The Latest: Zinke sworn in as interior secretary

AP News
|
Posted: Mar 01, 2017 6:27 PM
The Latest: Zinke sworn in as interior secretary

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

6:25 p.m.

Ryan Zinke (ZIN'-kee) has been sworn in as interior secretary, giving him oversight of 400 million acres of public land, most of it in the West.

Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office on Wednesday, hours after the Senate confirmed President Donald Trump's nomination of Zinke by a vote of 68-31.

The 55-year-old Montana native and former Navy SEAL has also pledged to tackle the estimated $12 billion backlog in maintenance and repairs at national parks.

With Zinke's approval, the Senate has confirmed 16 out of 22 of Trump's Cabinet and Cabinet-level nominations. Senate confirmation votes are pending on Trump's nominees to head the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Labor, along with the posts of U.S. trade representative and the director of national intelligence.

___

3:05 p.m.

The top White House ethics attorney says counselor Kellyanne Conway "acted inadvertently" and "without nefarious motive" when she promoted Ivanka Trump's fashion line during a television interview at the White House.

Stefan Passantino, deputy counsel to the president on compliance and ethics, wrote in a letter to the Office of Government Ethics that he met with Conway and resolved the matter.

Administration employees are subject to rules that prohibit them from using their official position to endorse products or services. In the Feb. 9 interview, Conway said to "go buy Ivanka's stuff."

Conway was reacting to reports that Nordstrom had dropped the line, which the president believes was a political move. The store says it was a business decision. Republican and Democratic lawmakers have condemned Conway's behavior.

__

1:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he and top congressional Republicans are meeting to "start the process."

Trump commented about his agenda during a White House lunch with GOP House and Senate leaders, including Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The meeting follows Trump's first address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night that appeared well-received by Republicans.

In the speech Trump called for a replacement for the Obama-era health care law as well as a significant boost in military spending, among other initiatives.

Ryan has said the president's speech was a "home run."

___

12:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump invited the widow of Navy SEAL killed during a raid in Yemen to attend Tuesday night's speech when he telephoned to offer his condolences.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer says Trump called Carryn Owens on Jan. 30 and invited her and her three children to attend the speech.

The family visited the White House on Tuesday and met with Trump.

Spicer says the kids ate lunch in the Navy-run cafeteria in the White House and toured the building. They did not attend Trump's speech.

Spicer brushed aside criticism that Trump used Carryn Owens as a prop, saying she accepted the invitation and has the right to honor her husband's legacy.

Senior Chief William "Ryan" Owens was killed in January in a raid approved by Trump.

___

8:45 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is denying reports that a U.S. military raid in Yemen that led to the death of a Navy SEAL yielded no significant intelligence.

In an interview Wednesday with CBS "This Morning," Pence noted that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis confirmed again Tuesday that "significant intelligence was gathered" in the January military operation.

William "Ryan" Owens, 36, a married father of three, was the first known U.S. combat casualty since President Donald Trump took office. His widow, Carryn Owens, was a guest at Trump's address to Congress Tuesday, prompting an extended standing ovation from the joint chamber.

But Owens' death, as well as the killing of several civilians, has raised questions about the effectiveness of the raid. Pence said the data that Owens died helping to collect will "lead to the safety and security of the American people."

__

8:30 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence says the Trump administration is still determined to defend its original travel ban that was blocked by the federal courts.

In an interview with CBS "This Morning," Pence said Wednesday a variety of agencies are putting the "final touches" on a revised executive order that temporarily bans travelers from certain countries and restricts refugees from entering the U.S.

Trump's original order, signed in January, sparked immediate confusion, panic and outrage as some travelers were detained in U.S. airports and prompted federal courts to intervene.

Pence says that the administration will defend President Donald Trump's original ban which, he says, "we fully believe is in his presidential authority."

Pence would not address details of the revised ban, saying he doesn't want to get "ahead of the deliberation."

__

8:20 a.m.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called President Donald Trump's first speech to Congress a "bait-and-switch" speech, with little legislation from the White House to match the president's stated goals.

"All we have is rhetoric," the California congresswoman said.

Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday, Pelosi said House Democrats will eventually release their own legislative plans in the absence of direction from the president.

She said "when we believe the time is right we will put forth our positive agenda, but not while people are still enamored by what could be viewed as a snake-oil salesman by some and a messenger of hope by others."

__

7:40 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence says "no one is going to fall through the cracks" as a result of Republican plans to replace the nation's health care law. Pence was referring to people on Medicaid, the federal-state program for low income Americans that is managed by the states.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, 31 states and the District of Columbia accepted an optional Medicaid expansion, which increased federal funding for health care. Many governors from those states are now concerned about the loss of funds if "Obamacare" is repealed.

Asked about the consequences of repealing the health law, Pence told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday that "we don't want anyone to fall through the cracks," especially not "the most disadvantaged citizens among us."

Pence was making a round of morning television appearances following President Donald Trump's address to Congress on Tuesday night.

___

6:40 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence is giving President Donald Trump high marks for his speech to a joint session of Congress, saying he showed his "broad shoulders, big heart, reaching out, focusing on the future."

Pence, who sat behind Trump in the House chamber Tuesday evening with House Speaker Paul Ryan, said the president was directly involved in crafting the hourlong talk.

Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Wednesday, Pence said Trump "was literally rewriting the speech on the afternoon" of his appearance on Capitol Hill.

Asked which White House aides played major roles in writing the speech, Pence replied, "This was all him. The president stepped up and told America where he wants to go and many Americans said yes."

___

3:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump gave Republican congressional leaders a rallying cry and even a roadmap as they try to push through a sweeping and divisive agenda on health care, taxes and more.

In his first address to a joint session of Congress, Trump said largely what GOP leaders were hoping to hear Tuesday night, staying on-message and talking in optimistic tones, even weighing in at one point to settle a brewing dispute over how to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker Paul Ryan declared the speech a "home run," pointing to Trump's embrace for the first time of tax credits — a central element in the Republican plan to replace former President Barack Obama's health care law.