Updated at 11:25 a.m. | President Donald Trump is asserting he got the Canadian company behind the Keystone XL pipeline project to drop a lawsuit seeking more than $10 billion from the U.S. government after he threatened to take back his approval of the project.
In late January, Trump signed an executive order green-lighting TransCanada’s application to build the Keystone XL after the Obama administration blocked it for years. He did so, however, with a major caveat, saying the pipeline deal was “subject to terms and conditions that will be negotiated by us.”
On Tuesday night, Trump told the National Republican Congressional Committee’s March fundraising dinner that TransCanada dropped its lawsuit in late February only because he threatened to rescind his approval if the company did not do so.
“I said, ‘Wait a minute. I’m approving the pipeline and they’re suing us for $14 billion and I’ve already approved it right?’” Trump said, according to a pool report of what was an otherwise closed-to-the-media event. The president said he deployed Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive who now is now Trump’s chief economic adviser, to relay a message to the Canadian firm.
“‘Go back to them and tell them, if they don’t drop the suit immediately, we are going to terminate the deal,’” Trump said he instructed Cohn. “Being president gives you great power.”
Trump then, as he often does, brought his 2016 general election foe into his version of the tale: “Do you think Hillary does that? I don’t think so. I don’t think so.”
Trump contended that essentially forcing TransCanada to drop the suit in the long run is “easier … than settling for like $4 billion in seven years from now.”
“We are continuing to work with the administration on our presidential permit application,” Terry Cunha, a TransCanada spokesman said in an email.
Top Republicans, like Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, hailed Trump’s approval of the project, while Democrats warned it would hurt the environment.
Under former President Barack Obama, the State Department conducted an assessment that found the $8 billion project would not lower gas prices for U.S. consumers as its proponents claimed.
Obama told reporters in November 2015 that he concluded the plan was “neither the silver bullet” for the U.S. economy nor a sure-fire cause of “climate disaster” as those on either side of the issue claimed.