'That was some crowd'
As critics protested and fans approved, President Donald Trump used the spotlight on the horrid mass killings in El Paso and Dayton not only to convey solidarity on behalf of the nation but to keep building his brand.
On Wednesday, while speaking words of praise to hospital staff who had to handle the Texas carnage, Trump said: "I was here about three months ago... That was some crowd. We had twice the number outside. Then you had this crazy Beto. Beto had like 400 people in a parking lot." This was an exaggeration.
Of his earlier stop in Dayton, Ohio, Trump added: “The love, the respect for the office of the presidency — I wish you could have been in there to see it.” News media had been kept out due to the nature of the visit.
En route from one city to the next, Trump tweeted hasty attacks and counterattacks on political detractors including the Dayton mayor, who said his response puzzled her.
On policy, he spoke vaguely, as he did after other mass shootings, in support of changing gun laws. “There is a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks," he said. But Trump indicated a distance from discussions in Congress. “I think both Republican[s] and Democrat[s] are getting close to a bill on, to doing something with background checks.”
The president issued his own Trump-centric video of his visits with a saccharine music backdrop and upbeat, smiling images of those he met — a piece that could have easily been mistaken for a campaign release.
It turned out that none of the eight patients still being treated at the University Medical Center in El Paso agreed to meet with Trump.
NRA 'checks' in
Background checks have never been a welcome reform to the top brass of the National Rifle Association, whose relations with the president have been famously cozy.
So NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre spoke with Trump on Tuesday and warned him the bill being discussed would be unpopular among the president's supporters, while disputing the merits of it, according to The Washington Post.
The two spoke several more times on Wednesday, White House officials told the newspaper.
Dozens of the 680 employees arrested by immigration officials at seven agricultural processing plants in Mississippi this week were reported released on Thursday.
The raids were of a kind that long preceded the Trump administration — but drew particular notice because Immigration Customs and Enforcement called them the largest-ever such operation in a single state.
Tearful videos and photos soon spread on social media, however, of children appealing to officials to release parents who had been rounded up.
Hamptons host responds
Stephen Ross, who owns the Miami Dolphins and is an investor in Equinox gyms and SoulCycle, defended his decision to hold a top-dollar Hamptons fundraiser for Trump slated for Friday, saying he likes to “engage directly and support the things I deeply care about," Bloomberg News reported.
Faced with widely publicized boycott threats, Ross said he engages with political leaders out of “deep concern for creating jobs and growing our country’s economy.” The scheduled luncheon engagement in Southampton, which is expected to snarl traffic in the afternoon, runs as high as $250,000 per plate.
Ross also is the developer of the sprawling Hudson Yards on Manhattan's West side. The 2017 tax-cut bill signed by Trump was widely seen as a big boon to commercial real estate developers.
Newsday's Tom Brune reports on how Trump outraised his closest Democratic rivals on Long Island. But taken together, the 20-plus Democrats in the presidential scrum raised more than three times as Trump has from bigger donors here, Brune writes.
What else is happening:
- Trump is again dangling a commutation before imprisoned former Illinois Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who'd appeared on "The Apprentice" after being convicted of serious corruption charges.
- Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is suing over what he calls his unlawful firing, based on the president deeming him a partisan opponent, allegedly based on McCabe's lack of political loyalty.
- Trump expresses regret in an interview over how he pressured his brother Fred Trump Jr., who became an alcoholic and died at age 42 in 1981.
- Sue Gordon, the deputy director of national intelligence, will resign this month along with her boss, Trump tweeted. He'd passed her up to succeed her ex-boss Dan Coats, with whom Trump fell out.
- A Montana man charged with assaulting a 13-year-old boy who refused to remove his hat during the national anthem attributes his actions to what he thought Trump would have wanted, his attorney said.