Spokesman Spicer cites 'studies' to back Trump voter claim

- A spokesman says President Donald Trump's belief that there were millions of illegal votes cast in the November election is based on "studies and evidence." 

   But spokesman Sean Spicer did not provide examples of that evidence. 
 
   Trump first made the false claim during the transition. He reiterated the statement in a meeting Monday night with lawmakers, blaming illegal ballots for his loss of the popular vote. 
 
   Spicer says Trump "continues to maintain that belief." There has been no evidence to support the claims that there was widespread voter fraud in the election. 
 
   Spicer's only attempt to support Trump's assertion was to point a 2008 Pew Research survey that showed a need to update voter registration systems.

Other Trump news, Tuesday:
 
   An Agriculture Department research agency has banned the release of news releases, photos and other material to the public. 
 
   In a memo to employees at USDA's Agricultural Research Service, chief of staff Sharon Drumm said the agency would immediately cease releasing any "public-facing" documents. 
 
   "This includes, but is not limited to, news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content," read the email memo obtained by The Associated Press. 
 
   A statement released by ARS spokesman Christopher Bentley said the agency "values and is committed to maintaining the free flow of information between our scientists and the American public as we strive to find solutions to agricultural problems affecting America." 
 
   The statement said some material would still be available on the agency's website. 
 
   Buzzfeed News first reported the memo.
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   The White House says President Donald Trump has accepted House Speaker Paul Ryan's invitation to address a joint session of Congress on Feb. 28. 
 
   Ryan announced the invitation on Tuesday and informed reporters after a meeting with House Republicans. Ryan had met with Trump Monday night at the White House. Trump also met with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders on Monday. 
 
   Trump was meeting Tuesday at the White House with top Senate leaders. 
 
   The speech will be Trump's first to Congress. He was sworn in to office on Friday. 
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   The Trump administration has instituted a media blackout at the Environmental Protection Agency and barred staff from awarding any new contracts or grants. 
 
   Emails sent to EPA staff since President Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday and reviewed by The Associated Press detailed the specific prohibitions banning press releases, blog updates or posts to the agency's social media accounts. 
 
   The Trump administration has also ordered a "temporary suspension" of all new business activities at the department, including issuing task orders or work assignments to EPA contractors. The orders are expected to have a significant and immediate impact on EPA activities nationwide. 
 
   The EPA did not respond to phone calls and emails requesting comment Monday or Tuesday.
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   President Donald Trump is hanging up some new art in the White House press area -- and it's none too subtle. 
 
   The panoramic photo shows the crowds gathered near the U.S. Capitol for Trump's inauguration on Friday. It's a nod to the ongoing interest the president has in making it clear that his event was well-attended. 
 
   Trump tweeted: "A photo delivered yesterday that will be displayed in the upper/lower press hall. Thank you Abbas!" For emphasis, the official Twitter account of the president retweeted the (at)realDonaldTrump message. The photo was taken by Washington-area photographer Abbas Shirmohammadi, and it notes the wrong date -- Jan. 21, although it does appear to depict the correct event. 
 
   Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer have taken pains to play up the crowd size, sometimes exaggerating the number in attendance. They've excoriated the media for what they said is an effort to downplay enthusiasm for Trump's inauguration. 
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   President Donald Trump has taken steps to streamline the permitting process for manufacturing. 
 
   He also wants pipelines to be made in the U.S., and an expedited process for environmental reviews and approvals. 
 
   The steps came as Trump signed executive actions to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. Former President Barack Obama blocked construction in late 2015 of the Keystone line from Canada to the U.S. Meanwhile, the Army Corps of Engineers is studying alternative routes for the Dakota Access pipeline. 
 
   Trump describes the regulatory process as a "tangled up mess." He says if the answer is no, it should be a quick no. If the answer is yes, Trump says "let's start building." 
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   Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he'll be "making my decision this week" and "we'll be announcing it next week."
 
   "We have some outstanding candidates," the president said. "And we'll pick a truly great Supreme Court justice."
 
   The Supreme Court has only had eight justices since Justice Antonin Scalia died last year. President Barack Obama nominated a replacement but Republicans in the Senate refused to bring the choice up for a vote.
 
   During his campaign, Trump publicly identified nearly two dozen candidates for the vacancy.
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   President Donald Trump has signed executive actions to advance the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.
 
   Trump tells reporters in the Oval Office that the moves on the pipelines will be subject to the terms and conditions being renegotiated by the U.S.
 
   President Barack Obama killed the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in late 2015, saying it would hurt American efforts to reach a global climate change deal.
 
   The pipeline would run from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast. The U.S. government needs to approve the pipeline because it crossed the border.
 
   The Army decided last year to explore alternate routes for the Dakota pipeline after the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters said the pipeline threatened1 drinking water and Native American cultural sites.
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   FBI Director James Comey is staying in his job. A Justice Department memo lists him among officials remaining in their positions.
 
   FBI directors are appointed to 10-year terms intended to carry across presidential administrations, even when a new party takes over the White House.
 
   President Donald Trump criticized the FBI during the campaign for its decision not to recommend charges against his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. But he also appeared to warmly greet Comey at a law enforcement gathering over the weekend.
 
   Comey is in his fourth year in the job.
 
   The New York Times first reported that Comey would stay on.
 
   The director's job has been a 10-year term since 1976. Since then, only one has been removed prematurely -- Reagan appointee William Sessions by Bill Clinton in 1993.
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   President Donald Trump is expected to take executive action Tuesday to advance construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.
 
   That's according to a person with knowledge of the action. The president is scheduled to sign orders at the White House late Tuesday morning.
 
   Former President Barack Obama killed the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in late 2015, declaring it would have undercut U.S. efforts to clinch a global climate change deal that was a centerpiece of his environmental legacy. The pipeline would run from Canada to U.S. refineries in the Gulf Coast. The U.S. government needed to approve the pipeline because it crossed the border.
 
   The Army decided last year to explore alternate routes for the Dakota pipeline after the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters said the pipeline threatened drinking water and Native American cultural sites.
 
   The person with knowledge of the decisions insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to confirm the moves ahead of a formal announcement.
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   President Donald Trump says he's an environmentalist.
 
   The president made the comments Tuesday at a breakfast with auto industry executives.
 
   He didn't elaborate on why he sees himself as an environmentalist, but the comments came after urging companies from the auto industry and beyond to bring jobs back to the U.S.
 
   On Monday, he made similar comments at a business breakfast, stating, again without elaborating, "I'm a very big person when it comes to the environment. I have received awards on the environment."
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   Trump told his guests Tuesday at the White House that he's looking to ease regulations to help auto companies and any other businesses wishing to do business in the U.S.
 
   Among the attendees of the breakfast are Ford Motor Co. chief executive Mark Fields, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne and General Motors chief executive Mary Barra.
   ------
 
   President Donald Trump's efforts to build bridges and push through his agenda have been overshadowed once again with his continued fixation on the election and more false claims.
 
   During a bipartisan reception with lawmakers at the White House late Monday, Trump claimed the reason he'd lost the popular vote to his Democratic rival was that 3 million to 5 million immigrants living in the U.S. illegally had voted.
 
   That's according to a Democratic aide familiar with the exchange who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting. There is no evidence to support Trump's claim.
 
   Trump on Tuesday will continue his outreach efforts as he meets with executives from the auto industry and speaks by phone with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
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