- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2017

President Trump conferred Sunday with Israel’s prime minister, scheduled meetings with the leaders of Canada and Mexico and oversaw the swearing-in of his senior White House staff, telling them they will do “great things over the next eight years” for America.

A day earlier, he visited the CIA to try to put to rest reports of tension, and he and his top aides objected to unfavorable coverage from the press as they sought to hit the ground running on his agenda after Mr. Trump’s swearing-in as the nation’s 45th president on Friday.

First up: an executive order easing compliance with Obamacare and a halt to all Obama administration regulations that haven’t been finalized — far short of the hectic start Mr. Trump promised on the campaign trail, when he said that on his first day in office he would crack down on sanctuary cities, direct immigration agents to enforce the laws more rigorously and move to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal.

Mr. Trump capped a whirlwind first weekend in office Sunday with the swearing-in of 30 senior White House staffers. Mr. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, gave the new White House team a pep talk, saying their mission is “not about ideology.”

“We will prove worthy of this moment in history,” Mr. Trump said. “Each and everyone of you should be extremely proud. We will face challenges. But with faith in each other and faith in God, we will get the job done.”

The new chief executive made calls to governors of states hit by fierce weather that swept through the Southeast on Saturday night, offering condolences for the lives lost.

“They all got hit hard,” he said.

Mr. Trump had a brief exchange with FBI Director James B. Comey during a ceremony for first responders, calling him over for a quick handshake. Both leaned in for a few whispered words, sparking media reports that the two men shared a hug.

On Saturday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer took the unusual step of scheduling a press briefing to blast reporters for their coverage of the inauguration and the president’s first day. He insisted, despite evidence to the contrary, that Mr. Trump’s inauguration drew more people, both in person and on television, than any previous ceremony.

He also excoriated reporters for running with an erroneous rumor that Mr. Trump had removed a bust of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office.

“There has been a lot of talk in the media about the responsibility to hold Donald Trump responsible, and I’m here to tell you that it goes two ways. We’re going to hold the press accountable as well,” Mr. Spicer said.

Mr. Trump mentioned the size of the crowd during a visit to the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on Saturday. Democrats said it was unseemly.

“While standing in front of the stars representing CIA personnel who lost their lives in the service of their country — hallowed ground — Trump gave little more than a perfunctory acknowledgment of their service and sacrifice,” said Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. “He will need to do more than use the agency memorial as a backdrop if he wants to earn the respect of the men and women who provide the best intelligence in the world.”

The White House moved to quickly put Mr. Trump’s stamp on international relations with the country’s closest neighbors and allies.

He has a meeting scheduled for Friday with British Prime Minister Theresa May at the White House.

He also said he has scheduled a meeting with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Jan. 31 to discuss the administration’s concerns about illegal immigration and border security, and Mr. Trump’s desire to improve the Clinton-era North American Free Trade Agreement that is blamed for the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

“We’re going to renegotiate on NAFTA, on immigration and on security at the border,” Mr. Trump said. “I ran a campaign somewhat based on NAFTA. I think we’re going to have a good result for the United States, for Mexico and for everybody involved. It’s very, very important.”

The president spoke by phone with Mr. Pena Nieto on Saturday, his first phone call with a foreign leader since his inauguration.

Mexico has been terrific, actually, terrific,” Mr. Trump said. “And the president has been really very amazing.”

The Mexican leader’s office said Mr. Pena Nieto congratulated Mr. Trump on his inauguration and expressed willingness to work together “with a focus on respect for the sovereignty of both nations and shared responsibility.”

A high-level Mexican delegation is scheduled to hold talks with Trump administration officials in Washington on Wednesday and Thursday.

Mr. Trump said he also will meet soon with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The president said he had a “very nice” phone call Sunday afternoon with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The White House said Mr. Trump “emphasized that peace between Israel and the Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties, and that the United States will work closely with Israel to make progress towards that goal.” Mr. Trump invited Mr. Netanyahu to the White House for a meeting in early February.

Mr. Trump declined to answer a question about a report by Israeli media that his administration plans to make an announcement on Monday about plans to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The White House downplayed the reports of an imminent announcement, saying in a statement on Sunday, “We are at the very beginning stages of even discussing this subject.”

The Palestinians have said that moving the U.S. Embassy would kill any chance of peace. President Obama said before leaving office last week that the Trump administration should proceed cautiously because the move could have “explosive” consequences.

Mr. Trump told the Israel Hayom Hebrew-language newspaper last week that “clearly I did not forget” his promise during the campaign to move the embassy.

“You know that I am not a person who breaks promises,” he said.

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