Top WH lawyer details Trump admin's 'larger plan' to shrink regulatory state
Posted February 22, 2018 1:46 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON (CNN) — White House counsel Don McGahn offered his take Thursday on the Trump administration's efforts to slash regulations, from court appointments to repealing rules.
McGahn, in rare public remarks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, said "it's part of a larger plan" that President Donald Trump appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, talking up Gorsuch's record criticizing deference to the authority of government agencies and the legacy Trump is working to establish in the nation's courts.
McGahn plays a leading role in recommending judicial nominees to the President, and he said part of their interview process for prospective candidates involves getting a sense of their "views on administrative law."
Asked about an order from Trump to cut two regulations for every new one, McGahn talked up the administration's efforts and claimed the real ratio was apparently "22 to one." Politifact said earlier this month that the 22-1 claim was "mostly false" and that the administration was not making an apples-to-apples comparison on rules imposed versus those repealed.
McGahn also touted the GOP's use of the Congressional Review Act to rescind several Obama-era regulations, including one aimed at preventing coal mining waste from entering waterways and another intended to make it easier to sue banks and credit card companies.
"Congress rightly struck a number of regulations," McGahn said.
He called on Congress to legislate more and to do so in a way that would not leave major decisions up to executive agencies, and he said when authority is rested in government agencies instead of Congress, "decisions tend to trend to the left."
McGahn likewise called on Congress to conduct vast oversight of the executive branch, noting that while it might seem counterintuitive for the White House counsel to make that suggestion, he thought such oversight was worthwhile to ensure agencies are executing laws as intended.
"They ought to do that," McGahn said. "Not just do the sort of oversight that gets headlines, but do oversight that really gets into the nitty-gritty of how laws are being implemented."
McGahn's appearance at the annual conservative event came as his name continues to fall in the center of drama rocking the White House, from the Russia investigation to the handling of domestic abuse allegations against recently departed White House staff secretary Rob Porter.
While those issues went unmentioned during the brief appearance Thursday afternoon, Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, who was interviewing McGahn, did note McGahn's job involves him "in just about everything."
"Unfortunately yes," McGahn responded wryly.