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Trump’s left turn on guns: The NRA is not the boss of me

President Donald Trump speaks with members of Congress

President Donald Trump speaks with members of Congress on school safety and gun control, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Credit: Bloomberg / Joshua Roberts

Will gun lobby get Trumped?

“Take the guns first, go through due process second.”

Was that a line from an NRA fever dream — or a 2016 Donald Trump ad about Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton coming after gun owners?

Nope. That was President Trump, offering a twist on Vice President Mike Pence’s idea to help law enforcement officials get court orders to take firearms away from dangerous people.

It wasn’t the only surprise Trump sprung on fellow Republicans during a bipartisan White House meeting with members of Congress on gun violence.

Trump said he wants a comprehensive bill that would extend background checks to gun shows and online sales, which the NRA and its GOP allies have opposed.

“Some of you people are petrified of the NRA.” Trump said. Though he repeatedly praised the gun group as patriots, he said, “They have great power over you people. They have less power over me. I don’t need it.”

He again indicated favor for barring rifle sales to those under 21. And he slapped down an idea popular among the House GOP — and strongly opposed by most Democrats — to tie background checks to a bill that would allow concealed-carry permits to be used across state lines.

“You’ll never get it passed,” Trump said. “Let it be a separate thing. ... We want to get something done.” See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.

A teaching moment

A disturbed teacher barricaded himself in a Georgia classroom and let go a shot from his pistol. No one was injured. The teacher was arrested. This logically fueled more reaction to Trump's widely knocked suggestions about arming teachers to prevent another Parkland massacre.

Last week the president publicly said: ""If you had a teacher who was adept with the firearm, they could end the attack very quickly... This would be obviously only for people who were very adept at handling a gun, and it would be, it's called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them."

It is unclear so far if or how many states will follow up as he suggested.

Making 45 greater than 44

Trump telegraphed one apparent motive for his increasingly forceful push for new gun laws: To show he can succeed where Barack Obama failed. In Trump’s alternative history, Obama wasn’t “proactive.”

After the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre, Obama made emotional appeals, but could not get 60 votes in the Senate for a series of gun control measures, including expanded background checks.

One sponsor then was Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican. When Trump said, “You didn’t have a lot of presidential backup,” Toomey corrected him: “President Obama did support it.”

Trump interrupted: “But that was your problem.”

Obama’s successor will have a problem if he thinks the NRA will roll over for him. “While today’s meeting made for great TV, the gun control proposals discussed would make for bad policy,” the gun group said.

‘Whipping boy’ lashed again

After he was elected, Trump curbed his public enthusiasm for torturing terror suspects. But he doesn’t hesitate to tweet-torture Jeff Sessions since his attorney general last year made the mistake of recusing himself from the Russia investigation instead of staying in charge to protect Trump.

The latest: Trump is upset that Sessions left it to the Justice Department’s internal watchdog to investigate “potentially massive FISA abuse” — meaning the surveillance of former campaign adviser Carter Page. “Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!” (The tweet was fact-checkered, The Associated Press found.)

The nation’s top law enforcement official answered back that he has acted appropriately. “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,” he said.

Sessions’ former home-state Senate colleague, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), said that if it were him, he “wouldn’t be anybody’s whipping boy.”

Janison: Fire-resistant

The guy who made “You’re fired!” a catchphrase fires off mean tweets about Sessions, but doesn’t follow up.

There are a host of possible reasons for Trump to hold back, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison, including fear of a backlash as severe as the one that followed his dismissal of FBI Director James Comey.

Trump almost forced Sessions out after the Comey firing led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s appointment, but was talked out of it. The episode now is being investigated by Mueller as part of his examination of potential efforts to obstruct justice, The Washington Post reported.

Did Trump have insider info?

Mueller’s team is questioning witnesses about whether Trump was aware that Democratic emails had been stolen before that was publicly known in 2016, and whether he was involved in the strategy behind their release, NBC News reported, citing people familiar with the probe.

In one line of questioning, investigators have focused on Trump’s public comments in July 2016 asking Russia to find emails that were deleted by Hillary Clinton from a private server while she was secretary of state. They’re also asking if Trump was advised to make those statements by someone outside his campaign.

Hopeless White House

Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, is resigning.

Hicks, a 29-year-old former model, has been one of Trump’s closest and most trusted aides.

“I can’t imagine anyone here leaving a bigger hole in the White House than Hope on her departure,” said White House lawyer Ty Cobb. She reportedly has been considering the move for months, and aides said the decision wasn’t caused by her involvement in recent controversies.

Hicks had been dating aide Rob Porter and was part of the initial and spectacularly failed effort to save his job after allegations surfaced from his ex-spouses about wife-beating.

On Tuesday, testifying before a House committee behind closed doors, she admitted telling white lies on Trump’s behalf, according to The New York Times, but not about the Russia case. Hicks has also been questioned by Mueller’s office.

Wall or nothing?

Trump tweeted that his administration would not push forward with plans to build the section of his promised wall “that California wants built” along its border with Mexico until the entire project is approved.

California state officials actually oppose the wall. In his latest budget proposal to Congress, Trump requested $23 billion for border security, most of it for the wall.

Trump praised the ruling by a “U.S. judge” against California and other plaintiffs who argued the administration shouldn’t be able to bypass environmental regulations. The president didn’t mention the judge’s name.

He is Gonzalo Curiel, whom Trump in 2016 accused of bias against him because of his Mexican ancestry while he presided over a federal court suit against Trump University.

What else is happening

  • Jared Kushner’s family real estate business received more than half a billion dollars in loans last year from two firms whose leaders had White House meetings with him, The New York Times reported.
  • New tariffs on steel and aluminum are due to be announced on Thursday as Trump seeks to move past multiple messes.
  • In a bizarre piece of intrigue, one of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin's top PR aide lobbied Capitol Hill to demand his boss' resignation, USA Today reports.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin claims his regime has developed nuclear weapons that can avoid western missile defense systems, thus posing a new challenge to the U.S. and NATO.
  • Kushner’s loss of his top-secret security clearance has left him with far less access to sensitive information than the White House calligrapher, according to CNN. He also suspects other administration members are “out to get him,” the news channel said.
  • Suddenly Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, plans to start flying coach. He'd cited security threats to justify first-class purchases.
  • The Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the late Rev. Billy Graham, has been all in for Trump, and told The New York Times in an interview: “People say that the president says mean things. I can’t think of anything mean he’s said.”
  • Trump’s critical allusion last week to John McCain for his vote against a GOP health bill seven months ago broke a pledge he made to the ailing senator’s daughter to lay off, she says. It was “incredibly hurtful,” Meghan McCain said on “The View.”
  • More than half of Americans — 57% — think Trump is a racist, according to an Associated Press-NORC poll. The figure includes more than 8 in 10 blacks, three-quarters of Hispanics and nearly half of whites.
  • Trump scrapped the executive order that helped boost Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” physical fitness drive and replaced it with a new order that emphasizes getting children to play team sports “to experience the connection between effort and success.”
  • Police in helmets and bulletproof vests entered and then left the Trump luxury hotel in Panama that has been at the center of a management dispute. Labor Ministry officials said they went there with a police escort to ensure workers were being paid.

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