The Latest: Lawmakers call for ethics review of Conway

AP News
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Posted: Feb 09, 2017 6:16 PM
The Latest: Lawmakers call for ethics review of Conway

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

5:57 p.m.

The top two lawmakers on the House Oversight Committee are asking ethics officials to review comments made by a top aide to President Donald Trump after she promoted Ivanka Trump's fashion line during a television interview from the White House.

Reps. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Elijah Cummings of Maryland on Thursday asked the Office of Government Ethics to review the comments by White House aide Kellyanne Conway. The lawmakers say Conway's statement could "constitute an explicit endorsement and advertisement for Ivanka Trump's personal business."

Chaffetz, a Republican, chairs the oversight panel. Cummings is the senior Democrat.

Chaffetz and Cummings said White House press secretary Sean Spicer's remark that Conway has been "counseled" doesn't go far enough.

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4:20 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump is open to discussing immigration legislation with lawmakers, but believes a 2013 Senate bill amounts to "amnesty."

Trump discussed immigration during a White House meeting with lawmakers Thursday.

A spokesman for West Virginia's Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin says Trump told lawmakers he would be "open" to reviewing the "Gang of 8" bill from 2013. The bill, which was never voted on in the House, would have granted citizenship to millions of people living in the U.S. illegally.

Trump spokesman Sean Spicer says the president was only expressing a willingness to discuss the issue with lawmakers. Spicer said that earlier in the meeting, Trump had voiced his opposition to the "Gang of 8" legislation and called it "amnesty."

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4:15 p.m.

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe's stay at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort will be free of charge.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the weekend trip to Trump's posh Palm Beach, Florida, resort is a "gift" to Abe from Trump. The two leaders will travel there Friday after meeting in Washington.

Mar-a-Lago serves as both a residence for Trump and a private club. Mar-a-Lago recently doubled its membership fee to $200,000.

"No one else will be staying there as far as I know from the Japanese delegation," Spicer said. "They will stay out in town with the rest of the staff."

Abe paying for his stay at the Trump property would have raised questions since Trump is not allowed to collect payments from foreign officials.

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3:55 p.m.

The White House is disputing a report that President Donald Trump was unaware of a U.S.-Russia nuclear treaty during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Spokesman Sean Spicer says Trump paused during the call because he was "seeking an opinion" from advisers. Reuters reported that Trump had stopped to ask aides what the New START treaty was.

Spicer told reporters Trump is aware of the treaty that was forged during the previous administration. As a candidate, Trump was critical of the agreement, which set new, lower caps on the number of nuclear warheads each country can have.

Spicer said the president finds it "concerning" that details of his conversations with world leaders have been leaked to the press.

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3 p.m.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal says Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch encouraged him to go public with the judge's criticism of President Donald Trump's comments attacking federal judges.

The Democratic senator tells The Associated Press in an interview that Gorsuch called Trump's attacks demoralizing and disheartening during a private meeting and said the lawmaker should feel free to quote him.

Blumenthal says Gorsuch told him, "You can repeat that. You can quote me."

Trump tweeted Thursday that Blumenthal had misrepresented Gorsuch's comments and criticized Blumenthal for past statements that he served in Vietnam. Blumenthal was in the Marine Corps Reserves at the time but did not fight in Vietnam.

Blumenthal says Trump's attacks are "way bigger than me or even Judge Gorsuch's nomination" and go to the core issue of judicial independence.

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2:40 p.m.

House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz says White House counselor Kellyanne Conway's promotion of Ivanka Trump's fashion brand was "wrong, wrong, wrong, clearly over the line, unacceptable."

The Republican congressman said the White House must refer the matter to the Office of Government Ethics for review. He said he and Democratic Oversight Leader Elijah Cummings are writing a letter to the office and he will also write to President Donald Trump about the matter.

"It needs to be dealt with," he told The Associated Press. "There's no ifs, ands or buts about it."

Chaffetz was referring to Conway's Thursday interview with Fox News in which she boasted she was giving the president's daughter "a free commercial here" and urged viewers to "Go buy Ivanka's stuff."

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Conway has been "counseled." Chaffetz said that isn't enough.

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2:30 p.m.

A spokesman for the White House says that comments by President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court were taken out of context.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer was addressing comments by Judge Neil Gorsuch calling Trump's recent criticism of federal judges "disheartening." The judges had angered Trump by pushing back against his immigration ban.

Citing former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is helping with Gorsuch's confirmation, Spicer said Gorsuch was commenting in general about attacks on the judiciary.

He said that Gorsuch was "asked about his general philosophy."

Gorsuch's confirmation staff and three senators have confirmed the remarks.

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2:15 p.m.

A White House spokesman says top adviser Kellyanne Conway has been "counseled" after she urged people to buy Ivanka Trump products during an interview on Fox News.

Sean Spicer says: "She's been counseled, and that's all we're going to say."

Conway spoke on Fox News Thursday morning from the White House briefing room. She encouraged people to "go buy Ivanka's stuff." She made the comments a day after Trump attacked Nordstrom on Twitter for dropping his daughter's fashion line.

While Trump himself is not subject to the standards of ethical conduct for federal employees, Conway is. Among the rules: An employee shall not use his or her office "for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise."

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1:44 p.m.

President Donald Trump is having dinner at the White House Thursday night with one of his biggest financial backers, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

That's according to two people with direct knowledge of the dinner, which was first reported by The Washington Post.

Adelson and his wife, Miriam, contributed more than $20 million to a super PAC that aired pro-Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton advertising in the final weeks before Election Day.

The couple are close with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. They received prime seats for Trump's swearing-in last month and — in a highly unusual bit of access — also attended a congressional lunch afterward with the new president and lawmakers.

Trump's relationship with Adelson was late-blooming. During the Republican primary race, Trump ridiculed his opponents for being puppets of Adelson.

-By Julie Bykowicz and Julie Pace

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1:15 p.m.

President Donald Trump has summoned 10 senators to the White House to urge them to confirm his Supreme Court nominee.

Trump is meeting at the White House with both Republicans and Democrats, and telling them Judge Neil Gorsuch is "exceptionally qualified" and has "great intellect."

The president also is repeating his assertion that comments Gorsuch made appearing to distance himself from Trump were — in Trump's word — "misrepresented."

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut says Gorsuch told him that Trump's critical comments about a judge who ruled against his refugee and immigration ban were "demoralizing" and "disheartening."

Former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who's working with Gorsuch on the confirmation process, later said Gorsuch was speaking broadly about any criticism of judicial independence, and not about a specific case.

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1:10 p.m.

Democrats are accusing Judge Neil Gorsuch of engaging in a White House "ruse" by criticizing President Donald Trump's attacks on the courts.

Gorsuch has told Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and others that he found Trump's criticism of a federal judge "disheartening and demoralizing."

But the Democratic National Committee calls it "a meaningless White House-orchestrated attempt" to help the Supreme Court nominee "pretend he won't be a rubber stamp" for the administration.

And Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer says Gorsuch is only showing "a desire to appear independent."

Trump has disputed Blumenthal's characterization of Gorsuch's remarks, even as Gorsuch's White House-appointed handlers confirmed them.

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12:19 p.m.

Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer says secretary of labor nominee Andrew Puzder should withdraw his name from consideration for the Cabinet post.

Schumer tells reporters that Puzder's record as CEO of fast food empire CKE Restaurants Inc. disqualifies him from advocating for workers as the head of the Labor Department.

Senate Democrats have come forward with another former employee of Puzder's company who says she was mistreated. Puzder has said he's committed to becoming a member of President Donald Trump's Cabinet.

Puzder took another step toward confirmation this week by submitting required ethics forms to the Senate ahead of his Feb. 16 hearing.

He says he'll avoid conflicts of interest by divesting from more than 200 companies if he's confirmed. President Donald Trump has not divested from his business empire.

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11:55 a.m.

President Donald Trump will host Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House on Monday.

The White House says the leaders will discuss "strengthening the relationship" between their countries.

Trump has said he wants to discuss his wish to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement, which involves the United States, Canada and Mexico. Trump has said NAFTA puts U.S. workers at a disadvantage.

Trump's refugee and immigration ban may also come up in the discussions with Trudeau.

After Trump signed the executive order pausing all entries to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority nations, Trudeau tweeted that Canada welcomed people fleeing persecution, terrorism and war.

Trudeau said "diversity is our strength."

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11 a.m.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee told him and another senator that he was "disheartened" by Trump's denigration of federal judges.

The New York Democrat says Neil Gorsuch made the remark when they met privately Tuesday. It is remarkable for a president's nominee to chide him.

On Wednesday, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Gorsuch told him Trump's criticisms of the judiciary were "demoralizing and disheartening."

That comment was confirmed by aides helping Gorsuch win Senate confirmation.

Trump tweeted Thursday that Blumenthal "misrepresents" what Gorsuch said. Trump offered no reason for his claim.

Schumer also says Gorsuch told Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse (sas) that he was disheartened.

Sasse spokesman James Wegmann confirms that Gorsuch told the senator that Trump's comments were "disheartening."

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9:35 a.m.

White House adviser Kellyanne Conway is defending Ivanka Trump's fashion company.

Conway tells Fox News that Trump is a "successful businesswoman" and people should give the company their business.

President Donald Trump launched a Twitter attack against Nordstrom on Wednesday after the Seattle-based retailer dropped his daughter's clothing and accessory line. Trump says his daughter has been treated "so unfairly."

The tweet drew swift criticism from ethics experts.

Trump has tweeted about companies such as Boeing, Carrier and General Motors. But ethics experts say this time is different because it involves a business run by his daughter — and that raises conflict-of-interest concerns.

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8:48 a.m.

President Donald Trump is going after Republican Sen. John McCain for suggesting that last week's U.S. raid in Yemen wasn't a success.

Trump tweeted Thursday that McCain "should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media. Only emboldens the enemy!"

He added that McCain has "been losing so long he doesn't know how to win anymore, just look at the mess our country is in — bogged down in conflict all over the place."

McCain is a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war who lost the 2008 presidential election to President Barack Obama. The Arizona senator won re-election in November.

McCain said Wednesday that any operation where a $75 million airplane is lost, a Navy SEAL is killed, and there are multiple casualties, including women and children, "cannot be labeled a success."

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8:25 a.m.

An adviser to President Donald Trump says the president is "fully confident" in his Supreme Court nominee.

Kellyanne Conway said Thursday on "Fox and Friends" that Trump wants judges "to express their own independence," after his extended criticism of the judiciary prompted a rebuke from Judge Neil Gorsuch, his pick for the Supreme Court.

Conway echoed comments made earlier by Trump, casting doubt on the credibility of Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who first relayed remarks Gorsuch that Trump's criticism of the judiciary is "demoralizing and disheartening."

Trump's own confirmation team for Gorsuch later confirmed the comments.

Conway said that "the judge has been misrepresented."

She said, "Blumenthal has had a credibility problem" after inaccurately saying he'd served in Vietnam. Blumenthal apologized for his misstatements in 2010

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8:22 a.m.

A Republican former senator confirms comments by the president's Supreme Court nominee, though the president suggests those comments were misrepresented.

President Donald Trump attacked a Democratic senator early Thursday. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal had said judge Neil Gorsuch told him during a meeting that he found Trump's disparagement of the judiciary "demoralizing and disheartening."

GOP former Sen. Kelly Ayotte is helping with Gorsuch's confirmation and was at the meeting.

She issued a statement saying Gorsuch made clear he was not referring to any specific case. But she said the nominee said he finds any criticism of a judge's integrity and independence to be "disheartening and demoralizing."

Trump tweeted Thursday that Blumenthal "misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?"

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7:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump suggests a Democratic senator misrepresented his Supreme Court nominee when the senator said the judge criticized Trump's recent disparagement of the judiciary.

Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Wednesday that Judge Neil Gorsuch told him Trump's comments were "demoralizing and disheartening." Trump's own confirmation team for Gorsuch confirmed those comments.

But Trump tweeted Thursday, "Richard Blumenthal, who never fought in Vietnam when he said for years he had (major lie), now misrepresents what Judge Gorsuch told him?"

Blumenthal faced criticism in the past for saying he had served in Vietnam. Blumenthal served in the Marine Corps Reserves during Vietnam. He apologized in 2010, saying he regretted his misstatements.

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3:23 a.m.

President Donald Trump's extended criticism of the judiciary has prompted a rebuke from his nominee for the Supreme Court, who told a senator the president's comments were "demoralizing and disheartening."

Judge Neil Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump to the nation's high court last week, made the comments Wednesday after Trump accused an appellate court considering his immigration and refugee executive order of being "so political." During the weekend, the president labeled a judge who ruled on his executive order a "so-called judge" and referred to the ruling as "ridiculous."

Gorsuch's comments came at the end of his first full week of meetings in the Senate, which is considering his nomination.