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Trump’s Energy Adviser Runs Away When Questioned by Democracy Now! at U.N. Climate Talks

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The Trump administration is promoting fossil fuels at the U.N. 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 Wells Griffith about the Trump administration’s climate policy at the U.N. summit Tuesday. Griffith refused to answer questions and ran from our camera team for about a quarter-mile, retreating to the U.S. delegation office.

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

AMY GOODMAN: I ran into Wells Griffith on Tuesday here at the U.N. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. is here, since President Trump is saying he’s pulling the U.S. 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 U.S. would not welcome the U.N. report saying that catastrophic climate change is imminent, and the U.S.—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 U.S. 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 U.S. joined with Saudi Arabia in watering down language around the U.N. 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 U.S. is pushing coal at this U.N. climate summit? Can you talk about the U.S. role here at the U.N. climate summit, why the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. side program yesterday where they pushed coal and fossil fuels at the U.N. 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 U.N. climate summit, given that President Trump—wait, I have to take my breath.


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 U.S. 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.

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