Benton: I report directly to President Trump

Former Washington Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, told Oregon Public Broadcasting he will report directly to President Donald Trump in his new role as senior White House advisor.

Benton was sworn in on Saturday and will lead a team overseeing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Today, the Trump administration called for a media blackout at the EPA and froze any new contracts or grants. When The Columbian asked Benton for comment on his new role, he hung up. 

Benton’s position is temporary, but he may be allowed to stay on longer.

“We had a meeting yesterday with all the senior staff,” Benton told reporter Conrad Wilson on Tuesday. “I assured them that our objective is to protect the health and safety and the environment of the American people, which is a core mission of the agency. And that’s what certainly Mr. Trump wants and that’s what we’re working towards.”

Benton told OPB he didn’t know how Trump would respond to climate change. When asked for his thoughts on climate change, he said, “I don’t have any. I implement the thoughts of the President of the United States.”

Benton served as the state campaign chairman for Washington state. In 2013, he was appointed director of the Clark County Department of Environmental Services. Opponents depicted Benton’s hiring as political cronyism.

Last year, Benton announced he would not seek re-election to the state Senate after 22 years in office in order to focus on running the county department, but the department was dissolved in May and Benton lost that job. His Senate term officially ended earlier this month.

Benton is now suing the county for $2 million in damages and attorney fees.

State Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, was also tapped to be part of the transition team. Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, accepted a position with the Trump administration as special assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture.

In response to the recent announcements, Washington State Democratic Leader Sen. Leader Sharon Nelson noted there is no majority party in the Washington state Senate.

“We have not taken any votes on bills since session started, and we have had numerous committee hearings cancelled because their members are pursuing job opportunities in D.C. with the Trump Administration,” Nelson said in a statement. “In this Washington, there is an overflow hearing going on right now with tribes from around the state regarding a bill sponsored by one of their members who isn’t even there to discuss it with them.”



Lauren Dake

Lauren Dake covers politics for The Columbian. You can reach her at 360-735-4534 or Follow her on Twitter .

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