These might have been defining moments for any previous president, but they weren’t even the biggest stories of the day. It was just another Wednesday in Trump’s Washington, where many have become inured to comments and actions that suggest both disregard and even disdain for the rule of law.
During a televised roundtable with lawmakers to discuss what should be done to prevent future school shootings like the one in Florida, Vice President Pence began discussing the concept of gun violence restraining orders. He noted that states like California let local law enforcement officers go to court and obtain an order to collect someone’s firearms when red flags suggest they are a potential danger to themselves or others. “Allow due process, so that no one's rights are trampled,” Pence said.
Trump interrupted. “Or, Mike, take the firearms first and then go to court,” he said. “Because a lot of times, by the time you go to court, it takes so long to go to court, to get the due process procedures. I like taking the guns early, like in this crazy man's case that just took place in Florida. … To go to court would have taken a long time.”
Removing any doubt that he might have misspoke, the president circled back later to complain that there are too many “checks and balances” that limit what can be done to prevent mentally unfit people from buying or keeping guns. “So we have to do something very decisive,” he said.
Whatever your view of Second Amendment jurisprudence, Trump’s flippant comments showed a startling indifference for foundational rights that are enumerated in the Fourth, Fifth and 14th amendments. The legal concept of due process is as old as the Magna Carta.
It doesn’t seem like an exaggeration to say that some Republican members of Congress would have called for Barack Obama’s impeachment if he had ever called for taking people’s guns away without due process. It’s certainly a more extreme statement than Obama’s 2008 claim that people in rural areas weren’t voting for him because they “cling” to guns and religion. Even a decade later, Obama hasn’t lived that down. Republicans routinely cite it in their stump speeches.
But only one Republican member of Congress appears to have sent out a news release objecting to Trump’s comments. “We’re not ditching any Constitutional protections simply because the last person the president talked to today doesn’t like them,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement.
-- To be sure, Trump is a fan of “due process” when it protects him and his aides. The president, who is so quick to cry “witch hunt,” grumbled after staff secretary Rob Porter left the White House because both of his ex-wives credibly accused him of domestic violence:
Others do not get the same benefit of the doubt. Trump accused Ted Cruz’s father of being “with Lee Harvey Oswald” before the Kennedy assassination. He insisted with no evidence that Obama wasn’t born in the United States. He repeatedly claimed, despite all evidence to the contrary, that a man who rushed the stage during one of his speeches in Ohio had ties to ISIS.
The president loosely accused some Democrats of “treason,” a capital offense explicitly defined in the Constitution, after they did not stand for him during the State of the Union.
Last November, Trump attacked the father of a UCLA basketball player for not being sufficiently grateful after he helped negotiate his son’s release from a Chinese prison for shoplifting. “I should have left them in jail!” he tweeted.
-- In private, Trump has reportedly held up authoritarian regimes that commit extrajudicial murders as models for the United States to follow. “He often jokes about killing drug dealers ... He’ll say, 'You know the Chinese and Filipinos don’t have a drug problem. They just kill them,’” a senior administration official told Axios’s Jonathan Swan earlier this week. “According to five sources who've spoken with Trump about the subject, he often leaps into a passionate speech about how drug dealers are as bad as serial killers and should all get the death penalty. … Trump has said he would love to have a law to execute all drug dealers here in America, though he's privately admitted it would probably be impossible to get a law this harsh passed under the American system.”
-- More than a hundred people from the political left to the center-right gathered in a penthouse event space on top of the American Psychological Association’s Washington offices on Tuesday night to discuss how American democracy can survive Trump. Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) warned the group that “authoritarians all over the world are taking aid and comfort” from Trump. “Words matter, and my concern has been that when the president uses rhetoric like he did during the campaign, referring to Mexican immigrants as rapists, it has a real impact,” Flake said, according to Dave Weigel. “It has an impact in the Mexican elections, which are happening this year. It may well contribute to the election of a leftist populist leader in Mexico. And if it does, it will likely mean that Mexico will turn their back on a lot [of] intelligence sharing … with us.”
-- It is against this backdrop that Trump once again lashed out at Jeff Sessions on Twitter — this time to complain that the attorney general is relying on the DOJ inspector general to review alleged surveillance abuses. Sessions had announced on Tuesday that Michael Horowitz, the IG, would explore issues that were raised by a partisan memo written by GOP staffers for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) about the FBI’s post-campaign monitoring of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
“Legal analysts say the president seems to be subverting the long-held principle that the Justice Department should be independent — especially when it comes to criminal investigations. His goal, they say, seems to be to undercut an investigation that could touch him,” Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian report. “For more than a year, [Horowitz] has been investigating how the Justice Department and the FBI handled the 2016 probe of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. His findings are expected to be made public soon. … Trump’s comments Wednesday seemed to serve a dual purpose — attack Sessions, and urge Horowitz to speed up the release of his findings. The White House and some of Trump’s conservative supporters in Congress have urged the appointment of a second special counsel to conduct a criminal investigation into how senior FBI and Justice Department personnel handled matters related to Clinton.”
Sessions has mostly bitten his upper lip and looked the other way when Trump ripped him before, but this time he pushed back in an official statement: “As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.”
-- Last night, The Washington Post scooped that special counsel Bob Mueller has been investigating the period last summer when Trump seemed determined to push Sessions from his job to determine whether those efforts were part of a broader pattern of attempted obstruction of justice. “In recent months, Mueller’s team has questioned witnesses in detail about Trump’s private comments and state of mind in late July and early August of last year, around the time he issued a series of tweets belittling his ‘beleaguered’ attorney general,” Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman report. “The thrust of the questions was to determine whether the president’s goal was to oust Sessions in order to pick a replacement who would exercise control over the investigation into possible coordination between Russia and Trump associates during the 2016 election …
“Behind the scenes, Trump has derisively referred to Sessions as ‘Mr. Magoo,’ a cartoon character who is elderly, myopic and bumbling … Trump has told associates that he has hired the best lawyers for his entire life, but is stuck with Sessions, who is not defending him and is not sufficiently loyal.
“While Sessions has told associates he had been wounded by the attacks, he has also insisted he’s not going to resign, so the cold war continues. On the anniversary of Sessions’s confirmation earlier this month, senior aides decided to buy Sessions a bulletproof vest with his name emblazoned on it as a gift …”
-- The president’s anger at Sessions for not going after Clinton and others who he thinks enabled her should not be surprising to anyone who paid attention during the 2016 campaign. “If I win,” he told Clinton during their second debate, “I’m going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there’s never been so many lies, so much deception.”
“It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country,” Clinton said.
“Because you’d be in jail,” Trump replied.
That was one of at least 11 times he explicitly threatened his Democratic opponent with prison during the campaign. (This doesn’t include all the rallies where he led the crowd in chants of “lock her up.”) Though she’s never been charged with any crime, he pronounced the former secretary of state “guilty as hell.” Asked what kind of judges he’d appoint after Antonin Scalia died, he replied: “People that would look very seriously at [Clinton’s] email disaster because it’s criminal activity.”
There were scores of other episodes on the campaign trail that suggested Trump didn’t feel deep devotion for the rule of law. He proposed a ban on Muslims entering the United States, insisted that an Indiana-born federal judge could not objectively preside over a fraud lawsuit against him because his parents were from Mexico, declared that the 14th Amendment does not guarantee birthright citizenship, decreed that he’d order military commanders to waterboard even though the practice is banned by federal law, called for changing libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations for “nasty” articles and advocated for expanding eminent domain to make it easier to seize property from homeowners and businesses who refuse to sell to developers like him.
He appeared to drop many of these ideas after facing political blowback, or at the behest of staffers, though some of his signature initiatives, such as the first travel ban, have been blocked by courts as unconstitutional.
Sam Nunberg, who spent years as a political adviser to Trump, said he was dispatched to explain the Constitution to Trump early in the 2016 campaign. “I got as far as the Fourth Amendment before his finger is pulling down on his lip and his eyes are rolling back in his head,” Nunberg told author Michael Wolff for his book “Fire and Fury.”
During a meeting with House Republicans in July 2016, Trump was asked for views on Article I (which enumerates the powers of Congress). “His response was, ‘I want to protect Article I, Article II, Article XII,’ going down the list,” Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) said at the time. “There is no Article XII!”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Vladimir Putin claimed Russia has developed new nuclear weapons capable of avoiding missile defense systems. Anton Troianovski reports: “He also warned that Moscow would consider any nuclear attack, of any size, on it or its allies an attack on Russia that would lead to an immediate response — adopting Cold War-style overtones that appeared to ramp up Russia’s posturing against the West and its allies. … The nearly two-hour speech to top Russian officials and members of parliament began with a series of promises to improve domestic living standards and ended with stark warnings to the United States.” “No one listened to us,” Putin said in the annual address. “Listen to us now.”
A WALKING CONFLICT OF INTEREST:
-- Jared Kushner’s business got loans after White House meetings. From the New York Times: “Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy. During that period, he met on multiple occasions with [Kushner]. … Among other things, the two men discussed a possible White House job for Mr. Harris. The job never materialized, but in November, Apollo lent $184 million to Mr. Kushner’s family real estate firm, Kushner Companies. … Even by the standards of Apollo, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, the previously unreported transaction with the Kushners was a big deal: It was triple the size of the average property loan made by Apollo’s real estate lending arm … An even larger loan came from Citigroup, which lent the firm and one of its partners $325 million to help finance a group of office buildings in Brooklyn. That loan was made in the spring of 2017, shortly after Mr. Kushner met in the White House with Citigroup’s chief executive, Michael L. Corbat ...”
-- The New York Department of Financial Services asked several banks for information about their relationships with Kushner and his finances, the Wall Street Journal reports: “The department, which regulates New York banks and some international banks that do business in the state, sent inquiries last week to firms that include Deutsche Bank AG and Signature Bank …”
-- With the spotlight on him, the president's son-in-law has become “paranoid,” CNN reports: “Kushner also feels that he has come under fire from his own West Wing colleagues recently, with the notion that ‘everyone is out to get him,’ a source said ... Kushner ... told people that he suspected the timing of the story about his foreign contacts was coordinated to be released when issues surrounding his security clearance were in the news, according to a source familiar with his thinking.”
-- Kushner is one of more than 30 Trump aides who have lost their top-secret security clearances since last week as a result of John Kelly's crackdown on interim clearances, per Bloomberg News.
GET SMART FAST:
- Walmart announced it will no longer sell guns or ammunition to those under 21 and would remove items resembling assault rifles from its shelves. Dick’s Sporting Goods had announced earlier in the day it would raise its age requirement in addition to ending the sales of assault-style rifles, a step Walmart took in 2015. (Eli Rosenberg)
- U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun resigned in the wake of three separate congressional inquiries related to the organization’s handling of the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal. He cited health issues stemming from a battle with prostate cancer. (USA Today)
A majority of Americans consider Trump a racist, according to an AP poll. More than 80 percent of black respondents and over 75 percent of Hispanic respondents said they think Trump is racist, along with nearly half of white respondents. (AP)
China has upped its Internet censorship since it announced President Xi Jinping would be able to stay in power indefinitely. Images of Winnie the Pooh are among the content deemed subversive. Some say Xi resembles the cartoon bear. (New York Times)
- The Supreme Court heard arguments about a Minnesota law banning “political” clothing and buttons from polling places. The justices posed a range of hypotheticals to the attorney defending the law about what defines a “political” item. (Robert Barnes)
- Three Marines at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Arlington, Va., were released from the hospital after being exposed to an envelope containing an “unknown substance.” The envelope sickened at least 11 people and the FBI and NCIS are continuing to investigate. (Justin Wm. Moyer)
- The scandal-plagued electric car company founded by former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) filed for bankruptcy. GreenTech Automotive has faced a string of lawsuits from investors, who have called the company a “scam perpetrated by savvy and politically connected operatives and businessmen.” McAuliffe left GreenTech in late 2012, and its problems nearly derailed his 2013 campaign. (Roanoke Times)
- Police in Southern California have arrested a “serial sex predator” who spent 15 months posing as a ride-service driver to lure women into his vehicle and assault them. He has been charged with 27 crimes and could ultimately face up to 300 years in prison. (Kristine Phillips)
- A 15-year-veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police filed a discrimination lawsuit against the department, alleging a pattern of discrimination while competing for a spot in the department’s elite K-9 unit. According to her lawsuit, a supervisor “continually derided and belittled her” during training, and told her three weeks into the 14-week program that he planned to fail her. (Elise Viebeck)
- Authorities investigating the disappearance of a CDC employee who vanished nearly three weeks ago revealed he was passed over for a promotion shortly before going missing. Officers said Timothy Cunningham abruptly left the office after discussing the issue further with his supervisor. (Alex Horton)
- PBS has tapped Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson and commentator Amy Holmes to co-host a new conservative political talk show dubbed “In Principle.” Gerson said he’d like the series to touch on issues of race, gun control and whether conservatism is the “right message” for the working class. It’s slated to debut on April 13. (AP)
The Nobel Committee received a forged nomination for Trump to receive its peace prize — for the second year in a row. The perpetrator pretended to be someone qualified to submit nominations in order to enter Trump’s name and Norwegian officials said it appears the same person twice perpetrated the hoax. (Meagan Flynn)
HOPE IS GONE:
-- White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, one of the president's closest and most trusted aides, announced her resignation. Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker report: “The announcement of her departure comes one day after Hicks testified for a full day [before] the House Intelligence Committee in its [Russia investigation]. Hicks had been contemplating leaving the White House for several weeks and told friends that she was relieved to finally announce her move ... She felt three years was a long time to work in the whirlwind of the Trump orbit, with crises occurring by the day and sometimes by the hour, and was eager to try something new and return home to her family in Connecticut. ... Hicks was crying as news of her impending departure rippled through Washington ... Hicks also has made clear to friends that she could see herself working for Trump again in the future, including potentially the 2020 reelection campaign.”
-- “The Trump White House is a place where turmoil never ends,” writes Dan Balz: “The upheaval is without precedent in a modern White House, and there is no assurance that it is over. In just a year, the upper-level team that came in with the president has been shredded. Among top-level appointees, Trump has now turned over a chief of staff, a chief strategist, two deputy chiefs of staff, a national security adviser, two deputy national security advisers, a staff secretary, a longtime personal aide and a deputy assistant to the president who was a foreign policy adviser. … Mistakes began in the weeks after his election with personnel decisions during the transition that have haunted his presidency ever since. He stacked the White House in a way that guaranteed constant tension.”
-- Five people have done six stints as communications director since Trump won the 2016 election, serving an average of 70 days. Hicks far outlasted each of them by remaining in the role for 196 days. (Callum Borchers)
-- Trump is on track to have 11 communications directors during his first term, Philip Bump notes. “Over the course of his eight years, Barack Obama had four communications directors[.] ... Over his eight years, George W. Bush had the same number.”
-- A former Trump campaign aide says he was asked about Hicks by Robert Mueller’s team of prosecutors. CNN’s Jim Acosta reports: “This former aide said a comment Hicks made ... denying that the campaign had ever had contacts with Russian operatives has been raised in sessions with Mueller's team as well as with the House and Senate Intelligence committees. Two days after the 2016 election, Hicks [said] there had been no contacts with Russian officials.” The former aide said Mueller’s team wanted to know whether she was aware of the contacts when she said this.
-- Post columnist Dana Milbank has a smart take: “On Tuesday, [Hicks] did what for the Trump White House was extraordinary, if not unprecedented: She admitted to lawmakers that working for [Trump] required her to lie. On Wednesday, she announced her resignation. There was no connection made between those two events by Hicks or by the president in announcing her departure … Yet, whether the two events were connected or not, Hicks had done something that is incompatible with serving in this administration: She told the truth about the lies.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Mueller’s team is asking witnesses “pointed questions” about whether Trump had prior knowledge of the stolen Democratic emails before they were made public, and if he was involved in their release. NBC News’s Katy Tur and Carol E. Lee report: “Mueller's investigators have asked witnesses whether Trump was aware of plans for WikiLeaks to publish the emails. They have also asked about the relationship between [Roger Stone] and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and why Trump took policy positions favorable to Russia. The line of questioning suggests the special counsel ... is looking into possible coordination between WikiLeaks and Trump associates in disseminating the emails, which U.S. intelligence officials say were stolen by Russia.”
- Investigators are focused on Trump’s July 2016 comment asking Russia to find 30,000 “missing” emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server. “Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said. (Sean Spicer said later that Trump was “joking.”)
- Witnesses have also been asked whether Trump himself knew about the targeting of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. “They were also asked if Trump was advised to make the statement about Clinton's emails from someone outside his campaign, and if the witnesses had reason to believe Trump tried to coordinate the release of the DNC emails to do the most damage to Clinton …”
-- A new fund designed to help cover the legal fees of Trump aides involved in the Russia investigation has failed to provide critical information about donor transparency or its vetting process. Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports: “The [Patriot Legal Expense Fund] plans to allow both individuals and ‘entities’ to make unlimited donations that will be pooled to defray the costs of multiple recipients[.] But the filings offered little insight into how the fund will operate, raising concerns about its transparency and how it will comply with conflict of interest rules, ethics experts said. Donations to legal defense funds for public officials usually are capped at a certain amount. … But the Patriot Fund’s filings do not address whether there will be any limits on how much each contributor can give. Even though the fund said it will not accept anonymous contributions, it will take donations from entities — [which could include LLCs, often used to] mask the identity of the contributors.”
-- Paul Manafort's trial is now scheduled to begin on Sept. 17. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports: “The decision from U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson would put Manafort on trial at the height of the midterm campaign season, a potentially unwelcome distraction for Republicans … Manafort also faces the prospect of another trial in Alexandria, Virginia on a separate indictment Mueller's team obtained earlier this month accusing [him] of tax and bank fraud.”
-- Manafort joined Trump’s campaign when his work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine began drying up — but his work there continued longer than previously thought. Bloomberg News's David Voreacos and Stephanie Baker report: “Manafort made 17 trips to Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 [according to Ukrainian prosecutors]. That work is more recent than the undisclosed lobbying activities Mueller has described in his indictments. Manafort’s last consulting assignment in Ukraine ended less than six months before he started working for the Trump campaign: He spent at least a month in Ukraine advising the Opposition Bloc ahead of local elections in October 2015 … In [July], Manafort made a previously reported effort to patch his soured relationship with [Russian oligarch] Oleg Deripaska, … [and] offered to give private briefings about the campaign to Deripaska. Starting around the time Manafort emailed the intermediary about the Deripaska meeting, he also got the first of two loans totaling $16 million … from a bank not identified in the indictment.”
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN AND WOMEN:
-- One of VA Secretary David Shulkin’s top deputies, a Trump political appointee, has been secretly lobbying Republicans on Capitol Hill to push his boss’s ouster. USA Today’s Donovan Slack reports: “John Ullyot, the VA's assistant secretary for public affairs, asked a senior aide at the House Committee on Veterans Affairs to persuade lawmakers to call the White House and say they wanted Shulkin out ... The move was unsuccessful — but audacious since Ullyot is the secretary’s highest ranking aide tasked with publicly defending him and the agency. It is also the most striking evidence to date that some of Shulkin's own staff are trying to oust him.”
-- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rescinded his permission from UCLA to post footage of him being heckled by students during a discussion he attended. The Wall Street Journal’s Kate Davidson and Nour Malas report: “Protesters handed out fliers outside the event, saying Mr. Mnuchin wasn’t welcome on campus. Hecklers in the audience hissed and coughed throughout the conversation[.] … Mr. Mnuchin said it was his first time speaking at a university. He addressed the opposition lightheartedly early in the talk by saying, ‘I normally go [speak to] people who wanna listen to me speak.’ … Mr. Mnuchin, appearing agitated, stopped the conversation several times, asking the hecklers either to identify themselves or explain what they were protesting. One person in the audience shouted: ‘I think you’re full of s---.’”
-- Christine Bauserman, a top aide to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, resigned after posting multiple anti-Muslim and “birther” comments to her social media accounts. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Chris Massie report: “Bauserman repeatedly shared conspiracy theories, made anti-Muslim comments and shared anti-LGBT sentiments on social media. A review of her social media … reveals she repeatedly shared conspiracy theories about [Obama's] citizenship and in one comment called him a ‘black man from the black panther movement.’ She also expressed her disdain for Islam and shared a story praising Russia for having a ‘pro-heterosexual flag.’” Bauserman continued to share inflammatory comments during her time in the Trump administration – and on Saturday, she retweeted a photo of Obama that read: "IN 8 YRS I IMPROVED LIFE FOR MILLIONS OF ILLEGAL ALIENS, EVERY MUSLIM TERRORIST GROUP & BASICALLY EVERYONE I COULD EXCEPT THE ONE COUNTRY I WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR."
-- Two top public affairs officers at FEMA have resigned in the past month, with one woman describing the office culture as a “boy’s club” and saying she was excluded from meetings because of her gender. Politico’s Danny Vinik reports: “Former FEMA press secretary Paul McKellips … wrote in his resignation letter that FEMA’s front office [excluded] the former head of external affairs, Susan Phalen. The letter suggests [Phalen’s] strategies for promoting the agency were ignored because senior FEMA leaders favored male executives over female executives. ‘No matter how hard or how often she asked for a seat at the table, she was neither invited to strategic planning meetings nor given access to leadership,’ McKellips wrote."
-- House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) requested "all documents and communications" related to the redecorating of HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s office. NPR’s Brakkton Booker reports: “In a four-and-a-half page letter, [Gowdy] said he wants the documents in order for the committee to ‘determine whether HUD adhered to the applicable spending limitations’ that apply to office makeovers. Gowdy is also requesting documentation involving the HUD employee who claims she was the subject of retaliation after refusing to exceed spending caps set for office redecorating.”
-- Mike Pence broke a Senate tie to confirm Russell Vought as deputy OMB director. The controversial nomination had been held up for months over disaster relief demands and Vought’s comments about Islam. (The Hill)
-- Questions linger over how Melania Trump received her “Einstein visa” in 2001. Mary Jordan writes: “[Her] credentials included runway shows in Europe, a Camel cigarette billboard ad in Times Square and — in her biggest job at the time — a spot in the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated, which featured her on the beach in a string bikini, hugging a six-foot inflatable whale. In March 2001, she was granted a green card in the elite EB-1 program, which was designed for renowned academic researchers, multinational business executives or those in other fields, such as Olympic athletes and Oscar-winning actors, who demonstrated ‘sustained national and international acclaim.’ … [Bruce] Morrison, [a] former congressman and immigration expert, said that Melania Trump’s resume in 2001 seems ‘inconsistent’ with the requirements of the visa.”
MORE FLORIDA FALLOUT:
-- At that White House meeting with lawmakers, Trump called for measures that sharply break with the NRA, as well as leaders of his own party, whom he accused of being too “petrified” to take action. But he confused leaders on both sides. Anne Gearan, Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim report: “[Trump] backed or said he would consider tougher background checks for gun buyers, greater police power to seize guns from mentally disturbed people, the outlawing of ‘bump stock’ devices and tighter age limits for buying rifles … Trump pressed lawmakers to send him ‘one terrific bill’ combining several proposals aimed at reducing gun violence … In closing, he urged them, ‘I’d rather have you come down on the strong side.’”
- Trump dismissed an NRA-backed proposal that would require all states to recognize concealed-carry permits issued by other states. “If you add concealed carry to this, you’ll never get it passed,” Trump told Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.).
- Trump suggested lawmakers were too frightened of the NRA to take even small steps on gun control. “They have great power over you people,” said Trump, who received $42.3 million from the NRA’s PAC and super PAC during the 2016 election. “They have less power over me.”
- The president also made a rare reference to his 11-year-old son Barron during the meeting. “The video games, the movies, the Internet stuff, it's so violent,” the president said. “I look at some of the things [Barron is] watching and I say, how is that possible?”
“Although Trump appeared to support what would be the largest effort to enact new gun control in more than a decade, it was not clear what role he would play and whether he would try to insulate lawmakers from a gun-rights backlash,” our colleagues write. "'I thought it was fascinating television,’ Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said afterward, suggesting the president was playing to the cameras. He, like other lawmakers present, could be seen exchanging glances with colleagues as Trump spoke.”
-- Trump addressed the meeting in a morning tweet:
-- Students returned yesterday to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Moriah Balingit and Susan Svrluga report: “[S]tudents came back to a place both familiar and surreal, with armed guards, TV trucks and piles of flowers and homemade memorials outside. Students wearing memorial T-shirts snaked their way through crowds of well-wishers, who passed out carnations and held up signs of support. Hundreds of police officers lined entrances to the school, some giving high-fives to students as they passed. There were support dogs and even ponies painted with ‘MSD Strong’ offering free pony kisses.”
-- Florida was among 25 states to receive an “F” grade on the gun-control group Giffords’s annual scorecard. (Katie Zezima)
-- A Georgia high school teacher brought a gun to school and fired a shot, testing Trump’s theory on the safety of arming teachers. Luckily, no students were seriously injured. “My favorite teacher at Dalton high school just blockaded his door and proceeded to shoot,” a 16-year-old student named Chondi Chastain tweeted at the NRA. “We had to run out the back of the school in the rain. Students were being trampled and screaming. I dare you to tell me arming teachers will make us safe.” (LA Times)
-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) became the latest governor to oppose Trump’s plan to arm teachers. Ovetta Wiggins reports: “[Hogan] instead wants to bolster school safety by adding more metal detectors, panic buttons, security cameras and secure doors and windows in schools across the state.”
-- A church in Pennsylvania that has been criticized as a cult held a “commitment ceremony” while holding AR-15 rifles. The AP’s Michael Rubinkam reports: “Crown-wearing worshipers clutching AR-15 rifles drank holy wine and exchanged or renewed wedding vows in a commitment ceremony at a Pennsylvania church on Wednesday, prompting a nearby school to cancel classes. With state police and a smattering of protesters standing watch outside the church, brides clad in white and grooms in dark suits brought dozens of unloaded AR-15s into World Peace and Unification Sanctuary for a religious event that doubled as an advertisement for the Second Amendment.”
THE ROAD TO NOVEMBER:
-- Michael Scherer spent hours in early February interviewing Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff who had his conviction pardoned by Trump and is now running for Arizona’s Senate seat: “Each of the Republicans running for Senate in Arizona this year claims a special bond with President Trump, but only one describes it as a supernatural connection beyond rational explanation. ‘I can read his mind without even talking to him. I think he may be reading mine,’ said [Arpaio]. ‘Is there something that goes through the airwaves? Mental telepathy?’ … Early polls for the Aug. 28 primary show Arpaio grabbing between one-third and one-fifth of the electorate, behind the establishment-backed front-runner, Rep. Martha McSally, a former Air Force combat pilot, and ahead of another conservative insurgent, state Sen. Kelli Ward[.] … The showdown in Arizona has, at minimum, given Arpaio one more turn in the national spotlight.”
- “Actually, the president should make me the press secretary,” Arpaio said after a campaign event. “That would be a great combination, what a great combination. I’ll have all those reporters eating out of my hand, you know that.”
- Arpaio questioned whether Obama actually attended Harvard Law School. “Do you have his transcripts or his record?”
-- Conservative insurgent Chris McDaniel announced he would run against Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.). Sean Sullivan and Adam Ganucheau report: “After declaring that the Republican Party had ‘lost its way,’ McDaniel aligned himself with the party’s leader: Trump. But Trump is supporting Wicker. In a blistering speech, McDaniel railed against the pillars of the Republican establishment, including Sens. Mitch McConnell (Ky.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C) — and cast Wicker as a creature of a failed Washington system. He also positioned himself as a social and cultural warrior, pledging a hard line on ‘illegal aliens’ and promising to fight for the Mississippi state flag, which incorporates the Confederate battle flag, and reject compromise efforts with Democrats. … [But] McDaniel opened the door to an alternative he has been considering: running for [Sen. Thad Cochran’s] seat if [the fellow Mississippi Republican] steps down in the near future.”
-- Republicans fear independent voters’ optimism about the economy won’t translate to votes for the midterms. Heather Long writes: “[T]he GOP faces a conundrum: While Americans feel good about the economy, Trump's approval ratings remain at anemic levels. The 2018 election could test the famous American saying that ‘It's the economy, stupid’ that matters most when voters go to the polls. … Several independent voters [said] they are struggling to weigh Trump's positives and negatives and figure out how they'll vote in 2018 and 2020.”
THE REST OF TRUMP’S AGENDA:
-- Many Republican lawmakers, including Trump loyalists, are publicly breaking with the administration’s proposal to allow offshore drilling near beaches. Darryl Fears reports: “As the Interior Department hosts public ‘listening sessions’ through early March to explain its proposed five-year lease plan — which would open 95 percent of the nation’s outer continental shelf to potential drilling — a growing chorus of bipartisan opposition is finding its voice. … Atlantic and Pacific coast governors, congressional delegations and attorneys general delivered the first waves of protests. Now state lawmakers, mayors and city councils are mobilizing in an attempt to stop the administration’s plan.”
-- The White House will make a major announcement today on tariffs for steel and aluminum imports. David J. Lynch and Damian Paletta report: “The details of the announcement were closely held and the situation remained very fluid, the people warned. A decision could still be postponed. The announcement is connected to a review of steel and aluminum imports that the Commerce Department conducted at Trump’s behest. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has found that large amounts of steel and aluminum imports pose a threat to the U.S.’s national security, a declaration that gives the White House powers to limit imports through tariffs or other means.”
Trump previewed possible tariffs this morning:
-- The Senate resuscitated a NATO observer mission to reaffirm its commitment to the organization. From Karoun Demirjian: “Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) announced the reconfiguration of the Senate NATO Observer Group on Wednesday afternoon, stressing that Senate leaders, senior officials from the State and Defense departments, as well as U.S. Ambassador to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchison, were fully behind the effort. But the senators said they had not yet secured the express buy-in of the White House and President Trump[.]”
-- Two political opposites, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), announced a joint effort to end the U.S. intervention in Yemen’s civil war. “This legislation is neither liberal, nor conservative,” Lee said at a news conference. “It’s constitutional.” (Dave Weigel)
-- The wife of an Army Special Forces veteran is facing the threat of deportation. From the Military Times’s Tara Copp: “Retired Sgt. 1st Class Bob Crawford, 52, and Elia, 44, married in 2001 when he was still on active duty[.] … Elia illegally crossed into the U.S. in 1999, after she fled the devastation of Hurricane Mitch, which killed 7,000 people in her native Honduras. After they married, the Crawfords filled out paperwork to seek legal residency for Elia and learned she was under deportation orders. … In recent hearings, the Crawfords have requested the deportation order be removed so they could proceed with the paperwork to be granted [legal status]. Getting the orders cleared in earlier cases had been fairly procedural, [the family’s attorney] said. That’s changed under [Trump’s] administration[.]”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A group of House Republicans pushed for a special counsel to investigate FISA abuses:
A Post reporter reflected on the many people who have served as Trump's communications director:
Hicks's departure was another data point in how Trump has changed D.C.:
Or, as a Politico columnist put it:
A New York Times reporter predicted a headline:
A HuffPost reporter had this to say on the latest Jared Kushner news:
A fellow for the Roosevelt Institue suggested the meetings could have affected one of Trump's policies:
The No. 2 Senate Republican expressed unease about the state of gun talks:
Another Senate Republican was more optimistic:
Trump called out Obama in the meeting. From an LA Times editor:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was giddy when Trump suggested that he's open to an assault weapons ban:
The principal of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High thanked the therapy dogs who helped students on their first day back to class since the shooting;
Former presidential candidate and Maryland governor Martin O'Malley campaigned for the Democrat in Pennsylvania's special election, per a Guardian reporter:
Democrats in Connecticut went after a gubernatorial opponent:
Lawmakers mourned the loss of the Rev. Billy Graham, who is lying in honor at the Capitol:
Donald Trump Jr. responded to a news story about him reporting to jury duty:
West Virginia's governor had to clear something up:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- GQ, “Steve Bannon Is Hatching His Comeback,” by Ben Schreckinger: “These days, he no longer runs Breitbart News, but Bannon remains holed up at the company's Capitol Hill headquarters, plotting the next stage of his right-wing populist revolution and brooding over the course of human events. … In the wide-ranging conversation we shared, Bannon declined to address the status of his relationship with Trump or with his onetime patrons, Bob and Rebekah Mercer, who have severed ties with him. In fact, when the conversation turned to the Mercers, he cut it off, but not before he had offered a stern defense of his worldview, a reflective perspective on his time in the White House, and a cryptic glimpse of what he's planning to do next.”
-- Hollywood Reporter, “Young Harvey Weinstein: The Making of a Monster,” by Scott Johnson and Stephen Galloway: “Long before he was a Miramax movie mogul, Weinstein was an ‘artsy-fartsy’ student, a savvy concert promoter and, it turns out, a budding abuser and sexual predator. The Hollywood Reporter retraces his moves in Queens and Buffalo and interviews dozens of former friends and associates to examine the formative years of Hollywood's most infamous figure.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Rep. Young suggests guns could’ve saved Jews during Holocaust,” from Alaska Public Media: “Speaking at a conference in Juneau last week, Alaska Congressman Don Young [R] argued against gun control by suggesting Jews might not have died in the Holocaust if they had been armed. ‘How many millions of people were shot and killed because they were unarmed? Fifty million in Russia,’ Young said. ‘How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?’ … The argument that gun control allowed the rise of Hitler has circulated among gun-rights advocates for several years. The Anti-Defamation League says it’s ludicrous to claim Germany’s Jews could have stopped the Third Reich with personal firearms when the military might of entire European countries could not.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“YouTube's New Moderators Mistakenly Pull Right-Wing Channels,” from Bloomberg News: “In the wake of [Parkland shooting], some YouTube moderators mistakenly removed several videos and some channels from right-wing, pro-gun video producers and outlets. Some YouTube channels recently complained about their accounts being pulled entirely. On Wednesday, the Outline highlighted accounts, including Titus Frost, that were banned from the video site. Frost tweeted on Wednesday that a survivor of the shooting, David Hogg, is an actor. Jerome Corsi of right-wing conspiracy website Infowars said on Tuesday that YouTube had taken down one of his videos and disabled his live stream. Shutting entire channels would have marked a sweeping policy change for YouTube[.] ... But YouTube said some content was taken down by mistake.”
Trump has a meeting on school safety followed by lunch with Pence and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The president also has an afternoon meeting with senators.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Cindy McCain criticized Trump for attacking her husband at CPAC last week. “[My family has] much bigger things to worry about right now than what the president says,” she said on “The View,” adding that the country needs “more compassion. We need more empathy. We need more togetherness, in terms of working together. We don’t need more bullying, and I’m tired of it.” (Callum Borchers)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- District residents: Be prepared for light rain throughout the day. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Light showers are likely to scatter through the area much of the day, but in most spots amount to less than a quarter-inch. Highs in the mid-50s are not uncomfortable given the calm winds.”
-- The Wizards lost to the Warriors 109-101. (Candace Buckner)
-- D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to curtail legal challenges to housing developments. From Paul Schwartzman: “District officials say that the changes would end nuisance legal challenges, reduce the cost of doing business in Washington, and expedite the construction of housing units that the city needs. … But activists counter that the city is making it more difficult to stave off gentrification. "
-- Some Maryland House members expressed apprehension about the $5 billion price tag to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to Montgomery County. One lawmaker described it as “an eye-popping number,” but legislators were still generally optimistic about potential economic opportunities. (Robert McCartney)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Omarosa told Stephen Colbert she tried to be the “voice of reason” in the Trump White House:
Trevor Noah criticized Ben Carson's spending habits:
Trump and congressional leaders gave brief speeches honoring the Rev. Billy Graham at the Capitol:
The Sydney Harbour Bridge hosted its first same-sex wedding after Australia legalized same-sex marriage in December:
And Londoners went snowboarding in a city park as a blizzard hits the U.K.: