Amid school massacre outcry, Trump shelters in place on gun laws
Want answers? Wait
Donald Trump addressed the nation for six minutes about the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He spoke about mental health, family and faith, violence, hatred, and evil.
The president did not talk about guns in the speech, nor did he answer a shouted question afterward: “Why does this keep happening in America? Will you do something about guns?”
Democrats renewed calls for curbs or bans on military-style assault weapons like the AR-15 used in the nation’s latest mass shooting. The suspect purchased the weapon legally.
Trump spoke of tackling “the difficult issue of mental health” and said he would meet later this month with governors and state attorneys general about making schools safer. Just how he would stop mass shootings, he didn’t say. (Video of speech here.)
But Trump shows no sign on softening all-out support for gun rights. He has told the National Rifle Association, which put at least $30 million behind his campaign, that he is their “friend and champion.” A year ago, he signed a measure killing an Obama-era restriction to keep guns away from some mentally ill people.
See Newsday’s story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
They did say something
A Trump morning tweet said there were “many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed,” that “neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. ... Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again.”
They did, again and again. There wasn’t enough to trigger his incarceration or to prevent him from buying a gun.
The Trump budget plan unveiled earlier this week would slash the major source of public funds for mental health treatment — Medicaid — and cut an Education Department grant program that supports safer schools, according to The Associated Press.
Parkland wants a conversation
Trump said he’s making plans to meet with officials and families in Parkland, Florida. He may have to brace himself for anger as well as grief, with students, families, teachers and officials demanding answers on gun control.
Abbie Youkilis, an aunt of slain 14-year-old Jaime Guttenberg, wants to know why “a sick young man” could “legally purchase an assault weapon.” Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said students told him they want “a real conversation about gun control laws in our country.”
A distraught Lori Alhadeff — mom of victim Alyssa Alhadeff, 15 — said on CNN: “President Trump, you say what can you do? You can stop the guns from getting into these children’s hands.” (Video here)
A question of timing
After 58 were killed in the Las Vegas shooting in October, Trump said, “We’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.” In the more than four months since, he hasn’t.
After Wednesday’s shooting in Florida, Republican leaders in Congress also said it’s too soon to discuss gun laws. “This is not the time to jump to some conclusion,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan.
When is the right time?
David Hogg, a senior and student reporter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, recorded interviews with classmates about gun control while they were in hiding in a darkened classroom, waiting to be told the gunman had been caught. (Video here.)
One girl said she had joined a gun rights rally in the past, but has changed her views.
Immigration: No one is winning
Trump won a temporary victory when the Senate rejected a bipartisan bill to resolve the status of young Dreamer immigrants that went only part way to satisfy the president’s demands on border security, immigration rules and the wall.
But the Senate sent a signal to Trump and his advisers by running up an even bigger margin against the bill he supported. See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.
Mueller reeling in another one?
Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is close to finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, which indicates he’s poised to cooperate in the investigation, CNN reported.
Gates is a longtime business partner of Paul Manafort, the onetime Trump campaign chairman who was also indicted. Mueller already has two cooperating witnesses who have entered guilty pleas — former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.
Bannon’s talking to Mueller
Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was interviewed by Mueller’s Russia investigation team for 20 hours over several days this week, according to NBC News.
Bannon also appeared Thursday in a closed-door session with the House intelligence committee, but answered only limited questions because of White House claims of executive privilege. Lawmakers said they may begin contempt-of-Congress proceedings against Bannon.
Mueller’s appointment to the job in May was triggered by Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey. Former chief of staff Reince Priebus — in an interview published in Vanity Fair — recalled Bannon screaming at Jared Kushner for recommending Comey’s ouster, which set off a firestorm:
“Nobody can sell this! P.T. Barnum couldn’t sell this! People aren’t stupid! This is a terrible, stupid decision that’s going to have massive implications. It may have shortened Trump’s presidency — and it’s because of you, Jared Kushner!”
What else is happening
- Donald Trump Jr. liked a tweet suggesting the FBI failed to follow up on clues that might have prevented the Florida shootings because it “was too busy trying to undermine the president.” Actions by the president’s eldest son during the campaign are a focus of the Russia investigation.
- House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who is investigating the Rob Porter mess, asked the White House Thursday for additional information on security clearances, Politico reports. Porter never got a full clearance, but he held onto his job until news of wife-beating allegations surfaced.
- White House chief of staff John Kelly may survive in his job, but will be a diminished and vulnerable figure, and no longer an imposing presence, Politico writes.
- Critics say the White House failed a basic rule of crisis communication on Porter: Put out accurate information quickly. The New York Times writes the problem comes from the top: a president who makes so many false or contradictory statements that even his own advisers can’t trust him.
- Because of the school shooting, Trump canceled a visit that had been planned to Orlando, Florida, on Friday as well as a campaign rally next week in Pennsylvania.
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said Thursday Trump’s third version of a travel ban is likely unconstitutional because Trump’s own words “offer undisputed evidence” it was “driven by anti-Muslim bias.” The ultimate decision will be up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hunt on for LIRR gunpoint robbery suspects ... Rise of ghost guns on LI ... Indoor softball for seniors