The Latest: Trump Called Park Service Chief About Photos

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times EST):

9:40 p.m.

The Washington Post reports that President Donald Trump called the acting director of the National Park Service on Saturday to dispute widely circulated photos of Trump’s inauguration.

The newspaper says Trump personally ordered Park Service head Michael Reynolds to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the National Mall, believing the photos might prove that the news media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average.

A spokesman for the Park Service confirmed the call Thursday but declined to reveal details of the conversation.

Trump also expressed anger over a retweet sent from the Park Service’s account, in which side-by-side photographs showed far fewer people at his swearing-in than had shown up to see Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, The Post reports.

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8:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump says it was a “disgrace” for a “Saturday Night Live” writer to criticize his young son Barron on Twitter.

Trump says in an interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that, “for NBC to attack my 10-year-old son … it’s a disgrace.”

“SNL” writer Katie Rich was suspended indefinitely for the tweet and has since apologized.

Trump is also railing against pop legend Madonna’s controversial comments at last weekend’s Women’s March.

Trump says: “Honestly, she’s disgusting. I think she hurt herself very badly. I think she hurt that whole cause.”

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7:30 p.m.

Donald Trump is repeating his argument that waterboarding “absolutely” works and says opposition to it “seems so foolish and so naive.”

Trump was pressed on his assessment of the so-called enhanced interrogation technique, which stimulates drowning, in an interview airing on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” Thursday night.

Trump points to radical extremists who “go into a club and they machine gun everybody down. And then, they were not allowed to waterboard?”

He says, “it seems so foolish and so naive. “

Many intelligence and military officials dispute Trump’s claim that harsh interrogation methods are effective in getting critical intelligence from detainees.

But Trump says he has no doubt waterboarding works and questions whether it is “torture.”

Trump has said he will follow the advice of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

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7 p.m.

A Homeland Security spokeswoman says that while the department has delayed some upcoming travel for officials who conduct refugee interviews around the world, “trips have not been officially canceled.”

Gillian Christensen commented after The Associated Press reported on the temporary halt Thursday.

A State Department official briefed on the decision said the travel suspension is in place until at least Feb. 15. That official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to publicly discuss the travel suspension before it is formally announced.

It was unclear why the temporary travel ban was instituted, but President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order suspending the U.S. refugee program for 120 days.

The anticipated executive order, obtained by the AP, includes an indefinite suspension of refugee processing for Syrians.

— Alicia A. Caldwell

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6:35 p.m.

The fortified limousine now transporting President Donald Trump still bears license plates that call attention to the District of Columbia’s lack of voting representation in Congress.

The “Taxation Without Representation” tags were put on the vehicle in January 2013 in the run-up to Barack Obama’s second inauguration.

The White House said then that Obama had lived in D.C. for four years and had seen firsthand “how patently unfair” it was for D.C. families to pay taxes without having a vote in Congress. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is the district’s nonvoting member of Congress.

The city created the license plate in 2000 and President Bill Clinton put the tags on his limousine before he left office. They were taken off when George W. Bush was inaugurated.

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6:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump has named Kristine Svinicki chairwoman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Svinicki, a Republican, has served on the panel since 2008. She replaces Democrat Stephen Burns, who led the panel the past two years.

Burns is expected to stay on as a commissioner, along with Democrat Jeff Baran. Two seats on the five-member panel are vacant.

The NRC oversees the nation’s fleet of commercial nuclear power plants, as well as storage and disposal of nuclear waste and other issues related to nuclear power.

In 2011, Svinicki and three other NRC commissioners accused the panel’s then-chairman, Gregory Jaczko, of intimidating employees, withholding information and creating a hostile work environment, especially for women. Svinicki and other commissioners say work conditions at the agency have improved under Jaczko’s two successors.

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5:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump has named veteran energy regulator Cheryl LaFleur as acting chairwoman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

LaFleur, a Democrat, has served on the commission since 2010 and served as acting chair and chairwoman from 2013 to 2015. She replaces Democrat Norman Bay, who said Thursday he is resigning from the regulatory panel as of Feb. 3.

Bay’s departure will leave the five-member panel with just two members, LaFleur and Democrat Colette Honorable. Three members are required for a quorum that allows the commission to meet.

LaFleur led FERC from late 2013 until April 2015, when Bay took over as chairman.

FERC is an independent agency that regulates interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil.

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5:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Air Force One is beautiful and is a “great plane.”

Trump’s first flight on the modified Boeing 747 was a roundtrip to Philadelphia to address GOP House and Senate members at their annual retreat.

Journalists traveling with Trump were brought to the front of the plane after it landed at Maryland’s Joint Base Andrews and found a smiling Trump in shirt sleeves, seated behind his desk. A navy blue Air Force One jacket was draped over the back of his chair.

Asked for his impressions, Trump said Air Force One was special for a lot of reasons.

Trump later walked across the tarmac to shake hands with people in a viewing pen before he boarded the presidential helicopter for the trip to the White House.

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4:50 p.m.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer now says slapping a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico is just one of several options on the table for paying for a wall along the southern border.

Spicer says President Donald Trump has yet to make a final decision about how the U.S. will recoup the costs of his proposed border wall.

Spicer had said earlier Thursday that Trump wanted to slap a 20 percent tax on all imports from Mexico and predicted the tax would generate $10 billion a year.

He had told reporters on Air Force One that Trump has discussed the idea with congressional leaders and wanted to include the measure in a comprehensive tax reform package.

But Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus said later that the administration has “a buffet of options” to pay for the wall.

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4:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump still knows how to win a television time slot.

ABC reached 7.5 million viewers for its Wednesday night interview special of the president speaking to anchor David Muir. It was billed as Trump’s first network television interview since his inauguration last week.

The special beat every other program competing at 10 p.m., according to the Nielsen company. CBS’ “Code Black” drama came in second with 5.6 million viewers.

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4:45 p.m.

A Democratic congressman says he got a call from President Donald Trump, who wants to meet with him to discuss the price of prescription drugs.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings said Thursday he received the short but cordial call a day earlier “to my surprise.”

Cummings says Trump told him they would not agree on everything, but they could find some common ground on trying to address the rising costs of prescription drugs.

Cummings says he’s looking forward to the meeting, which hasn’t been scheduled yet.

Cummings also says Trump asked about the congressman’s special assistant, Katie Malone, who was injured in a fire at her home this month that killed six of her nine children. Cummings says the president said he wanted to make a contribution to help the family and expressed sincere sympathy.

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4:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump has signed his first presidential proclamation, declaring this week “National School Choice Week.”

The proclamation states that because education is important, parents should have the right to a “meaningful choice” about where their children goes to school.

Charter schools and school choice are expected to be major elements of federal education policy in Trump’s administration.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for education secretary, has spent more than two decades advocating for school choice programs. Such programs provide students and parents with an alternative to a traditional public school education. DeVos is awaiting a Senate vote on her nomination.

The proclamation adds that a renewed commitment to expanding school choice can make a great education possible for every child in America.

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3:35 p.m.

President Donald Trump wants to pay for his proposed southern border wall by slapping a 20 percent tax on imports from Mexico.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer says Trump has discussed the idea with congressional leaders and wants to include the measure in a comprehensive tax reform package.

Spicer spoke to reporters on Air Force One as Trump flew back from a Republican retreat in Philadelphia. He says that taxing imports from Mexico would generate $10 billion a year and “easily pay for the wall.”

Spicer says discussions are continuing with lawmakers to make sure the plan is “done right.” But he says it “clearly provides funding” for the wall.

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3:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s chief White House strategist says that the media should “keep its mouth shut.”

In an interview with The New York Times, published Thursday, Bannon said that the media is the “opposition party” of the new administration and “should be embarrassed and humiliated” by the unanticipated election result.

The article cites Bannon as referring to himself at one point as “Darth Vader.”

Asked if he was concerned that press secretary Sean Spicer lost credibility after a forceful opening press conference peppered with false information, Bannon replied, “we think that’s a badge of honor.”

He adds, “The media has zero integrity, zero intelligence and no hard work.”

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3:15 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is offering Republican lawmakers a preview of the upcoming Supreme Court pick. He says President Donald Trump will nominate a “strict constructionist” to the high court.

Pence is speaking to House and Senate Republicans at a retreat in Philadelphia. He notes Trump plans to announce the Supreme Court pick next week and says he can “already tip you off.”

Pence says the choice will be a “strict constructionist,” or a jurist who supports a narrow reading of the U.S. Constitution.

The vice president says the choice will have a “top-notch legal mind” and a “commitment to the Constitution.”

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2:45 p.m.

The United Nations hopes that any measures President Donald Trump takes on refugees are temporary, citing U.S. leadership in resettling people forced to flee their homes.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric (steh-FAHN’ DOO’-jar-ik) told reporters Thursday that taking in refugees is especially important when the world has seen the largest movement of migrants since World War II.

He said it’s a basic principle of the United Nations that “refugees need solidarity and need help,” and at this time there’s never been a greater need for their protection.

A draft executive order obtained by The Associated Press shows Trump intends to stop accepting Syrian refugees and to suspend the United States’ broader refugee program for 120 days.

According to the U.N., refugees total nearly 21.3 million, half of them under age 18.

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1:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump is claiming that he and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (PAYN’-yuh nee-EH’-toh) agreed jointly to cancel their planned meeting over disagreements about who will pay for Trump’s promised southern border wall.

Trump says during a Republican House and Senate retreat in Philadelphia that, “The president of Mexico and myself have agreed to cancel our planned meeting scheduled for next week.”

Trump says that, “Unless Mexico is going to treat the United States fairly, with respect, such a meeting would be fruitless, and I want to go a different route. I have no choice.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said earlier Thursday that the administration would be looking to reschedule the meeting in the future and would “keep the lines of communication open.”

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1:40 p.m.

President Donald Trump is opening his speech at an annual Republican policy retreat with a familiar tale: his election night victory.

Addressing members of Congress in Philadelphia on Thursday, Trump says “it’s nice to win, it’s been a while.”

He launched into a riff that he used frequently on his postelection thank you tour to some of the battleground states he won in November.

Trump portrayed Pennsylvania as “the one that got away” from Republicans in previous elections and plugged his own victory there.

He then touted how, with Republicans controlling both the White House and Congress, that “now is the dawn of a new era.”

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1:30 p.m.

A Senate committee has again postponed the confirmation hearing of President Donald Trump’s nominee for labor secretary.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee already has postponed fast food CEO Andrew Puzder’s nomination at least twice. A spokeswoman for committee Chairman Lamar Alexander says he pushed it from Feb. 2 to Feb. 7 to give Puzder time to turn in his questionnaire and other paperwork. Puzder is the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, Inc., the parent company of Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr. and other fast food eateries.

Alexander said he wanted to give committee members time to review the paperwork when it does come in. Democrats complained about another in a series of delays. Trump announced Puzder’s nomination Dec. 8.

The post The Latest: Trump called Park Service chief about photos appeared first on WTOP.

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