As Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt finds himself consumed by scandal and speculation grows that his days in the Cabinet are numbered, President Trump signaled he plans to keep Pruitt around.
It has been a tough week for Pruitt. The EPA chief is under fire for accepting housing from the wife of a top energy lobbyist at far below market rates, giving immense pay raises to a pair of aides against the instructions of the White House, and flying first class around the country and the world at taxpayer expense. His reported taste for sirens and flashing lights, bulletproof cars and soundproof phone booths has also invited ridicule from critics.
President Trump will skip the White House Correspondents’ Assn.’s annual awards dinner for the second time since taking office, but he apparently will encourage his aides not to follow his lead as they did last year.
"The White House has informed us that the president does not plan to participate in this year's dinner but that he will actively encourage members of the executive branch to attend and join us as we celebrate the First Amendment,” association president Margaret Talev, a reporter for Bloomberg News, said in a statement.
Talev said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would represent the administration at the head table at the April 28 event. The White House did not immediately comment. Presidents occasionally decline their invitations and usually send the vice president in their place but Huckabee’s designation suggests Vice President Mike Pence also will not attend.
The Trump administration on Friday announced new sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs, 12 companies and 17 senior government officials for a variety of acts, including what one official called “attacks to subvert Western democracies.”
“Russian oligarchs and elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a news release.
Mnuchin criticized the Russian government for engaging in “a range of malign activity around the globe, including continuing to occupy Crimea and instigate violence in eastern Ukraine, supplying the Assad regime with material and weaponry as they bomb their own civilians, attempting to subvert Western democracies, and malicious cyber activities.”
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto forcefully criticized President Trump in a public address Thursday, calling Trump’s recent attacks on Mexico “offensive and unfounded.”
In his strongest rebuke yet of Trump, Peña Nieto said he will not tolerate threats to Mexico’s dignity or sovereignty and said the U.S. president should focus on domestic policy issues instead of lashing out at its southern neighbor.
Peña Nieto spoke one day after Trump, citing rising crime in Mexico, signed an order to deploy National Guard troops to the southern border. Also this week, Trump has threatened to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement if Mexico doesn’t do more to stop immigrants from reaching the United States.
Hay algo que a todos, absolutamente a todos los mexicanos, nos une y nos convoca: la certeza de que nada, ni nadie, está por encima de la dignidad de México. pic.twitter.com/3FxfbAF4zl
President Trump said Thursday that he did not know his personal lawyer had made a $130,000 payment days before the 2016 presidential election to a pornographic movie actress who had accused Trump of engaging in a consensual affair.
Asked whether he was aware of the payment to Stormy Daniels, Trump offered a one-word response: “No.” He spoke during an Air Force One flight from an event in West Virginia to Washington.
It was not clear from the brief comments when Trump became aware of the payment to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. He said reporters would have to ask his attorney, Michael Cohen, why Cohen made the payment.
President Trump on Thursday revived a long-debunked claim about massive voter fraud in California, telling an audience in West Virginia that “millions and millions of people” had voted illegally in the state.
"In many places, like California, the same person votes many times,” Trump said. “You probably heard about that. They always like to say 'oh that's a conspiracy theory.' Not a conspiracy theory, folks. Millions and millions of people."
Trump first made that accusation shortly after his election, saying that he only lost the popular vote because of illegal voting in California. After his inauguration, the administration set up a commission to look into voter fraud. It was eventually disbanded and did not come up with any evidence to back Trump’s theories.
Arrests of people illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico surged in March, the administration announced Thursday, the day after President Trump asked governors to station National Guard troops along the border.
The Border Patrol arrested 37,393 people in March, a 37% increase from February and more than double the number from March of last year, according to statistics released Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security.
The numbers remain quite low by historical standards, however, tracking closely with figures from recent years in which the number of people apprehended crossing the border rose sharply in the spring. Overall, illegal border crossings in recent years have been at the lowest level since the early 1970s.
When administration officials briefed reporters at the White House late Wednesday about President Trump’s renewed assault on illegal immigration, a senior official openly spoke about the political advantage they hope to gain.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has told Mexican authorities that National Guard troops deployed on the border would not be armed or participate in immigration or customs duties, according to the Mexican Foreign Ministry.
Nielsen’s plan, though still vague, would use state Guard units in support roles, in accordance with U.S. law, resembling the two recent deployments from Presidents Obama and George W. Bush.
Mexico said it has emphasized to the Trump administration that if the deployment comes to resemble a militarization of the border, “it will gravely damage the bilateral relationship.”
The Trump administration is asking border-state governors to send National Guard units to the Southwestern border, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Wednesday.
“The president is frustrated” over continued illegal immigration, Nielsen said. “He has been very clear that he wants to secure our border.”
National Guard personnel would not be allowed to arrest people crossing the border, but could provide support to the Border Patrol, much as happened in 2006 under the Bush administration, and in 2010 under the Obama administration, Nielsen said.