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Trump takes a step back from ‘hands-off’ guns stance

President Donald Trump, seen here on Tuesday, Feb.

President Donald Trump, seen here on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, announced a directive ordering Attorney General Jeff Sessions to craft regulations banning "bump stocks" and other such devices. Photo Credit: EPA-EFE / Rex / Shutterstock / Shawn Thew

2nd Amendment love has limit

Given his prolific TV watching, it’s likely Donald Trump saw the student survivors of the Florida school massacre demanding action and others around the nation following their lead. The issue of mass shootings was on his mind as he sought advice from friends at Mar-a-Lago over the weekend.

On Tuesday, the president acted, announcing he has directed the Justice Department to propose regulations “very soon” to “ban all devices” like the rapid-fire bump stocks used in last October’s killing of 58 people in the Las Vegas massacre. The device allows a semi-automatic weapon to fire bullets as rapidly as an automatic.

Trump has also indicated openness to legislation to fix some lapses in federal background checks, reports Newsday’s Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

The moves appeared to be low-risk as far as Trump’s support from the National Rifle Association is concerned. The NRA has conceded tougher regulation of bump stocks was necessary and that converting semi-automatics to fully automatics is illegal. It also favored the background-check bill.

Will Trump call for even stronger measures? “We haven’t closed the door on any front,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "Whether we are Republican or Democrat, we must now focus on strengthening background checks," Trump added via Twitter late Tuesday.

The students will be watching. So will the NRA.

Polls: Don’t stop there

By 62 percent to 29 percent, Americans believed Trump wasn’t doing enough to prevent mass shootings, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll published earlier Tuesday. (The ratings for Congress were significantly worse.)

A Quinnipiac poll found 66 percent of Americans want stricter gun laws, with 67 percent in favor of an assault weapons ban and 97 percent in favor of universal background checks. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) said he is going to renew a bipartisan effort that failed in 2013 to expand background checks to unlicensed gun-show dealers and online sales.

Trump will meet Wednesday with students, parents and teachers from three towns that suffered school shooting horrors — Parkland, Florida, Newtown, Connecticut and Columbine, Colorado.

In Florida's state capital, however, the legislature voted to reject a motion to consider banning many semi-automatic guns and large-capacity magazines.

‘Tougher on Russia’

Trump is feeling heat to make America safer again on another front — the Russian front. His morning tweets tried to rewrite history:

“I have been much tougher on Russia than Obama, just look at the facts. Total Fake News!” He referred to Obama failures such as Vladimir Putin’s grab of Crimea from Ukraine.

Except Trump has said that wasn’t such a bad thing. In July 2016, he told ABC News: “The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”

A year later, when Congress passed legislation for tougher sanctions with nearly unanimous, veto-proof majorities, Trump signed the bill grudgingly, and has since dragged his feet on implementing it.

Sanders said Trump has shown toughness by seeking to rebuild the military and compete with Russia on energy exports. Also, she added mysteriously, “Just last week, there was an incident that will be reported in the coming days.” See Figueroa’s story for Newsday.

Janison: How does Mitt fit?

Here are some things Mitt Romney said about Trump in 2016: He’s a “con man,” a “fraud” and “phony” whose personal qualities included “bullying ... greed ... showing off ... misogyny” and “absurd third-grade theatrics.” Romney renewed his criticism in 2017, saying Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville caused “racists to rejoice.”

On Tuesday night, Trump endorsed Romney’s bid for a Senate seat from Utah, tweeting, “He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!”

Why is Trump letting bygones be bygones with Romney, whom he has called a “dumb guy” who “choked” in the 2012 race against Obama? It could be concern on keeping the GOP Senate majority, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison, as well as hope he can mend fences with a prestigious voice who would be in a stronger position of influence.

Read his lips

Trump has been laying low and saying nothing on recent reports that a porn star, Stormy Daniels, and a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, got six-figure payouts to keep quiet about their stories of affairs with him.

But the president took to Twitter to deny accusations of sexual harassment from Rachel Crooks, who said Trump kissed her without her consent when was a receptionist at a real estate firm in Trump Tower. The Washington Post published a new interview with her.

“A woman I don’t know and, to the best of my knowledge, never met is ... saying I kissed her (for two minutes yet) in the lobby of Trump Tower 12 years ago,” he tweeted. “Never happened! Who would do this in a public space with live security cameras running.”

Crooks said it happened outside an elevator bank on the 24th floor, not the lobby. She challenged Trump to release security camera footage from the location shot on Jan. 11, 2006.

A competitor for Obamacare

Trump administration officials proposed regulations to make it easier to obtain coverage through short-term health insurance plans, which won’t have to include Obamacare’s consumer protections.

The plans could exclude people with pre-existing conditions, set caps for benefits and bar customers who develop a costly illness from renewing their coverage. But they are likely to be cheaper than Obamacare policies, luring healthier consumers away from exchanges and forcing premiums to rise for those who remain.

What else is happening

  • Political consultants of both parties say Democrats face an uphill battle in sending an economic message clear enough to compete with that of Trump and Republicans, who have been trumpeting gains from their sweeping tax cuts. See Newsday’s story by Emily Ngo.\
  • So-called border patrols have been operating far from the borders as the federal government steps up its crackdown against those here illegally.
  • Trump has refrained from hitting back at survivors of the Florida school massacre who criticize him. Son Donald Jr. didn’t get the memo — he “liked” far-right social media postings accusing student activist David Hogg, 17, of “running cover” for his father, a retired FBI agent.
  • Donald Jr., promoting sales of luxury Trump-branded residences to India’s wealthy, said of that country’s less fortunate: “You can see the poorest of the poor and there is still a smile on a face.”
  • Special counsel Robert Mueller scored a guilty plea: Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, who was charged with lying to the FBI about his contacts with Rick Gates, a former Trump campaign adviser. Van der Zwaan’s father-in-law is a Russian oligarch.
  • Vice President Mike Pence was supposed to have a secret meeting with North Korean officials while on his trip to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but Kim Jong Un’s representatives — including his sister — backed out at the last minute.
  • National security adviser H.R. McMaster, called out by Trump on Twitter after declaring evidence of Russian election interference “incontrovertible” but not attacking Democrats too, has long had a difficult relationship with the president, Politico reports.

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