Trump’s words got a lot of attention this week, with his first major address to Congress in a joint session on Tuesday. But behind the scenes, his administration was taking a lot of action: absolving key officials of wrongdoing, slowing down or canceling regulations, and swearing in new cabinet members with controversial ties.
Here is everything you need to know about what the Trump administration did this past week:
Halted a probe into airline-price transparency. Last year, the Department of Transportation under President Obama began examining whether it was appropriate for some airlines to withhold fare information from third-party travel sites like Orbitz. It also proposed a rule that would require airlines to post baggage fees alongside their fares. On Friday, DOT announced that it was suspending action on both moves. Stocks in major airlines increased 2 percent.
Absolved senior adviser Kellyanne Conway of wrongdoing. Last month, the Office of Government Ethics sent a letter to the White House that said there was “strong reason to believe” Kellyanne Conway violated federal ethics rules by plugging Ivanka Trump’s clothing line during an interview with Fox News. (“Go buy Ivanka’s stuff,” Conway said in the February 9 interview.) The letter suggested disciplinary action. But on Wednesday the White House concluded that Conway acted “without nefarious motive,” and did not announce any disciplinary actions.
Swore in a commerce secretary with serious conflicts of interest. On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence swore in Wilbur Ross as the nation’s new commerce secretary. A multi-billionaire, Ross had wide-ranging stakes in a variety of industries, which he agreed to divest from. Interestingly, Ross had deep financial ties with three Russian oligarchs. He served as the vice-chair of the Bank of Cyprus, “one of the key offshore havens for illicit Russian finance.”
His attorney general recused himself from Russia inquiries. Jeff Sessions announced Thursday that he would not participate in any investigations, current or future, exploring ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Sessions claimed he planned to make that announcement on Thursday anyway, but it came less than 24 hours after it was revealed Sessions met with the Russian ambassador several times last year, including once in his office—which contradicted testimony he gave to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation.
Announced a special exemption for the Keystone XL pipeline. Trump has repeatedly promised that new oil and gas pipelines built during his administration will be made with American steel. To that end, in January he directed the Commerce Department to craft a plan to ensure that “all new pipelines, as well as retrofitted, repaired or expanded pipelines” inside the United States be made with American steel, “to the maximum extent possible.” But this week the White House announced that the Keystone XL pipeline will be exempt from the requirement. Because it’s already in the process of being built, apparently the project does not count as new, retrofitted, repaired, or expanded.
Ordered a review of water regulations. Trump started the work of dismantling Obama-era environmental protections this week, by signing an executive order directing the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Clean Water Rule, also known as the Waters of the United States rule. It’s a technical rule intended to clarify which types of waterways are covered by the Clean Water Act, and because of legal challenges it hasn’t yet been implemented. Trump’s order won’t have an immediate effect: In order to revise or scrap the rule altogether, the EPA will have to go through a lengthy rule-making process.