President Trump's pick to replace Rick Perry survived his confirmation hearing on Thursday — and probably will sail into the top spot at the Energy Department.
Dan Brouillette, the department's No. 2 official, was able to distance himself from the Ukraine controversy that has engulfed his boss's last days in office.
Brouillette, a former George W. Bush administration official who also worked as the top lobbyist for the Ford Motor Co., testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee as rancor over the possible impeachment of President Trump grips the other side of the Capitol.
With his wife and several children in tow, Brouillette said his work with Ukrainian officials was limited to helping the developing ex-Soviet state with technical matters concerning its pipelines and electric grid.
“I have not been involved in any of the conversations that are related to the House's inquiry,” he explaned, adding he has enough to do as deputy secretary overseeing the day-to-day work of the 14,000-employee department.
“That along with nine kids keeps me pretty busy.”
The hearing was notably amiable at a time of deep partisan division over whether to remove Trump from office for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to open an investigation into a political rival.
Perry faces questions about the degree of his involvement in the president's push to have Ukraine investigate former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, who had served on the board of a Ukraine natural gas company. There is no evidence the former Texas governor did anything untoward.
In a July 25 phone call, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to do him a “favor” and investigate the debunked idea that Biden pressed Ukraine to fire a prosecutor because he was investigating his son.
Separately, The Post and Associated Press have also reported that Perry lobbied to install new board members on the Ukrainian state-owned gas company Naftogaz. Perry's spokeswoman has said those conversations were simply part of his effort to change Ukraine's energy sector after years of corruption. But two allies of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who are both now indicted on charges of campaign finance violations, had been pushing for a similar outcome.
Brouillette said he didn't know about any of those lobbying efforts. “I'm not aware of the conversations that Secretary Perry had or did not have with Naftogaz directly,” he said. “I wasn't party to that.”
Perry has not been accused of wrongdoing and says he did not know about Trump's effort to have Ukraine open up a probe that could have been politically damaging to Biden, even though William Taylor, the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, testified Wednesday that Perry was part of an “irregular, informal” back channel to Ukrainian officials. He plans to leave his post Dec. 1.
However, Perry hasn't formally told his side of the story. That's because he and other Trump officials refuse to comply with congressional subpoenas at the advice of White House lawyers.
During the hearing, Brouillette said that he would follow a congressional request for information “assuming the subpoena was properly served.” But he added that he would consult with White House lawyers before doing so, suggesting he too would be more inclined not to come before House Democrats if summoned in the impeachment probe.
The rest of the hearing was filled with cordial questioning about the regular business of the sprawling Energy Department, touching on topics such as the cleanup and storage of nuclear waste, and the development of new technologies such as carbon capture and advanced batteries.
After the hearing, both Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) — the top Republican and Democrat on the panel — issued statements enthusiastically endorsing Brouillette. That support suggests Brouillette will be easily confirmed, just like he was did two years ago when he was elevated to his current post in a 79-to-17 decision.
“This is an enormous job,” Manchin said. “But I thank Mr. Brouillette, and I know he is up to the task.”
— Again with the birds: President Trump rallied last night in Louisiana to boost Republican Eddie Rispone, who is trying to unseat Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. During a winding speech ahead of Saturday's runoff election, the president briefly reupped a riff mocking wind turbines as he sought support for the Republican businessman.
- To quote: “Eddie’s going to cut your taxes, reduce your regulations and protect Louisiana energy which is under siege,” Trump said. “If any of these other people get in, there won’t be any energy. There will be – I don’t know what the hell we’re going to be doing. They don’t want any petroleum, they don’t want coal, they probably don’t even want wind with the windmills. Try liking a windmill when it’s 50 feet away from your house and it’s blowing and noisy and birds are dropping all over the place. No – we want Rispone.”
- The truth: Wind turbines do kill hundreds of thousands of birds annually. But so do other forms of energy production that Trump doesn't regularly link to bird deaths. In 2017, the National Audubon Society said power lines kill up to 175 million birds annually while oil-waste pits cause the death of between a half million and 1 million birds each year.
LCVAF is proud to endorse @SaraGideon to represent #MESEN. From her time as a town councilor to her tenure as Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Speaker Gideon has been a leader fighting the climate crisis, promoting clean energy, & banning offshore drilling in Maine. pic.twitter.com/foHWo8zzXG— LCV (@LCVoters) November 14, 2019
— Major environmental group backs Collins challenger: The League of Conservation Voters Action Fund announced its endorsement of Sara Gideon, Maine’s speaker of the House and a Democrat running against Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
- Why the endorsement matters: The group typically spends tens of millions of dollars each campaign cycle and previously endorsed Collins when she ran for reelection in 2014.
- What changed: The moderate Republican's environmental voting record, as tracked by LCV's own scorecard, has dipped recently to 21 percent in 2018 after running at 61 percent over the senator's career. But Tiernan Sittenfeld, LCV Action Fund’s senior vice president of government affairs, focused on Gideon in the group's endorsement, praising her “leadership fighting the climate crisis, promoting Maine’s clean energy economy, banning offshore drilling in Maine, and so much more.”
President Trump campaigned on repairing our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. But after countless “Infrastructure Weeks,” he has failed to deliver results. It has to change.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 14, 2019
Today, I'm calling for a transformational investment in our nation's future: https://t.co/mHG958ffo8
— Joe Biden has an infrastructure plan: The former vice president released a $1.3 trillion proposal that invests in repairing aging roads, highways and bridges, boosts projects including high-speed rail, and accelerates the adoption of electric vehicles.
- A way of tackling climate change: “Biden’s infrastructure proposal is closely linked to his plan to fight climate change. His campaign said every federal dollar spent on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure would also focus on addressing the impact of climate change,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “The plan includes devoting $5 billion over five years in the Energy Department to promote battery and energy storage technology. It would also set a goal of 500,000 public charging outlets for electric vehicles by 2030.”
- And a way of countering Trump: The proposal looks to create “good, union jobs” and invest in resilient infrastructure that also curbs planet-warming emissions. In a tweet unveiling the plan, Biden also took a jab at Trump, who promised as part of his campaign in 2016 to focus on infrastructure.
— And Harris proposes a wildfire preparedness bill: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) introduced a bill to designate $1 billion toward bolstering infrastructure and safety strategies in fire-prone areas nationwide and especially in her home state, the Los Angeles Times reports.
- The details: “With funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Harris’ bill, called the Wildfire Defense Act, would award municipalities grants of up to $250,000 to develop defense strategies. This could include plans to fireproof critical infrastructure and homes, evacuate residents — particularly elderly and disabled people — and improve land-use planning.”
- The plan provides money for grid resiliency: The bill would also allow municipalities to use grant funding to expand the use of microgrids and battery storage so individuals can keep the lights on if the power grid is faltering.
— Grijalva wants more information on BLM’s headquarters relocation: In a letter to Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the chairman of the committee that oversees the Bureau of Land Management, repeated concerns about plans to relocate the agency’s headquarters to Colorado. He chided the agency, which sent formal relocation notices to employees this week, for making moves to relocate staff “before sharing basic information with Congress justifying these moves.” “Until the agency can positively demonstrate that there was adequate analysis to justify the highlighted benefits of this reorganization, it should not go forward,” Grijalva writes.
— Another advisory board nixed: The National Park Service quietly disbanded an outdoor recreation advisory group that was formed by then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and that critics said was stacked with industry members. The panel’s acting director David Vela did not provide a specific reason for the move, E&E News reports, and said the decision came from Bernhardt. “It came after the group drew fire for its recent recommendation to modernize park campgrounds with more private concessions, bringing in such things as food trucks, mobile camp stores and better Wi-Fi. The group suggested first experimenting with pilot programs,” per the report.
- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment holds a hearing on “Concepts for the Next Water Resources Development Act” on Nov. 19.
- The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, and Related Agencies holds a hearing on the Energy Department’s role in addressing climate change on Nov. 20.
— “One in a million”: Steven Lindberg, a 75-year-old retired Michigan legislator, captured an image of a buck while out for a walk with his dog. When he got home, he realized the images were of a rare three-antlered deer, The Post’s Lateshia Beachum writes.