Washington Brief: New Poll Finds 50% of Voters Support Arming Teachers

Top Stories

  • Half of registered voters are in favor of equipping teachers with concealed firearms in order to respond to a school shooting, according to a new poll. The survey also found that support for stricter gun control laws among Republicans is now at 53 percent, up 8 points from a similar poll last week. (Morning Consult)
  • GOP leaders in the House and Senate took different routes in their responses to the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that reinvigorated the nation’s gun debate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate should focus on legislation it can pass, pointing to a bill sponsored by Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) that would attempt to improve the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, while Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) downplayed the need to pass legislation, saying House lawmakers were more interested in investigating mistakes made by law enforcement officials. (The Hill)
  • Former Arizona state Sen. Debbie Lesko defeated 11 challengers for the Republican nomination in a special primary election in Arizona’s 8th District. She will face Hiral Tipirneni (D), an emergency-room physician, in an April 24 special general election to finish term of former Rep. Trent Franks (R), who resigned in December amid allegations of sexual misconduct. (The Arizona Republic)
  • The House voted 388 to 25 to pass legislation that aims to curb online sex trafficking by holding websites more accountable for the activities of their users. The Senate is expected to clear the measure, but that vote could be delayed by senators allied with the tech industry. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Sen. Peters, Rep. Walden participate in Axios event on self-driving cars 8 a.m.
Sen. Coons participates in Hudson Institute event on foreign policy 11:30 a.m.
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.
No events scheduled

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Half of Voters Support Arming Teachers as GOP Backing for Gun Control Rises
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult

Half of voters are with President Donald Trump in his call to arm teachers in order to respond to a school shooting, while a majority of Republican voters support stricter gun control laws, according to a new Morning Consult/Politico poll. The survey, conducted Feb. 22-26 among a national sample of 1,992 registered voters, found 50 percent of those polled support equipping teachers and school staff with concealed firearms to respond in the event of a school shooting.

GOP leaders jockey on guns
Alexander Bolton, The Hill

The GOP leaders in the House and Senate took starkly different tacks Tuesday in their responses to the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that has reinvigorated a national debate about guns. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), holding a one-vote majority and seeking to win seats in states such as Florida this fall, embraced centrism, saying the Senate should focus on legislation that can pass.  

Congress punctures Trump’s infrastructure and aviation plans, in one day
Brianna Gurciullo, Politico

President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan may not pass Congress this year, a key GOP lawmaker said Tuesday — shortly before a Trump-backed proposal to split up the Federal Aviation Administration collapsed as well. Though expected, the two developments delivered major legislative blows for an administration that rolled into office banking on big populist wins on transportation.

Four Commerce Department appointees lose their posts after problems in background checks
Carol D. Leonnig et al., The Washington Post

Four Commerce Department political appointees working on interim security clearances lost their jobs Tuesday because of problems in their background checks, the latest fallout from the intensifying public scrutiny on administration officials working without permanent clearances. The department determined that the four appointees — including one who worked for the agency for nearly a year and served for several months as a senior adviser to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — should not be given access to classified information, according to multiple officials who requested anonymity to discuss personnel matters.

Supreme Court curbs rights of immigrants awaiting deportation
Lawrence Hurley and Andrew Chung, Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday curbed the ability of immigrants held in long-term detention during deportation proceedings to argue for their release in a ruling in sync with President Donald Trump’s get-tough approach toward immigration. The court’s conservative justices carried the day in the 5-3 decision that overturned a lower court’s ruling that required that immigrants held by the U.S. government who are awaiting the outcome of deportation proceedings get a bond hearing after six months of detention to seek their release.

Ben Carson’s HUD, Planning Cuts, Spends $31,000 on Dining Set for His Office
Glenn Thrush, The New York Times

Department of Housing and Urban Development officials spent $31,000 on a new dining room set for Secretary Ben Carson’s office in late 2017 — just as the White House circulated its plans to slash HUD’s programs for the homeless, elderly and poor, according to federal procurement records. The purchase of the custom hardwood table, chairs and hutch came a month after a top agency staff member filed a whistle-blower complaint charging Mr. Carson’s wife, Candy Carson, with pressuring department officials to find money for the expensive redecoration of his offices, even if it meant circumventing the law.


Trump to meet with lawmakers from both parties on guns
Elana Schor and Lorraine Woellert, Politico 

Lawmakers from both parties, including some of the Democrats’ strongest gun-control advocates, are planning to meet with President Donald Trump Wednesday about responses to the Florida school massacre. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), chief sponsors of a narrow Trump-backed bill designed to improve the existing background-check system for guns, are both expected to attend, according to their offices.

Sessions: Justice Dept can ban bump stocks with regulation
Sadie Gurman, The Associated Press

Justice Department officials are forging ahead with plans to ban rapid-fire bump stocks, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday — a move that would likely set the stage for long legal battles with gun manufacturers while the devices remain on the market. Sessions said top officials within the department believe gun accessories like the ones used in last year’s Las Vegas massacre can be banned through the regulatory process.

No White House Order to Combat Russia, Cybercom Chief Says
Gopal Ratnam, Roll Call

Russia hasn’t been sufficiently penalized for its meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections and that has emboldened Moscow to continue interfering in American elections, Adm. Michael Rogers, Commander of the U.S. Cyber Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. “They haven’t paid a price sufficient to change their behavior,” Rogers said under questioning by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Kushner’s overseas contacts raise concerns as foreign officials seek leverage
Shane Harris et al., The Washington Post

Officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter. Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico, the current and former officials said.

Justice Department’s Internal Watchdog to Probe FBI Surveillance of Ex-Trump Adviser
Del Quentin Wilber, The Wall Street Journal

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday that the Justice Department’s internal watchdog will investigate how the FBI and federal prosecutors obtained warrants from the nation’s secret spy court to surveil a former Trump campaign adviser. His statement came in response to a question at a press conference about whether his department would investigate allegations raised in a memo from Republican lawmakers early this month about alleged abuses by the Justice Department in obtaining the warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  

Mueller team asks about Trump’s Russian business dealings as he weighed a run for president
Kara Scannell et al., CNN

Investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller have recently been asking witnesses about Donald Trump’s business activities in Russia prior to the 2016 presidential campaign as he considered a run for president, according to three people familiar with the matter. Questions to some witnesses during wide-ranging interviews included the timing of Trump’s decision to seek the presidency, potentially compromising information the Russians may have had about him, and why efforts to brand a Trump Tower in Moscow fell through, two sources said.

Mnuchin Says Trump ‘Willing’ to Negotiate U.S. Return to TPP
Isabel Reynolds, Bloomberg

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday he had “begun to have very high-level conversations” on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and rejoining the regional trade pact is an option for President Donald Trump. Trump repeatedly attacked the TPP deal on the campaign trail and pulled the U.S. out of it soon after he took over early last year.


Trump backs Wicker as primary challenge looms
Alex Isenstadt, Politico

President Donald Trump gave a full-throated endorsement to Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker on Tuesday, giving the incumbent a boost just one day before he’s expected to receive a high-profile primary challenge. The endorsement is a blow to Wicker’s soon-to-be opponent, conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel, whose bid rests heavily on winning over the president’s core supporters.

Senate Democrats push for support to reinstate net neutrality
David Shepardson, Reuters

U.S. Senate Democrats launched efforts on Tuesday to win a vote to reinstate Obama-era rules guaranteeing an open internet, suggesting it would be a major issue in the 2018 mid-term elections. Democrats remain one Republican senator shy of winning a majority in the Senate to reverse the Federal Communications Commission’s order to undo the 2015 open internet rules.


Debbie Lesko wins Republican primary race for vacant congressional seat
Ronald J. Hansen, The Arizona Republic

Debbie Lesko won the Republican primary race for the vacant West Valley congressional seat Tuesday night, drawing on her deep ties to the area to defeat 11 challengers. “It feels awesome! I’m very thankful to all of the voters that put their trust and faith in me and all of the people that have helped me, either at the polls or donated money or supported me in any way,” Lesko said in an interview.

House Passes Bill Limiting Websites’ Immunity in Sex-Trafficking Cases
John D. McKinnon, The Wall Street Journal

The House Tuesday passed far-reaching legislation that aims to curb online sex trafficking by holding websites more accountable for their users’ activities, a rare political defeat for internet companies. The final vote on the bill was 388 to 25, with strong support among both Republicans and Democrats.

Top Dem: Hope Hicks refuses to answer questions about time in White House
Pierre Thomas and Benjamin Siegel, ABC News

White House communications director Hope Hicks appeared before the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday for a closed-door interview related to Russian interference in the 2016 election, but refused to answer questions about her time in the White House, according to Republicans and Democrats on the panel. Hicks, who was behind closed doors with the committee for more than nine hours, initially refused to answer any questions from investigators about the presidential transition or her time in the White House, with her lawyer telling the panel she was doing so under instructions from the White House.

Levi Sanders, son of Bernie Sanders, is running for Congress in New Hampshire
Sean Rossman, USA Today

Levi Sanders, the son of 2016 presidential contender Sen. Bernie Sanders, announced Monday he’s running for Congress in New Hampshire. Sanders, 48, seeks the seat of Democratic Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, who has held the seat for New Hampshire’s 1st congressional district since 2017 (and on-and-off since 2007).

DCCC Advised Candidates Not To Discuss Gun Control Policy Right After Vegas Shooting
Daniel Marans, HuffPost

The morning after the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas, a member of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s press staff warned House candidates and their staffs not to “politicize” the shooting that day. Politicization, according to the DCCC official, included talking about gun violence prevention policy.


U.S. intel: Russia compromised seven states prior to 2016 election
Cynthia McFadden et al., NBC News

The U.S. intelligence community developed substantial evidence that state websites or voter registration systems in seven states were compromised by Russian-backed covert operatives prior to the 2016 election — but never told the states involved, according to multiple U.S. officials. Top-secret intelligence requested by President Barack Obama in his last weeks in office identified seven states where analysts — synthesizing months of work — had reason to believe Russian operatives had compromised state websites or databases.

Dems flip two GOP-held seats in special elections
Reid Wilson, The Hill

Democratic candidates on Tuesday won two special elections for state legislative seats in the Northeast, another indication for the party that a blue wave is forming ahead of November’s midterm elections. In New Hampshire, Laconia voters elected substance abuse counselor Philip Spagnuolo (D) over Republican Les Cartier, a former state employee, in a district President Trump carried by a 13-point margin in 2016.

Colorado Rep. Steve Lebsock faces expulsion after 11 sexual harassment allegations against him are deemed credible
John Frank and Jesse Paul, The Denver Post

For the first time in more than a century, the Colorado General Assembly will vote on whether to expel a lawmaker, a move that comes after five women made 11 credible accusations of sexual harassment against embattled Democratic state Rep. Steve Lebsock. The Democratic-led House announced Tuesday it would take a vote Friday on a resolution to oust Lebsock, action that requires support from at least two-thirds of the chamber’s members — or 44 of the 65 lawmakers.

West Virginia Teachers’ Strike Ends With a Promise to Raise Pay
Jess Bidgood, The New York Times

A teachers’ strike that ground public schools to a halt across West Virginia is set to end on Thursday, a week after it began, Gov. James C. Justice and teachers’ union representatives said Tuesday. They announced a deal that signaled a win for unions in a reddening state, even though some lawmakers and even the teachers themselves expressed doubts it would ultimately work.

New Jersey Democrats Look to Strengthen State Gun Laws
Kate King, The Wall Street Journal

Democrats in New Jersey are moving forward with several bills to further tighten the state’s gun laws, which are already among the strictest in the nation, making the Garden State the latest to take up the issue after the Florida school shooting that killed 17. Lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee in the state Assembly will hold a public hearing Wednesday on seven proposed measures, including legislation that would allow law enforcement to seize firearms from people identified by mental-health professionals as serious threats to themselves or others.


GOP Lobbyist to Host Fundraiser for Rick Gates
Kate Ackley, Roll Call

The swamp looks out for its own. A Republican lobbyist said Tuesday he was organizing a fundraiser next month to help pay the legal bills of Rick Gates, the former K Streeter who pleaded guilty last week in the expanding special counsel probe of Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Obama alums form group to target ‘reckless’ Trump foreign policy
Cristiano Lima, Politico

Former Obama administration officials unveiled a new advocacy group Tuesday aimed at pushing back on President Donald Trump’s foreign policy initiatives. The push is led by former deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and former White House deputy assistant Jake Sullivan, who both served under President Barack Obama.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

What to do about all those angry young men
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

It is not quite right to say that Nikolas Cruz, the alleged mass murderer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, fell through the cracks. The truth is even more unsettling.

A New GOP Entitlement
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

One in five Americans is on Medicaid, and Medicare and Social Security will require huge future tax increases. Yet some in the ostensible party of limited government think this is the perfect time to add a new entitlement for paid family leave.

Research Reports and Polling

CNN Poll: 6 in 10 concerned Trump isn’t doing enough to protect US elections
Jennifer Agiesta, CNN

About 6 in 10 Americans say Donald Trump is not taking seriously enough the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the US presidential election, and about the same share lack confidence the president is doing enough to prevent foreign interference in future elections, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS. Almost three-quarters (72%) say they are concerned about foreign government interference in US elections generally, including 90% of Democrats, 68% of independents and 53% of Republicans, and 60% say they are not confident the president is doing enough to prevent foreign countries from influencing future American elections.