"America's treasures are up for sale and the only thing you need to get them is the president's phone number."
—Brian Kahn, Earther
If President Donald Trump's own account is to be believed, he "really didn't care" about opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to drilling—but everything changed when one of his rich buddies from the oil and gas industry called him up and explained how great and profitable it would be.
Here is how Trump recounted the call during a rambling performance at the Republican Member Conference in West Virginia on Thursday:
A friend of mine called up in that world, in that business and said 'is it true you're thinking about ANWR?' I said, 'yeah, I think we’re going to get it but you know,."
He said, "are you kidding? You know that's the biggest thing by itself. Ronald Reagan and every president has wanted to get ANWR approved."
And after that, I said, "oh, make sure that's in the [$1.5 trillion tax] bill."
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Trump went on to explain that another key factor in his support for ANWR drilling—which scientists and conservationists have said would cause irreperable harm to "the most beautiful, pristine wildlife refuge that we have in the United States"—was the failure of previous presidents to open up the 19 million-acre refuge to the oil and gas industry.
"I really didn't care about it, but then when I heard everybody wanted it for 40 years, they've been trying to get it approved and I said, 'make sure you don't lose ANWR,' Trump explained.
As Earther's Brian Kahn notes, Trump's remarks are further evidence that—in the view of the White House and the Republican leadership—"America's treasures are up for sale and the only thing you need to get them is the president's phone number."
"It's a sickening display of how easily the president is swayed into supporting something that will likely benefit his friends at the expense of the public," Kahn added.