President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Tuesday that promises to speed up approvals for infrastructure projects as part of his proposal for a $1 trillion initiative to rebuild bridges, roads, and tunnels. The order seeks to whittle down the current environmental permitting process from an average of seven years for “complex” highway projects to as little as two years. It would mean that just one federal agency would serve as the point of contact for each project's paperwork. It also eliminated an Obama-era requirement for federally funded projects to withstand the stronger storms that are projected to occur by global warming.
Flanked by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Trump said, “My administration is working every day to deliver the world-class infrastructure that our people deserve and, frankly, that our country deserves."
"The over-regulated permitting process is a massive, self-inflicted wound on our country. It's disgraceful," Trump said.
Even so, administration officials and their allies heralded the newest executive order as a boost to infrastructure development. In a statement, Christine Harbin of Americans for Property, said: “We’re pleased that the Trump administration is continuing its effort to slice through burdensome, duplicative processes across government." She added, “Particularly in the federal infrastructure space, permitting holdups can add years to projects that would otherwise be improving our infrastructure and contributing to our economy."
Trump's news conference that followed the meeting with administration officials on infrastructure became a back-and-forth with reporters about the statements he had made earlier about Saturday’s violence in Virginia. Trump repeatedly said ‘’Excuse me!” while seeking to bring order to the scrum of reporters who shouted over each other for his attention. The president said that his initial statement on the clash between white supremacists and leftists in Charlottesville was adequate because he did not know the full story as of Saturday afternoon.
"Unlike you, before I make a statement, I like to know the facts," Trump said. "There's no way to make a correct statement that early," he said. He added that he did not know until later that former KKK leader David Duke attended the protests. "People still don't know all of the facts," he said.
On Monday, CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta interrupted Trump's signing ceremony in which he was formalizing trade actions against China to "safeguard our copyrights... and other intellectual property."
When Trump stood up to leave, Acosta called out: "Mr. President, could you explain why you did not condemn those hate groups by name over the weekend?" he said. "They have been condemned," Trump responded.
When Acosta asked for a press conference on the issue, Trump responded, "That doesn't bother me at all." The president added, "But, you know I like real news, not fake news. You're fake news," and walked out.