Maddow Blog | Trump pitches a highly dubious $1 billion deal to Big Oil execs

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Two months into Donald Trump’s presidency, the oil industry had reason to be pleased with Republican control in Washington, D.C. ExxonMobil’s former CEO had just been confirmed as the secretary of State; congressional Republicans agreed to make it easier for oil giants to hide payments to foreign governments; and the new Republican administration was already taking steps to roll back all kinds of environmental safeguards.

It was against this backdrop that the White House issued a press statement touting ExxonMobil’s decision to expand investments in several Gulf Coast projects. As Mother Jones discovered, part of the statement included language that was effectively identical to the language in Exxon’s own press release — leaving Team Trump and the oil company on the same page in a rather literal sense.

Seven years later, the problem is metastasizing: Politico reported this week that oil industry executives are writing up presidential executive orders now, in the hopes that Trump will simply sign them if/when he returns to the White House.

Matthew Davis, vice president of federal policy at the League of Conservation Voters and a former EPA scientist, told Politico that an industry writing exact language for an incoming president to sign is “beyond the pale,” adding, “It is not shocking, but perhaps a little bold and gross that the oil industry is writing text for executive orders.”

As it happens, that’s not the only “gross” connection between Team Trump and Big Oil. The Washington Post also reported on a recent Mar-a-Lago gathering at which the former president sat with some of the country’s top oil executives, who complained about “burdensome” environmental safeguards.

According to the Post’s reporting, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, the presumptive GOP nominee told the oil executives that if they raised $1 billion to put him back in power, it’d a good “deal” for the industry because they’d end up making more than that in profits thanks to Trump’s policies on taxes and regulations.

To be sure, the former president wasn’t talking about an actual bribe, but the Republican’s message wasn’t exactly subtle: Big Oil raises a billion dollars to elect Trump, and Trump will in turn scrap environmental safeguards and give the industry tax breaks.

This, of course, is the same Republican who has claimed, more than once, that he took steps to deliberately raise gas prices to help oil industry profits.

President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign responded to the reporting with a statement that read in part, “This is Trump’s corrupt MAGA agenda in a nutshell: Trump acting as a puppet for his largest donors — giving them tax breaks and favorable policies while working families get screwed over.”

I’m mindful of the fact that the definition of the word “populist” can sometimes be amorphous, but the next time someone uses it to describe Trump, remind them of this story. An oil billionaire organized a gathering at the former president’s glorified country club, where Trump made a brazenly transactional pitch to oil executives, whom he expects to help put him in the Oval Office, at which point he’ll fulfill their anti-environmental dreams.

A “man of the people” he is not, unless the “people” in question are wealthy Big Oil elites.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.

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