By Associated Press - Tuesday, February 21, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times EST):

7:20 p.m.

The former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is blasting the Trump administration’s plans to alter Obama-era guidance that linked access to school bathrooms to students’ gender identity.

Vanita Gupta says the Trump administration can’t strip transgender students of their rights because the law will continue to protect them. The Obama administration issued the directive to public schools in May, sending a warning that they could lose federal funding if they did not comply with its interpretation of the law.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer says President Donald Trump believes it is a states’ rights issue. But Gupta says that ignores “the vital and historic role that federal law plays in ensuring that all children (including LGBT students) are able to attend school free from discrimination.”


6:25 p.m.

President Donald Trump says protests in Republican congressional districts are being planned “by liberal activists.”

The president’s comments on Twitter Tuesday come as Republicans face angry constituents nationwide, frustrated by Trump’s Cabinet appointments and plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the federal health care law credited with drastically cutting reducing the number of uninsured people while also driving up the cost of monthly premiums.

None have faced more scrutiny than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is managing a narrow majority to push through the president’s agenda and Cabinet appointments. Nearly 1,000 people jeered McConnell as he drove to a speech Tuesday.

Trump writes, “The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!”


4:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he is “saddened” by the unexpected death of Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, calling him “an accomplished diplomat.”

The president acknowledges in a statement Tuesday that Vitaly Churkin and his U.S. counterparts “sometimes disagreed.”

But he adds that Churkin “played a crucial role in working with the United States on a number of key issues to advance global security.”

Churkin died Monday, a day before his 65th birthday. He was the longest-serving ambassador on the Security Council, the U.N.’s most powerful body.

New York’s medical examiner said Tuesday that the cause and manner of his death need to be studied further.


3:15 p.m.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer answered a question about anti-Muslim sentiment with a response about President Donald Trump’s desire “to combat radical Islamic terrorism.”

Spicer had been asked during a Tuesday press briefing about an increase in anti-Muslim groups and whether the president had been forceful in denouncing anti-Muslim sentiment.

Spicer responded by telling reporters that Trump “in terms of his desire to combat radical Islamic terrorism… understands that people who want to express a peaceful position have every right under our Constitution.”

But he adds that if people “seek to do our country, our people harm, he is going to fight it aggressively, whether it’s domestic acts that are going on here or attempts through people abroad to come into this country.”

He added that “there’s a big difference” between preventing attacks and “allowing people to express themselves in accordance with our First Amendment.”


3 p.m.

President Donald Trump will meet with former primary rival and frequent critic John Kasich on Friday.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer says the Ohio governor reached out to request a meeting with Trump “on multiple occasions.”

Spicer says that the president has shown that he’s been willing to meet with anyone who can share his vision, including those who’ve opposed him in the past.

He says the president “understands that he’s the president for every American” and is interested in finding common ground.

Kasich and Trump clashed bitterly during the GOP primary and Kasich has continued to criticize the president since his election.


2:25 p.m.

The White House says the Trump administration is working on a new set of guidelines on the use of school bathrooms for transgender students.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday that the Department of Justice will issue new directives on the issue soon.

The statement comes as LGBT rights groups are sounding alarm that the new administration is planning to rescind an Obama-era directive allowing students to use school restrooms that match their gender identity, not their assigned gender at birth.

Spicer did not provide any details on the new guidelines, but said that President Donald Trump has long held that such matters should be left for states, not the federal government, to decide.


10:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump is calling recent threats against Jewish community centers “horrible and painful.”

Trump made the remarks after touring the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture. He said it was a “meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all forms.”

The threats against JCCs are a “very sad reminder” of the work to be done in the country,” Trump said.

Joining him are his daughter Ivanka Trump; Trump’s pick for secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson and his wife, Candy Carson; and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.


9:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump is visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The president is touring the museum’s exhibits with a group that includes Ben Carson and Carson’s wife, Candy, as well as the president’s daughter Ivanka, aide Omarosa Manigault and museum staff.

The president says of the museum: “Honestly, it’s fantastic.”

The museum includes an exhibit dedicated to Carson’s rise from poverty to prominent pediatric neurosurgeon, which the group stopped to admire and pose for photos.

Carson was one of Trump’s rivals in the GOP primary and is the president’s pick to serve as the next secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Trump’s wife Melania Trump visited the museum last week with Sara Netanyahu.


6:20 p.m.

A longtime CIA analyst says he resigned from the agency last week because he “cannot in good faith” serve the administration of President Donald Trump.

Edward Price writes in an opinion piece for the Washington Post published online Monday that Trump’s campaign rhetoric combined with some of his initial moves in the White House led to his decision.

Price specifically criticizes Trump’s speech in front of a memorial wall at CIA headquarters the day after taking office in which he defended the size of his inauguration crowd. He also cites Trump’s reorganization of the National Security Council last month, which has been seen as a downgrade in influence for intelligence officials.

Price worked at the CIA since 2006. He was also a staffer at the NSC from 2014 to earlier this year.


5:45 a.m.

The Kremlin has refrained from comment on the appointment of the new U.S. national security adviser, saying it will wait to see what stance Washington will take.

President Donald Trump named Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to the job Monday. McMaster replaces retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who was fired last week after Trump determined that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his discussion with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition.

Asked about how the Kremlin views the appointment, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he wouldn’t comment on what is Trump’s prerogative. He noted Tuesday that “it’s important to us how our relations will develop,” adding that “we are patiently following our American partners determining their stance.”


3:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump has chosen as his national security adviser a soldier-scholar who fought in both Iraq wars.

Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster also published an influential book that called out the U.S. government for “lies” that led to the Vietnam War.

The White House says McMaster will remain on active military duty while leading the National Security Council.

McMaster joins two retired generals - Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly - already in Trump’s inner circle, adding to the impression that the president prefers military men in top roles.

McMaster replaces retired Gen. Michael Flynn, who was fired last week after Trump determined that Flynn had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his discussion with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. during the presidential transition.

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