WASHINGTON — Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s first Supreme Court appointee, on Thursday drew protesters to the Trump International Hotel when he gave his first major speech in Washington there to a conservative education group.

Several progressive groups accused Gorsuch of undercutting the court’s appearance of impartiality. They said he may be required to recuse himself if the justices are asked to decide whether Trump is violating the Constitution’s ban on presidents taking an emolument from a foreign state — as critics have suggested he is — by profiting from foreign emissaries using the hotel.

“In an era of ruthless ideological divisions, Justice Gorsuch’s decision will undermine the court’s public legitimacy as an entity above partisan politics,” the groups said in a public letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

The groups included the Planned Parenthood Federation, the Alliance for Justice and NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Gorsuch also drew criticism a week ago for joining Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to speak at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, McConnell’s home state.

In his role as majority leader, McConnell played the key role last year in blocking hearings for President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, which cleared the way for Trump to name Gorsuch to fill the vacant seat and the Republican-controlled Senate to confirm him this year.

—Tribune Washington Bureau


Librarian turns down ‘cliche’ books donated by Melania Trump

NEW YORK — A librarian at an award-winning Massachusetts school declined books donated by the first lady, suggesting she instead send them to students who are truly in need.

The White House selected a school from every state to receive 10 Dr. Seuss books in recognition of “National Read a Book Day” — among them, a Cambridge public school where Liz Phipps Soeiro works as a librarian.

In an open letter to Melania Trump on Horn Book’s Family Reading blog, Soeiro thanks the first lady for recognizing her school but then explains why her students do not need the donation.

“My students have access to a school library with over 9,000 volumes and a librarian with a graduate degree in library science,” she wrote. “Multiple studies show that schools with professionally staffed libraries improve student performance.”

Soeiro continues on to point out how libraries across the country are being shuttered while schools in “cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit are suffering through expansion privatization, and school ‘choice’ with no interest in outcomes of children, their families, their teachers and their schools.”

“Are those kids any less deserving of books simply because of circumstances beyond their control?” Soeiro wrote.

She urged Trump instead to send books to “underfunded and underprivileged communities that may continue to be marginalized and maligned by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.”

The librarian also criticized the book selection in general, which boasted titles including “Green Eggs and Ham,” “Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” and “Cat in the Hat.”

“You may not be aware of this, but Dr. Seuss is a bit of a cliche, a tired and worn ambassador for children’s literature,” Soeiro said. “As first lady of the United States, you have an incredible platform with world-class resources at your fingertips.”


Americans blame Facebook for fake news, new poll finds

WASHINGTON — The public has a tough message for Facebook: The social media giant needs to stop fake news — especially when it’s funded by Russia.

According to a new poll commissioned by the Factual Democracy Project, a group trying to fight the spread of intentionally fabricated news stories on social media, 73 percent of voters says Facebook should not allow foreign powers to run ads targeting Americans during an election.

It’s not just Russian-linked fake news the public is concerned about either: 78 percent of people said they want Facebook to prevent inaccurate stories from being widely shared on its platform.

The poll’s findings come after reports that Russia funded ads on Facebook targeting select groups of voters in 2016, with the intent of helping Donald Trump win the presidency and sowing division in the country at large. Those reports have put the spotlight on Facebook, with critics charging the company needs to do more to combat inaccurate reporting.

“Their consumers, at least in this poll, think of them as a media company,” said Melissa Ryan, founder of Factual Democracy Project. “And they want them to keep fake news off the platform.”

Ryan is a longtime Democratic political operative, an alum of EMILY’s List and Barack Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign who this year started FDP after an online fundraising campaign.

FDP used Public Policy Polling to conduct the survey. The Democratic firm interviewed 865 registered voters from Sept. 22 to Sept. 25, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

In an interview, Ryan emphasized that Facebook should be held to the same standard as traditional media companies that are responsible for vetting the accuracy of stories before they publish.

The poll, she said, shows the public feels the same way: 73 percent of voters said they think “Facebook should hold itself to the same standard as other media companies to only publish accurate stories about candidates during election season.”

“If you’re getting news from social media, it makes sense you would think of it as a news service,” Ryan said.

—McClatchy Washington Bureau

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.