A weekly outreach to our friends and colleagues in Canada
Weekly Washington Wrap
- A bitterly divided Senate nonetheless continues to confirm President Donald Trump’s cabinet picks this week. Voting along party lines, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was confirmed last night and Betsy Devos, Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, was confirmed on Tuesday after Vice President Mike Pence stepped in to break a tie vote. The hearings have devolved into highly charged personal attacks with the nominees integrity and character under assault, and in the case of Sessions, with allegations of racial bias that have stoked emotions on both sides of the aisle. US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) pointed out despite vigorous opposition from the NAACP, Sessions actually received a Governmental Award for Excellence from the local Alabama chapter of the NAACP in 2009. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin broke with his party and voted for Sessions.
- Meanwhile, President Trump’s pick for the US Supreme Court continues to make his rounds visiting lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Apparently Judge Neil Gorsuch is not a fan of Trump’s tweeting regarding criticism of judges telling Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut that he finds the president’s use of social media in this regard "disheartening" and "demoralizing." The Democrat dutifully took the conversation directly to the media and a spokesman for the judge immediately confirmed the criticism. On cue, Trump took to Twitter to criticize Blumenthal, and so expect at least a few more news cycles devoted to this very important “issue” and wonder not why so many folks are disheartened by what’s going on in DC these days.
- In pipeline news, the Dakota Access Pipeline is on the go after the US Army Corps of Engineers has granted an easement in North Dakota allowing the project to move toward completion despite the protests of Native Americans and environmentalists. According to Energy Transfer Partners, the parent company building the pipeline, the project has now received “all federal authorizations necessary to proceed expeditiously to complete construction of the pipeline” and work would start “immediately.” The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, which has long opposed the part of the project near its home, has promised a legal fight. It was only a few weeks ago President Trump signed executive actions authorizing advanced approval on this project as well as the Keystone XL pipeline that President Obama had rejected.
Flyin’ to Florida
Your former US ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, kicked off his week in beautiful Naples, Florida where the board of Mattamy Homes was meeting. From there he headed up to Washington, DC where, as usual, there was lots of things percolating on the US-Canada file.
From the Keystone XL pipeline project which took only two days into his brand new administration for President Donald Trump to revive after it languished for seven long years before the former president finally nixed it, to vital bilateral trade and travel issues, those interested in the US-Canada partnership are eager to talk things out.
And so it was that David Wilkins found himself yesterday on a panel exploring these and a bevy of other bilat concerns hosted by Politico and its famous Canadian journalist, Luiza Ch. Savage. The panel discussion was entitled, “US Canada Relations in New Washington” and in addition to Wilkins featured Scotty Greenwood, Chris Sands and Professor Frank Buckley.
A distinguished panel talks about interesting times in DC yesterday morning.
Stakeholders on both sides of the border are watching closely to see how the policies of the new Trump administration might impact everything from trade and tax policy to energy and environmental issues. In a February 6 interview with The Hill Times reported by Derek Abma, Wilkins urged everyone to well, chill.
Here are some excerpts from that article under the headline, ‘Be patient, don’t prejudge,’ Trump presidency ‘positive’ for Canada, says Bush-era U.S. ambassador:
Relations between Canada and the United States are off to a “positive” start under new U.S. President Donald Trump, according to a former U.S. ambassador to Canada who served under George W. Bush.
“There’s certainly been some pluses,” David Wilkins said of the cross-border relationship so far. “President Trump gave the green light to the [Keystone] XL within days of taking office, as opposed to the train wreck that occurred during the Obama administration, where it was delayed, delayed, delayed for almost seven years before eventually rejected.
“So I think [the Keystone XL approval is] a very strong positive for Canada, for Canadian energy, and for the [Canada-U.S.] relationship.”
Mr. Wilkins was appointed U.S. ambassador to Canada in 2005 by Republican president Mr. Bush and served until Democratic president Barack Obama took over in 2009. Mr. Wilkins is now a lawyer with Nelson Mullins, with offices in Washington, D.C., and Greenville, S.C.
He said he supported Lindsey Graham and then Jeb Bush for the Republican nomination in advance of last year’s presidential contest, but then voted for Mr. Trump in the election.
“I think the Canada-U.S. relationship is evolving,” Mr. Wilkins said. “I think, in the end, the Trump administration is going to be positive for Canada. Certainly, the heavy emphasis on jobs creation and spurring the economy; that bodes well for Canada.”
He acknowledged the “anxiety” and “concerns” people in Canada have over Mr. Trump’s protectionist tendencies and his demand to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that includes the Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.
But he said: “I would just ask everyone to be patient and don’t prejudge. We’ll see where all this goes.”
Mr. Wilkins pointed out that Mr. Trump’s opponent in last year’s U.S. presidential election, Hillary Clinton, and Mr. Obama during his 2008 presidential campaign, had also promised to renegotiate NAFTA.
“And there’s no question that Mexico, I think, is drawing much more attention than Canada is on the trade issue,” Mr. Wilkins said. “So there might well be some discussions on, ‘How do we improve NAFTA and modernize NAFTA?’ But in the end I believe NAFTA will stand and [Canada and the U.S. will] continue to have a very, very strong trading relationship, the strongest trading relationship the world has ever known.”…
Mr. Wilkins gave the Trudeau government credit for not publicly playing favourites during the U.S. election.
“Prime Minister Trudeau played it exactly right in the campaign leading up to the election of Donald Trump in not being critical of candidate Donald Trump, and I think that bodes well for Canada,” Mr. Wilkins said…
While in DC, among a number of meetings, Wilkins enjoyed an informative chat over on Capitol Hill with Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL), who currently serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax Policy.
They Said What?
- "I think it is, and I mean this with truly no disrespect, but I think you can border on being sort of quite a ridiculous figure. It is not a good look, to repeatedly and self-righteously defend your own self-interest. The media should not be the story every week. Every week in this religious sense, you make it the story. We are not the story. Listen, I love your show, but I wish every weekend you did not turn to the camera and lecture America about the virtues of the media and everyone trying to attack it. The media will be fine,” – Hollywood Reporter columnist Michael Wolff to CNN show host and frequent Trump critic Brian Stetler on the media’s making itself the story by criticizing and rushing to fact check everything President Donald Trump says especially compared with the way it covered the prior administration.
- “We’ve seen nothing where we can where — where I can work with President Bush on,” – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in a Monday press conference confusing the Republican president in which she is currently outraged.
- "Despite all the challenges we face, I remain convinced that, yes, the future is female,” – Former Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in a video released this week for a women’s conference in California.
- “…we want to aid him in his lonely fight -- his lonely fight too often on the Supreme Court -- and we can do that best by giving Justice Clarence Thomas another colleague on the bench who shares his courage and his commitment to our nation’s guiding documents. And this we are doing,” – Vice President Mike Pence in a speech to the Federalist Society in Philadelphia lauding the administration’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court.
- “When it comes down to game time, he’s the best. He’s our leader, he’s so competitive. We rally behind him,” – Patriots’ receiver Danny Amendola on history making quarterback Tom Brady who, at age 39, won his fifth Super Bowl Sunday night leading the Patriots to a breathtaking overtime win over the Atlanta Falcons.
If you are interested in the possibility of having Ambassador Wilkins speak at an event, please contact Christy Cox at Christy.Cox@nelsonmullins.com or call 803.255.9470.
The articles published in this newsletter are intended only to provide general information on the subjects covered. The contents should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Readers should consult with legal counsel to obtain specific legal advice based on particular situations.