AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST
Trump moving forward with border wall, weighs refugee cuts
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will begin rolling out executive actions on immigration Wednesday, beginning with steps to build his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to two administration officials. He's also expected to target so-called sanctuary cities and is reviewing proposals that would restrict the flow of refugees to the United States.
The president is expected to sign the first actions — including the measure to jumpstart construction of the wall — Wednesday during a trip to the Department of Homeland Security. Additional actions will be rolled out over the next few days, according to one official.
Trump is said to still be weighing the details of plans to restrict refugees coming to the U.S. The current proposal includes at least a four-month halt on all refugee admissions, as well as temporary ban on people coming from some Muslim majority countries, according to a representative of a public policy organization that monitors refugee issues. The person was briefed on the details of that proposed action by a government official and outlined the expected steps for The Associated Press.
The officials and the public policy organization's representative insisted on anonymity in order to outline the plans ahead of Trump's official announcements.
On his personal Twitter account Tuesday night, Trump tweeted: "Big day planned on NATIONAL SECURITY tomorrow. Among many other things, we will build the wall!"
Trump dogged by insecurity over popular vote, media coverage
WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump holds the most powerful office in the world. But he's dogged by insecurity over his loss of the popular vote in the election and a persistent frustration that the legitimacy of his presidency is being challenged by Democrats and the media, aides and associates say.
Trump's fixation has been a drag on the momentum of his opening days in office, with his exaggerations about inauguration crowds and false assertions about illegal balloting intruding on advisers' plans to launch his presidency with a flurry of actions on the economy. His spokesman Sean Spicer has twice stepped into the fray himself, including on Tuesday, when he doubled down on Trump's false claim that he lost the popular vote because 3 million to 5 million people living in the U.S. illegally cast ballots.
"He believes what he believes based on the information he was provided," said Spicer, who provided no evidence to back up the president's statements. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have finalized their election results with no reports of the kind of widespread fraud that Trump is alleging.
If the president's claim were true it would mark the most significant election fraud in U.S. history — and ironically, would raise the same questions about Trump's legitimacy that he's trying to avoid. Yet Spicer repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether the Trump administration would investigate the allegations pushed by the president.
"Anything is possible," he said.
10 Things to Know for Wednesday
Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday:
1. TRUMP TO MOVE ON BORDER SECURITY
The president is set to begin rolling out executive actions on immigration, beginning with steps to tighten the nation's borders, sources tell the AP.
2. REBUKING OBAMA, TRUMP BOOSTS PIPELINES
The president gives his go-ahead to the huge Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, moving aggressively to overhaul America's energy and climate policy.
Watchdog group: Corruption worsens under populist leaders
BERLIN (AP) — People who turn to populist politicians promising to upset the status quo and end corruption may only be feeding the problem, an anti-corruption watchdog group warned Wednesday.
Transparency International said in its annual Corruption Perceptions Index for 2016 that in countries with populist or autocratic leaders, "instead of tackling crony capitalism, those leaders usually install even worse forms of corrupt systems."
The group's board chairman, Jose Ugaz, cited Hungary and Turkey as examples. Their scores have worsened in recent years under leaders with authoritarian leanings, while Argentina, which ousted a populist government, has improved in the rankings, he said.
Based on expert opinions of public sector corruption, the annual report rated Denmark and New Zealand as the least-corrupt countries, followed by Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Norway. Somalia was ranked most corrupt, followed by South Sudan, North Korea, and Syria.
Rounding out the Top 10 least corrupt were Singapore, the Netherlands, Canada, and the tie-placing trio of Germany, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom in the No. 10 spot. The United States placed 18th, down from 16th in 2015.
Trump admin orders EPA contract freeze and media blackout
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration has instituted a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency and barred staff from awarding any new contracts or grants, part of a broader communications clampdown within the executive branch.
The prohibitions came to light Tuesday as the agency moved to delay implementation of at least 30 environmental rules finalized in the closing months of President Barack Obama's term, a potential first step to seeking to kill the regulations.
A summary of the actions posted in the Federal Register includes a long list of regulations that include updated air pollution rulings for several states, renewable fuel standards and limits on the amount of formaldehyde that can leach from wood products. President Donald Trump signed a directive shortly after his inauguration on Friday ordering a "regulatory freeze pending review" for all federal agency rules that had been finalized that have not yet taken effect.
Emails sent to EPA staff and reviewed by The Associated Press also detailed specific prohibitions banning press releases, blog updates or posts to the agency's social media accounts.
The Trump administration has also ordered what it called a temporary suspension of all new business activities at the department, including issuing task orders or work assignments to EPA contractors. The orders were expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide. EPA contracts with outside vendors for a wide array of services, from engineering and research science to janitorial supplies.
Rebuking Obama, Trump boosts Keystone XL, Dakota pipelines
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump moved swiftly Tuesday to advance the controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines, signing executive actions to aggressively overhaul America's energy policy and deal a sharp blow to Barack Obama's legacy on climate change.
Obama had personally halted the Keystone XL project, which was to bring oil from Canada to the U.S., and major protest demonstrations have frozen work on the Dakota pipeline.
Trump, in his continuing effort to undo the past eight years of a Democratic president, invited the Keystone builder, TransCanada, to resubmit its application to the State Department for a presidential permit to construct and operate the pipeline. The company said it would reapply.
Obama halted the proposed pipeline in late 2015, declaring it would undercut U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal that was a centerpiece of his environmental agenda.
Trump also ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to quickly review and approve construction and easement requests for the Dakota Access pipeline, a project that has led to major protests by American Indian groups and their supporters.
Trump expands anti-abortion ban to all US global health aid
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — President Donald Trump has massively expanded the ban on providing federal money to international family planning groups that perform abortions or provide abortion information to all organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance.
Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer announced Monday that the ban on family planning funding — which was instituted by GOP President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and has bounced in and out of law between Democratic and Republican administrations — had been reinstituted. But it wasn't until the president's memorandum was published Monday night that the expansion came to light.
The order directs the secretary of state, in cooperation with the secretary of health and human services, for the first time to extend the requirements in the ban "to global health assistance furnished by all departments or agencies." The ban is known as the Mexico City Policy or Global Gag Rule.
Suzanne Ehlers, president of Washington-based Population Action International which lobbies in the U.S. and developing countries for women's reproductive health, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that targeting health assistance expands the amount of U.S. funding affected by a magnitude of 15 times and will impact millions and millions of women in low- and middle-income countries.
U.S. support for family planning currently amounts to about $575 million in 40 countries, she said, while global health assistance totals about $9 billion to about 60 countries.
Water lead-level falls below federal limit in Flint
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Flint's water system no longer has levels of lead exceeding the federal limit, a key finding that Michigan environmental officials said Tuesday was good news for a city whose 100,000 residents have been grappling with the man-made water crisis.
The 90th percentile of lead concentrations in Flint was 12 parts per billion from July through December, below the "action level" of 15 ppb, according to a letter from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to Flint's mayor. It was 20 ppb in the prior six-month period.
Based on the sample of 368 residential sites, Flint's lead levels are again comparable to other similarly sized U.S. cities with older infrastructure, state officials said.
"This is good news and the result of many partners on the local, county, state and federal levels working together to restore the water quality in the City of Flint," the department's director, Heidi Grether, said in a statement. "The Flint water system is one of the most monitored systems in the country for lead and copper, and that commitment will remain to ensure residents continue to have access to clean water."
Residents, whose mistrust in government remains high nearly three years after a fateful switch of Flint's water source in April 2014 while the city was under state management, are being told to continue using faucet filters or bottled water because an ongoing mass replacement of pipes could spike lead levels in individual houses. The replacement of the lines is expected to take years.
Pro-Trump site gets 1st question at White House briefing
NEW YORK (AP) — White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer took the first question at his briefing Tuesday from a reporter who works for LifeZette, a website founded by Donald Trump supporter Laura Ingraham that published some untrue stories during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Last year, LifeZette released a video, "Clinton Body Count," that promoted a conspiracy theory that Hillary and Bill Clinton had ties to the deaths of several colleagues and Democrats. Another video posted two weeks before the election promoted false claims that voting machines in 16 states could be compromised because they were linked to a company tied to liberal activist George Soros.
LifeZette features a mix of conservative politics, lifestyle and consumer articles and videos. Its home page Tuesday featured a story about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady calling Trump to congratulate him on becoming president; one that questioned the purpose of last weekend's women's march; and another in which Fox News' Sean Hannity condemned Trump officials who had leaked information to the press.
Tuesday's briefing was another indication of how press relations have changed with the onset of a new administration in Washington.
The reporter, Jim Stinson, asked Spicer when President Trump would follow through on campaign promises about immigration.
'1984' sales soar after Trump claims, 'alternative facts'
NEW YORK (AP) — After incorrect or unprovable statements made by Republican President Donald Trump and some White House aides, one truth is undeniable: Sales of George Orwell's "1984" are soaring.
First published in 1949, Orwell's classic dystopian tale of a society in which facts are distorted and suppressed in a cloud of "newspeak" topped the best-seller list of Amazon.com as of Tuesday evening. The sales bump comes after the Trump administration's assertions his inauguration had record attendance and his unfounded allegation that millions of illegal votes were cast against him last fall.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway coined an instant catchphrase Sunday when she called his claims about crowd size "alternative facts," bringing comparisons on social media to "1984."
Orwell's book isn't the only cautionary tale on the Amazon list. Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel about the election of an authoritarian president, "It Can't Happen Here," was at No. 46. Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" was at No. 71.
Sales also were up for Hannah Arendt's seminal nonfiction analysis "The Origins of Totalitarianism."