Washington Brief: Trump Supports Effort to Strengthen Background Checks for Gun Purchases

Top Stories

  • White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump is “supportive of efforts” to strengthen background checks for gun purchases. She said Trump has spoken with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who have been working together on background check legislation that was developed following mass shootings last year in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas. (NBC News)
  • Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) said he will not run for re-election this year. Forty-two House Republicans, including Rooney, have announced they will not seek another term in their congressional seat. (Politico)
  • Trump said Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney (R) has his “full support and endorsement.” Romney, a vocal critic of Trump’s 2016 presidential bid, tweeted his gratitude for Trump’s support. (The Salt Lake Tribune)
  • The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which ruled last month that the state’s congressional map was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, imposed a new map for congressional districts that gives a potential boost to the Democratic Party’s effort to gain U.S. House seats in the midterm elections. Republican legislators said they might challenge the map in federal court as early as today. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Atlantic Council event on Iran’s missile program 9 a.m.
CSIS event on the economic impact of cybercrime 8 a.m.
Council on Foreign Relations hosts World Economic Update panel discussion 12:30 p.m.
Conservative Political Action Conference 8:30 a.m.
Technology Policy Institute event on the economics and policy implications of artificial intelligence 8:45 a.m.
Heritage Foundation event on Trump, executive power and the bully pulpit 6 p.m.
Conservative Political Action Conference 8:25 a.m.
Governors participate in Politico’s State Solutions Conference 9 a.m.
World Bank Group president speaks at Council on Foreign Relations event 1 p.m.

Tracking Trump: The President’s Approval Rating in All 50 States

The inaugural edition of Morning Consult’s new monthly approval tracker is now live. Explore the data state by state, month over month.


Exclusive: Mueller’s interest in Kushner grows to include foreign financing efforts
Shimon Prokupecz et al., CNN

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition, according to people familiar with the inquiry. This is the first indication that Mueller is exploring Kushner’s discussions with potential non-Russian foreign investors, including in China.

Most Americans say Trump, Congress not doing enough to stop mass shootings, Post-ABC poll finds
Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, The Washington Post

More than 6 in 10 Americans fault Congress and President Trump for not doing enough to prevent mass shootings, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, with most Americans continuing to say these incidents are more reflective of problems identifying and addressing mental health issues than inadequate gun laws. In the poll conducted after a gunman killed 17 people at a Florida high school last week, more than three-quarters, 77 percent, said they think more effective mental health screening and treatment could have prevented the shooting.  

Prominent Republican Donor Issues Ultimatum on Assault Weapons
Alexander Burns, The New York Times

A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style firearms to civilians. Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida-based real estate developer who was a leading fund-raiser for George W. Bush’s campaigns, said he would seek to marshal support among other Republican political donors for a renewed assault weapons ban.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ new policy on transgender troops expected by Wednesday
Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today

The Pentagon is likely to announce its new policy on transgender troops this week after six months of legal battles that started with President Trump’s tweets calling for a ban on their service. Several federal court rulings prevented the Pentagon from implementing the ban, including a probation on accepting new recruits. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced in September that a panel of experts would develop a new policy on transgender service members by Feb. 21.

Tax Overhaul Gains Public Support, Buoying Republicans
Ben Casselman and Jim Tankersley, The New York Times

The tax overhaul that President Trump signed into law now has more supporters than opponents, buoying Republican hopes for this year’s congressional elections. The growing public support for the law coincides with an eroding Democratic lead when voters are asked which party they would like to see control Congress.


White House: Trump supports move to strengthen gun background checks
Alex Seitz-Wald and Hallie Jackson, NBC News

The White House supports efforts to strengthen background checks for gun purchases in the wake of last week’s shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said President Donald Trump is open to bipartisan legislation to shore up the background checks system, which is supposed to prevent people with severe mental illness and serious criminal records from purchasing firearms.

Trump endorses Mitt Romney’s run for one of Utah’s U.S. Senate seats
Aubrey Wieber, The Salt Lake Tribune

President Donald Trump gave his blessing to Mitt Romney’s Senate run Monday night. Shortly after the president’s endorsement, Romney tweeted his gratitude for the nod.

Conservatives urge Trump to grant pardons in Russia probe
Darren Samuelsohn, Politico

After months of criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, President Donald Trump’s supporters are issuing increasingly bold calls for presidential pardons to limit the investigation’s impact. “I think he should be pardoning anybody who’s been indicted and make it clear that anybody else who gets indicted would be pardoned immediately,” said Frederick Fleitz, a former CIA analyst and senior vice president at the conservative Center for Security Policy.

Indictment Leaves No Doubt: Russia Backed Trump. But Was It the Difference?
Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times

The detailed indictment of 13 Russians for intervening in the 2016 presidential election has rekindled a debate that had never fully gone away and now seems destined to become one of the great unresolved questions in American political history: Did Moscow tilt the election to Donald J. Trump? The 37-page indictment, revealing a sophisticated network that sought to bolster Mr. Trump and undermine Hillary Clinton by staging rallies and purchasing incendiary ads on social media, handed Democrats ammunition to claim that Mr. Trump’s success was illegitimate because it was buttressed by a foreign power.


A decade after meltdown, Senate moves to roll back bank rules
Zachary Warmbrodt, Politico

U.S. senators are planning to mark the 10th anniversary of Wall Street’s meltdown this year with a gift to the nation’s banks: a bill that would unravel regulations put in place after the crisis. The proposed rollback of some key post-crisis rules – which could advance in the coming weeks – is one of the few examples of bipartisanship in Washington since President Donald Trump’s election.

Nevada’s Heller warming to Trump before primary
Thomas Beaumont, The Associated Press

When Ivanka Trump assembled a group of Republican senators at her tony Washington home last fall, the guest list included one particularly notable name. Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada had been publicly chided by President Donald Trump months earlier and had, at times, kept the president at arm’s length.

The Lone Star Long Shot Who Wants to Topple Ted Cruz
Michael Tackett, The New York Times

Operating on two hours’ sleep, Beto O’Rourke was 20 hours into his day and looked it. His white shirt and gray slacks were an accordion of wrinkles.

Orrin Hatch apologizes to Rob Porter’s ex-wives
MJ Lee and Maegan Vazquez, CNN

The ex-wives of Rob Porter, a White House aide who recently resigned over domestic abuse allegations, say they have received letters of apology from Porter’s old boss, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who previously defended his former staffer as a “decent man.” “It was a sincere apology for pain he may have caused us,” Jennie Willoughby, Porter’s second ex-wife, told CNN.


Florida’s Rooney joins long list of House Republicans not seeking reelection
Matt Dixon and Marc Caputo, Politico

Rep. Tom Rooney announced Monday he will not seek reelection, making him the latest in a growing list of incumbent Republicans who are not going to compete for their House seat. “After what will be 10 years in the United States Congress representing the good people of Florida’s Heartland, it’s time to ‘hang em up’ as my old football coach used to say,” Rooney told POLITICO.

DCCC Announces Six More ‘Red to Blue’ Candidates
Bridget Bowman, Roll Call

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is adding six more candidates to its Red to Blue program, which helps congressional hopefuls stand out to donors and gain access to committee resources. The candidates must meet goals for fundraising and grassroots engagement to be added to the program.

NC congressman accuses his GOP opponent of trying to ‘stop Trump’
Jim Morrill, The News & Observer

In his first TV ad of the year, Rep. Robert Pittenger cast himself as one of President Donald Trump’s “strongest supporters” and accuses his Republican primary rival of trying to “stop Trump” in 2016. Pittenger’s ad says Mark Harris “worked to stop Trump from being president. Now Harris opposes Trump’s military plan.”


Pa. gerrymandering case: State Supreme Court releases new congressional map for 2018 elections
Jonathan Lai and Liz Navratil, The Philadelphia Inquirer 

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday imposed a new congressional district map that upends previous boundaries, renumbers districts across the state, and gives a potential boost to Democrats in the 2018 House elections. Under the court’s redrawn map, districts more closely align with county lines, and only 13 counties are split among two or three districts.

Republican state senator charged with extorting page for sex
Michelle R. Smith, The Associated Press

A grand jury indictment unsealed Monday accuses a Republican state senator of extorting sex from a page in the Senate’s page program. The indictment was unsealed as Senate Minority Whip Nicholas Kettle was arraigned on two counts of extortion in Providence Superior Court.

Spin the bottle game among newest allegations against female lawmaker
Alexei Koseff, The Sacramento Bee

A former employee of Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia filed a complaint with the state on Saturday, seeking to sue the Bell Gardens Democrat for allegedly firing him after he refused to play “spin the bottle” with her. In the complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which was posted online Sunday by his lawyer, J. David Kernick of San Diego wrote that during his time as a field representative in 2014, Garcia was “very disparaging to the staff and others, used vulgar language, discussed topics inappropriate for the workplace and showed herself to be very vindictive in nature.”

Colorado voters hit by Russia’s tweets in presidential election: Analysis shows troves of voters exposed to propaganda
John Frank, The Denver Post

Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election exposed hundreds of thousands of Colorado voters to misinformation and propaganda through media outlets and social networks, a new analysis of Twitter data shows. The majority of the Colorado-related messages broadcast by Russia-linked Twitter accounts appeared to favor Republican Donald Trump and foster discontent in the nation’s political system, according to a Denver Post review of more than 200,000 tweets sent by the Kremlin-backed operation.

Republican gains in secretary of state posts jolt Democrats
Susan Haigh, The Associated Press

With Republicans holding two-thirds of secretary of state offices, Democrats are focusing renewed attention and money on a statewide post once considered a sleepy political stepping stone, acknowledging they’re playing catch-up with the GOP. The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State has been motivated by what it considers efforts by some GOP secretaries to limit voter participation and unfairly pare voter rolls — allegations the GOP denies.


Students head to Florida capital to press for gun law change
Terry Spencer et al., The Associated Press

A hundred Stoneman Douglas High School students are busing 400 miles to Florida’s capital Tuesday to urge lawmakers to act to prevent a repeat of the massacre that killed 17 students and faculty last week. The students plan to hold a rally Wednesday in hopes that it will put pressure on the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature to consider a sweeping package of gun-control laws, something some GOP lawmakers said Monday they would consider.

Giffords gun control group goes after Rick Scott, running ads in four markets
Lawrence Mower, Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t declared he’s running for the Senate this fall, but a gun control group is already hammering him over his record on guns. Giffords, founded by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, is spending “a strong six figures” on a television ad attacking the governor for his defense of the 2011 “Glocks vs. docs” bill, the organization’s executive director, Peter Ambler, said.

Big Tech Fights Backlash With White House Lobbying Blitz
Ben Brody et al., Bloomberg

The world’s biggest technology providers saw an opening and a threat late last summer as the White House prepared a report that could influence billions of dollars in government spending on computing contracts. Amazon.com Inc., Oracle Corp., Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Microsoft Corp. all sought to make their voices heard as a key advisory panel named by President Donald Trump drafted recommendations on modernizing federal use of cloud services and other technology.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

A Gun-Control Measure Conservatives Should Consider
David French, National Review

To understand the American gun-control debate, you have to understand the fundamentally different starting positions of the two sides. Among conservatives, there is the broad belief that the right to own a weapon for self-defense is every bit as inherent and unalienable as the right to speak freely or practice your religion.

A not-so-radical first step for stopping school shootings
Hugh Hewitt, The Washington Post

How can the slaughter of high school students be polarizing? It is agonizing and grief-filled beyond any writer’s ability to convey, but a political football to begin another round of pro- and anti-Trump throwdowns?

How Banks Could Control Gun Sales if Washington Won’t
Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times

For the past year, chief executives have often talked about the new sense of moral responsibility that corporations have to help their communities and confront social challenges even when Washington won’t. In the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 students and staff members — and at a time when Washington shows little interest in limiting the sales of assault weapons — there’s a real opportunity for the business community to fill the void and prove that all that talk about moral responsibility isn’t hollow.

Romney’s Russia Vindication
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

Mitt Romney announced Friday that he’s running for the U.S. Senate from Utah, and the timing on the same day as the Justice Department indictments of Russians for meddling in the U.S. presidential election was apt. Mr. Romney was right about the Russian threat in 2012, and Democrats who are now echoing him when it serves their political purposes against Donald Trump owe the former GOP presidential nominee an apology.

Whatever Trump Is Hiding Is Hurting All of Us Now
Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times

Our democracy is in serious danger. President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

Research Reports and Polling

Official Results of the 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey
Brandon Rottinghaus and Justin S. Vaughn, University of Houston and Boise State University

The 2018 Presidents & Executive Politics Presidential Greatness Survey was conducted online via Qualtrics from December 22, 2017 to January 16, 2018. Respondents were current and recent members of the Presidents & Executive Politics Section of the American Political Science Association, which is the foremost organization of social science experts in presidential politics. 320 respondents were invited to participate, and 170 usable responses were received, yielding a 53.1% response rate.