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Trump counts on NRA pals to ‘do the right thing’

President Donald Trump takes part in a listening

President Donald Trump takes part in a listening session on gun violence with teachers and students in the White House on Feb. 22, 2018. Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Mandel Ngan

Guns and honey

The current state of Donald Trump’s relationship with the National Rifle Association is something like this: He still loves them. He feels they still love him. But he’s seeing other people.

“We don’t expect to agree with the NRA on every single issue,” said Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah.

The National Rifle Association, which has opposed calling for raising the minimum age to buy an assault-type rifle from 18 to 21. Yet Trump insisted Thursday, “The NRA will back it.”

After another White House meeting in response to the Florida school massacre, Trump said he wants tighter background checks “with an emphasis on mental health.” Unclear is whether he’d favor universal background checks — including for gun shows and online sales — which the gun lobby has fought off before.

“Nothing is being ruled out at this stage,” Shah said. Except, perhaps, criticism of the NRA.

“They’re very close to me, I’m very close to them,” Trump told reporters after tweeting that the group and its leaders are “Great People and Great American Patriots” who “love our Country and will do the right thing.” See Newsday’s story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

Arms buildup?

Trump so far is unpersuaded by arguments that arming educators with concealed weapons would make schools more dangerous, not less.

“If a potential ‘sicko shooter’ knows that a school has a large number of very weapons talented teachers (and others) who will be instantly shooting, the sicko will NEVER attack that school,” he tweeted. At the meeting, he suggested paying a bonus to teachers willing to carry guns.

Trump also seemed to oppose active shooter drills as “a very negative thing . . . I’d much rather have a hardened school.” Shah said later it wasn’t the drills themselves that bothered Trump — it’s the name — and something like “safety drills” would be less scary for children.

Janison: The protector

The optics of Trump’s White House meeting Wednesday with survivors of school shootings turned out to be a positive for him politically, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

It also gave the president a platform from which to recite a recurring theme: that his predecessors had not uprooted a threat to the nation’s safety, and he would change that.

Mueller’s squeeze play

Turning up the pressure, special counsel Robert Mueller filed additional criminal charges against Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his business associate, Rick Gates.

The filing adds allegations of tax evasion and bank fraud and significantly increases the legal jeopardy facing the pair if they don’t seek a deal. Both had already faced the prospect of at least a decade in prison if convicted at trial.

Because America First

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers the nation’s lawful immigration system, is changing its mission statement.

Deleted: that America is “a nation of immigrants.”

The change was an announced in an email to staff members Thursday from the agency’s director, L. Francis Cissna, The Intercept reported. The reason. he said, is that the old statement “leads to the erroneous belief” that those seeking to become residents and citizens, “rather than the American people, are whom we ultimately serve.”

Out of ICE?

Trump warned Thursday that he may pull the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency out of California in retaliation for its sanctuary policies.

“If we ever pulled our ICE out, and we ever said, ‘Hey, let California alone, let them figure it out for themselves,’ in two months they’d be begging for us to come back. They would be begging. And you know what, I’m thinking about doing it,” Trump said.

ICE acting director Thomas Honan threatened last month to do the opposite — send in more agents. “If the politicians in California don’t want to protect their communities, then ICE will,” he told Fox News.

Because Russia First

From the Washington Post: “A Russian oligarch believed to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month was in close touch with Kremlin and Syrian officials in the days and weeks before and after the assault, according to U.S. intelligence reports.

“In intercepted communications in late January, the oligarch, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, told a senior Syrian official that he had ‘secured permission’ from an unspecified Russian minister to move forward with a ‘fast and strong’ initiative that would take place in early February.”

That’s the same Yevgeniy Prigozhin who was among those indicted last week on charges related to meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

What else is happening:

  • The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms isn’t sure it can fulfill Trump’s directive to ban bump stocks that allow semiautomatics to fire more rapidly, The Associated Press reports. Administrative action would face lawsuits and some ATF officials believe only a law passed by Congress would stick.
  • Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said on CNN that Trump is getting tougher on Russia — now. “I think President Trump was wrong during the campaign . . . well-intentioned but misguided, to think that somehow we could deal with Putin.
  • MS-13 will keep returning to the U.S. following deportation to El Salvador if the wall with Mexico isn’t built, the president said in a tweet that repeats an exaggerated estimate of thousands for those caught and sent back.
  • The Trump administration has begun talking with grocery retailers about the idea to replace some food-stamp allocations with prepackaged boxes of groceries, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said. Perdue acknowledged there would be logistical challenges in setting up a distribution system.
  • Michael Cohen, the lawyer recently in the news for paying off porn star Stormy Daniels to not tell her story about an affair with Trump, is working with a Cleveland pastor to develop an “urban revitalization” plan for the president, the Daily Beast reported.
  • The Pentagon is looking for a role that would allow Trump to move his national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, back into the military if tensions between them force him from his White House job, CNN reported.
  • Since Election Day in November 2016, the Republican National Committee has spent nearly $400,000 at properties owned by the president’s family, according to The Washington Post.

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