He said: “The list of people who oppose the Buhari government and yearning to `change the change’ include a number of parliamentarians, policemen, customs officials, immigration officials, civil servants now rooting for other political parties, not leaving out those various businesses and platforms owned by these political parties directly or indirectly.

“The Buhari win in 2015, and the possibility of four more years have crumbled their dreams of endlessly looting the state and the growing list of achievements of the administration is not doing any good for them.’’

Mr Shehu observed that top opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) members had been granting interviews and addressing zonal political rallies talking about “CHANGING THE CHANGE” in next year’s general elections, without defining what exactly that means.

He, however, stated that Nigerians needed to be reminded of what the reversal of the achievements of the three years of the Buhari government would amount to.

“The real meaning and cost of the `Changing the Change,’ is that if they win the next election, they will not take us back to where we were in 2015, they will mostly reverse the progress the APC has brought to the nation.

“The main reason for the defeat of the PDP in 2015 was corruption. The present administration at the centre led by President Muhammadu Buhari has so far presented a corrupt-free image of itself,’’ he said.

He added that the Buhari administration had also succeeded in abolishing grand corruption at the top, as attested to by the American President, Donald Trump.

President @MBuhari’s visit to President @realDonaldTrump in the Oval Office and Press Conference in the Rose Garden.

He said the government had significantly brought down the level of corruption in the country but, however, warned that corruption was fighting back.

“Although he said he was unafraid and would not bend, the President’s concern, and fear on the part of many is that if a corrupt leader takes over, it will be happy days all over again for former Oil Minister Diezani Allison-Maduekwe who has so far forfeited 153 million dollars, N23.4 billion, and 4 million dollars and 5 million dollars in separate accounts.

“Change the Change’ would mean she will get the money back. So would the former Managing Director of the maritime agency, NIMASA, get back GBP 578,080 seized from him and the Ikoyi apartment owners have back their 43.4 million dollars; N23 million and GBP 27,800.

“The hidden owner of the Lagos cash shop may then step forward to reclaim their N449.6 million; the ex-Naval Chiefs will have returned to them the already forfeited N1.8 billion; the Governors Forum paid back their N1.4 billion and the major oil marketers, from whom the EFCC has so far seized N328.9 billion will smile their ways to the bank.

“The banks themselves will equally join the party, happily getting back N27.7 billion they `ate’ from taxes they failed to remit; the scion of the Akinjides, Jumoke will have N650 million awarded to her,’’ he said.

Mr Shehu further stated that those scammers in INEC who coughed out N1 billion would equally get the money back and charges standing against them in court may be dropped.

“But the happiest of them all will be Mrs Jonathan, who will get the first priority when the refunds start coming for obvious reasons.

“The former First Lady would not anymore need lawyers to keep her mountain of gifts, counted in huge millions of dollars, billions of Naira, hotels and buildings,’’ he added.

He equally noted that the early casualties of ‘changing the change’ may include initiatives like the Whistle Blower policy by which the government was able to recover stolen or concealed assets through information provided by citizens.

According to him, this has changed the ethical and moral tone of the business transaction space in the country.

The whistle blower is entitled to between 2.5 and five per cent of amount recovered.

The presidential aide said that `change the change’ might also result to scrapping the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), which he described as the biggest tax revolution since independence.

“The Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) now being implemented, and about which many of our rich citizens are unhappy may be scrapped.

“A recent report shows that there are four million new taxpayers, including companies and individuals, resulting in N700 billion increase in tax revenue in 2017,’’ he said.

According to him, Mr Buhari is also bad business for importers of diesel and generators because he had raised electric power availability from 2,600 MW in 2015 to 7,000 MW.

He said the Buhari-administration was targeting 10,000 megawatts by the end of 2018.

“Another formidable group unhappy with the change and wish it reversed are the importers of diesel and generators. Nigeria ranks as the second biggest importer of generators all over the world.

“Buhari is bad business for them because he has raised electric power availability from 2,600 MW in 2015 to 7,000 MW and is targeting 10,000 megawatts by the year’s end.

“Increased power availability means less purchase of generators and less consumption of diesel.

“Noticeably, they are rooting for parties that are bent on changing the change,’’ he maintained.

The presidential aide also identified other rooters of `changing the change’ campaign to include the beneficiaries of the malaria economy which costs Nigeria N132 billion and 300,000 lives annually.

According to him, this is an economy now threatened by the administration’s National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) by which tens of millions of long-lasting Insecticide-Treated Nets (ITN) are being freely distributed.

“A part of this order is now made in Aba, Nigeria,’’ Mr Shehu explained. (NAN)

New Owner Of The Panthers Really Dislikes Trump. What Does That Mean For The NFL?

Hedge fund manager and billionaire David Tepper paid a record-breaking $2.2 billion for the Carolina Panthers football franchise, and as

Hedge fund manager and billionaire David Tepper paid a record-breaking $2.2 billion for the Carolina Panthers football franchise, and as a vocal critic of Donald Trump, his addition to the ranks of NFL owners is raising fans’ morale — or lowering it, depending on their politics.

Tepper has been vocal about his opinion of the 45th president, according to Sports Illustrated. Last month at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper told a first-year business school student:

” … I did call him a demented, narcissistic scumbag. And if you look up demented, narcissistic scumbag, you’ll see my name calling Trump that.  Just Google those three words.”

When the Carolina Panthers sale was first announced, several celebrities expressed interest, including hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced in December that he would sell his principal stake after the team started investigating him for “workplace misconduct,” CNN reported. Richardson said in 2009 that his family owned 48 percent of the team, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Diddy announced his desire to buy the team in December on Twitter in a video statement, saying none of the NFL’s controlling owners were African American. “Let’s make history,” he said in the tweet.

Golden State Warriors NBA star Stephen Curry responded on Twitter, saying he wanted to be part of Diddy’s ownership group. Curry grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is a Panthers fan, Business Insider reported. Curry has the financial muscle of a $200-million-plus contract signed in the off-season.

In his video statement, Diddy said as Carolina Panthers owner he’d “immediately address” the contentious decision by NFL teams not to sign quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Diddy said he’d give Kaepernick a job with the Panthers.

In August, 2016, Kaepernick sat on the bench while the national anthem played during a preseason game for the San Francisco 49ers. He told the media he chose to sit to protest police brutality and the oppression of people of color in the U.S. It cost him his job.

Kaepernick has since been suggested as a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Tepper was raised in a middle-class Pittsburgh family, according to Sports Illustrated. His father was an accountant and his mother, a public school teacher. After earning his master’s at Carnegie Mellon, Tepper rose fast in the ranks at Goldman Sachs but left after being passed over for a partnership. He started a hedge fund management company — Appaloosa Management.

Tepper is one of Wall Street’s most successful hedge-fund managers, according to Market Watch. Founded in 1993, Appaloosa Management has had cumulative net gains through 2017 of $25.4 billion, according to LCH Investments, ranking it No. 9 on the all-time list.

Tepper donates money to charities and food banks in the New York/New Jersey area including $200,000 in gift cards to families affected by Hurricane Sandy. He’s on the board of Robin Hood, New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organization, and he gave $3 million in hurricane relief to Houstonians and Puerto Ricans in 2017.

NFL owners will need to approve the sale of the Panthers to Tepper at their upcoming meeting next week in Atlanta.

Trump has gone up against the NFL several times before, Sports Illustrated reported:

In 2017, “he inserted himself into the ongoing discussions surrounding player protests during the national anthem when he referred to players who knelt (while protesting police brutality against people of color and inequality in the criminal justice system) as ‘sons of bitches’ and dared NFL owners to cut kneelers from their team rosters.”

He fought the NFL as far back as 1984 when he owned the USFL’s New Jersey Generals: “Trump was part of the USFL’s anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL in 1986 that the upstart league won in name only, getting a judgment of $1 and ultimately folding the USFL.”

Trump tried unsuccessfully to buy the Buffalo Bills in 2014 — he was outbid by the Pegulas. “He  reportedly started a seemingly grassroots campaign to foil Jon Bon Jovi’s plans to purchase the team.”

No one can be sure yet what kind of NFL owner Tepper will be, Jonathan Jones reported in Sports Illustrated.

Tepper owns a 5 percent stake in the Steelers but that gave him little say with the owners — the Rooney family. He will sell his Pittsburgh stake upon purchasing the Panthers, Jones wrote.

Hints on how Tepper deals with employees and opponents may lie in this 2010 New York Magazine feature about his firm, which earned $7.5 billion by betting on the government to bail out the big banks in 2009:

He bought a mansion in the Hamptons that had been owned by the ex-wife of the man who passed him over for a partnership at Goldman. He has a ‘cartoonishly huge’ set of brass testicles on a plaque with the words ‘The Most Valuable Set of All Time’ on display in his office. An unnamed former employee said he had stuff thrown at him by Tepper and described his personality ‘like Jekyll and Hyde.’

Those personality traits—and wall adornments—may follow him to Carolina. What seems certain is that his feud with Trump, one of the NFL’s biggest agitators, will soon be set for another round.”

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N. Korea Threatens To Scrap Trump Summit

This April 20, 2018 picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 21, 2018 shows

North Korea's Kim Says No More Nuclear, Missile Tests
This April 20, 2018 picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 21, 2018 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un delivering a speech while attending the Third Plenary Meeting of the Seventh Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang. KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

 

North Korea threatened Wednesday to cancel a much-anticipated and unprecedented summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, the South’s Yonhap news agency reported.

Pyongyang also cancelled high-level talks due Wednesday with Seoul over the Max Thunder joint military exercises between the US and the South, Yonhap said citing the North’s official news agency KCNA.

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Controversy Trails Trump’s Invitee Pastor At US Embassy Opening

US President Donald Trump                                 

US President Donald Trump                                                                                        Nicholas Kamm / AFP

 

A Christian minister who has disparaged Jews, Muslims and gays faced criticism as US President Donald Trump’s administration invited him to lead a prayer Monday at the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist preacher in Dallas, Texas, has been a staunch Trump supporter since the billionaire businessman’s 2016 campaign.

But his past comments, in which he has said Jews will suffer for eternity in hell, were being seen as a rather extraordinary position for someone offering such a public prayer in the Jewish state.

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, expressed his opposition to Jeffress addressing the embassy ceremony.

“Robert Jeffress says ‘you can’t be saved by being a Jew,’ and ‘Mormonism is a heresy from the pit of hell.’ He’s said the same about Islam,” Romney, who is currently a candidate for US Senate, said late Sunday on Twitter.

“Such a religious bigot should not be giving the prayer that opens the United States Embassy in Jerusalem.”

Jeffress responded with a tweet of his own, saying “historic Christianity has taught for 2,000 years that salvation is through faith in Christ alone,” and that such a position, embraced by millions of evangelical Christians, “is neither bigoted nor newsworthy.”

The White House on Monday sought to distance itself from the pastor, with spokesman Raj Shah saying he did not know who invited Jeffress to give an embassy blessing.

Asked directly about Jeffress’s past statements, Shah said “I haven’t seen those remarks, but obviously those aren’t remarks that the president agrees with.”

Jeffress campaigned with Trump in 2016 and his influence was key to Trump winning an overwhelming majority of the evangelical vote. Last October the president called Jeffress a “wonderful man.”

Several offending Jeffress comments — including his declaration that homosexuality is a “perversion” — come from a 2010 interview to a religious broadcaster.

On Monday Jeffress steered clear of such language, but he offered full-throated praise of Trump.

“We thank you every day that you have given us a president who boldly stands on the right side of history, but more importantly stands on the right side of you, O God, when it comes to Israel.”

Jeffress was not the only controversial figure to address the embassy event.

Another pastor who offered prayers was John Hagee, a mega-church leader who once said Adolf Hitler was sent by God to hasten the desire of Jews to return to Israel.

AFP

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Palestinians rally in Gaza for funeral of scores killed by Israeli troops

Palestinians rallied in Gaza on Tuesday for the funerals of scores of people killed by Israeli troops a day earlier,

Palestinians rallied in Gaza on Tuesday for the funerals of scores of people killed by Israeli troops a day earlier, while on the Gaza-Israel border, Israeli forces took up positions to deal with the expected final day of a Palestinian protest campaign.

Monday’s violence on the border, which took place as the U. S. opened its new embassy in Jerusalem, was the bloodiest for Palestinians since the 2014 Gaza conflict.

The death toll rose to 60 overnight after an eight-month-old baby died from tear gas that her family said she inhaled at a protest camp on Monday.

No fewer than 2,200 Palestinians were also injured by gunfire or tear gas.

Palestinian leaders have called Monday’s events a massacre, and the Israeli tactic of using live fire against the protesters has drawn worldwide concern and condemnation.

Israel has said it is acting in self-defence to defend its borders and communities.

Its main ally the U. S. has backed that stance, with both saying that Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the coastal enclave, instigated the violence.

There were fears of further bloodshed on Tuesday as Palestinians planned a further protest to mark the “Nakba”, or “Catastrophe”.

That is the day Palestinians lament the creation of Israel in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes in violence culminating in war between the newly created Jewish state and its Arab neighbours in 1948.

A six-week campaign of border protests dubbed “The Great March of Return” has revived calls for refugees to have the right of return to their former lands, which now lie inside Israel.

It was unclear whether large crowds would turn up at the border on Tuesday for the climax to the campaign after the heavy fatalities suffered on Monday.

Palestinian medical officials say that 104 Gazans have now died since the start of the protests on March 30.

No Israeli casualties have been reported.

Israeli troops deployed along the border again on Tuesday.

The area was relatively quiet early in the day, with many Gazans at the funerals. Protesters are expected to go to the border later.

In Geneva, the UN human rights office condemned what it called the “appalling deadly violence” by Israeli forces and said it was extremely worried about what might happen later.

UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville said Israel had a right to defend its borders according to international law, but lethal force must only be used a last resort, and was not justified by Palestinians approaching the Gaza fence.

No fewer than two million people are crammed into the narrow Gaza Strip, which is blockaded by Egypt and Israel and suffering a humanitarian crisis.

At the Gaza hospital where the body of eight-month-old Laila al-Ghandour was being prepared for burial, her grandmother said the child was at one of the tented protest encampments that have been set up a few hundred yards inside the border.

“We were at the tent camp east of Gaza when the Israelis fired lots of tear gas,” Heyam Omar said.

“Suddenly my son cried at me that Lolo was weeping and screaming. I took her further away.

“When we got back home, the baby stopped crying and I thought she was asleep. I took her to the children’s hospital and the doctor told me she was martyred (dead).”

Most of the protesters stay around the tent camps, but groups of youths have ventured closer to the no-go zone along the fence, risking live fire from Israeli troops to roll burning tyres and throw stones.

Some have flown kites carrying containers of petrol that have spread fires on the Israeli side.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered a general strike across the Palestinian Territories on Tuesday and three days of national mourning.

(Reuters/NAN)

US Embassy in Jerusalem opens Monday

NAN The US Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem will be dedicated on Monday, May 14, 2018, the Department of State

NAN

The US Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem will be dedicated on Monday, May 14, 2018, the Department of State has announced.

The Office of the Spokesperson for the Department said it was proud to announce the dedication adding Amb. David Friedman would preside over the dedication ceremony.

It added that Deputy Secretary John Sullivan would lead the Presidential Delegation to the historic opening along with Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin.

Other members of the presidential delegation are Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Adviser Ivanka Trump, and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt.

“As the President stated on December 6, 2017, the historic opening of our embassy recognizes the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the seat of its government.

“Seventy years ago, the United States, under President Harry S. Truman, became the first nation to recognize the State of Israel.

“Moving our Embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal; rather it is a necessary condition for it.

“We are not taking a position on final status issues, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, nor on the resolution of contested borders,” the department said.

It added that Consulate General Jerusalem would continue to operate as an independent mission with an unchanged mandate responsible for U.S. relations with the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority.

The department said: “The United States continues to support the status quo with regard to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount.

“The Administration is firmly committed to pursuing a lasting and comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians that promises a brighter future for both”.

While in Jerusalem as the Head of Delegation, Sullivan would also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General Yuval Rotem, and members of both U.S. Embassy and Consulate General staff.

The Department would livestream the Dedication Ceremony on www.state.gov and Facebook.com/usdos, it said.

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Ford’s rejection of Michael Cohen offer prompts Mueller inquiry

Subscribe According to a report from the Wall Street Journal (sub. required), Michael Cohen, personal attorney to President Donald Trump,

According to
a report from the Wall Street Journal (sub. required), Michael Cohen, personal attorney to President Donald Trump, offered to provide consulting services to
Ford.
Reuters reports that Cohen touted his close connection to Trump when he made the consulting offer in January of 2017, but his overture was quickly rejected before any specific fees were discussed, according to a person briefed on the matter.

Even though Ford declined to work with Cohen, the office of Robert Mueller, special counsel in the Russia probe, learned of Cohen's contact with Ford and asked the automaker for information and records about the offer. Mueller has interviewed Ford's head of government affairs Ziad Ojakli, reports WSJ.

This report comes after news that AT&T, the second largest wireless carrier in the United States, paid Essential Consultants LLC, a firm set up by Cohen, a total of $600,000 in 2017 for advice on navigating “a wide range of issues,” including its proposed $85 billion merger with Time Warner. Trump's administration opposes the merger.

Essential Consultants is the same entity Cohen used to pay Stormy Daniels a fee of $130,000 days before the 2016 presidential election as part of a nondisclosure agreement that barred her from discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Trump. He denies any encounter took place.

Following Trump's election, corporations have paid Cohen at least $2.95 million through Essential Consultants, the
Washington Post reported, citing figures confirmed by the companies. Cohen is currently under federal investigation after a referral from Mueller's team resulted in a search of his offices and hotel room.

This story includes information reported by Reuters.

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Trump biofuel policy overhaul to include fewer refinery waivers

Subscribe The Trump administration will scale back the use of biofuels waivers for small refineries and count ethanol exports toward

The Trump administration will scale back the use of
biofuels waivers for small refineries and count
ethanol exports toward federal biofuels usage quotas as part of a broad overhaul of the nation's renewable fuel policy, a source briefed on the plans said on Friday.

The changes are aimed at easing tensions between the oil and corn industries, rivals that have been clashing for months over the future of the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard — a law that requires refiners to add increasing amounts of biofuels into the nation's gasoline and
diesel.

While the RFS has helped farmers by creating a 15 billion gallon a year market for corn-based ethanol, oil refiners have increasingly complained that complying with the law costs them a fortune and threatens the very blue-collar jobs President Donald Trump has promised to protect.

After hosting several meetings between representatives of the corn and refining industries, the administration is in the “last stages” of formally proposing changes to the biofuels law intended to appease both sides, the source said on Friday.

A White House announcement is imminent, the source said, but did not have a timetable. The changes would be subject to the federal rule-making process, added the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The biofuels changes include cutting back on the number of waivers that the
Environmental Protection Agency can provide to small refiners to free them from the regulation, and to ensure that any waived obligations are redistributed to other refiners.

The
EPA is required by the RFS to provide such waivers to refineries of less than 75,000 barrels per day in capacity that can prove that complying with the RFS would cause them “disproportionate economic hardship,” but the agency has broad discretion over assessing the applications.

In recent months, the EPA has granted more than two dozen such waivers in an effort to help the refining industry cope with the RFS – about triple the typical level under past administrations – angering the corn lobby, which argued the exemptions are reducing overall demand for ethanol.

Reuters has reported that the recent EPA waivers have gone to refineries belonging to companies like the large and highly-profitable Andeavor and to CVR Energy, owned by billionaire Trump ally Carl Icahn.

The source did not say by how much the waiver program would be reduced, but said that the administration was committed to ensuring that any waivers provided do not have the effect of reducing the amount of biofuels blended in a given year – something that would be accomplished by redistributing waived blending obligations to other refineries.

Republican Senator Tom Barraso, who represents Wyoming, home to several smaller refineries, said he would “oppose any agreement that would make it more difficult for small refineries to obtain hardship relief in the future.”

Another change will be to allow exports of biofuels like ethanol to count toward the annual biofuels volume mandates under the RFS – which could ease the burden on domestic refiners by reducing the amounts they would have to blend domestically.

Biofuels groups have strongly opposed the idea, saying it could spark trade tensions and goes against the RFS' intent to increase domestic use of biofuels.

Counting exports toward the annual volumes mandates would be achieved by allowing such shipments to qualify for tradable government-issued biofuels credits that must be turned in to EPA each year to prove compliance with the RFS.

The Trump administration's tweaks to the RFS would also include temporarily lifting restrictions on selling a certain kind of higher-ethanol blend gasoline in the summer, called E15, according to the source.

Trump has already publicly stated his support for such a move, which has been long sought by the corn lobby because it would theoretically expand the market for biofuels.

Sales of E15 are currently banned in the summer over worries that it could increase smog – but the biofuels industry, and numerous scientific studies, show that E15 is little different from the currently approved blends in that regard.

The White House and EPA did not immediately respond to request for comment about the proposed changes to the RFS.

Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw and Chris Prentice.

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