THE MORNING PLUM:
The savviest Washington observers have spoken: Despite the massive outpouring of energy and organizing in favor of action on guns in the wake of the Florida massacre, nothing is going to happen. That is an easy bet. It is also an easy bet that those savvy observers will chalk that up to “Washington,” or “partisan bickering,” or “political reality,” which will make accountability harder to achieve for the politicians — who will almost certainly be all Republicans — culpable for ensuring that outcome.
But maybe “nothing is going to happen” is the wrong frame for what we’re seeing right now. Maybe the massive outpouring of energy and organizing is itself the thing that is happening. And maybe that suggests a posture over the long term that does not fall back on fatalism, which is, at bottom, the safer and easier position.
The Washington Examiner reports that some vulnerable House Republicans who represent suburban districts are seriously feeling pressure from constituents to pass gun regulations in Congress. This is putting them in a bind: They don’t want to do anything that will enrage the tiny but vocal gun-rights slice of their base, but they (23 of them) inhabit districts that Hillary Clinton carried. And suburban swing voters, who are not culturally conservative on guns, want action.
This quote, from GOP Rep. Ryan Costello, who represents Philadelphia suburbs, is key: “The gun safety issue, or movement, is much more organized, much more effective.” Costello added that gun safety has “now taken on more priority” as one of those “quality of life, safety issues” that “a lot of suburban voters look at.”
There is plenty of evidence that the movement for gun safety is more energized than usual. We are constantly told that the reason nothing happens is that gun rights voters are deeply invested in voting on the issue, even as those who want action, while in the majority, are not. But that may no longer be true: This week’s CNN poll suggested that the percentages who “strongly” favor stricter gun control laws vastly outnumber those who “strongly” oppose them. Larger percentages “strongly” want action even among voter groups who are supposed to be culturally inclined against it, such as non-college-educated and evangelical Christian whites, and even people from gun-owning households.
Then there’s the long list of companies that have cut ties with the National Rifle Association in the wake of the Florida massacre. As Joshua Green reports, the fact that these companies don’t want to be associated with a group that symbolizes angry intransigence and inaction on guns, in the face of the carnage, is basically a market-oriented decision, one that shows that the people arrayed on the other side of this cultural divide are a large and increasingly motivated force.
None of this necessarily means congressional Republicans will act, of course. With President Trump set to host congressional leaders for a “summit” Wednesday on guns, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may allow a vote on a measure that would improve and incentivize the sharing of state and federal data with the national background check database. But House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) will not commit to holding a vote on such a bill, which would be a step forward but a modest one to begin with.
Meanwhile, some senators have lobbied the White House to get behind a broader bill to close holes in the current background check system by requiring checks for private sales. The Post reports that some lawmakers are claiming they need more direction from Trump as to what he will support, which is basically a way of creating an escape hatch for inaction. Just as happened on immigration, the White House may well punt and hide behind a hailstorm of Trump tweets bashing Democrats for failing to compromise, even as Republicans vigorously nod along in unison.
But even if Trump were to get behind something like expanded background checks, it’s very hard to see that getting through the Senate (where most Republicans will vote against it) or especially the House. If something as ambitious as expanded background checks even gets a vote, Ryan will likely allow his vulnerable members to vote for it, even as it mysteriously falls short of enough Republican votes to pass.
Needless to say, failure will be widely chalked up to those vague-but-constantly-invoked forces of “gridlock,” “partisan wrangling” and “Washington politics as usual.”
But guess what: There is an election coming up. And the increased organization and energy we’re seeing might have political consequences. As Ron Brownstein has explained, many of these House Republicans in suburban districts are kind of trapped behind enemy lines, in districts filled with college-educated and suburban voters who already are angry about Trump. No matter how they vote, they might bear the brunt of anger for failure. As Brownstein notes, this creates a “clear path to rebuilding a House majority for gun control.” And by the way, that CNN poll found that huge majorities of the voter groups who could help make that happen — nonwhites, women, young people, college-educated whites — all strongly favor action.
Sure, it’s likely nothing of immediate significance will happen this time. But we should nonetheless try to sustain the organization and energy we’re seeing. Studied fatalism about short-term failure won’t make that long-term imperative any easier.
* MUELLER PROBING TRUMP’S RUSSIA DEALINGS: CNN reports that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has been asking witnesses about Trump’s dealings with Russia prior to 2016, including what happened during the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow:
A second area of focus was what happened during the event. The source said questions also focused on meetings Trump had with Russian business people or government officials, leading the source to believe the investigators were probing the possibility of “kompromat,” or compromising material, on Trump. … Investigators were interested in logistics surrounding Trump’s hotel room in Moscow: Who was there? Who would have access to it?
This appears to have some overlap with the info in the “Steele dossier,” which may set Trump off on another rampage.
* KUSHNER’S WINGS ARE CLIPPED: The New York Times reports that White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has revoked Jared Kushner’s top-secret security clearance, in keeping with a policy put in place after the Rob Porter fiasco:
Mr. Kushner’s clearance was reduced to the level of secret and his official portfolio inside the West Wing, especially with regard to his globe-trotting foreign affairs work on behalf of President Trump, is expected to be sharply reduced. … Mr. Kushner’s business background [had] long raised concerns in American security agencies that foreign governments might try to gain influence inside the Trump White House by trying to do business with the president’s son-in-law.
This comes after Kushner had repeatedly failed to disclose foreign contacts as part of the security clearance process.
* FOREIGN GOVERNMENTS SOUGHT TO INFLUENCE KUSHNER: His wing-clipping comes as The Post reports that officials in at least four countries have privately discussed how to manipulate him, worrying U.S. intelligence services:
H.R. McMaster, President Trump’s national security adviser, learned that Kushner had contacts with foreign officials that he did not coordinate through the National Security Council or officially report. … Officials in the White House were concerned that Kushner was “naive and being tricked” in conversations with foreign officials, some of whom said they wanted to deal only with Kushner directly and not more experienced personnel.
It looks as if this might put Kushner’s plans to bring peace to the Mideast on hold.
* DEMS FLIP ANOTHER TRUMP DISTRICT: Democrat Phil Spagnuolo grabbed a state legislative seat in a New Hampshire special election Tuesday night, winning by eight points in a district that Trump carried by 13 points, for a swing of 21. Dems also won a Connecticut legislative seat, bringing the total Dems have flipped from the Republicans since Trump’s inauguration to 39.
About 20 of the seats Dems have flipped were in districts carried by Trump, some by very large margins. This bodes well for Dem energy in November.
* RUSSIANS BREACHED STATE ELECTION SYSTEMS: NBC News scoops that U.S. intelligence believed state websites or voter registration systems in seven states were compromised by Russia-backed operatives:
The officials say systems in the seven states were compromised in a variety of ways, with some breaches more serious than others, from entry into state websites to penetration of actual voter registration databases. While officials in Washington informed several of those states in the run-up to the election that foreign entities were probing their systems, none were told the Russian government was behind it, state officials told NBC News.
Six of the states deny this happened, but experts think this discrepancy underscores how unprepared we are for more to come. Good thing our president is shrugging about it.
* AND DICK’S SPORTING GOODS MAKES A STAND: Dick’s Sporting Goods has just announced that it will no longer sell assault-style rifles and will raise the age for all gun purchases to 21:
We support and respect the Second Amendment, and we recognize and appreciate that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens. But we have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us. Gun violence is an epidemic that’s taking the lives of too many people, including the brightest hope for the future of America — our kids.
Dick’s also called on lawmakers to pass an assault-style ban and universal background checks, among other things. I guess this means Dick’s has contempt for gun culture?