In this April 8, 2011, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, a polar bear walks across rubble ice in the Alaska portion of the southern Beaufort Sea. (Mike Lockhart/USGS via AP)
Opinion writer

President Trump was taking heat for his role in whipping up white nationalism (he is miffed he’s being called a racist for his racism) and for falsely suggesting the Clintons had a hand in the suicide death of Jeffrey Epstein. Naturally then, he changed the subject, a common tactic. What he changed it to were other examples of gratuitous cruelty and anti-government venom.

The Post reports:

The Trump administration took its final step Monday to weaken the Endangered Species Act, a bedrock law that brought the bald eagle, the American alligator, the California condor, the humpback whale and the grizzly bear back from the brink of extinction.

New rules will allow the administration to reduce the amount of habitat set aside for wildlife and remove tools that officials use to predict future harm to species as a result of climate change. It would also reveal for the first time in the law’s 45-year history the financial costs of protecting them.

It’s far from clear this is even legal. California and Massachusetts as well as environmental groups announced they’d fight the measures in court. “By gutting key components of the Endangered Species Act, one of our country’s most successful environmental laws, the Trump Administration is putting our most imperiled species and our vibrant local tourism and recreation industries at risk,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey explained.

The Sierra Club slammed the move. “Today, against a backdrop of recent reports of global mass extinction, the Trump administration released final regulations weakening the Endangered Species Act, the nation’s most effective tool in saving wildlife from extinction,” the group said in a written statement. “The Trump Extinction Plan would gut critical endangered species protections by making it much more difficult to extend protections to threatened species, delaying lifesaving action until a species’ population is potentially impossible to save; making it more difficult to protect polar bears, coral reefs, and other species that are impacted by the effects of climate change; allowing economic factors to be analyzed when deciding if a species should be saved; and making it easier for companies to build roads, pipelines, mines, and other industrial projects in critical habitat areas that are essential to imperiled species’ survival.”

The World Wildlife Foundation was equally outraged. “The Endangered Species Act was born of a bipartisan commitment to secure a future for nature and these changes fundamentally undermine America’s long-held promise to protect our planet’s amazing array of life.,” it said in a written release. “The changes disregard decades of evidence proving the Endangered Species Act’s effectiveness in conserving threatened wildlife and downplay the profound threat of climate-driven extinction. In May, a landmark UN report found that biodiversity losses can significantly harm global economic stability and that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction.”

Even if the changes never go into effect, Trump “succeeded” insofar as he can tell big landowners and big business he did something for them. And the groups and states railing at him? He’ll tell his low-information voters this is just the coastal “elites” telling us what to do. (In fact, it’s our collective, bipartisan decision not to allow mass extinction.) You know things have to be bad when he wants to change the subject to something as unpopular as letting polar bears go extinct.

That was not the greatest outrage of the day, however. The Post reports, “Immigrants here legally who use public benefits — such as Medicaid, food stamps or housing assistance — could have a tougher time obtaining a green card under a policy change announced Monday that is at the center of the Trump administration’s effort to reduce immigration levels.”

Remember how Republicans have insisted they only oppose illegal immigration? Well, that’s plainly false. “Analysts say the public charge change could dramatically reduce family-based legal immigration to the United States, particularly from Latin America and Africa, where incomes are generally lower than the rest of the world. It also could lead to an increase in deportations, as those present with some form of provisional or temporary immigration status in the United States are denied legal residency.”

The administration is telling a legal immigrant who might, for example, seek food stamp benefits to feed her children or get Medicaid benefits even if she is employed in a low-wage job to weigh the need for getting medical care or food against the long-term risk she’ll never get a green card.

This comes on top of the El Paso white nationalist mass murder aimed at Mexicans and Mexican Americans and Trump’s raids in Mississippi that resulted in hundreds of arrests of those doing nothing but working for a living, and once more traumatizing immigrant children.

The National Immigration Law Center blasted the move and threatened to sue (along with California and New York). The center accused the administration of seeking to deny permanent admission “to anyone who isn’t white and wealthy,” and declared:

The “public charge” regulation was proposed last fall by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Independent estimates indicated it would threaten about 26 million people nationwide, directly or indirectly. In addition to targeting immigrants of color, with disabilities, and who have incomes below $62,000, that proposal would have put applications for admission to the U.S. or applications for a “green card” at risk if an immigrant uses certain public benefits. . . .

The proposal drew more than 266,000 public comments, overwhelmingly in opposition. In addition, it was opposed by leading health care advocacy and provider groups, nutrition advocates, housing advocates, corporate CEOs, and advocates for economic opportunity, children, and working families

But it is red meat for Trump’s xenophobic base, a signal that murder, inhumane treatment or family trauma won’t be the only tragedies to befall immigrants. At the time I thought presidential candidate Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) was exaggerating when she accused the president of a policy of terrorizing immigrants. In retrospect, I think she had it exactly right. When bad news or the threat of a recession from his stupid trade war stalk Trump and threaten his fragile ego, he always goes back to the source of his bond with so many voters: White grievance and hostility to immigrants married with unmitigated cruelty.

Read more:

Barbara Durrant: How a newborn rhino could help to save his subspecies cousins from extinction

Eugene Robinson: Trump’s claim that he supports legal immigration turns out to be a lie

Paul Waldman: The Trump administration ramps up its war on legal immigration

James Downie: Another Trump double standard hurting the poor and minorities

The Post’s View: ICE sweeps are cruel. Without immigration reform, they’re pointless, too.

Jennifer Rubin: Most Americans have rejected Trump’s xenophobia