Trump’s Energy Adviser Runs Away at UN Climate Talks

The Trump administration is promoting fossil fuels at the UN climate summit in Katowice, Poland, despite outcry from climate activists and world leaders concerned about the devastating threat of climate change. Chief among Trump’s representatives at the climate summit is Wells Griffith, special assistant to the president for international energy and environment. He is a longtime Republican operative who served as deputy chief of staff to Reince Priebus when Priebus was chair of the Republican National Committee. Amy Goodman attempted to question Griffith about the Trump administration’s climate policy at the UN summit Tuesday. Griffith refused to answer questions and ran from our camera team for about a quarter-mile, retreating to the US delegation office.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from the UN climate summit here in Katowice, Poland. Protesters on Monday disrupted an event hosted by the Trump administration promoting coal and fossil fuels. It was the only public event hosted by the United States during the summit. The event featured Wells Griffith, special assistant to the president for international energy and environment. Griffith is a longtime Republican operative who served as deputy chief of staff to Reince Priebus when Priebus was chair of the Republican National Committee. Climate activists disrupted Griffith’s speech minutes after he began speaking.

WELLS GRIFFITH: Over a year and a half ago, President Trump announced the United States — the United States’ intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, unless suitable terms for re-engagement are identified. We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability. The United States is now the number one combined oil and gas producer in the world. If we are serious about eradicating poverty and providing universal access to affordable, reliable energy, it is clear that energy innovation and fossil fuels will continue to play a leading role.

PROTESTERS: Ha! Ha ha ha!

WELLS GRIFFITH: All the access —

PROTESTER 1: It’s not funny. It’s not funny. It’s not a joke.

PROTESTER 2: These false solutions are a joke! But the impacts to our front-line communities are not. We hold the solutions, and we know that we must keep it in the ground!

PROTESTERS: Keep it in the ground! Keep it in the ground! Keep it in the ground! Keep it in the ground!

PROTESTER 3: Our Mother Earth has been mined, drilled, fracked —

TRUMP SUPPORTER: Great, great, great!

PROTESTER 3: — and poisoned with radioactivity. We won’t allow it no more!

PROTESTER 4: My mother has called me on the phone to say that our home in Chennai has flooded multiple times, and then the next year said that we’re living in a drought. Do you know what this feels like? It is hard. No one deserves this kind of suffering.

PROTESTER 5: These folks over here are illusionists. They have a show, smoke and mirrors. They come here to sell. And ultimately, they’re carbon — or, climate deniers and carbon and nuclear energy profiteers. Shame on you!

PROTESTERS: Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!

WELLS GRIFFITH: I think we’re going to continue going. I think that was another example of, all too often, we can’t have an open and honest discussion about the realities. And it was actually fitting that we — we began — the interruption began during the energy access portion that we were discussing. In addition to economic growth, energy security and eradicating energy poverty, all energy sources are important, and they will be utilized unapologetically.

KRISTY DRUTMAN: Hi. My name is Kristy Drutman. I’m from Oakland, California. And I am one of the leads with SustainUS’s media team this year. And this action, we basically wanted to make a mockery of the Trump administration promoting fossil fuels here at COP24 this year in Poland, so we made a display. Everyone in the audience laughed. We did a walkout. We did chants and speeches featuring front-line and indigenous community members who are really pushing for real solutions to climate change, which involves putting fossil fuels in the ground and transitioning to renewable energy and focusing on community-led solutions to our climate crisis.

MONICA ARAYA: My name is Monica Araya, and I’m an activist from Costa Rica. We just witnessed something very backward, which is a male panel talking about something that doesn’t exist. They talk about clean fossil fuels, but we know that doesn’t exist. So that’s something that, you know, makes you scratch your head. But the other thing that was remarkable is that they talk as if science doesn’t exist. They talk as if the burning of those fossil fuels doesn’t have impacts. And, in essence, they are optimizing the wrong industry, because it was all about optimization of an industry that we know has to say goodbye.

PROTESTERS: Power to the people! Power to the people! Show me what community looks like! This is what community looks like!

AMY GOODMAN: The voices of protesters here at the UN climate talks in Katowice, Poland, disrupting an event hosted by the United States to promote coal and other fossil fuels. The action began when protesters started laughing at one of the speakers, the chair of the event, Trump adviser Wells Griffith, a longtime Republican operative who serves as special assistant to the president for international energy and environment. Griffith served as deputy chief of staff to Reince Priebus when Priebus was chair of the Republican National Committee. I ran into Wells Griffith on Tuesday here at the UN climate talks and attempted to ask him about the Trump administration’s climate policy. Griffith immediately began walking and then running away.

AMY GOODMAN: Hi. I’m Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!

WELLS GRIFFITH: I’m sorry, I’ve got to go.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell — oh, no, we came to your — we came to your report —

WELLS GRIFFITH: I’m sorry. I’ve got to go to another meeting.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what you think about President Trump saying climate change is a hoax?

WELLS GRIFFITH: Thank you. Excuse me.

AMY GOODMAN: You could answer the question. Are you not speaking to the press here?

WELLS GRIFFITH: Excuse — I’m sorry. I’m running late for a meeting. Thanks.

AMY GOODMAN: Right, but you weren’t running late when you were just standing there. So, just answer the question: What is the US doing here, since President Trump said he’s pulling out of the Paris Agreement? Can you talk about — can you talk about President Trump saying that climate change is a Chinese hoax? Can you — are you not talking to the press while you’re here?

WELLS GRIFFITH: Maybe we can — we can set something up later, with a — with our press —

AMY GOODMAN: Who would I talk to? Can I ask if you agree with President Trump calling climate change a hoax? You’re definitely giving me a run for the money here. Can you talk about why the US is here, since President Trump is saying he’s pulling the US out of the Paris climate accord? Can you talk about why you’re pushing coal? No answer on any issue? Can you talk — can you talk about why the US would not welcome the UN report saying that catastrophic climate change is imminent, and the US — the world has to wean itself off of coal by 2050?

WELLS GRIFFITH: I’ll connect you with our press folks, if you want to give me your card, and I’ll have them reach out.

AMY GOODMAN: We could have spoken this whole time. I don’t hold out much hope for you to grant me an interview. But if you could answer the question about whether you agree with President Trump calling climate change a hoax? Can you explain why the US is even at the climate summit, given that he’s pulling out?

WELLS GRIFFITH: If you’d like to give me your card, I’ll reach out — excuse me — I’ll reach out to our press…

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain why the US joined with Saudi Arabia in watering down language around the UN report?

AMY GOODMAN: Wells Griffith begins to climb a set of stairs, then suddenly reverses course, comes back down and darts past the various country pavilion exhibits.

AMY GOODMAN: Wells Griffith, can you talk about why the US is pushing coal at this UN climate summit? Can you talk about the US role here at the UN climate summit, why the US is present at all? Can you explain why you won’t comment on any issue, yet you’re here?

WELLS GRIFFITH: If you’d like to give me your card, I can do it. But you’re really harassing me. If you’ll give me your card, I can have my — we can [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN: If you’d just answer a few questions.

WELLS GRIFFITH: Yeah, I’m a little late for — if you give me your card, I can have our folks reach out, and they would give — do some questions. But you’re kind of — you’re actually harassing me. But I can give you a —

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain why you won’t answer any questions on the issue of climate change or why the US is here?

WELLS GRIFFITH: If you would like to set up an interview, we can do that. I just would need your contact information.

AMY GOODMAN: A reporter asking you a question, sir, is not harassment.

WELLS GRIFFITH: That’s not what’s happening.

AMY GOODMAN: Why not answer a few simple questions?

WELLS GRIFFITH: I’d be happy to set something up if you would give me your contact information.

AMY GOODMAN: So you’re saying you will do an interview?

WELLS GRIFFITH: I’m saying I’ll get with our press folks, and we’ll — excuse me, I’m sorry. I’m running late.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don’t you give me your card — why don’t you give me your card, and we’ll set something up?

WELLS GRIFFITH: I asked for yours. I’d be happy to set up a — I’d be happy to get you in touch with our press folks, but you’re following me around here.

AMY GOODMAN: Yeah, I just want to get a few answers. It would take a few minutes.

AMY GOODMAN: Wells Griffith further accelerates, sprinting up another set of stairs, taking two steps at a time.

AMY GOODMAN: Mr. Griffith, can you just explain why the US joined with Saudi Arabia to not welcome, to demand that the word “welcome” come out of — oh, thank you. OK. Do you want — I thought you wanted to get me contact information.

Well, we’re standing in front of the United States of America Delegation Office. We followed Wells Griffith, who is a representative of the Trump administration, formerly a top aide to Reince Priebus, to ask him about the US side program yesterday where they pushed coal and fossil fuels at the UN climate summit. And I went up to him and asked him what he thinks of President Trump saying climate change is a hoax. I asked about why the United States is here at the UN climate summit, given that President Trump — wait, I have to take my breath.

Hi.

AIDE: You can email us at this.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you say who you are?

AIDE: Here. Email at comms at climate [inaudible] —

AMY GOODMAN: I’ll take it. I’ll take — let me take the card. You’re not going to give me the card? He said someone would give me the card. Sir. You’re not going to give me a card?

So, a representative of the US government just was about to hand me a card and then decided against handing me a card. Well, Wells Griffith said they would allow us to get a contact, so we’ll just wait here and see what’s happening.

AMY GOODMAN: A formal request for Trump adviser Wells Griffith to do an interview, his office just responded: “Sorry, but due to time constraints, Mr. Griffith is not available for this interview,” unquote.

One question many climate activists have is about Wells Griffith’s qualifications to advise President Trump on climate and energy issues. In March, the publication E&E reported, quote, “Griffith’s time at his dad’s gas station is about all the energy experience he had until this past year, when he landed a top political job at the Energy Department after working on the Trump campaign,” unquote. In 2013, Griffith filmed a campaign ad at his father’s Shell station in Mobile, Alabama, in his failed attempt to run for Congress.

WELLS GRIFFITH: My parents taught me to look to the Bible and the Constitution for wisdom and guidance in life. But this document, Obamacare, this is why I’m running for Congress, because we won’t get back to creating jobs until these thousands of pages of economic disruption are relegated to the trash pile of history.

AMY GOODMAN: Wells Griffith did not win his campaign for Congress, but he has become a top energy adviser to President Trump. When we come back, we’ll talk about what the United States is doing behind the scenes here, with a top climate activist. Stay with us.