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Virginia Governor Defies Trump on Paris Climate Deal, Pushes Investments in Solar & Wind

StoryNovember 20, 2017
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At the U.N. climate summit in Bonn, Germany, a number of U.S. senators, mayors and governors staged a defiant anti-Trump revolt. The lawmakers were part of a coalition of cities, universities, faith groups and companies who attended the U.N. climate summit to reject Trump’s vow to pull the U.S. out of the Paris deal and instead proclaim “We Are Still In.” We spoke with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We are just back from our week-long broadcast from the U.N. climate summit in Bonn, Germany, where a number of U.S. senators, mayors, governors staged a defiant anti-Trump revolt, declaring, “We are still in.” That’s the landmark 2015 Paris climate deal. In Bonn, I spoke with Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: We’re here because we need to send a message to the world—forget what Donald Trump says—that we are serious about climate change. I’m the governor of Virginia. And when Trump moved out of the Paris climate agreement, I was the first governor to come out and say, “We’re going to do it ourselves.” So, through an executive directive, I’m doing what we should have been done at the national level on the Paris Agreement. I’m embarrassed about what Donald Trump did. So I’m here to spread the message. Trump isolated himself. He did not isolate the United States of America.

AMY GOODMAN: Specifically, what was that executive directive that you issued in Virginia?

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: So, we are moving ahead in Virginia as if the Paris climate agreement is still in effect. We are going to meet the same standards. We are joining the RGGI states. And we’re doing—as I say, I did it through an executive directive, by the power of the governor to do it. I would not have been successful trying to get it through my Legislature. We did have a huge win in Virginia on Tuesday and picked up at least 15 seats, so our Legislature—maybe now we can get it done, but we couldn’t before. And my directive says, “We’re going to meet the Paris Agreement.” We’re going to do it. It’s the right thing to do.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about that win, what Ralph Northam means for Virginia. There was a lot of speculation Ed Gillespie was going to pull it out. But he didn’t.

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: I never thought Ed was going to pull it out. I was very public on national television. I said, “We’re going to win all three statewides.” What was astounding what happened the other day is we picked up 15 House of Delegates seats. That’s the most in a hundred years. Eleven of them were women. A majority of women came out and ran.

This was a clear message. One, an affirmation we’ve had four great years. We have led on the issues of climate change in Virginia. We’ve done it through executive authority. You know, when I took office, we had 17 megawatts of solar. Today, we’re almost at 3,000, literally in three-and-a-half years. We’re the first state to do an offshore utility wind project. I just announced it off Virginia Beach, with DONG Energy, out of Denmark, and Dominion Power. So, we’ve led on these different issues.

And so, for me, while I’ve had to do it through executive authority, because my Legislature would never go for it—only 34 Democrats out of a hundred—now with the pickups means we can now make these law and codify it, which is—this is a huge win for the climate issue.

AMY GOODMAN: So, solar power, China is really excelling in this. President Trump was just in China. He talks about being the president of jobs and the economy. It is amazing, for so many, that he is ceding this whole renewable technology field, the really growing field, to China.

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: It’s sad, because, as I say, we’ve gone from 17 megawatts to almost 3,000. But the next phase is, we’ve got to have the manufacturing of the solar facilities in America. I’d like a lot of those in Virginia. And Trump to go over there—listen, China makes most of the solar panels. We should be doing this in America. If you want to bring manufacturing back to this country, the renewable energy. I’ve created 77,000 energy efficiency jobs just in the last couple years. This is the future.

And, you know, Trump has no credibility, after he pulled out of Paris. You know, I always say he’s tweeting all day. He’s like the crazy uncle up in the closet—I mean, up in the attic. You just don’t know what he’s going to do in a given day. He talks about jobs, but he’s not delivering jobs. Not only on climate—look what he’s done on the travel ban. Look what he’s done on immigration. Look what he’s done on healthcare. He has done nothing but hurt.

I can say this as governor of Virginians. My premiums are going up 53 percent in healthcare. He has terrorized my immigrant community. I’ve had to go to Dulles Airport on the travel ban and say, “No, you’re not going to hold U.S. citizens, Virginians, in a holding pen for five hours without access to legal counsel.” So, that’s why I’m so honored to be here today, to have so many people who are engaged in the climate movement.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you had some really interesting victories in Virginia. You had the first trans state legislator, a former journalist, who’s been elected.

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: Well, what is so beautiful about this, to be honest with you, Bob Marshall was the most conservative, homophobic member of our House of Delegates. I vetoed all of his bills. He had HB 2 bills, transgender bills. He sponsored all of them. Defunding Planned Parenthood, Bob Marshall sponsored all of them. And he was defeated by a transgender. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that.

AMY GOODMAN: And he called himself, what? A proud homophobe.

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: Yeah, he said that. That was his phrase that he had. And he’s now gone. And I give Danica Roem credit. On election night, they asked her about him, and she said, “He is now a constituent of mine,” which I thought was a classy thing to say.

We have had interesting elections in Virginia. But I think the message—honestly, the message came out. We needed a win for the Democrats. So, people were happy of the four years that we’ve had—record job investment, $19 billion of new capital coming in, which is $6 billion more than any governor ever. I’ve restored more rights than any governor in the history of the United States of America. I’ve kept all the women’s health clinics open. I’m the most progressive governor in the history of the state. I’ve leaned in on the issues. I’ve told the NRA to go jump off a cliff. A good four years, and then the anti-Trump and my lieutenant governor was at my side the whole time.

We are a new Virginia. We got the Democratic Party off the mat in this country, and now we need to take it to the next level. We’ve got to win the Congress back. And we have 36 governors coming up in 2018. We’ve got to win a majority of those.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Lee Carter just won, who is a Democratic Socialist from Manassas, won for the House of Delegates, the state Legislature in Virginia. He was a marine. He’s a Socialist. And he beat the incumbent, who was the majority whip?

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: Yeah, he beat a member of the Republican leadership, which is very, very important—Jackson Miller. And he did it by laying out a positive agenda—create new jobs, build the new Virginia economy, which is what I talk every single day. So, you have Lee Carter win. You have Danica Roem win. We picked up at least 15. We’re going into a recount. We’ve got three more seats. I’d like to get control of the House of Delegates. And then we can continue on.

I’ve had to do everything, unfortunately, through executive authority. As I say, with 34 out of a hundred Democrats, Republicans control. But it’s a new day in Virginia. We are the spark plug that’s going to bring the Democrats back, win the House of Representatives next year, pick up a majority of these Democratic governors. I mean, big states—Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania—we’ve got to keep our governor there. We’ve got to pick up in Florida. These are important states.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, I wanted to ask about Donna Brazile’s comments, the former interim chair of the DNC. Elizabeth Warren said, “Yeah, the election was rigged.” And they were talking about this deal made between the DNC and the Clinton campaign, that the Clinton campaign would raise the money and then would have the say about how the DNC would spend it, when, at the time, Hillary Clinton wasn’t even the candidate yet. And she was, of course, going against Bernie Sanders. A lot of his supporters were saying it was rigged at the time.

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: From what I’m told—and I wasn’t part of the agreement so I don’t know—was the agreement is for for the general election. And the same deal, I believe, was offered to Senator Sanders. That’s all I know. But here’s my point. No offense to Donna, I could care less. I’m sitting on an election victory Tuesday, and I didn’t want any disruptions. Donna’s book is not going to create one job in Virginia. It’s not going to get one person healthcare. It’s not going to help me build one single road. Democrats got to stay unified. I’m not into negative energy. I’m just not.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it wasn’t about her book, but it’s about just that point of—

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: No, no, no. The book was—came out at a very unfortunate time. But as I say, you know, I campaigned all weekend. I did 17 events on the weekend. Nobody asked me about the book. Now—

AMY GOODMAN: The issue.

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: —should the reforms be to the process and all that? I’m all for that. You want a fair process. But I can’t look back. I’ve got to look forward. We had a earthquake in Virginia on Tuesday to get the Democrats back and unified. We know—as I say, I’ve been the most progressive governor in the history of the state. I’ve taken on the NRA. I’ve taken on the Koch brothers. We keep beating them.

We’ve got to have Democrats unified in this country. We’ve got to win the Congress. We’ve got to win the governors’ mansions across the country. Because here’s the issue. We have 36 up—in 2020, they do the census. In 2021, they redraw every line in America. Right now, two-thirds of the chambers are controlled by Republican legislators. They are going to draw lines to give them more power.

And nothing happens in Congress. Nothing. I’m the biggest critic of Congress, because they don’t do anything. So, what’s happening is at the state level. The rollback of women’s rights, gay rights, environmental rights, voting rights, pro-gun rights, it’s all happening through the state legislatures. And Democrats got to wake up and quit talking about the presidential election and better start talking about state and local, or we are going to get crushed from 2021 to 2031.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s what the Koch brothers say. They focus at the state and the local level.

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: You bet they did.

AMY GOODMAN: What about not only the Koch brothers, what Senator Merkley calls the Koch cartel, but also the Mercer money, that really backed Trump and ultimately led to his victory?

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: And this is my point. You know, I’m not going to sit here and criticize all them. They went out, and you know what? They’re sitting in the White House. We’ve got to get smarter as Democrats. We’ve got to fight. You know, I’m not into these circular firing squads. I’m tired of the whining. It’s time to fight.

I, as governor, from the day I took office, have been fighting on progressive issues, and I’ve beaten them. But I’ve had to do it as an executive. My Legislature would not be with me on any of these issues. We need Democrats who are fighting on the values that they believe in. Too many Democrats today put their finger up in the air and say, “Which way are the polls going?” I don’t do that.

When I ran for governor, I had a historic win. A 40-year trend, I broke. I was, I believe, the first person in the South, statewide, to come out for marriage equality. I told women I’d be a brick wall to protect their rights, and I told the NRA to go jump off a cliff. They give me an F rating. No one in Virginia, a governor, had ever run like that. I was proud of that. And you know what? I won. I ran on the things I believed in. But, you know, if I didn’t win the next day, so be it. My life wouldn’t change.

Democrats got to fight on their values. And we’re not always going to agree on every issue. I’m not into litmus tests. I’m sorry. Fight for what you believe in. Go swinging. If you don’t win, so be it.

AMY GOODMAN: Last question, about gun control. What about this issue? You say you’ve taken on the NRA. What do you think the country has to learn? Massacre after massacre, what does the country have to do?

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: What they have to learn is we’ve got to elect Democratic members of Congress. After Newtown—after Newtown, Connecticut, if we couldn’t get anything done on gun legislation—in Virginia, every year I put up background checks. Every single year. And I was defeated, in committee, early in the morning, with no recorded vote. That’s how it happens in Virginia. But the Congress is the same way. We’ve got to get more thoughtful people in Congress.

And I am for commonsense gun restrictions. I’m not advocating anything over-the-top. I’ve said this: I’m a gun owner. I hunt. I take my boys hunting. But I went through background checks, as governor. It takes five minutes. Everybody should go through that. And nobody who’s entitled to own a firearm will be denied. But there are people who shouldn’t have them.

And I am just disgusted at the power of the NRA. They’re based in Virginia. I fight them every day. I beat them. In fact, last year, in Virginia, we passed legislation, the strongest protective order in the United States of America. In Virginia, if you have a domestic protective order against you, you have 24 hours to hand your gun in, if there’s one in the household. And if you don’t, it is a Class 6 felony. You’re going to prison, and your gun is gone for life. Virginia, the strongest protective order in the United States of America. I’m proud of that as governor, because the NRA is based in our state.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. I was speaking with him in Bonn, Germany, at the U.N. climate summit. To see our full week’s coverage, the only national broadcast from the United States that devoted every single show to the U.N. Bonn summit, to the issue of climate change and global warming, you can go to

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