Related video: Spicer says Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons” (courtesy of Reuters)
WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sean Spicer is apologizing for making an “insensitive” reference to the Holocaust in earlier comments about Syrian President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
Spicer says in an interview with CNN that he mistakenly used “an inappropriate, insensitive reference to the Holocaust.” He says there was no comparison and “it was a mistake to do that.” He adds, “It was my blunder.”
Spicer said during a White House briefing Tuesday that Adolf Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” That drew instant rebuke from Jewish groups and critics who noted it ignored Hitler’s use of gas chambers to exterminate Jews during the Holocaust.
Spicer was attempting to discuss the horror of the chemical weapons attack last week in Syria.
This is a breaking news update. Check back later for more. (REUTERS)
WASHINGTON — President Trump’s plan for a wall along the Mexican border could be financed through a 20% border tax on all imports from the United States’ third largest trading partner, the White House said Thursday.
“It clearly provides the funding and does so in a way that the American taxpayer is wholly respected,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said. “We are probably the only major country that doesn’t treat imports this way.”
But shortly after he announced the proposal in an unscheduled “gaggle” with reporters on Air Force One, Spicer clarified to a separate group of reporters in the West Wing that it was just one proposal. “There are clearly a bunch of ways it can be done,” he said. “The point is American taxpayers are not going to fund it.”
White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus added that it was part of a “buffet of options.”
The unexpected proposal and subsequent backtracking underscored just how quickly the Trump White House is churning out policy proposals in a hectic first week in office, with a crowded calendar of meetings, speeches and executive actions.
The border tax plan would need congressional approval, and Spicer described it as the beginning of a process that would be part of overall tax reform. The tax proposal would have the benefit of dovetailing two of his signature policies: Curtailing illegal immigration and enacting more protectionist trade regulations.
But the proposal could face resistance even among Republicans.
“Border security yes, tariffs no,” Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., wrote on Twitter. “Simply put, any policy proposal which drives up costs of Corona, tequila, or margaritas is a big-time bad idea. Mucho Sad.”
The U.S. trade deficit with Mexico is was $49.2 billion in 2015, according to the U.S. Trade Representative. Though Spicer didn’t explain how the tax would work, the principle is similar to a border adjustment tax currently being discussed in Congress, which would heavily tax imports but give a tax credit on exports.
“Right now our country’s policy is to tax exports and let imports flow freely in, which is ridiculous,” Spicer said.
Spicer ran through the math by applying 20% to the difference, coming up with nearly $10 billion a year.
The United States could “easily pay for the wall just through that mechanism alone. That’s really going to provide the funding,” he said.
Actual imports from Mexico totaled $316.4 billion in 2015.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign several executive orders on Wednesday restricting immigration from Syria and six other Middle Eastern or African countries, according to several congressional aides and immigration experts briefed on the matter.
In addition to Syria, Trump’s orders are expected to temporarily restrict access to the United States for most refugees. Another order will block visas from being issued to Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, said the aides and experts, who asked not to be identified.
Trump’s restrictions on refugees are likely to include a multi-month ban on admissions from all countries until the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security can increase the intensity of the vetting process.
The Republican president was expected to sign the orders at the Washington headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security, whose responsibilities include immigration and border security.
On the campaign trail, Trump initially proposed a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States to protect Americans from jihadist attacks. Many Trump supporters decried Democratic President Barack Obama’s decision to increase the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States over fears that those fleeing the country’s civil war would carry out attacks.
Both Trump and his nominee for attorney general, U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, have since said they would focus the restrictions on countries whose emigres could pose a threat rather than placing a ban on people who follow a specific religion.
To block entry from the designated countries, Trump is likely to instruct the U.S. State Department to stop issuing visas to people from those nations, according to sources familiar with the visa process. He could also instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection to stop any current visa holders from those countries from entering the United States.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Tuesday that the State and Homeland Security departments would work on the vetting process once Trump’s nominee to head the State Department, Rex Tillerson, is installed.
Other measures may include directing all agencies to finish work on a biometric identification system for non-citizens entering and exiting the United States and a crackdown on immigrants fraudulently receiving government benefits, according to the congressional aides and immigration experts.
To restrict illegal immigration, Trump has promised to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and to deport illegal migrants living inside the United States. None of the orders to be signed Wednesday are expected to focus on those issues.
Trump is also expected to swear in his new secretary of homeland security, retired Marine General John Kelly, on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman
WASHINGTON — Incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer is defending cryptic comments by President-elect Donald Trump that he knows ‘‘things that other people don’t know’’ when it comes to allegations of Russian hacking.
Spicer tells Fox News Channel’s ‘‘Fox & Friends’’ that Trump is getting national security briefings ‘‘on a daily basis’’ and ‘‘there doesn’t seem to be conclusive evidence’’ Russians were behind the hacking of Democratic emails during the election.
Spicer also dismissed on Monday a report released by the FBI and Homeland Security Department supporting the accusations against Russia, calling it a ‘‘how-to’’ manual on basic cybersecurity for Democrats.
In an interview on NBC’s ‘‘Today Show,’’ Spicer said President Barack Obama only punished Russia after Democrat Hillary Clinton lost the election and that the recent sanctions were politically motivated. (The Boston Globe)