With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA: “I hear you” are words that don’t come naturally for President Trump.
That’s why an aide jotted them down on a notecard, which he held Wednesday during a 70-minute “listening session” at the White House with students, parents and teachers who have been affected by gun violence.
The president traveled out of his comfort zone. Uncharacteristically, he listened patiently as critics prodded him to do more. Sitting in a circle, he leaned forward and nodded frequently during a wide-ranging conversation that was at times emotionally raw. While Trump never actually said “I hear you,” he worked hard to convey that sentiment by asking questions and welcoming suggestions.
The event was a rare, successful effort to modulate and show a little range.
“All I can say is we’re fighting hard for you,” he said. “We will not stop. We will not stop ‘til we get there, and I just grieve for you. To me, there could be nothing worse than what you’ve gone through.”
Trump’s Alpha Male brand is built around projecting toughness and strength, but braggadocio becomes a liability against the backdrop of tragedy — when Americans yearn for leaders to show that they can feel their pain.
This president has struggled to show he has an empathy gene. After natural disasters and mass shootings, he’s often spent more time congratulating first responders rather than memorializing victims. After a woman was killed while protesting white supremacists in Charlottesville last summer, the president said there were bad people on both sides. A few weeks later, he criticized the mayor of San Juan for being ungrateful after a hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico. Then at a relief center he tossed rolls of paper towels to victims of the storm like they were basketballs.
Polls have shown that even many Trump supporters don’t think he is “compassionate” or understands their daily struggles.
-- When I saw that “I hear you” talking point on the president’s notecard, I immediately thought back to George W. Bush’s visit to Ground Zero after the Sept. 11 attacks. People in the crowd were yelling that they couldn’t hear the president. With a bullhorn in hand, he yelled back: “I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! … And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.” It was a powerful moment that helped unite the country in the face of unspeakable evil.
Bush was also deeply moved by soldiers who had been wounded during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, wars he ordered, and he bent over backward to show that he cared. During a 2005 visit to Walter Reed, he stood patiently as a mother yelled at him.
“One mom and dad of a dying soldier from the Caribbean were devastated, the mom beside herself with grief. She yelled at the president, wanting to know why it was her child and not his who lay in that hospital bed,” former White House press secretary Dana Perino recalled in her 2015 memoir. “Her husband tried to calm her and I noticed the president wasn’t in a hurry to leave — he tried offering comfort but then just stood and took it, like he expected and needed to hear the anguish, to try to soak up some of her suffering if he could.
“Later as we rode back on Marine One to the White House, no one spoke,” Perino wrote. “But as the helicopter took off, the president looked at me and said, ‘That mama sure was mad at me.’ Then he turned to look out the window of the helicopter. ‘And I don’t blame her a bit.’ One tear slipped out the side of his eye and down his face. He didn’t wipe it away, and we flew back to the White House.”
-- Two years ago, Barack Obama unveiled executive actions on guns at the White House. He was frustrated because the Republican-controlled Congress blocked his push for new laws. Tears began streaming down his face as he talked about the kids who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” Obama said.
Many conservative commentators ridiculed Obama for crying at the time, and Jimmy Fallon asked Trump amid the ensuing kerfuffle if he had ever cried. “Yeah. When I was one, I cried,” the businessman quipped.
“The last time I cried was when I was a baby,” Trump told People Magazine around the same time.
Trump has repeatedly made clear over the years his disdain for men who emote too much. He called Jeb Bush “a cry baby,” and he falsely accused ABC’s Martha Raddatz of crying on election night after his victory.
Wacky @glennbeck who always seems to be crying (worse than Boehner) speaks badly of me only because I refuse to do his show--a real nut job!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 8, 2015
After Chuck Schumer got emotional while speaking out against Trump’s travel ban during a news conference last year, the president accused him of faking it. “I noticed Chuck Schumer yesterday with fake tears,” Trump said as an aside during an unrelated Oval Office photo op. “I'm going to ask him who is his acting coach because I know him. I don't see him as a crier. … There's about a five percent chance it was real. But I think they were fake tears.”
During a 2016 interview on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Trump said that he’s too busy to be emotional. “I like to get things done,” he said. “I’m not a big crier. I’m not someone who goes around crying a lot.”
Pundits noted during the campaign that showing feelings is part of the job. NBC’s Lester Holt pressed Trump’s children during the Republican National Convention on this point. “Strength is obviously important. But we also sometimes look for our leaders to be compassionate, to console us during national tragedy,” he said. “Is this a man that can cry?”
“Very much so,” Donald Trump Jr. replied.
“I think we want to see it,” said Holt. “Have you ever seen him cry?”
“I have, I have,” said Don Jr. “I've seen him be very emotional.”
-- But there are clearly limits to how much empathy Trump can show — and how long he can do it. It’s difficult to picture Trump ever delivering speeches like the ones Obama gave in Charleston after a massacre at a black church, where he sang “Amazing Grace,” or in Tucson after Gabby Giffords was nearly assassinated, where he announced that “Gabby opened her eyes for the first time” and the crowd went wild. It’s also hard to imagine Trump ever delivering an address like Ronald Reagan did after the Challenger exploded or Bill Clinton after the Oklahoma City bombing.
During yesterday’s listening session, the president circled back to a solution he’s floated after previous mass shootings: increasing the number of people with guns so they can shoot back. “There are many different ideas,” he said. “Some, I guess, are good. Some aren’t good.”
To be sure, emotion is not the same as action. Trump will ultimately be judged by whether he follows through on his promises to do something to prevent future school shootings. On Twitter this morning, the president tried to signal that he’s serious about forging ahead on improving the background check system. But he also couldn’t help taking a shot at the media:
I will be strongly pushing Comprehensive Background Checks with an emphasis on Mental Health. Raise age to 21 and end sale of Bump Stocks! Congress is in a mood to finally do something on this issue - I hope!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
I never said “give teachers guns” like was stated on Fake News @CNN & @NBC. What I said was to look at the possibility of giving “concealed guns to gun adept teachers with military or special training experience - only the best. 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
....immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this. Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A “gun free” school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2018
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
A GREAT DAY FOR TEAM USA:
-- The U.S. women’s hockey team defeated Canada in the Olympic gold medal match, ending a 20-year drought for the Americans. The two longtime rivals played through a 20-minute overtime and an extended shootout that ended when U.S. goalie Maddie Rooney blocked a shot from Canada’s Meghan Agosta. As Rooney swatted the puck away, her teammates streamed onto the ice to celebrate a victory two decades in the making. (Chelsea Janes)
-- Team USA's Mikaela Shiffrin captured silver in the women’s Alpine skiing combined event. Barry Svrluga writes of the high expectations Shiffrin faced coming into Pyeongchang: “We know her second Olympics produced both a gold and a silver, … and that is historic. We also know that in her time here, she produced her best skiing less frequently than she hoped, and that impacted her results. Those two realities can seem like opposites. But we must understand that they can coexist.”
-- American David Wise defended his gold medal in the Olympic freestyle skiing halfpipe. Wise spent most of the competition trailing fellow American Alex Ferreira, who took home the silver medal. But Wise said the last run, which vaulted him into first place, was the best of his life. (Chico Harlan)
-- American Jamie Anderson won silver in the women’s big air competition. The second-place finish made Anderson the first woman snowboarder to win two medals at a single Olympics. (Rick Maese)
-- The U.S. team is catching up in the medal count as the games draw to a close. The Americans have currently won 21 medals, placing them fourth in the standings.
GET SMART FAST:
- Bernie Sanders is releasing a book one week after the November midterms. “Where We Go From Here” is centered on the 2016 presidential candidate's efforts to oppose Trump and strengthen the progressive movement. (AP)
- The National Transportation Safety Board released its initial findings on the crash between a trash truck and an Amtrak train carrying GOP lawmakers to a recent West Virginia retreat. Investigators said the truck’s driver maneuvered around rail crossing safety gates, causing the collision with the oncoming train. (Lori Aratani)
- The Supreme Court unanimously ruled whistleblower protections only apply to those who bring their complaints to the federal government. The decision referred to protections passed by Congress in the wake of the financial crisis. The justices ruled only those who shared reports of corporate misdeeds with the SEC, rather than their employers, could be protected. (Robert Barnes)
- MS-13 took responsibility for the 2016 murder of an 18-year-old in Leesburg, Va., after he posted photos of himself flashing rival gang signs on Facebook. The violent gang has made a resurgence in the D.C. region in recent years. (Rachel Weiner)
- Fox News host Jeanine Pirro (a Trump favorite) pleaded guilty to a speeding charge. New York State troopers stopped her going 119 mph, but the former district attorney pleaded guilty to going 95 mph in the 65 mph zone. She will have to take a driving course and pay $400 in fines. (Greenwich Daily Voice)
- An Argentine locksmith and self-taught astronomer has revealed critical clues about how stars explode. He managed to photograph the surge of light that accompanies a supernova’s birth, a phenomenon no human has ever been able to capture. (Sarah Kaplan)
- “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek will moderate a Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial debate this fall. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
A set of identical twin brothers proposed to their identical twin girlfriends at the same time — and, unsurprisingly, are planning a joint wedding. “We kind of always knew that we were never getting married unless it was to twins,” said Josh Salyers, who works with his twin at a manufacturing business. Luckily, their fiancees, who also work together at a law firm, agree. (New York Post)
MORE FLORIDA FALLOUT:
-- During a town hall on CNN last night, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) went further than he ever has in telegraphing support for gun-control proposals. But it wasn't enough for the shooting survivors and victims' parents who packed the audience and often jeered his responses. Marwa Eltagouri and Keith McMillan report: “Rubio said he would support a law that makes it illegal for 18-year-olds to purchase rifles, as well as the banning of bump stocks and expanded background checks. He said he pushed for a $50-million-a-year threat-assessment fund so states could identify people who could potentially commit mass shootings, and stop them. Rubio also said he’s reconsidered his position on magazine-clip size limits, saying that they might not help prevent a shooting, but could lower the number of lives lost in one. But when asked by Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky if he would stop accepting donations from the National Rifle Association, Rubio answered indirectly. … ‘I will always accept the help of anyone who agrees with my agenda,’ Rubio said.”
-- Rubio was the only Florida Republican to appear at the animated town hall, which featured direct questions from the students and their parents who have become activists in the wake of the school shooting. And he took plenty of heat, report Sean Sullivan and Ed O'Keefe. “'Your comments this week and those of our president have been pathetically weak,' [Fred] Guttenberg continued, staring Rubio down as the crowd around him rose to applaud." Guttenberg's 14-year-old daughter was killed in the mass shooting. "Rubio, who throughout his career has been a scripted and risk-averse politician, had thrust himself into a volatile and deeply personal discussion" and in supporting raising age limits for gun owners and reconsidering regulating the size of magazines, "Rubio stepped away from the pillars of the powerful gun rights movement that have long influenced the actions of most Republican members of Congress, including himself."
-- NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch also confronted the students, including Emma Gonzalez, emphasizing the need for law enforcement to act on tips over systematic change. "This is the eighth tragedy, the eighth tragedy, where we have seen numerous tips that have been reported and red flags," Loesch said. “This is what I'm talking about in terms of prevention and making sure that people who are dangerous should not have access to firearms, without punishing law-abiding Americans who want to be able to have that same right to defend themselves.” (CNN)
-- Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel was frequently applauded by students and parents, often for clashing with Loesch. From Marwa and Keith: “Loesch said that the NRA does not support people ‘who are crazy, who are a danger to themselves, who are a danger to others, getting their hands on a firearm.’ She criticized ‘flawed’ background check systems, though the NRA on its website states that it opposes expanding those systems. [Israel] interrupted her: ‘You just told this group of people you’re standing up for them. You’re not standing up for them until you say, 'I want less weapons.'”
-- Earlier in the day, Israel said he would begin deploying deputies with rifles on school grounds. From Mark Berman: “But Israel also said that more armed officers alone would not solve the problems revealed by the Douglas shooting. ‘We also need to talk about sensible gun control,’ he said. ‘There are certain people in this country that should not be ever allowed to have a gun.’ Israel said that, ultimately, to make sure students are protected, legislators need to enact changes.”
A SURGE OF ACTIVISM:
-- Thousands of Florida students and protesters rallied at the state capitol in Tallahassee, chanting “face us now” and demanding action to curb the sale of assault rifles. Michael Scherer reports: “National gun control groups, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and a group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), helped organize the rally … [Beforehand], Florida Senate Republican leaders met with a group of about 50 surviving students ... who had traveled to the state Capitol. One student denounced the NRA as ‘murderers’ … and many broke into tears as they described how their friends were shot.”
- “They are our students, our teachers and our coaches,” declared Sheryl Acquaroli, a 16-year-old Parkland shooting survivor. “And they died because you failed.”
- Tyra Hemans held a photo of a slain friend. “He was a boy who got shot in the head because of your laws …” she said, demanding that lawmakers look her in the eye as they spoke.
- “In his introductory remarks, Florida Senate President Joe Negron, a Republican who has received a perfect score from the [NRA], choked up while recounting the funeral he attended Tuesday for [slain student Peter Wang]. ‘We are here to listen to your concerns,’ he told the students. The lawmakers said they intended to reconsider a state law that allows 18-year-olds to buy assault rifles ... Negron also said the state would replace the school building where the shooting happened with a memorial.”
-- Democrats are also grappling with how to reconcile their mixed views on gun control. Paul Kane writes: “Democrats are fielding a number of House candidates who have mixed records on guns, if not outright praise from the NRA. … Needing 24 seats to reclaim the House majority, Democrats feel they need to win in some of these rural districts for total victory, so gun positions are not a litmus test.”
THE FEVER SWAMPS:
-- How shooting survivor David Hogg became the subject of this conspiracy theory accusing him of being an actor, via Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Abby Ohlheiser and Andrew Ba Tran: “ ... Donald Trump Jr. was among the many people who 'liked' a tweet criticizing Hogg. On YouTube, a video featuring one conspiracy theory reached the top of the service’s 'Trending' clips list and was viewed more than 200,000 times before the company admitted that its filtering of news had not functioned as intended and it blocked the video. A search for Hogg’s name on YouTube on Wednesday turned up eight conspiracy videos and only two legitimate news reports in a top-10 listing before YouTube intervened. The conspiracy theories about Hogg grew from a combination of facts and falsehoods, mixed together with authentic photos and videos collected online, making it more difficult for the algorithms on social media platforms to detect false information.”
-- “By antagonizing underage survivors of a national tragedy, the pro-Trump media abandoned its usual play for the moral high ground and made an uncharacteristic miscalculation: It chose a popular, deeply sympathetic, nonpolarizing political enemy,” writes BuzzFeed News’s Charlie Warzel. “Before the pro-Trump media can finish its line of attack, the students, unfazed, have moved on, staying one step ahead of their political enemies and owning the story. … They know intuitively what the pro-Trump media has known (and used to its benefit) for years now: The way to win an information war is not to shy away from conflict online, but to lean into it.”
-- Meanwhile, another Republican state lawmaker appeared to question whether the “students” (his quotation marks) were actually students. Pennsylvania Rep. Daryl Metcalfe wrote on Facebook, “I enlisted in the U.S. Army at 17 years old. This morning I was working out and listening to the news about ‘students’ being bused in to the Florida Capitol. The hypocrisy of the left struck me! They expect lawmakers to listen to the policy advice of 18 year old and younger ‘students’ who are advocating for gun control, but they do not believe 18 year olds who are old enough to serve on the battlefields of Afghanistan are old enough to purchase a rifle.” (Kristine Phillips)
THE WORST OF HUMANITY ALSO BRINGS OUT ITS BEST:
-- A 15-year-old Parkland student whose family immigrated to the United States from Venezuela has been credited with saving the lives of at least 20 students during the shooting. Students say Anthony Borges was shot five times in his legs and back while attempting to close and lock a classroom door during the attack. According to one of his classmates, Borges “took the initiative” during a moment of horrific chaos. He is recovering at a hospital. (AP)
-- After learning that a sobbing 23-year-old woman at New York’s LaGuardia Airport was traveling to attend the funeral of a friend who was killed in the Parkland shooting, two police officers purchased her ticket home. “She was hysterically crying. We approached her and asked if she was all right,” New York State Trooper Thomas Karasinski said. Wordlessly, he and his partner, Robert Troy, reached into their pockets to cover the cost of the $700 ticket. (Allison Klein)
-- Police in Southern California are crediting a high school security officer with helping thwart a potential shooting attack. Alex Horton reports: “The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said they raced to prevent a copycat attack, acting on a tip from a security officer at El Camino High School ... Marino Chavez, the school officer, overheard a 17-year-old student say he was going to launch an attack within three weeks … Chavez stopped and questioned the student, who claimed it was a joke, he said. [After investigators] detained the student and issued a search warrant of his home, [authorities] seized two AR-15 rifles and two handguns, along with about 90 rifle magazines each capable of holding 30 rounds.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Robert Mueller’s team is investigating whether Paul Manafort promised Chicago banker Stephen Calk a White House job in exchange for as much as $16 million in home loans. NBC News’s Tom Winter and Hallie Jackson report: “Manafort received three separate loans in December 2016 and January 2017 from Federal Savings Bank … [Calk], who was announced as a member of candidate Trump's council of economic advisers in August 2016, is the president of Federal Savings Bank. [Now, Mueller’s team] is investigating whether there was a quid pro quo agreement between Manafort and Calk. … The sources say the three loans were questioned by other officials at the bank, and one source said that at least one of the bank employees who felt pressured into approving the deals is cooperating with investigators. In court filings … federal prosecutors said they have ‘substantial evidence’ that loans made from the bank to Manafort were secured through false representations made by Manafort, including misstatements of income.”
“Around the time his bank made the Manafort loans in late 2016 and early 2017 — for several properties including a Brooklyn townhouse — Mr. Calk was seeking to become Mr. Trump’s Army secretary,” the Wall Street Journal’s Erica Orden and Michael Rothfeld report. “Mr. Calk was placing calls to the Pentagon and specifically to Army headquarters, asking for briefings to obtain information and prepare himself for a possible job … Mr. Calk’s overtures raised questions among military leaders as to how to respond, this person said.”
-- New criminal charges were filed under seal in Mueller's case against Manafort and his deputy, Rick Gates. Reuters’s Sarah N. Lynch and Karen Freifeld report: “The single-page document ... did not reveal the nature of the new charges. Its inclusion in a binder in the court clerk’s office that is routinely updated with new criminal charges signals that Mueller’s office may have filed a superseding indictment replacing a previous one from last year against the two men. It was unclear when any new charges would be announced publicly.”
-- Mueller’s team will interview former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg today. (ABC News’s Tara Palmeri)
-- Top Democrats are urging Congress to give the FBI $300 million to fight foreign election interference in this year’s midterms. Ed O’Keefe reports: “The letter being sent Wednesday by [Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer] and top Democrats on the House and Senate appropriations committees calls on Republicans to provide the funding as part of ‘a robust and urgent response’ to the Russian government’s attempts to interfere in American elections."
“The figure sought by Democrats was requested in consultation with FBI leadership … One of the senior aides called the issue ‘a sense of urgency’ that has been especially neglected by House Republicans, who have yet to hold hearings on potential election interference.”
-- Twitter suspended thousands of bot accounts, drawing ire from some conservative media figures who lost followers. Eli Rosenberg reports: “Many of these figures, such as pro-Trump host Bill Mitchell and white nationalist Richard Spencer, took to the service to complain about losing a small portion of their followers in the move. Other conservative accounts were suspended pending verification that they are run by people. Twitter did not confirm the number of accounts that it suspended but released a statement saying that it was continuing to identify ‘suspicious account behaviors’ that represented automated activity or other violations of its terms of service.”
-- Trump lashed out at Jeff Sessions for not investigating the Obama administration’s failure to stop Russian meddling. John Wagner reports: “'Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation?’ Trump said in his tweet. ‘Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation?’ ‘Ask Jeff Session!’ he concluded, misspelling the last name of his attorney general.” (He later corrected the spelling.)
-- Bernie Sanders questioned whether Hillary Clinton did enough to combat Russian election meddling in 2016. Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere reports: “Sanders and his former campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, presented a series of self-serving statements that were not accurate, and that track with efforts by Trump and his supporters to undermine the credibility of the Mueller probe. ... 'The real question to be asked is what was the Clinton campaign [doing about Russian interference]? They had more information about this than we did,' Sanders said in the interview with Vermont Public Radio.”
-- Sanders later took to Twitter to express clear support for Mueller:
The findings of Robert Mueller's investigation must be taken seriously at every level of government, and he must be allowed to investigate without any interference from the White House or Congress.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 22, 2018
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (AND WOMEN):
-- The first lady’s parents, as legal U.S. residents, are likely benefiting from the family reunification system, which Trump has derided as “chain migration,” report Carol D. Leonnig, David Nakamura and Nick Miroff. “The Knavses, formerly of Slovenia, are living in the country on green cards, according to Michael Wildes, a New York-based immigration lawyer who represents the first lady and her family. ‘I can confirm that Mrs. Trump’s parents are both lawfully admitted to the United States as permanent residents,’ he said. … The Knavses are awaiting scheduling for their naturalization oath ceremony, according to a person with knowledge of their immigration filings. …
“David Leopold, an immigration lawyer and a past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the first lady’s sponsorship of her parents appears to be the only reasonable way they would have obtained green cards because the process currently gives preferential treatment to parents of U.S. citizens. ‘That would be the logical way to do it, the preferred way to do it and possibly the only way to do it under the facts that I know,’ Leopold said.”
-- The Pentagon is looking at options to move national security adviser H.R. McMaster back into the military. CNN’s Barbara Starr, Zachary Cohen, Elise Labott, Kaitlan Collins and Jamie Gangel report: “A search is quietly being conducted by the Pentagon to see if there is a four-star military job suited for McMaster, [six defense and administration] officials said. … While administration officials have privately said the preference is to move McMaster into a position within the Army or Defense Department that qualifies as a promotion, some within the Pentagon feel he has become politicized in the White House and have expressed reservations about him returning to the military in a prominent role. Some defense officials caution that the President could also go as far as not to offer him a fourth star and force him to retire.”
-- Trump’s longtime former bodyguard and ex-White House aide Keith Schiller is getting paid $15,000 a month by the RNC. CNBC’s Christina Wilkie reports: “Within weeks of leaving his job as director of Oval Office operations, Schiller's private security firm, KS Global Group, began collecting $15,000 a month for ‘security services’ from the [RNC]. According to an RNC official, Schiller is being paid for security consulting on the site selection process for the 2020 Republican National Convention. Schiller's fee comes out of the RNC's convention fund, not its campaign fund."
-- Two senior scientists on the U.S. Geological Survey quit the agency after Ryan Zinke requested confidential data before it was released publicly. Juliet Eilperin reports: “Murray W. Hitzman and Larry Meinert — who had served as the agency’s associate director for energy and minerals and acting deputy associate director for energy and minerals mission area, respectively — charge that the request violated the USGS’s scientific integrity policy because such commercially valuable data should not be shared in advance."
-- Trump’s nominee to lead the Indian Health Service withdrew from consideration following reports that he overstated his work experience. The Wall Street Journal’s Dan Frosch and Christopher Weaver report: “In one case, [Robert] Weaver said he had held leadership roles at a large hospital; however, some of his former colleagues and supervisors said his role there was as a registration clerk. … The Journal reviewed public records that showed he had filed for personal bankruptcy and had tax liens against one of his businesses as recently as 2011.”
-- The White House said Ivanka Trump plans to focus on Olympic athletes, and not rising tensions with Pyongyang during her trip to South Korea this week. Jenna Johnson reports: “Trump was involved with the effort to bring the 2028 Summer Games to Los Angeles, so one of the officials said she is especially interested in seeing how the Winter Games were executed in PyeongChang. And one of the officials also said Trump is a ‘winter sports enthusiast.’ Officials said the first daughter does not plan to meet with North Korean defectors, as had been reported, and does not plan to meet with any North Koreans during her visit.”
-- The Conservative Political Action Conference, starting today, is shaping up as a celebration of Trumpism. From David Weigel: Trump and Vice President Pence "will deliver speeches at [CPAC], on Friday morning and Thursday morning respectively. A half-dozen members of the administration will give remarks or sit for interviews, including White House counsel Donald McGahn and ‘the FCC’s courageous chairman,’ Ajit Pai, as he’s identified in the agenda. Conservative critics of the administration, and most members of Congress, will be elsewhere. Even more than in 2017 … this year’s conference … is structured as a celebration of GOP power and Trump-style nationalism.”
-- GQ compiled a list of the “50 Most Powerful People In Trump’s Washington.”
THE REST OF TRUMP’S AGENDA:
-- White House Chief of Staff John Kelly will meet next week with leading veterans advocates, many of whom are fearful that VA Secretary David Shulkin will be fired. Emily Wax-Thibodeaux reports: “The veterans organizations met Tuesday with hopes of forming a united front and to brainstorm strategies for pushing back against the Trump appointees who seem, in their view, overly focused on outsourcing veterans health care. … Veterans service organizations say they support Shulkin because they see him as a stopgap, someone who can prevent sending more care outside the VA hospital system.”
-- For an upcoming human rights report, a senior State Department official ordered sections on women’s reproductive rights and discrimination to be pared back. Politico’s Nahal Toosi reports: “The directive calls for stripping passages that describe societal views on family planning, including how much access women have to contraceptives and abortion. A broader section that chronicles racial, ethnic and sexual discrimination has also been ordered pared down, the current and former officials said.”
-- The president of Tennessee Tech University requested that a university study used to justify repealing emissions regulations be withdrawn. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “Fitzgerald Glider Kits — which makes new truck bodies, called gliders, that house refurbished engines — had included a letter signed by Tennessee Tech’s president Philip B. Oldham and the head of the school’s Center for Intelligent Mobility, as part of its petition calling on the [EPA] to withdraw a 2016 rule requiring that gliders comply with the same pollution limits as new heavy-duty trucks … In a letter Monday to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), who initially received the study results, Oldham wrote that ‘knowledgeable experts within the University have questioned the methodology and accuracy of the report’ on the trucks’ performance.”
-- White House economists predict sustained, 3 percent annual GDP growth in a new report — short of the 4 percent Trump promised while campaigning. Heather Long reports: “Most independent economists are not nearly as optimistic that Trump’s policies can deliver a decade of higher growth, especially with so many baby boomers retiring and the president’s desire to restrict immigration. But the White House says the experts have already been proven wrong. Last year, there was a ‘positive surprise’ of 2.5 percent growth for the year, stronger than economists had predicted. Business owners and consumers are far more optimistic than they were at the end of the Obama years … Trump and his advisers say it’s because of his recipe of lower taxes and less regulation.”
THE #METOO MOVEMENT:
-- The recent resignation of an appeals court judge has prompted the federal judiciary to begin tracking and publicly releasing sexual harassment complaints made against judges. Matt Zapotosky reports: “In an 18-page letter, Director James C. Duff wrote that the federal judiciary already had implemented several changes and was examining others to encourage reporting. His letter came in response to an inquiry from the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had inquired about how the court was responding to news reports about misconduct among federal judges.”
-- Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban vowed to fix the team’s workplace culture after a Sports Illustrated story recounted numerous alleged cases of sexual misconduct. Des Bieler reports: “Professing ignorance of the corporate culture portrayed by SI, Cuban told the magazine, ‘It’s wrong. It’s abhorrent. It’s not a situation we condone. I can’t tell you how many times, particularly since all this [#MeToo] stuff has been coming out recently I asked our HR director, “Do we have a problem? Do we have any issues I have to be aware of?” And the answer was no.’ Besides hiring an outside law firm to conduct ‘a thorough and independent investigation,’ the Mavericks said they had fired Buddy Pittman, their human resources director, and had earlier fired an employee who ‘misled the organization about a prior domestic violence incident.’”
-- A top executive at Ford Motors is leaving the company effective immediately, following an investigation into complaints of “inappropriate behavior.” Ford announced the departure of Raj Nair in a statement, saying he had engaged in behavior that was “inconsistent with the company’s code of conduct.” (LA Times)
-- Disney was silent over the fate of its powerful theater director, Thomas Schumacher, following allegations that the producer and man behind “The Lion King” and “Frozen” musicals had behaved inappropriately for years. BuzzFeed's Krystie Lee Yandoli reports: “Former Disney employees [said] Schumacher used sexually explicit language, openly discussed [explicit adult material], and wore a bathrobe while saying he wasn’t wearing anything underneath it ."
-- An Arkansas judge was sentenced to five years in prison for forcing young men to take sexual photos as part of their “community service.” Samantha Schmidt reports: “For seven years, scores of young men in Arkansas saw their traffic citations and misdemeanor criminal charges dismissed — as long as they agreed to perform ‘community service.’ … In his sentencing memo, [Peter Halpern, trial attorney for the Department of Justice] called [Joseph Boeckmann, district judge for the First Judicial Circuit of Arkansas,] ‘a predator who used his position as a judge to gain access to vulnerable young men in order to satisfy his own prurient desires.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
There's an old tweet for everything:
Crooked Hillary said that I want guns brought into the school classroom. Wrong!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 22, 2016
Demonstrators flooded the Florida capitol, per the Tampa Bay Times's Tallahassee bureau chief:
The scene at the Capitol in Tallahassee pic.twitter.com/lcJJgRzPA3— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) February 21, 2018
Michelle Obama tweeted her support for the student survivors:
I’m in total awe of the extraordinary students in Florida. Like every movement for progress in our history, gun reform will take unyielding courage and endurance. But @barackobama and I believe in you, we’re proud of you, and we’re behind you every step of the way.— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) February 22, 2018
A former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command praised millenials:
A message about the inspiring students in Florida and across our nation: pic.twitter.com/XCkSoIGBaZ— Bill McRaven (@billmcraven) February 22, 2018
At the CNN town hall, Sen. Bill Nelson (D) thanked fellow Floridian Sen. Marco Rubio (R) for attending. From a New York Times reporter:
There's a lot going on in this Bill Nelson answer crediting Rubio for showing up.— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) February 22, 2018
"Our governor did not come here – Gov. Scott – but Marco did"
Nelson & Rubio get along. Rubio & Scott really, really do not.
If Rubio stays on sidelines in Nelson's race, that's great for Nelson.
A CNN reporter:
Wow, this is remarkable. Rubio is taking a lot of heat from this very angry, hurt audience. But the honest truth is a lot of Republicans wouldn't be willing to do what he's doing tonight.— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) February 22, 2018
A correspondent for Time fact-checked the NRA's spokeswoman:
Here's the NRA website saying they don't support expanding background checks, directly contradicting what Dana Loesch just said. pic.twitter.com/E6k9GHg5VG— Charlotte Alter (@CharlotteAlter) February 22, 2018
A Washington Examiner reporter questioned the weight of the NRA in blocking gun control:
It’s a disservice to tell these student activists that the NRA is standing in the way of gun-related legislation. The NRA’s pull derives from its millions of members who are committed voters. Their opinions on the 2A drive GOP votes in Congress, not NRA $$— David M. Drucker (@DavidMDrucker) February 22, 2018
A writer for Upworthy praised the town hall:
I’m in favor of making all politicians face off against a gauntlet of politically-energized teens on live TV before taking office.— Parker Molloy (@ParkerMolloy) February 22, 2018
Trump’s hometown paper portrayed him as an NRA hack:
“Woke up to the news that my best friend was gone. And I don’t understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war," Samuel Zeif said through tears— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) February 22, 2018
An early look at Thursday's front: https://t.co/93DoedB4zb pic.twitter.com/HTi7Z6VR2p
A former Obama adviser criticized the GOP's response to Parkland conspiracy theories:
The Republican establishment: “We can’t be held responsible for all these crazy fringe elements” pic.twitter.com/dWPlCHfNQ7— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) February 21, 2018
The gossip site TMZ is in on the action:
Florida Shooting Survivor David Hogg Conspiracy Theory Debunked by Yearbook https://t.co/lOd2sAK0bw— TMZ (@TMZ) February 22, 2018
Trump's insistence that Obama should be blamed for Russian meddling was met with some skepticism. From an under secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration:
Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats, closed two Russian compounds in U.S., sanctioned Moscow and alerted us to its conspiracy against our election. You haven’t even implemented sanctions Congress voted. And you’ve never criticized Putin. You haven’t defended us. https://t.co/QLqqrgIZjy— Nicholas Burns (@RNicholasBurns) February 21, 2018
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee appeared to embrace Russian trolls:
Catch up on mainstream media Russian conspiracy theories in this piece by @FDRLST PS-If you are a Russian Bot please make this go viral PSS-If you’re not a Russian Bot you will become one if you retweet https://t.co/05Gw8cinNX— Devin Nunes (@DevinNunes) February 21, 2018
The former RNC communications director questioned Keith Schiller's new high-paying gig:
This exceeds my salary while I was at the RNC. https://t.co/xJSjmvCOeY— Doug Heye (@DougHeye) February 21, 2018
The president and his predecessors mourned the loss of evangelist Billy Graham:
The GREAT Billy Graham is dead. There was nobody like him! He will be missed by Christians and all religions. A very special man.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2018
Billy Graham was a humble servant who prayed for so many - and who, with wisdom and grace, gave hope and guidance to generations of Americans.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) February 21, 2018
Statement by @GeorgeHWBush on the passing of his dear friend, Billy Graham. Among many special visits, Rev. Graham was with the Bushes in the White House residence the night Operation Desert Storm to liberate Kuwait commenced Jan 16 1991. pic.twitter.com/fS3hYa8n0g— Jim McGrath (@jgm41) February 21, 2018
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- BuzzFeed News, “Exposed: Hundreds Of Homeless Slaves Recruited on British Streets,” from Jane Bradley: “The short, stooped man known as Kredens worked from dawn till dusk — laying bricks, plumbing, plastering; even sewing furs. His masters beat him often, and when they no longer needed his labour they sold him on to new slave masters — shifting him from worksite to worksite, city to city. Sometimes they threw him scraps of food [or paid him] nothing at all. A [new investigation] exposes how gaping holes in the government’s flagship modern slavery strategy are leaving victims like Kredens homeless, destitute, and vulnerable to re-trafficking or deportation — even after they have been officially granted government protection. The investigation reveals how trafficking gangs … are preying in growing numbers on Britain’s swelling homeless population in plain sight of the authorities. [The victims include both migrants and] British citizens, snatched from the streets in broad daylight.”
Horrifying: “Britain’s slaves have been kept in fetid, rat-infested caravans, sometimes without heating, bedding, or running water; chained up; beaten; and even locked in outdoor ‘rabbit hutches’. … Victims who approach the Home Office for help are often rounded up and deported as part of the government’s policy of making Britain a ‘hostile environment’ for ‘illegal immigrants’ — making many afraid to come forward.”
-- The Atlantic, “How the Activists Who Tore Down Durham's Confederate Statue Got Away With It,” by David A. Graham: “The failure of the attempt to prosecute the guerrilla action in Durham shows how activists maintaining a united front can stare down a government divided over the proper approach to the controversial matter of Confederate monuments — and it may offer encouragement to activists elsewhere in the country, including in places where government cannot or will not act, to take monument removal into their own hands.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Congresswoman claims most mass shooters are Democrats,” from CNN: “Rep. Claudia Tenney, an upstate New York Republican who is up for re-election in one of the most competitive congressional districts in America, told a radio host in Albany that Democrats are more prone to be mass shooters. Speaking to host Fred Dicker on WGDJ radio, Tenney was discussing the shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead when she made the remark. ‘It's interesting that so many of these people that commit the mass murders end up being Democrats,’ Tenney said. ‘But the media doesn't talk about that.’ … ‘I am fed up with the media and liberals attempting to politicize tragedies and demonize law-abiding gun owners and conservative Americans every time there is a horrible tragedy,’ Tenney said in [a later] statement.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Toomey calls for 'conversation' about impeaching state Supreme Court justices,” from the Hill: “Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) called for a ‘conversation’ about impeaching state Supreme Court justices over their new congressional map, which both parties say will benefit Democrats. At a press conference, Toomey said it was ‘inevitable’ that state lawmakers would consider impeachment over the redrawing of the state's new congressional maps, which he called a ‘power grab’ by state Democrats. ‘Look, I think it's inevitable that that conversation's going to take place,’ Toomey said. ‘I think state House members and state senators are going to be speaking amongst themselves and their constituents, and the fundamental question is does this blatant, unconstitutional, partisan power grab that undermines our electoral process, does that rise to the level of impeachment?’”
Trump has a morning meeting with state and local officials on “school safety.”
Pence will address CPAC this morning.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
The metaphor of a 5k run was repeatedly invoked at last night’s CNN town hall on gun violence. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) said of passing gun-control reform, “It’s not a 5k, it’s a sprint. We need to do it next week.” (Marwa Eltagouri and Keith McMillan)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Temperatures will drop to the 40s today in D.C., a 40-degree drop from yesterday’s record-breaking high of 82. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The official high for the day occurred right after midnight and, with a steady northerly wind, temperatures slip from the 50s at dawn into the 40s by later in the day. … They are made all the more uncomfortable by quite damp conditions. Showers will be spotty but we’ll have pockets of drizzle and patches of fog for much of the day.”
-- A Goucher College poll found a wide open race in the Democratic primary in Maryland’s gubernatorial race. From Ovetta Wiggins: “Nearly half of the Democrats who are likely to vote in the primary say they have no preference among the seven candidates in the race, and the majority say they don’t know enough about the candidates to form an opinion. … Prince George’s County executive Rushern L. Baker III fares the best among the potential Democratic challengers, with 19 percent saying they support his campaign.”
-- The James Beard Foundation will bestow its annual Humanitarian of the Year award on José Andrés. The famed chef and Washingtonian fed millions of people last year in Houston, Southern California and Puerto Rico after those areas were ravaged by natural disasters. Andrés’s work “has demonstrated how, at the most difficult times, hot-cooked meals provide more than nutrition, they provide dignity,” the foundation said. (Tim Carman)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts slammed conspiracy theories about the Parkland student survivors:
D.C. students walked out of class and marched to the Capitol to demand gun control changes:
In a speech at the Kennedy Space Center, the vice president pointed to the successful SpaceX launch as proof of private industry's “vital role” in space exploration:
A woman who promoted Russian content on social media denied the Kremlin's involvement:
A Florida woman who ran a Trump supporters page that unwittingly promoted a Russian-coordinated event on Facebook says she doesn’t believe that she was influenced by Kremlin-linked trolls https://t.co/DmgDRFRwyn pic.twitter.com/OAz5julCyA— CNN (@CNN) February 21, 2018
And The Post's Michelle Boorstein reflected on how Billy Graham transformed American Christianity: