Washington Brief: Trump Takes Step to Ban ‘Bump Stocks’

Top Stories

  • President Donald Trump said he has directed the Justice Department to draft regulations that would ban “bump stocks,” the devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire almost as fast as automatic weapons. Bump stocks came to the forefront after October’s mass shooting in Las Vegas that left more than 50 people dead. (CNN)
  • The House Ethics Committee is investigating a complaint against Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.), extending its review of a complaint that was referred to it by the Office of Congressional Ethics. The House committee did not offer details about its probe, but Duncan – who is not seeking re-election this year – came under scrutiny in July following a news report that he paid his son for campaign work in the years after his son pleaded guilty to misconduct in public office. (Knoxville News Sentinel)
  • A quarter of registered voters said they have noticed an increase in their paycheck as a result of the new tax law, while 51 percent said they have not, according to a nationwide poll. The survey found that 45 percent of voters support the law that was enacted in December. (Politico)
  • Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is reluctant to give up his access to highly classified information, even as White House chief of staff John Kelly tackles issues with security clearances, according to unnamed White House officials and others briefed on the matter. The sources said Kushner is one of dozens of White House officials operating under interim security clearances because of issues raised by the Federal Bureau of Investigation during their background checks. (The New York Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

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.

New Report: How Americans & Investors Are Reacting To Market Volatility

Recent tumult in the stock market has triggered a wave of concerns about investor confidence and the possibility of sustained downturn. To provide a better understanding of the real-time reaction to this volatility, Morning Consult conducted a comprehensive survey of both consumers and market investors. See the full report.


Poll: Few voters report seeing bigger paychecks after tax changes
Steven Shepard, Politico

Most voters aren’t noticing more money in their paychecks under the new tax law, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. Just a quarter of registered voters, 25 percent, say they have noticed an increase in their paycheck, the poll shows.

VA chief Shulkin’s job is safe, White House says, unless ‘other stuff comes out’
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux et al., The Washington Post

White House officials have told Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin that his job is safe, according to people familiar with the matter who indicated Tuesday that President Trump decided to “stomach the story” about Shulkin’s alleged misuse of taxpayer money during a 10-day trip to Europe. The president’s decision was communicated to Shulkin by White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, according to an administration official who, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation candidly.

Senior HHS official placed on leave for promoting unfounded claims and conspiracy theories on social media
Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott, CNN

A top official at the Department of Health and Human Services has been placed on administrative leave after a CNN KFile inquiry while the agency investigates social media postings in which he pushed unfounded smears on social media. Jon Cordova serves as the principal deputy assistant secretary for administration at HHS.

FBI Probes Tip-Line Operations After Missed Florida-Shooting Warning
Del Quentin Wilber and Aruna Viswanatha, The Wall Street Journal

The FBI is conducting an extensive review into operations at the bureau’s centralized tip line after the agency failed to act on a specific and credible lead identifying dangers posed by a teenager who last week shot and killed 17 people at a Florida high school. Former and current agents said in interviews that the mishap highlighted risks they had raised with bureau officials when the tip line was created in 2012, moving tip collection from the FBI’s individual offices around the country to a single call center in West Virginia.

Australian leader off to US for talks with Trump, governors
Rod McGuirk, The Associated Press

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull heads to the United States on Wednesday, accompanied by the largest Australian political and business delegation ever to visit the U.S. President Donald Trump’s softening opposition to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be up for discussion when he meets Turnbull at the White House on Friday.


Trump moves to ban bump stocks
Kevin Liptak and David Shortell, CNN

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that he has directed his attorney general to propose changes that would ban bump fire stocks, which make it easier to fire rounds more quickly. The move adds his voice to a process that began in December, two months after a gunman used the device in a shooting that left scores dead at a concert in Las Vegas.

Kushner Resists Losing Access as Kelly Tackles Security Clearance Issues
Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman, The New York Times

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, is resisting giving up his access to highly classified information, prompting an internal struggle with John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, over who should be allowed to see some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets, according to White House officials and others briefed on the matter. Mr. Kushner is one of dozens of White House officials operating under interim security clearances because of issues raised by the F.B.I. during their background checks, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the clearances.

Pence was set to meet with North Korean officials during the Olympics before last-minute cancellation
Ashley Parker, The Washington Post

Vice President Pence departed for a five-day, two-country swing through Asia earlier this month having agreed to a secret meeting with North Korean officials while in South Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. But on Feb. 10, less than two hours before Pence and his team were to meet with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, North Korea’s nominal head of state, the North Koreans pulled out of the scheduled meeting, according to Pence’s office.

Trump calls woman’s account of sexual misconduct ‘another false accusation’
Ayanna Alexander, Politico

President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Tuesday to deny accusations of sexual harassment from one of the 19 women who have accused him of misconduct. The woman accusing Trump, Rachel Crooks, was featured in a Washington Post story on Monday.

Trump Jr: ‘Nonsense’ that family’s profiting from presidency
Muneeza Naqvi, The Associated Press

Donald Trump Jr. said that any talk of his family profiting from his father’s presidency is “nonsense” as he embarked on a trip to India that has raised ethical concerns about using the name of the American president to promote international business ventures. The eldest son of President Donald Trump, who is in India to meet the promoters and buyers of Trump brand luxury homes in the country, said his family is actually missing out on business opportunities because his father pledged to conduct no new foreign business while he was in office.


Rubio faces backlash from students, gun control advocates after shooting
Sean Sullivan, The Washington Post

He called it “heartbreaking” and said he was devastated. Dozens killed or injured in a shooting rampage that shook Florida and the nation — and “deeply impacted” him as he considered his political future. Twenty months passed.

Toomey, sensing ‘momentum,’ plans revival of bill to expand background checks
Robert Costa and Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post

Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), who once spearheaded an unsuccessful bipartisan agreement to strengthen gun laws, said Tuesday that he plans to introduce legislation in the coming weeks that would expand background checks on firearm purchases, giving a jolt to gun-control efforts in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead and left scores injured. “It does feel like we have a shot at getting a little bit of momentum on background checks,” Toomey said in an interview with The Washington Post, after the long holiday weekend when he spoke by phone with several senators.

25 GOP senators urge Trump to restart TPP trade talks, a deal he called a ‘disaster’
Heather Long, The Washington Post

Twenty-five Republican senators, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), sent President Trump a letter Friday asking him to “re-engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” It’s the latest attempt by Republican lawmakers to get Trump to take a softer stance on trade, even though his administration is gearing up to erect more trade barriers.

Scott Walker Backs Patrick Morrisey in West Virginia Senate Primary
Simone Pathé, Roll Call

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday endorsed West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in his bid for the GOP nomination for Senate. “Attorney General Morrisey’s strong, conservative record is exactly what West Virginia needs in its next senator,” Walker said in a statement obtained first by Roll Call.

Attacks, laser focus and ‘career’ politicians: Indiana’s GOP Senate debate had it all
Robert King, Indianapolis Star

Todd Rokita went after his opponents early and often. Luke Messer tried to stay “laser-focused” on defeating U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly.


House Ethics Committee confirms review of Rep. John Duncan Jr.
Michael Collins, Knoxville News Sentinel

The House Ethics Committee said Tuesday it is investigating a complaint against Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. but offered no details about the nature of the investigation. The committee’s announcement that it has decided to extend its review is the first public acknowledgement of any investigation.

House Republicans Plan Legislative Hearings As First Step to Fight Opioid Crisis
Stephanie Armour and Kristina Peterson, The Wall Street Journal

House Republicans will begin a series of legislative hearings next week as the first step in an effort to pass bipartisan bills tackling the opioid crisis. The plan from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will hold the first hearing on Feb. 28, will likely require additional funding from Congress, lawmakers said.

Stevens County GOP, amid criticism from Democrats, pulls gun auction from event featuring Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Kip Hill, The Spokesman-Review

The Stevens County Republican Party halted plans Tuesday to raffle a semiautomatic rifle at an event where Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was scheduled to speak next month after outcry from her Democratic opponent. “Our decision today was in response, in part, to Lisa Brown’s attention on the matter,” said Lori Larsen, chairwoman of the Stevens County Republican Central Committee.

Pennsylvania Special Election Loses Its Punch as New Districts Loom
Reid J. Epstein, The Wall Street Journal

Whoever wins Pennsylvania’s congressional special election next month will likely find himself drawn out of the district by November. The Pennsylvania congressional district maps imposed Monday by the state Supreme Court placed the homes of both Republican Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb outside the new district’s boundary, putting a shorter political shelf life on both men campaigning in the March 13 contest.


With Stoneman Douglas students watching, Florida House declines to take up assault weapons ban
Sun Sentinel

Less than a week after 17 people were fatally shot at a Florida high school, the state House has voted down a motion to take up a bill that would ban assault rifles, effectively killing the measure for this session. The motion failed by a 36-71 vote.

Linda Belcher defeats Rebecca Johnson to reclaim District 49 seat
Thomas Novelly, Louisville Courier Journal

An hour after being defeated by Linda Belcher in a special election in Bullitt County Tuesday night, a spokesman for Rebecca Johnson said she is claiming voter fraud. “The big story out of Bullitt County appears to be voter fraud,” David Adams, Johnson’s campaign manager said in a text message.

Insurgents jolt Illinois governor’s race
Natasha Korecki and Daniel Strauss, Politico

The Illinois governor’s race was supposed to be a clash of two fabulously rich politicians, an election so expensive that it might end up costing more than a quarter-billion dollars. But with just four weeks to go until the March 20 primary, it’s not even certain that Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and billionaire Democrat J.B. Pritzker will be their parties’ nominees in the general election.  

Pawlenty: I’m still actively considering run for governor
Brian Bakst, MPR News

Ex-Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he’s still weighing a jump into the 2018 governor’s race. But he also acknowledged that it’s still “an uphill climb” for Republican to win statewide office in Minnesota.


CPAC keeps NRA executive Wayne LaPierre’s name off schedule after Florida shooting
Sarah Westwood, Washington Examiner

Organizers for the Conservative Political Action Conference withheld the name of a top National Rifle Association executive from the schedule of speakers they released on Monday, just days after a young shooter killed 17 children and adults in a Parkland, Fla., high school. But sources familiar with the situation said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president and CEO, will still deliver his speech at CPAC this week as planned.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Pennsylvania’s Redistricting Coup
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

Political chaos has broken out in Pennsylvania after the state’s high court last week redrew the congressional map for this year’s midterm elections. Behold our future judicial overlords if the U.S. Supreme Court rules that partisan gerrymanders are unconstitutional.

A big gerrymandering case raises a profound question about our elections
Paul Waldman, The Washington Post

In one of the most closely watched gerrymandering controversies in the country, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court just redrew the state’s congressional maps, in a way that has Democrats pleased and Republicans livid. The result makes a Democratic takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives this fall significantly more likely.

I Interned for Senator Rubio. Now I’m Begging Him to Act on Guns.
Shana Rosenthal, The New York Times

The video above is based on the following letter, which I wrote to my senator, Marco Rubio, in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I urge you to hold your elected officials accountable by sending them a letter and tagging them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever other social media platforms you use.

The Trump White House’s tariff ‘cures’ are much worse than any trade disease
The Editorial Board, The Washington Post

The Trump administration has issued its long-awaited report on steel and aluminum imports, and, as expected, the document calls for new tariffs and quotas to protect domestic industry. Excess production capacity in both commodities is a global concern, exacerbated by the subsidies and other preferential treatment that China provides its producers.

This Is Why Republicans Can’t Get Women Elected to Higher Office
Nathan L. Gonzales, Roll Call

I’m starting to wonder why any Republican woman would attempt to run for higher office. Last year, GOP Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri all but announced her challenge to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill before getting the cold shoulder from GOP strategists in Washington and the Show Me State who preferred a candidate who wasn’t even hustling to get in the race.

Research Reports and Polling

U.S. Support For Gun Control Tops 2-1, Highest Ever, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Let Dreamers Stay, 80 Percent Of Voters Say
Quinnipiac University

American voters support stricter gun laws 66 – 31 percent, the highest level of support ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac University National Poll, with 50 – 44 percent support among gun owners and 62 – 35 percent support from white voters with no college degree and 58 – 38 percent support among white men. Today’s result is up from a negative 47 – 50 percent measure of support in a December 23, 2015, survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll.