Washington Brief: Trump Says to Take Gun First, Worry About ‘Due Process Second’ in Some Cases


Top Stories

  • President Donald Trump said during a meeting with lawmakers at the White House that he favors taking guns away from people who might commit violence, before going through legal due process in courts. Trump also said he wants “one terrific bill” that can strengthen background checks, arm some teachers and school officials, increase the age limit for certain gun purchases and find new ways to keep guns away from mentally ill people. (USA Today)
  • Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is examining a period in late July and early August of 2017, when Trump seemed determined to drive Attorney General Jeff Sessions from his job, according to unnamed sources who said that a key interest of the probe is whether those efforts were part of a pattern of attempted obstruction of justice. Trump on Wednesday criticized Sessions on Twitter, prompting the attorney general to defend the Justice Department’s handling of an internal review of the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in its Russia probe. (The Washington Post)
  • The White House is laying out tentative plans to announce new tariffs on steel and aluminum, according to two unnamed sources. Trump has told people in recent days that he is interested in imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports, according to one source, but it is not clear what level he would announce, and administration officials debated whether to make the tariffs announcement today or delay it altogether. (Politico)

Chart Review

Assessing Race Relations under the Trump Administration
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Thursday
U.S. Chamber of Commerce hosts aviation summit 7 a.m.
Reps. Fitzpatrick, Guthrie, Kuster participate in U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on opioid crisis 8:30 a.m.
Fed’s Powell testifies at Senate Banking Committee hearing 10 a.m.
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on infrastructure framework 10 a.m.
Friday
No events scheduled

A data-driven look at the future of mobility

An exclusive look at new survey research data that explores consumer receptivity to auto industry innovations, including electric and self-driving cars, energy sources, and even auto insurance.

General

Giffords focuses on high-profile Republicans in midterms
Steve Peoples, The Associated Press

Gabby Giffords’ political organization is focusing on six high-profile members of Congress this fall — House Speaker Paul Ryan, among them — in a 2018 midterm strategy that will use high school students to challenge Republican lawmakers it blames for blocking efforts to curb gun violence. The group known as Giffords, named for the former Democratic congresswoman from Arizona who survived a shooting in 2011, says it plans to spend at least $10 million to influence the November elections.

U.S. Banks on Diplomacy With North Korea, but Moves Ahead on Military Plans  
Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times

A classified military exercise last week examined how American troops would mobilize and strike if ordered into a potential war on the Korean Peninsula, even as diplomatic overtures between the North and the Trump administration continue. The war planning, known as a “tabletop exercise,” was held over several days in Hawaii.

VA Secretary David Shulkin’s top PR aide asked Congress to help get him fired
Donovan Slack, USA Today

One of the top deputies to VA Secretary David Shulkin has actively lobbied Capitol Hill to demand his boss’s resignation, according to two people with knowledge of the effort. John Ullyot, the VA’s assistant secretary for public affairs, asked a senior aide at the House Committee on Veterans Affairs to persuade lawmakers to call the White House and say they wanted Shulkin out, said both individuals, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.

Presidential

Trump says take guns first and worry about ‘due process second’ in White House gun meeting
David Jackson et al., USA Today

President Trump said Wednesday he favors taking guns away from people who might commit violence before going through legal due process in the courts, one of many startling comments he made in a rambling White House meeting designed to hash out school safety legislation with a bipartisan group of lawmakers. “I like taking guns away early,” Trump said.

Mueller investigation examining Trump’s apparent efforts to oust Sessions in July
Devlin Barrett et al., The Washington Post

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has been investigating a period of time last summer when President Trump seemed determined to drive Attorney General Jeff Sessions from his job, according to people familiar with the matter who said that a key area of interest for the inquiry is whether those efforts were part of a months-long pattern of attempted obstruction of justice. In recent months, Mueller’s team has questioned witnesses in detail about Trump’s private comments and state of mind in late July and early August of last year, around the time he issued a series of tweets belittling his “beleaguered” attorney general, these people said.

Mueller asking if Trump knew about hacked Democratic emails before release
Katy Tur and Carol E. Lee, NBC News

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is asking witnesses pointed questions about whether Donald Trump was aware that Democratic emails had been stolen before that was publicly known, and whether he was involved in their strategic release, according to multiple people familiar with the probe. Mueller’s investigators have asked witnesses whether Trump was aware of plans for WikiLeaks to publish the emails.

Trump may announce steel and aluminum tariffs as soon as Thursday
Andrew Restuccia and Adam Behsudi, Politico

The White House is laying tentative plans to announce new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports as soon as Thursday, according to two people briefed on the planning. Administration officials have begun reaching out to steel industry officials in advance of the possible announcement, which is expected to have large repercussions on global trade.

More Than 30 Trump Aides Lose Top-Secret Clearance, Sources Say
Margaret Talev and Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg

More than 30 aides to President Donald Trump have been stripped of access to top secret intelligence, two people familiar with the move said. The officials have been notified that they will be downgraded to lower-level “secret” interim security clearances, said the two people.

Kushner’s Business Got Loans After White House Meetings
Jesse Drucker et al., The New York Times

Early last year, a private equity billionaire started paying regular visits to the White House. Joshua Harris, a founder of Apollo Global Management, was advising Trump administration officials on infrastructure policy.

Senate

Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation
Alexander Bolton, The Hill

Senate Republicans say President Trump’s comments Wednesday calling for more ambitious gun-control proposals won’t change the political calculus in their conference, which supports a limited response to the shooting at a Florida high school. Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is leading the GOP response to gun violence in the upper chamber, told reporters after the meeting with Trump at the White House that he still favors a limited approach.

Mike Pence Breaks Another Tie Senate Vote
Kellie Mejdrich, Roll Call

Senators voted to confirm Russell Vought as deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, after Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote Wednesday with the chamber deadlocked at 49-49. It was the ninth time Pence has broken a tie since he took office last January.

Democrat David Baria enters Senate race in Mississippi
Edward-Isaac Dovere, Politico

Republicans have two candidates running against each other for Senate in Mississippi. Now Democrats have one to face whoever emerges.  

House

Alaska’s congressman suggests more Jews would have survived the Holocaust if they were armed
Doug Criss, CNN  

An Alaskan congressman has suggested that more Jews would have survived the Holocaust if they had been armed with guns. Rep. Don Young made the statement during an appearance last week before the Alaska Municipal League and while answering a question about what can be done to prevent gun violence in schools.

Dunn’s chief of staff resigns in face of ethics, sexual harassment probe
Jeffrey Schweers, Tallahassee Democrat

The chief of staff for Rep. Neal Dunn has resigned after being been named with his former boss in a House ethics probe. The House Ethics Committee announced Tuesday that it formed an investigative subcommittee to investigate Brian Schubert and his former boss, Rep. Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania.

Perry Gets Two More Democratic Challengers in New District
Bridget Bowman, Roll Call

GOP Rep. Scott Perry drew two more Democratic challengers Wednesday, now that his newly redrawn district has become more competitive. The Pennsylvania Republican’s district, is now the 10th, became more Democratic under a new congressional map.

Stewart Mills mulls ‘hard data,’ says no to a third run for Congress
Paul Walsh, Star Tribune

Stewart Mills said “hard data” told him to pass on finding out whether a third time would be the charm in his pursuit of succeeding Democrat Rick Nolan in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District. Mills’ decision, spelled out in a Facebook posting Tuesday, puts the Republican right back where he was on Nov. 1, when he disclosed he would not seek to represent the district that stretches from the northern edges of the Twin Cities to the Canadian border.

Gowdy seeks answers on allegations of excessive spending, retaliation at HUD
Cristiano Lima, Politico

Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Wednesday requested that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson turn over all documents and communications pertaining to allegations by a high-ranking civil servant that she was the target of reprisals after sounding the alarm on agency spending. “To help the Committee determine whether HUD adhered to the applicable spending limitations while redecorating your office, please provide … [a]ll documents and communications referring or relating to redecorating, furnishing, or equipping your office since January 1, 2017,” Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, wrote to Carson, according to excerpts of the letter released Wednesday.

States

Hogan opposes arming teachers, suggests several school safety enhancements
Ovetta Wiggins, The Washington Post

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Wednesday that he opposes President Trump’s proposal to arm teachers and instead wants to bolster school safety by adding more metal detectors, panic buttons, security cameras and secure doors and windows in schools across the state. Hogan said he would pay for the security enhancements by using $125 million from the state’s share of casino money that he wants to be spent on schools.

New York regulator asks Deutsche, other banks about Kushner loans: source
Karen Freifeld, Reuters

New York’s state banking regulator asked Deutsche Bank AG and two other lenders for information on their relationships with U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and his family’s real estate company, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters. The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) made the requests to Deutsche Bank, Signature Bank and New York Community Bank for information on loans and other financial arrangements including lines of credit and loan guarantees a week ago, the person said.

Illinois GOP governor trails Democrats by double-digits in new poll
Natasha Korecki, Politico

With roughly three weeks until the Illinois primary election and more than $100 million of their personal funds already invested, billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker and multi-millionaire Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner hold double-digit leads against their respective primary challengers, according to a new poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute. But the results suggest Rauner, considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the nation, is in serious jeopardy of being denied a second term in November.

Advocacy

CEOs Choose Sides on Gun Control at Their Own Risk
Vanessa Fuhrmans and Rachel Feintzeig, The Wall Street Journal

It’s the newest question facing CEOs: Should they thrust their businesses into polarizing political debates? In the two weeks since a gunman killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school, many companies have taken a stand on gun control, prompted partly by a movement with the online rallying cry #NRABoycott.

Rise in Lobbying on Disaster Planning After Hurricanes, Wildfires
Rebecca Kern, Bloomberg BNA

Utilities, energy companies, and environmentalists amped up their advocacy for federal support to areas hit by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the wildfires in the West, as the number of lobbying filings for disaster planning increased at the end of 2017. Both the hurricane and wildfire seasons were reported as being among the costliest on record.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Good News for Senate Republicans
Karl Rove, The Wall Street Journal

Talk of a Democratic midterm sweep may be premature. In recent weeks, the chance that Republicans will hold or even expand their Senate majority was boosted by two unexpected events: North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer decided to challenge Democratic incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, and Arizona Rep. Martha McSally launched her bid for retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat.

Donald Trump’s Short Congressional Coattails
Rhodes Cook, Sabato’s Crystal Ball

It is one of the ironies of modern American politics that congressional Republicans have bound themselves virtually en masse to a president with some of the shortest coattails in a generation. For better or worse, Donald Trump has immersed himself in GOP politics — from fundraising to endorsing (and opposing) candidates to holding his patented campaign-style rallies for his favorites.

The NSA chief spelled out the Russian threat. Is Trump listening?
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

The Trump administration is derelict in its duty to protect the country from a foreign power’s hostile intrusions. Do not take our word for it.

The White House Family Business
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

Politics is blood sport, as presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is learning the hard way. The 80% of Washington that wants Donald Trump out as President is now targeting Mr. Kushner as a means to that end.

Sen. Marco Rubio: Venezuelan military could help restore democracy
Marco Rubio, Miami Herald 

No one should be fooled when Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro holds a fraudulent presidential election and seeks to force illegitimate legislative elections to replace the country’s democratically elected National Assembly on April 22. While the Castro-backed Maduro regime and his cronies cynically seek to use a sham vote to restore their international legitimacy, these “elections” will be unfree, unfair and completely rigged.

Why Congress must vote on the United States’ role in Yemen
Mike Lee et al., The Washington Post

In Yemen, a child under the age of five dies of preventable causes every 10 minutes. That is just one startling fact from a country that has been torn by war for nearly three years.

Research Reports and Polling

Florida Voters Oppose Teachers With Guns, Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Support For ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban Almost 2-1
Quinnipiac University

Florida voters oppose 56 – 40 percent allowing teachers and school officials to carry guns on school grounds, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll released today. Voters with children under 18 years old in public schools oppose arming school personnel 53 – 43 percent.  

Handling Investigations of Members of Congress and Congressional Staff: A How-To Guide for Chiefs of Staff
Covington & Burling LLP

In the highly politicized world of investigations involving Members of Congress and congressional staff, taking the right steps in the first hours and days can mean the difference between a swift resolution and a years-long crisis. Often it is the Member’s Chief of Staff who is the tip of the spear in an office’s initial response to an investigation.