Don’t blame guns
Mourning the victims of the Texas church massacre, Donald Trump sounded certain of this: “I think that mental health is your problem here ... This isn’t a guns situation.”
The comments at a news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe signaled that neither the Sutherland Springs shootings, with at least 26 dead, nor last month’s slaughter of 58 people in Las Vegas have shaken Trump’s pro-gun views.
If anything, they may have been reinforced because an armed civilian confronted shooter Devin Patrick Kelley and opened fire, sending him fleeing. “Fortunately, somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction, otherwise it ... would have been much worse,” Trump said (video here).
In February, Trump signed legislation reversing an Obama-era regulation that would have made it harder for Americans with mental illnesses to buy a gun. But it appeared a bureaucratic snafu — not lax laws — allowed Kelley to buy guns despite a criminal history.
No time for politics
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway denounced Democrats as “disrespectful to the dead” for demanding stronger gun control measures.
“It’s so beyond any type of reasonable response that anyone should have — why people see politics immediately,” Conway said on “Fox and Friends.”
Trump didn’t put politics on pause on the morning after last weeks’ terrorist truck bomb attack killed eight people in Manhattan. His tweets blamed Democrats for the immigration policies under which the accused terrorist from Uzbekistan entered the United States.
This side of 'Paradise'
A massive leaked trove of private documents called the "Paradise Papers" exposes some of the legal-but-discreet financial moves behind reclusive Long Island billionaire Robert Mercer's bankrolling of Trump guru Steve Bannon and right-wing causes.
Aided by an offshore "investment" vehicle in Bermuda to avoid taxes, the Mercers' family charitable foundation set up a $60 million war chest that bankrolled Bannon's published attacks against Hillary Clinton. The book "Clinton Cash" went after the candidate's family charity foundation.
Just last week Mercer, 71, announced his retirement as head of the uber-profitable East Setauket hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, which makes a fortune using advanced digital programs to play the markets and profit from investments.
Russian: Donald Jr. open to deal
The Russian lawyer who got a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016 with the lure of “dirt” on Hillary Clinton now says the president’s son expressed openness to something in return.
In an interview from Moscow, Natalia Veselnitskaya told Bloomberg News that the president’s eldest son indicated that a law targeting Russia could be re-examined if his father won the election.
Veselnitskaya said he asked for written evidence for her claim that illegal proceeds went to Clinton’s campaign. She didn’t have any.
Separately, former Trump volunteer Carter Page told the House Intelligence Committee that he checked in with senior campaign officials regarding his July 2016 trip to Russia and reported back to others when he returned.
Janison: Who saw that coming?
One year later, looking at the investigations that have sprouted out of the 2016 elections, it’s useful to remember that few expected Trump to win — especially in Trumpland.
The actions of Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort, among others, are slightly easier to explain, if not defend, if they were thinking about their post-campaign lives after a Trump defeat. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.
North Korea: 'It'll all work out'
Before heading to South Korea, Trump struck a hard line against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and urged Japan to do the same.
“The era of strategic patience is over,” Trump said. “Some people say my rhetoric is very strong, but look what has happened with very weak rhetoric in the last 25 years.”
The president did not deny reports he was frustrated that Japan did not shoot down a North Korean ballistic missile that recently flew over its territory en route to a splashdown at sea.
Trump asked Congress for $4 billion to support missile defense to counter the threat from North Korea.
But after he arrived in Seoul, the man who "makes the best deals" changed his tune. For whatever reason, he said vaguely: "Ultimately, it'll all work out." Trump even urged the Kim Jong Un regime to "come to the table" and "make a deal." Tea-leaf reading will no doubt follow.
Warning signs for Democrats
Democrats hold an 11-point edge over Republicans for the 2018 midterm elections, according to an ABC News-Washington Post poll, but the advantage isn’t all that it seems.
The Democrats still suffer from an enthusiasm gap, with Trump voters more likely to show up to vote than Hillary Clinton’s voters. Counting voters who cast ballots in the last midterms in 2014 and are certain to do so again, the Democrats’ lead is just 2 points.
Meanwhile, Trump’s approval in a CNN poll hit a new low — 36 percent — with 58 percent disapproval.
What else is happening
- Trump praised Saudi leaders for carrying out a purge of other royals, ministers and businessmen, as well as mass arrests. “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” the president tweeted.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) warned against "international oligarchy" and urged his colleagues to examine the "Paradise" papers before moving ahead with tax reform — since the documents are all about tax avoidance.
- The Virginia governor's race to be decided at the polls Tuesday is widely watched as another Trump test -- with the president tweeting for the Republican Ed Gillespie that if Democrat Ralph Northam wins crime will be "rampant."
- A judge ordered Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, the indicted former Trump campaign officials, to remain under house arrest. There are questions about the true worth of assets they put up to secure bail.
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross indicated he might sell his stake in a Russian shipping company that has a major client with links to Vladimir Putin. The connection was revealed in reports Sunday. “I’ve been actually selling it anyway, but that isn’t because of this,” Ross said.
- Fox News Channel says it won’t air any more ads from Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer advocating Trump’s impeachment because of “strong negative reaction” from its viewers. One such viewer was Trump, who tweeted that Steyer was “wacky and totally unhinged.”
- A record number of people signed up for Obamacare in the first few days of open enrollment this year compared with the same period in previous years, The Hill reported. Democrats had voiced fears enrollment would drop because of the Trump administration’s cutbacks in outreach and advertising.
- Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence will travel to Sutherland Springs, Texas, Wednesday, to visit with families of the shooting victims and first responders.