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Trump taps N.D. Rep. Cramer on climate change, energy

U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 8 (Reuters Photo)

WASHINGTON – As Donald Trump advances to be the likely Republican nominee for president, North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer has Trump’s ear on energy policy.

Cramer said he’s been tapped by Trump’s campaign to compile some notes on energy policy ideas that fit Trump’s “America First” economic theme. Cramer, in an interview with Forum News Service, stopped short of calling himself Trump’s energy adviser.

“It’s not that I’m advising him, I’m giving him ideas and putting thoughts down for his consideration,” the Republican said Friday.

Cramer, who serves on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, said he plans to emphasize to Trump that regulations such as the Clean Power Plan and rules on reducing methane emissions don’t belong at the federal level.

“Level the playing field. Roll back as many of these regulations that are killing the energy industry as quickly as possible and return energy and environmental regulation to the states, where I believe it belongs,” said Cramer, who was early to endorse Trump.

Trump will be the keynote speaker later this month at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck.

“We’re a pretty good place to talk about all-of-the-above energy andhow federal policy intertwines with that,” said Cramer, who served on North Dakota’s Public Service Commission for nine years before he was elected to the House.

Some media reports speculated that Cramer could potentially be considered for Trump’s energy secretary. Cramer said he’s focused on getting re-elected and helping Trump get elected.

“All of that talk, some if it is presumption, some of it is gossip. None of it’s coming from the campaign or from me,” Cramer said. “It’s nice that people haven’t dismissed it as crazy, I guess.”

Ron Ness, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council, said Cramer, as well as Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp, have said many times that the country should look to North Dakota, the country’s No. 2 oil producing state, when developing energy policy.

“Certainly North Dakota is the epicenter of the energy world right now,” Ness said. “We have vast experience and Congressman Cramer has vast experience and knowledge of it.”

Trump also pushed back Friday against renewed calls for him to release his tax returns before the election, saying the rate that he pays is "none of your business."

Trump, who has all but locked up the Republican Party's nomination for the Nov. 8 presidential election, has said the Internal Revenue Service is auditing his returns and he wants to wait until the review is over before making them public.

"It should be, and I hope it's before the election," Trump told ABC's "Good Morning America."

The ins and outs of campaigning continue to be a major topic with Trump, who has never held elected office.

On Friday, the billionaire real estate developer, who has often boasted of his wealth, was asked why he had been willing in the past to release his tax information to Pennsylvania and New Jersey officials when seeking casino licenses, even though he was being audited by the Internal Revenue Service.

"At the time it didn't make any difference to me. Now it does," Trump said.

Pressed on what tax rate he pays, Trump refused to say.

"It's none of your business," he said.

"Before 1976, people didn't do it. It used to be a secret thing," he added.

U.S. presidential nominees have voluntarily released their tax returns for decades.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, have both released their returns. Clinton this week began calling on Trump to do the same. Sanders released his 2014 return in April, while former U.S. Secretary of State Clinton posted the past eight years of tax returns for her and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, on her website last August.

Trump has said there is nothing voters can learn from his tax filings. Tax filings show sources of income, both from within the United States and other countries, as well as charitable giving, investments, deductions and other financial information.

Trump said his company was "clean."

"I don't have Swiss bank accounts, I don't have offshore accounts," he said.

The 2012 Republican presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has been scathing in his criticism of Trump and said this week it was "disqualifying" for a nominee to refuse to make his tax returns public.

"There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns: There is a bombshell in them," Romney said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.