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Sunday
Jan222017

President Trump on FBI Director Comey: 'He's Become More Famous Than Me'

Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Trump came face-to-face with FBI Director James Comey on Sunday after questions circulated whether Comey would stay on the job for the rest of his term in the new administration.

The president called out the FBI director, who is three years into his 10-year term, during a ceremony in the White House Blue Room honoring the law enforcement who oversaw the inauguration. President Trump joked, "He's become more famous than me," as Comey walked up to him and shook his hand, and the president patted him on the back.

 

 

Democrats have criticized Comey for his decision before the presidential election to announce in a letter to Congress that the FBI was reviewing additional emails in the Hillary Clinton email investigation. On Nov. 6, two days before the election, he said in a second letter that the FBI had "not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July."

Members of Hillary Clinton's campaign team have cited Comey's letters as a reason for her defeat in the election.

Before the president's inauguration, House Democrats slammed the FBI director for remaining mostly silent on any investigation into alleged connections between President Trump's campaign and the Russian government. Several members of Congress said Comey would not reveal if the FBI was already investigating or if there would be an investigation, even behind closed doors.

Last week in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on This Week, President Trump's Chief of Staff Reince Preibus said the president had confidence in Comey, despite the president being tough on the FBI director during the campaign.

"We have had a great relationship with him over the last several weeks," Preibus said. "He's extremely competent. But look, his term extends for some time yet. There's no plans at this moment in changing that term and we've enjoyed our relationship with him and find him to be extraordinarily competent."

In the same show, Sen. Bernie Sanders told Stephanopoulos it "would not be a bad thing for the American people" if Comey decided to step down.

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Sunday
Jan222017

Conway: Crowd Size at Inauguration 'Was Historic' Considering Projections and Rain

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said the issue of crowd sizes at Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday in comparison to prior inaugurations is "not so important."

Her comments came just hours after President Trump made false claims about turnout and ordered his press secretary, Sean Spicer, to hold his first press conference to reiterate them. Spicer blasted the media, accusing news organizations of intentionally framing photographs to "minimize the [president's] enormous support" and claiming the Jan. 20 ceremony had the "largest audience ever."

Conway towed a similar line Sunday on ABC News' "This Week," arguing that the crowd "was historic based on the projections that were given and certainly based on the fact that we, for the first time, have a nonpolitician in the White House."

Aerial images from Friday’s inaugural at noon during President Trump’s swearing-in show fewer people on the National Mall than during President Obama’s 2009 inaugural at the same time.

After touting a historic crowd, Conway blamed the inclement weather for discouraging more attendees: "First of all, there was rain -- the downpour that was reported -- and I think it deterred many people from coming."

"But there were hundreds of thousands of people here," she told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "And more importantly, 31 million people watched this inaugural [on TV] ... according to Nielsen. That is far above the 20.5 million that watched President Obama's second inauguration."

Nielsen ratings reported that 30,600,000 watched Trump's inauguration on television, more than the 20,552,000 who viewed President Obama getting inaugurated in 2013, but less than the 37,793,000 who watched Obama taking the oath of office in 2009. All of them fell short of the record 41,800,260 viewers of President Reagan's first inauguration in 1981.

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Sunday
Jan222017

President Trump Swears in Senior Staff, Touts Obama Oval Office Letter

ABCNews.com(WASHINGTON) -- In his first remarks from the White House East Room, President Trump kicked off a swearing-in ceremony for his White House senior staff by holding up the copy of a letter President Obama left on the Resolute Desk for him before escorting him to the Capitol on Friday.

"I just went to the Oval Office and found this beautiful letter from President Obama," Trump said. "It was really very nice of him to do that. And we will cherish that. We will keep that."

He ended the moment with a tease of the media.

"And we won't even tell the press what's in that letter," he said.

The good-bye letter from president to president has turned into a staple of the transition of power. Traditionally, it's a page-long message that bridges partisanship and instead carries a personal and poignant message of well-wishing.

Trump in the ceremony then went on to praise the members of his staff before Vice President Mike Pence administered an oath of office. This included top advisers such as Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, whose appointment to a senior staff position has raised questions among ethics lawyers about a potential breach of nepotism law.

In Trump's tribute to his staff he also offered a hint of early confidence at a successful run in 2020.

"And speaking of important, you are very important because with you and all of the people in this room, we are going to do some great things over the next eight years," Trump said.

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Sunday
Jan222017

Kellyanne Conway ‘Didn’t See The Point’ to Women’s March on Washington

ABC News(NEW YORK ) -- Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said she "didn't see the point" to the Women's March on Washington on Saturday.

"I frankly didn't see the point. I mean you have a day after [President Trump] is uplifting and unifying, and you have folks here being on a diatribe where I think they could have requested a dialogue. Nobody called me and said, 'Hey, could we have a dialogue?'" Conway told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" on Sunday.

Conway also addressed the celebrity presence at the march in Washington, D.C., which was one of hundreds such demonstrations Saturday around the U.S. and the world that drew over a million participants. She called out Madonna for using "profanity-laced" language.

"You have celebrities from the podium using profanity-laced insults. You have a very prominent singer who's worth hundreds of millions of dollars not going over to a woman's shelter here in D.C. to write a check, but instead saying that she thought of, quote, 'burning down the White House,'" Conway said.

Madonna made a surprise appearance at the Women's March on Washington and in her remarks said, "Yes, I'm angry. Yes, I am outraged. Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House ... But I know that this won't change anything. We cannot fall into despair."

Conway said she "briefly" talked to Trump about the march, adding, "We certainly respect people's First Amendment rights."

She also noted that the Democratic Party's political leaders -- former President Barack Obama and 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton -- didn't make an appearance at any of the marches Saturday.

"The other thing I would just mention, George, is, guess who was conspicuous by their absence yesterday? President Obama, Secretary Clinton -- they were at the, they were up on the platform applauding and embracing President Trump" at the inauguration, she said.

The counselor to the president also addressed the first We the People petition to hit the new WhiteHouse.gov site, which calls for President Trump to released his tax returns. As of Sunday, over 200,000 people have signed the petition.

Asked by Stephanopoulos for a response from the White House, Conway replied, "The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns."

"We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care. They voted for him, and let me make this very clear: most Americans are, are very focused on what their tax returns will look like while President Trump is in office, not what his look like," she said.

In a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, seventy-four present of Americans say President Trump should release his tax returns; that includes 49 percent of his own supporters, as well as nearly all of Clinton’s (94 percent) and 83 percent of those who had another preference, or none. Forty-one percent, overall, say they “care a lot” about Trump releasing the records. The number who favor release of the documents is higher than it was in two related questions in ABC News/Washington Post polls during the election campaign. In May, 64 percent said he should release the returns, and in September, 63 percent said he was not justified in withholding them.

After Conway's comments that the president would not be releasing his tax returns, WikiLeaks encouraged people to leak the tax documents so it could release them.



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Sunday
Jan222017

McCain Will Vote Yes on Trump's Secretary of State Nominee Rex Tillerson

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Sen. John McCain praised President Donald Trump's cabinet picks and revealed he will vote in favor of Rex Tillerson, Trump's pick to lead the State Department, despite concerns about the nominee's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"I will be voting in favor of his nomination," McCain said of Tillerson in an interview Sunday with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on "This Week."

"Listen, this wasn't an easy call. But I also believe that when there's doubt the president, the incoming president, gets the benefit of the doubt, and that's the way I've treated every president that I've had the obligation to vote for or against as a member of the United States Senate."

McCain also praised some of Trump's other Cabinet picks, saying he has the "utmost confidence" in Trump's national security team, in particular.

"I have the utmost confidence in Gen. Mattis, Gen. Flynn, Gen. Kelly, Dan Coats. I couldn't have picked a better team," he said.

But, the Arizona senator did not have the same praise for the president himself.

Asked by Stephanopoulos if he has the "utmost confidence" in President Trump, McCain replied "I don't know because he has made so many comments that are contradictory."

"I think the fact that he's appointed and nominated these outstanding individuals is bound to be an encouraging sign," McCain added. "I trust them, and I believe in them, and I've worked with them over many years.


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Sunday
Jan222017

Conway Slams Ex-CIA Chief as Sounding ‘Like a Partisan Political Hack’

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway shot back at former CIA Director John Brennan for his criticism of President Trump's speech to the intelligence agency, saying the former intelligence leader sounded “like a partisan political hack.”

"We really would prefer the intelligence community that’s going out the door to be much more respectful toward the president and his vision in moving forward," Conway said in an interview Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week,” calling Brennan's remarks "spectacularly disappointing."

The president on Saturday visited CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, where he assured 400 or so members of CIA senior leadership and staff in attendance that he backs them “1,000 percent.”

“I can only say that I am with you 1,000 percent, and the reason you're my first stop is, that as you know, I have a running war with the media,” President Trump said. “And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you're the number one stop is exactly the opposite.”

Standing in front of the CIA Memorial Wall commemorating those in the agency who lost their lives in service, Trump’s speech also veered at times onto the topics of press reports on numbers in attendance at his inauguration and his electoral success, similar themes as in his campaign and post-election speeches.

Former CIA director John Brennan, who served under President Obama, later said through a spokesperson that the president should be “ashamed of himself” for the speech.

“Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of the CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes. Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself,” former CIA deputy chief of staff Nick Shapiro tweeted Saturday.

Conway said the president decided to go to the agency on the first full day of his presidency to build "good will."

"The intelligence community that we saw on their feet yesterday, welcoming President Trump for his rousing speech, is the one that we look forward to working with," she said.

Conway also told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos that Trump supports his press secretary after Sean Spicer slammed the media from the White House podium Saturday.

"The president supports his press secretary and his press operation, obviously. And I think that our press secretary, Sean Spicer, was making the point that accountability has to go both ways," Conway said.

In the president’s first full day in office, Spicer blasted the media in a statement accusing news organizations of falsely reporting the size of crowds at the Jan. 20 inauguration and intentionally framing photographs to "minimize the enormous support" of those in attendance.

Aerial images from Friday’s inaugural at noon during President Trump’s swearing-in show fewer people on the National Mall than during President Obama’s 2009 inaugural at the same time.

Conway did not say if it was Trump's idea for Spicer to make the statement to reporters.

Conway added that the question of how many people attended the inauguration is "not a very animating topic" for her.

"I think the crowd-size argument is not so important as what [Trump is] going to do this week as president of the United States," she said.

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Sunday
Jan222017

Schumer Previews Bill to Curtail Trump Authority on Russian Sanctions

Rachel Woolf/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that he and a bipartisan group of senators will take steps to block President Trump from being able to singlehandedly weaken U.S. sanctions on Russia.

Schumer said Sunday on ABC News' "This Week" that the bill, to be introduced this coming week, is in response to the possibility that the Trump administration could offer to lift sanctions against Russia in exchange for Russia's reducing its nuclear arms.

The New York senator said such an exchange would be misguided.

"For us to repeal sanctions, given what Russia has done in Ukraine and threatened the Baltics, and now they have clearly tried to intervene in our election -- whether it had an effect or not -- that is something, that’s a danger that we have never faced to this extent in American history.

“We repeal sanctions, it tells Russia, 'Go ahead and interfere in our elections and do bad things;' it tells China; it tells Iran. That would be terrible,” Schumer said.

The Democratic senator added that Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both of whom have been vocal critics of some of Trump’s rhetoric on Russia, support the bill.

Schumer also criticized Trump's speech to the CIA on Saturday and his inaugural address the previous day.

"President Trump ought to realize, he's not campaigning anymore. He's president. And instead of talking about how many people showed up at his inauguration, he ought to be talking about how many people are going to stay in the middle class and move into the middle class," Schumer told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos.

The senator said another thing that bothered him about Trump's inaugural speech, "as much as sort of the narrowness of it and the darkness of America that he portrayed, was this -- I think he's trying to use populist rhetoric to cover up a right-wing agenda."

"If you look at this Cabinet, they are far from the populism that [Trump] talked about, people like [the nominee for health and human services secretary, Tom] Price, who want to end Medicare as we know it by privatizing it."

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Sunday
Jan222017

'Saturday Night Live' Enlists 'Putin' to Ridicule Trump Inauguration Attendee Numbers

Twitter/@nbcsnl(NEW YORK) -- With Alec Baldwin's portrayal of Donald Trump missing from this week's episode of "Saturday Night Live," Beck Bennett's Vladimir Putin and Kate McKinnon's Kellyanne Conway were responsible for skewering all things Trump -- particularly the number of attendees at Friday's inauguration and Putin's alleged involvement in Trump's win.

The cold open began with the message, "And now a paid message from From the Russian Federation," featuring cast member Bennett's Putin speaking to the camera from an office in Moscow.

"Hello America," begins Bennett's Putin. "Yesterday, we all made Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States. Hooray, we did it! And today many of you are scared, and marching in the streets. You are worried your country is in the hands of this unpredictable man. But don't worry -- it's not. Relax, I've got this -- Puti, is going to make everything OK. I promise that we will take of America, it's the most expensive thing we've ever bought."



Bennett's Putin then takes aim at the conflicting number of attendees at the inauguration. "I'm glad to see so many people showed up to your inauguration," he says as a photo of thousands of people is shown. "Oh, wait, that's the Women's March. Here is inauguration." A photo showing empty patches of space on the National Mall, taken during the inauguration, is then show.

The cold open also addressed Saturday's Women's March on Washington, and similar marches that occurred worldwide.

Bennett's Putin asks, "So why are American women protesting? In Russia, women have no reason to protest."

He then introduces a Russian woman, played my McKinnon: "Hello, I am Olya, Russian woman," she says. "I am so happy. Each day I wake up with big smile on my face like this. I sleep in bed, not in carcas of dog. My president is number one hottie for all time.

Bennett's Putin then gives her a fish, to which she responds, "Ah, my pension!"



Later in the show, McKinnon's Kellyanne Conway makes her return in sketch in which she is being interviewed by CNN's Jake Tapper, played by Bennett. When he asks her, "What do you get out of this?," she breaks out into a musical-esque number in which she sings about her desire to be a celebrity.

"The name on everybody's lips is going to be Conway ... The lady raking in the chips is going to be Conway ... I am going to be a celebrity, that means somebody everyone knows."

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Sunday
Jan222017

Trump Spokesman Slams Media Over Inauguration Coverage

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- White House press secretary Sean Spicer slammed the media in a statement to the press on his first day on the job, accusing news organizations of falsely reporting that fewer people attended Donald Trump's inauguration than attended previous inaugurations, claiming that photographs were “intentionally framed” to make the crowds appear smaller.

Spicer was disputing reports -- based largely on photographic evidence -- that the crowd gathered at Trump's inauguration was not as large as the crowd for President Obama's inauguration in 2009.

He refused to take questions from reporters but displayed a photo that he said accurately portrayed the number of Americans on the National Mall Friday.

The photograph he showed was a non-aerial shot, taken from behind the podium, looking out at the crowds. Aerial photographs of the two inaugurations run Friday, taken from the same viewpoint but taken an hour apart on the respective days, showed a distinct difference in the number of people in attendance.

The Washington, D.C., Metro system was less inundated Friday morning than it was during Obama's first inauguration. As of 11 a.m. ET, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said it had recorded 193,000 trips, compared with the 513,000 trips taken up to that time on Jan. 20, 2009. Some 317,000 trips were taken by 11 a.m. ET on Obama’s second inauguration on Jan. 21, 2013, the government agency said.

Spicer called the media "irresponsible" and said attempts to downplay the significance of the inauguration were "shameful and wrong."

He said new security measures slowed access to the National Mall.

"This was also the first time that fencing and magnetometers went as far back on the Mall, preventing hundreds of thousands of people from being able to access the Mall as quickly as they had in inaugurations past," he said.

According to law enforcement officials ABC News spoke with during the inauguration, the checkpoints and magnetometers were cleared of all lines before the inauguration ceremony began, and by the time the event started, there were no lines.

"The security perimeter for this inauguration was extended due to lessons learned and world events. Security fencing was placed around the National Mall this inauguration. There were seven access points where bag checks only were conducted," a U.S. Secret Service spokesperson said.

Those checkpoints on the National Mall -- the non-ticketed area -- had no magnetometers and were manned by TSA, Park Police and U.S. Secret Service personnel, who checked bags.

For the ticketed section this year, additional magnetometers were added to screen more people in less time, law enforcement officials said.

There were no significant problems with the flow of people through security checkpoints for this event according to officials, and attendees were cleared in time for the event.

In 2009, several thousand ticketed attendees were trapped in the 3rd Street tunnel -- the so-called "purple tunnel of doom" -- unable to get cleared through security in time to see the swearing-in.

The National Park Service, which operates and maintains the National Mall, does not release official crowd estimates. District of Columbia officials have said that 1.8 million people attended Obama's 2009 inauguration and close to 1 million attended his second in 2013.

Before Friday's festivities, federal and District of Columbia officials estimated 700,000 to 900,000 people would attend Trump's inauguration. The D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency said it was planning for 800,000 to 900,000 people to attend the inauguration.

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Saturday
Jan212017

President Trump Tells CIA: 'I Am With You 1,000 Percent'

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Donald Trump in his first official visit to a federal agency since the inauguration went to CIA headquarters in Virginia Saturday where he assured the 400 or so CIA staff in attendance that he supports them "a thousand percent.”

"Very, very few people could do the job you people do, and I want to just let you know, I am so behind you," Trump said. "I know maybe sometimes you haven't gotten the backing that you've wanted, and you're going to get so much backing.”

Trump was accompanied to the meeting by his nominee to head the agency, Kansas Rep. Mike Pompeo; his national security adviser, Gen. Mike Flynn; and Vice President Mike Pence.

“I believe that this group is going to be one of the most important groups in this country toward making us safe, toward making us winners again, toward ending all of the problems,” Trump said to the assembled group.

The president’s visit comes in the wake of a recent war of words between Trump and intelligence officials over the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia used hacking to interfere with the U.S. presidential election and to help elect Trump.

However, Trump said Saturday that any notion of disagreements between him and the intelligence community was due to false portrayals by the media.

“I can only say that I am with you a thousand percent, and the reason you're my first stop is, that as you know, I have a running war with the media,” Trump said. “And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community.”

While still president-elect, Trump went so far as to publicly suggest in a tweet last weekend that John Brennan, then-head of the CIA, was involved in leaking an unverified dossier alleging that Russia holds compromising information on Trump. He has also forcefully denounced the unverified allegations in the dossier as false.

Trump’s tweet about Brennan came after the then-CIA chief said in Fox News interview on Jan. 15 that Trump “does not fully” understand the threat of Russia and cautioned Trump to be “very disciplined” in what he posts to his Twitter. Later that day, in response to Brennan's interview, Trump pointed the finger at Brennan, asking on Twitter: "Was this the leaker of Fake News?"

Trump later acknowledged in a Fox News interview on Jan. 18 that he accepted Brennan’s assertion that he was not responsible for the leak of the unverified dossier.

But, the new president's harsh views of the intelligence community go further back.

When on Dec. 9 the Washington Post reported that the CIA said the Russians had directed computer hacking during the U.S. election to help Trump win, the Trump transition team released a statement slamming the spy agency -- "these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." Trump's nominee for CIA director, Mike Pompeo, however, expressed a different view during his recent Senate confirmation hearing, telling the Senate Intelligence Committee it was "pretty clear" Russia was behind the hacks.

"It's pretty clear about what took place, about Russian involvement in efforts to hack information and have an impact on American democracy," Rep. Mike Pompeo said last week. "It is something that America needs to take seriously."

And, Trump himself acknowledged in a press conference Jan. 11 that Russia was probably behind the election hacking. "As far as hacking, I think it was Russia," Trump said.

Trump praised Pompeo on Saturday, “I met him and I said, ‘He is so good.’ Number one in his class at West Point. I know a lot about West Point, and I'm a person that very strongly believes in academics.”

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