Taking it personally, Trump style
The funerals are underway for the 17 killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Galvanized in grief, parents and teachers have launched a “Never Again” movement, calling on Donald Trump and Congress for stricter gun laws.
Trump hasn’t responded to that. But after the FBI’s admission of failing to follow up on a tip about the killer, the president found dots to connect from the tragedy to Trump.
The FBI, Trump tweeted, “is spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign — there is no collusion.”
Many in Parkland are angry at the FBI too, but found Trump’s take uniquely appalling.
Tweeted Morgan Williams: “17 of my classmates and friends are gone and you have the audacity to make this about Russia?” From Ally Sheehy: “17 futures, 17 children, and 17 friends stolen. But you’re right, it always has to be about you. How silly of me to forget.”
On Sunday’s talk shows, students-turned-activists said they will take their movement national. The White House said Trump will host a “listening session” with students and teachers this week, but gave no details on who would attend. See Laura Figueroa Hernandez and Scott Eidler’s story for Newsday.
Wait, he was listening?
Trump surveyed Mar-a-Lago Club members about whether he ought to champion gun control measures and told them he was closely monitoring media appearances by some of the surviving students, The Washington Post reported.
An electrifying, gut-wrenching speech by senior Emma González at a gun control rally in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday went viral. (Click here for a full video.)
Wiping tears from her face, she said, “We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America . . . we are going to be the last mass shooting.”
Blame the Democrats
After avoiding the subject of gun control in comments and tweets after the school shooting, Trump brought it up on Twitter to attack Democrats.
“Why didn’t the Democrats pass gun control legislation when they had both the House & Senate during the Obama Administration. Because they didn’t want to, and now they just talk!”
Republicans have controlled the House since 2011 and regained control of the Senate in 2014. Two Democratic-proposed gun control measures — an assault weapons ban and universal background checks — failed in the Senate in 2013, according to The Hill. Republicans thwarted Barack Obama’s efforts after the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut.
Trump signed a bill last year repealing an Obama-era regulation to make it harder for people with mental illnesses to buy firearms.
POTUS doth protest much
You could almost picture Trump bouncing off the walls of Mar-a-Lago during an epic weekend tweet storm in the aftermath of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s new Russia investigation indictments.
“I never said Russia did not meddle in the election,” tweeted Trump, who last November said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin when he told him he “didn’t meddle.”
Rebuking his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, for calling evidence of Russian meddling “incontrovertible,” Trump tweeted “General McMaster forgot to say that the results of the 2016 election were not impacted” (no one really knows.) He listed various thinly based theories of “collusion” between Russia and Hillary Clinton, among other Democrats.
But, Trump added later, if Russia wanted to sow “discord, disruption and chaos,” they got it from “Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred.” Having blamed those uncovering meddling, Trump concluded: “They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!” See Eidler and Figueroa’s story for Newsday.
What he left out
Trump did not deal with the central finding of Mueller’s charges against 13 Russians and three companies — a broad, well-funded “information warfare” scheme to feed Americans propaganda on social media to push them to his candidacy and away from Clinton. (Click here for full text of indictment.)
Nor did Trump show any willingness to abandon his steadfast resistance to punishing Russia for its interference or to assert leadership in combating what intelligence chiefs are certain are Moscow’s intentions to do it again.
“If this is information warfare, then I think he’s the first draft-dodger in the war,” said Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeted: “The next time President Trump that you talk to Putin tell him to butt out of our elections quit the cyber warfare interference in our democracy.”
Trump initially saw the indictments Friday as a positive, The New York Times reported, because it did not accuse him or those around him of collusion. But the president began to stew after watching TV and hearing commentators portray the indictment as nothing for him to celebrate.
The indictments were one piece of a much larger Mueller investigation, which continues.
Another shoe to drop?
The Los Angeles Times reports former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates will plead guilty to fraud-related charges in a deal with Mueller in the coming days. Gates is willing to testify against Paul J. Manafort Jr., the former campaign manager, the report said.
Gates worked alongside Manafort for a decade as a lobbyist and consultant. A source told the Times that Gates’ testimony could place a “cherry on top’’ of the government’s case against Manafort, accused of money-laundering payments from a pro-Russia Ukrainian political party.
What else is happening:
- Leading partisan battles against Trump as Senate Democratic leader has taken a toll on Chuck Schumer’s New York approval rating in polls, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo. The biggest erosion is among Republicans — from 55% in December 2016 to 23% approval in a Siena survey this month.
- Trump’s Twitter tirade on the Russia investigator had fact-checkers busy Sunday. For what The Associated Press found on his detours from reality, click here.
- Donald Trump Jr. is headed to India this week to help sell more than $1 billion in Trump-branded luxury residential units, The New York Times reports. The visit to the country, where the president is popular, is being promoted with ads that read: “Trump has arrived. Have you?”
- A shake-up of White House security clearance policies after the Rob Porter scandal could cut off access to top-secret information by Jared Kushner, The Washington Post reports. Trump’s son-in-law has had only an interim clearance since becoming a senior adviser more than a year ago.
- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, under fire for frequently going first-class on taxpayer-paid flights, has postponed a trip to Israel, The Washington Post said.
- On the way from Mar-a-Lago to an event at one of his golf clubs Sunday night, the Trump motorcade drove past a strip club adverting a scheduled April appearance by Stormy Daniels, the porn star who got $130,000 to not talk about an affair with Trump, click here.