Trump suggests leaving hundreds of unfilled administration jobs empty

WASHINGTON D.C. (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times local):

6:56 a.m.

President Donald Trump acknowledges that there remains hundreds of unfilled jobs in his administration, but says “they’re unnecessary to have.”

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” that aired Tuesday, Trump says he has no intention of filling many of the open positions.

He says, “I say, ‘What do all these people do?’ You don’t need all those jobs.”

Trump also says that some are looking to criticize him for eliminating those positions, but he adds, “That’s not a bad thing. That’s a good thing. We’re running a very good, efficient government.”

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6:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he believes President Barack Obama is behind some of the protests against Republican lawmakers across the country.

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” that aired Tuesday, Trump responded to a question about the protests, saying, “I think that President Obama is behind it, because his people are certainly behind it.”

He adds that he thinks Obama loyalists are also behind White House leaks.

Trump concedes, “I also understand that’s politics. And in terms of him being behind things, that’s politics. And it will probably continue.”

He says he’s not surprised, saying “I’m changing things that (Obama) wanted to do.” Trump said he’s tougher than Obama in terms of his efforts to deport anyone living in the country illegally.

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6:20 a.m.

President Donald Trump denies that there’s a “major leak process” at the White House following reports that White House press secretary Sean Spicer targeted leaks from his own staff.

In an interview with Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” aired Tuesday, Trump responded to a Politico report that said Spicer convened an “emergency meeting” after details of a planning meeting got out, and conducted a “phone check” to prove they hadn’t been leaking information.

He says he “would have handled it differently than Sean. But Sean handles it his way and I’m OK with it.”

Trump says “Sean Spicer is a fine human being,” but adds, “I would have gone one-on-one with different people.”

Trump also White House officials have “sort of ideas” about who may have leaked information, adding that “we have people from other campaigns, we have people from other governments.”

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5:00 a.m.

President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday mandating a review of an Obama-era rule aimed at protecting small streams and wetlands from development and pollution.

A senior White House official says the order will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers to review a rule that redefined “waters of the United States” protected under the Clean Water Act to include smaller creeks and wetlands.

The official briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, despite the president’s recent complaints about unnamed sources.

Trump had railed against the water rule during his campaign, slamming it as an example of federal overreach. Farmers and landowners have criticized the rule, saying there are already too many government regulations that affect their businesses, and Republicans have been working to thwart it since its inception.

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3:30 a.m.

With his first address to Congress, President Donald Trump has an opportunity to refocus his young administration on the economic issues that helped him get elected. His allies hope it will help him move beyond the distractions and self-inflicted wounds that he has dealt with so far.

Trump’s advisers say he will use his prime-time speech Tuesday to declare early progress on his campaign promises, including withdrawing the U.S. from a sweeping Pacific Rim trade pact, and to map a path ahead on thorny legislative priorities, including health care and infrastructure spending.

The White House said Trump has been gathering ideas for the address from the series of listening sessions he’s been holding with law enforcement officials, union representatives, coal miners and others. Aides said he was still tinkering with the speech Monday night.

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