Melania Trump attends Md. court hearing in defamation suit

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

5 p.m.

Future first lady Melania Trump has attended a hearing in a courthouse in Maryland as part of legal proceedings in a defamation suit.

Trump lawyer Charles J. Harder says in a statement that Trump attended the 24-minute hearing Monday morning in Montgomery County, Maryland, circuit court. Trump filed the suit in September, alleging that a Maryland blogger and the Daily Mail Online falsely accused her of being involved with an escort agency during her modeling career.

Harder says Trump was not required to attending the scheduling conference, but did so to show her commitment to the case.

The Washington Post reports that lawyers for the Daily Mail Online and blogger Webster Tarpley were present.


3:05 p.m.

President-elect Donald Trump has formally tapped Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn for a top White House economic post.

Cohn will serve as director of the National Economic Council, heading a department with a key role in policymaking. The post does not require Senate confirmation.

In a statement, Trump says Cohn will "put his talents as a highly successful businessman to work for the American people."

Trump was critical of Goldman Sachs during the presidential campaign and lambasted Democratic rival Hillary Clinton for giving paid speeches to the Wall Street giant. But he's now chosen three people with ties to the bank for his administration, including Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary nominee, and Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist and senior counselor.


2:40 p.m.

The White House is shooting down the notion floated by one of President-elect Donald Trump's potential State Department picks that the Obama administration may have framed Russia with false hacking allegations.

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said over the weekend that the cyber interference in the election might have been a "false flag" and left open the possibility it was done by the Obama administration. A false flag is an operation designed to look like it was perpetrated by someone else.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says he can rule out that possibility. He says a "wide range of irresponsible conspiracy theorists" have floated the theory.

Bolton has been on Trump's list of potential candidates for secretary of state. Trump's transition team says Bolton is also being considered for another State Department role.


1:50 p.m.

The White House says the U.S. relationship with Taiwan should not be used as a bargaining chip to increase leverage with China over trade and other issues.

Over the weekend, President-elect Donald Trump told "Fox News Sunday" that he wouldn't feel "bound by a one-China policy unless we make a deal with China having to do with other things, including trade."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says that adhering to a policy of one China has allowed for a close trading partner in Taiwan and a "constructive relationship" with China.

Earnest says efforts to curb global warming and prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon could not have occurred without China's help.

Earnest says progress benefiting the American people and the Chinese is "much more difficult if tensions are heightened around our one-China policy."


1:42 p.m.

Hillary Clinton's campaign is backing an effort by members of the Electoral College to request an intelligence briefing on foreign interference in the presidential election.

Top political aide John Podesta says electors have "a solemn responsibility under the Constitution" and should have their questions answered.

Her campaign is also calling on the Obama administration to declassify information around Russia's role in the election.

Weekend reports found that some in the intelligence community believe Russia released hacked emails to aide President-elect Donald Trump. A bipartisan group in the Senate is calling for an investigation.


1:40 p.m.

The White House says it supports an investigation by Congress into the role that Russia played in last month's president election.

GOP leaders in both chambers say that committees will be looking into cyber threats, even as President-elect Donald Trump has said the recent CIA assertion that Russian hacking had sought to help his candidacy was "ridiculous."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says that one of the goals of an intelligence review ordered by President Barack Obama is to compile information that can be presented to Congress.

Earnest says the congressional review "is certainly warranted when you consider the stakes and the consequences."

Earnest is also praising intelligence officials, saying the men and women in the intelligence community are "patriots" and that the president has benefited enormously from their expertise.


1:18 p.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says the House Intelligence Committee will look into cyber threats such as hacking by Russia of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

But the Wisconsin Republican says any investigation "should not cast doubt on the clear and decisive outcome of this election." He also chided those who would exploit the work of the U.S. intelligence community for "partisan purposes."

Ryan said that Russian interference into the election is "especially problematic" since President Vladimir Putin's Russia is an aggressor that undermines U.S. interests.

Ryan's statement came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also called for a continuing probe into charges that the Russian government hacked into the DNC and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta's email account.


12:15 p.m.

Former technology executive Carly Fiorina says she has discussed foreign policy and hacking threats with President-elect Donald Trump.

Fiorina met with her former rival for the GOP presidential nomination Monday in Trump Tower. She said they discussed "China as probably our most important adversary" and hacking, "whether it's Chinese hacking or purported Russian hacking."

Fiorina said Trump has a ripe opportunity to "literally reset things" and said he is getting "fantastic people in his administration." She did not respond to questions about whether she is up for a role in his Cabinet.

During the Republican primary, Fiorina won applause from women on both sides of the aisle when she pushed back on Trump after he suggested her face is unattractive.


12:04 p.m.

A senior Lockheed Martin official is defending the price tag of the F-35 stealth fighter and said he is ready to answer any questions Donald Trump may have regarding the price tag.

Jeff Babione, executive vice president and general manager of the F-35 program. said it is the most affordable plane of its kind.

He spoke Monday after Trump tweeted he'll cut the costs of the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program after he takes office.

Babione is in Israel as it prepares to receive the first two next-generation F-35 fighter jets.


11:48 a.m.

A handful of members of the Electoral College are demanding an intelligence briefing on whether the government is investigating links between Trump's campaign and Russia.

Ten electors released an "open letter" to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper requesting information about ongoing investigations on ties between Trump and any Russian government interference in the election. One is a rogue Republican who says he won't vote for president-elect Donald Trump.

The letter released on the social media site Medium was written by Christine Pelosi, the daughter of top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California. Also signing the letter is Chris Suprun, a Texas Republican who says he won't vote for Trump, citing a Federalist paper by Alexander Hamilton that says electors must determine that the president is qualified and independent from foreign influence.


11:40 a.m.

Donald Trump has spoken with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

A statement from Rajoy's office said the prime minister congratulated Trump personally for winning the U.S. election. Rajoy had previously only sent a telegram, shortly after the vote.

They talked about strengthening bilateral relations and touched on international issues, especially the partnership in fighting jihadism. They also spoke about the consequences of Brexit and the global economic situation.

Trump's transition team gave no readout on the call.


10:05 a.m.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has strongly condemned any foreign meddling to influence the U.S. election. McConnell spoke to reporters Monday, a day after President-elect Donald Trump said the recent CIA assertion that Russian hacking had sought to help his candidacy was "ridiculous."

McConnell says that the "Russians are not our friends" and condemned Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other "U.S. political organizations."

The Kentucky Republican says the Senate Intelligence Committee will investigate. He made his remarks as Trump continues to downplay the CIA's confidential assessment that the Russian government hacked into the DNC and Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta's email account.


8:55 a.m.

Donald Trump says he'll reduce the costs of the Pentagon's most expensive weapons program -- Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter -- after he takes office.

The president-elect tweeted Monday that the "F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th."

The tweet comes the same day Defense Secretary Ash Carter visited Israel as it prepared to receive the first two next-generation F-35 fighter jets intended to help preserve the country's military edge in the volatile Mideast.

The F-35 program has an estimated cost of nearly $400 billion. Israel is among a small number of allies to get the plane.


8:40 a.m.

President-elect Donald Trump is trying to cast new doubt on the CIA's conclusion that Russia tried to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.

He's tweeting Monday that "it's very hard to determine who was doing the hacking." He adds that if his campaign had lost the election and "we tried to play the Russia/CIA card. It would be called conspiracy theory!"

That there was hacking in 2016 and previous elections is not in dispute, nor is it a newly-discussed revelation. There's broad agreement from President Barack Obama and lawmakers of both parties on investigations into which countries were responsible, including, but not limited to, Russia.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, who joined Senate Democrats Sunday to call for an immediate bipartisan investigation, said Monday on "CBS This Morning" that probes are essential because hacking could be a new form of warfare.


7:30 a.m.

A top adviser to Donald Trump says the CEO of Exxon Mobil is an attractive candidate for secretary of state in part because he's done business deals with Russia.

Kellyanne Conway told two television network morning shows Monday that Rex Tillerson has long and appropriate ties with top Russian officials. She says, "It's not like Vladimir Putin and Rex Tillerson are pounding down vodka at the local bar. They're not intimate friends, but they deal with each other through business interests."

Trump has said that Tillerson's relationships in Russia are part of his appeal as a finalist for secretary of state. Democrats and some Republicans in the Senate have said those ties are a concern. Those comments have raised questions about whether Tillerson can be confirmed.

Trump has said he expects to make public his choice for the high-profile Cabinet post later this week.


3:18 a.m.

President-elect Donald Trump is facing an early test with fellow Republicans over U.S. relations with Russia. Lawmakers are seeking to investigate purported Russian interference in the November election and question the incoming president's potential pick for secretary of state.

Trump said Sunday that a recent CIA assessment that Russian hacking had sought to help his candidacy was "ridiculous." And he praised ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has emerged as the leading contender to lead the State Department.

But two key Senate Republicans -- John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a leading Trump critic -- joined with two Democrats in seeking a bipartisan investigation into the Kremlin's activities during the election. And McCain questions the possible choice of Tillerson because of close ties with Moscow.