While you weren’t looking: 5 stories from the Trump administration that aren’t about tariffs
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Interim Consumer Finance Protection Bureau Director Mick Mulvaney Getty Images

While you weren’t looking: 5 stories from the Trump administration that aren’t about tariffs

The news was once again dominated by President Donald Trump’s surprise decision to announce tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the United States on Thursday — which quickly resulted in the resignation of Trump’s chief economic adviser Gary Cohn.

As Trump pushed through the highly questioned policy, his administration continued their own policy decisions that would have been front page news in any other administration.

Here are five stories you might have missed.

Trump administration reverses decision on banning elephant trophies — again

An elephant crosses a road in the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.
An elephant crosses a road in the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

In November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was about to lift a ban on elephant and other big-game trophies being transported into the United States. But swift backlash led Trump to kill the decision.

Now, that same department appears to be going ahead with the plan anyway. In a March 1 memo the department said it would replace the current blanket ban on big game trophy imports with a policy for big-game trophies to be imported on a “case-by-case basis.”

As recently as January, Trump was still touting his decision not to lift the ban.

“I didn’t want elephants killed and stuffed and have the tusks brought back into this [country],” Trump told Piers Morgan in an an interview. “That was done by a very high-level government person. As soon as I heard about it, I turned it around.”

Now his own officials appear to be turning his decision back around on him.

New Justice Department plan de-emphasizes civil rights to focus on immigrants and campus protesters

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions Rich Pedroncelli/AP

A draft of the Justice Department’s new strategic plan obtained by reporters at HuffPost suggests that Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to radically shift his department’s priorities.

Among the DOJ’s new priorities will be cracking down on undocumented immigrants, taking on MS-13, prosecuting leaks and restoring the “rule of law” HuffPost reported.

The department will also try to “promote a culture of respect for First Amendment rights” at colleges — a nod to conservatives’ concern with students protesting right-leaning speakers on campuses.

HuffPost also reports that the new strategic plan dramatically reduces the department’s emphasis on civil rights enforcement when compared to previous plans — a move that appears to confirm Democrats’ worst fears about Sessions’ agenda when he was first nominated to his position.

Former head of top payday lender asked Mick Mulvaney if she could run the CFPB

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney
Budget Director Mick Mulvaney Susan Walsh/AP

The former CEO of a major payday lending company that was once under investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau asked Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney to let her run the bureau, according to a report from the Associated Press.

“I would love to apply for the position of director of the CFPB,” Janet Matricciani, the former CEO of the payday lender World Acceptance wrote to Mulvaney in a email. Under her leadership, World Acceptance had been investigated by the CFPB.

“Who better than me understand the need to treat consumers respectfully and honestly, and the equal need to offer credit to lower-income consumers in order to help them manage their daily lives?” Matricciani wrote.

Mulvaney became the interim head of the bureau after its previous director Richard Cordray stepped down in November. Since taking over, Mulvaney has come under intense scrutiny for his coziness with payday lenders and other financial institutions the CFPB is tasked with regulating.

Mulvaney was a staunch critic of the CFPB during his time in Congress, calling it a “sick, sad joke.” Now, he may have an opportunity to put a fox in charge of the henhouse he so despises.

Carson waffles on whether HUD is committed to fighting discrimination in housing

HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson
HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a man known for occasional bouts of indecision, went back and forth this week on whether his agency should declare their commitment to fighting discrimination.

A memo sent to HUD staffers on Monday explained that the agency would be making changes to its mission statement. The new mission statement had removed previously included language emphasizing the department’s commitment to fostering inclusivity and fighting discrimination in housing.

After the change was reported by HuffPost, the department backpedalled. Carson sent an email to staffers saying that he did intend to change the mission statement but that the idea that any changes would “reflect a lack of commitment to fair housing is nonsense.”

Carson’s staff claim that the changes are not yet final, making it unclear whether the final statement will or won’t include language about inclusivity or combating discrimination.

Trump administration greenlights more Medicaid changes in Arkansas

Arkasas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Arkasas Gov. Asa Hutchinson Kelly Kissel/AP

The Trump administration has given the green light to yet another state to impose new restrictions on Medicaid, making it harder for low-income people to obtain essential health care.

In February, the Trump administration’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid services announced it would allow states to impose new rules for Americans applying for Medicaid coverage, including requirements that recipients work a minimum number of hours per month to receive coverage.

That same month, Kentucky became the first state to announce it’s intention to adopt those new rules shortly after the Trump administration’s announcement. Now, Arkansas will follow in Kentucky’s footsteps, announcing an 80-hour-per-month work requirement for Medicaid beneficiaries.

Arkansas also fast-tracked its new rule, hoping to begin implementation on June 1, which would make it the first state in the country to actually start imposing work requirements on Medicaid.