Most observers won’t remember the original purpose of Donald Trump’s press conference on Tuesday afternoon. That’s because the President spent most of his 23-minute appearance with reporters digging his heels into his first reaction to the deadly violence in Charlottesville this past weekend, defending the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK members who marched and terrorized anti-fascist protesters there. “I think there is blame on both sides,” he told reporters from the lobby of his gilded Manhattan tower. Things went much further downhill from there.
But the ostensible reason for Trump’s appearance was to talk about infrastructure projects—specifically, speeding them up. The conference began with a typical stunt: Standing amid cabinet officials Elaine Chao, Steven Mnuchin, and Mick Mulvaney, Trump unfurled a “long, beautiful chart” purporting to show a 17-year environmental permitting process for an unnamed highway project. He then announced an executive order chopping that process down to as little as two years. The order also calls for “one lead agency” to be responsible for every major project subject to federal review. Additionally, it rolls back a widely admired flood standard that required new federal constructions to account for climate change’s effect on storms and flooding.