Trump To Meet With Gun Victims, Backs Safety Measures Amid Pressure To Act

President Trump will spend Wednesday and Thursday meeting with people who have firsthand experience coping with mass shootings, a move that underscores his administration’s newfound push for policy solutions for the problem of gun violence.

The White House has faced surging levels of activism in the days since 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a troubled teen with a well-documented history of threatening behavior, gunned down 17 of his former classmates and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Students who survived the massacre have since implored legislators to take action and have demanded that Trump lead the effort.

A Republican close to the White House said the student-led outcry has “had a tremendous impact on President Trump,” who visited with victims of the shooting last Friday and will host a listening session this week with students and parents who have been impacted by the Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Columbine shootings.

“Obviously, the president was moved by the situation in Florida,” said veteran GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “He also ran as a public safety, law-and-order president, so this is unacceptable under his watch.”

O’Connell attributed Trump’s softer language on gun control to “this specific tragedy, but also the overall promise he made in his campaign to the American people." He said the White House “wants to do something concrete” this time around.

The White House has been working with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, in the days since the Parkland shooting to determine whether there is a viable path forward for a bill that would improve the federal background check system. Cornyn unveiled the measure last November with Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and though similar language has already passed the House, the legislation has stalled in the Senate.

Proponents of the bill claim it would have prevented a gunman in Texas, who had been dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force, from purchasing the weapon he used to kill 26 parishioners at a church in Sutherland Springs last November.

“President Trump wants to strengthen the background check system, that way all relevant information is given to all authorities that are going to then run background checks,” White House officials wrote in a document distributed to allies on Tuesday morning, and later obtained by the Washington Examiner.

“With background checks and the Second Amendment, it always comes out as an R versus D situation. But it’s really more of an urban versus rural situation,” said O’Connell. “If you look at some of these key areas, like in Nevada, you’re not seeing the Democrat go nuts or pulling guns out of people’s hands. So this is going to be more of a regional, rural-urban solution, I think.”

Read more from Gabby Morrongiello at the Washington Examiner

Add your reaction Share

Republicans Face First Test Of Tax Cuts' Power To Sway Voters

Mark Marran, an operations manager for a Fortune 500 company, voted for Donald Trump. Two weeks ago he noticed an extra $100 in his bimonthly pay check, courtesy of sweeping tax cuts passed by the Republican Congress late last year.

Marran says the extra cash is nice, but it will not change his life.

These are worrying words for the GOP, which is banking on the tax cuts pushed by President Trump to help Republicans retain control of the House and Senate in midterm elections this November.

A crucial early test is set for March 13 here in western Pennsylvania. Republican candidate Rick Saccone, a conservative Trump loyalist, is vying to win a special election for a congressional seat in a district that the president won by 19 points in 2016.

Yet recent polls show a tightening race in Pennsylvania’s 18th district, where Republicans typically enjoy a double-digit advantage.

Saccone, meanwhile, has been touting Trump’s signature legislative achievement as a boon for the middle class. “Tax cuts are changing lives,” says one of Saccone’s TV spots. But it remains to be seen whether the four-term state representative can persuade tax-cut skeptics such as Marran and Smith.

The special election, which will fill a seat left vacant when incumbent Republican congressman Tim Murphy quit amid personal scandal, is an early litmus test for the GOP tax message, said Ford O‘Connell, a Republican strategist.

It is “a trial run,” heading into November, he said. “Trump obviously wants to hold the seat and Trump wants to find out if he has delivered enough to keep voters happy.”

O’Connell, the Republican strategist, is optimistic the tax message will gain traction. Middle-class voters could well warm to the tax cuts by November, he said. And he believes Saccone will win next month.

Read more from Tim Reid at Reuters

Add your reaction Share

Houston Republican Is Top Self-Funder In The Nation For U.S. House

Houston Republican Kathaleen Wall is spending more of her own money to win a seat in the U.S. House than any candidate in the nation so far.

As of the latest campaign finance filings, Wall had put $2.7 million of her own money into the 2nd Congressional District race. It makes her the top self-funding candidate in the nation so far seeking a U.S. House seat, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign fundraising in politics.

The second biggest self-funder is insurance executive Andy Thornburn, a California Democrat who has put $2.3 million of his own money into his battle to win an open seat.

The only other candidate nationwide to spend more than $2 million of his own money on a race for the U.S. House is David Trone, a Maryland Democrat who is co-owner of Total Wine.

Wall's campaign did not immediately respond to requests to be interviewed for this story.

Some of her GOP opponents say they are frustrated with Wall's spending and say she is trying to buy the seat 2nd Congressional District.

All the spending in the world can't cover up for a candidate if they don't have a message that appeals to voters, added Republican political strategist Ford O'Connell, who worked on the 2008 McCain-Palin presidential campaign.

"Money is important but it is also useless without a strong campaign message," O'Connell said.

Read more from Jeremy Wallace at the Houston Chronicle

Add your reaction Share

Elizabeth Warren Turning Trump’s Jibes Into Minority Retort

U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren blasted President Trump’s repeated use of a slur to refer to her claim of American ­Indian ancestry yesterday while Republicans doubled down, ensuring the issue will loom over her ­future campaigns.

“I’ve noticed that every time my name comes up, President Trump likes to talk about Pocahontas. So I figured, let’s talk about Pocahontas,” Warren said in an unannounced address to the National Congress of American Indians in Washington yesterday.

Warren accused Trump of “reducing native history, native culture, native people to the butt of a joke,” referring to a White House event honoring Native American veterans during which Trump called Warren “Pocahontas.”

Trump has repeatedly used the name to mock Warren’s claim of Cherokee heritage, and Republicans have charged her with using it for professional gain — an accusation she flatly denied yesterday. Warren listed herself as a minority in a national law school directory in the 1980s and ‘90s, and was claimed as a Native American by Harvard University. Genealogists found no conclusive evidence to support her claim.

“This is all about 2020 and Sen. Warren’s presidential ambitions,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. “She knows that the 2020 Democratic presidential primary will likely resemble the Hunger Games and she is being proactive about her political blind spots.”

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at the Boston Herald

Add your reaction Share

Things Are Looking Up For The Republican Quest To Hold The House In 2018

There’s a lot of talk in the mainstream media about a wave election this November in which Democrats claim control of the House of Representatives and perhaps even the Senate.

But a closer look at the electoral board and some recent events provide evidence the Democrats continue to face an uphill and unlikely battle to retake control of either chamber.

Democrats point to victories in statewide elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and Alabama as well as in special elections in Wisconsin and Missouri as evidence they have the momentum and resources to gain the net 24 seats that would be required to retake the House.

There’s also the matter of history – the president’s party loses an average of 32 seats in the first midterm election and, since World War II, 36 if the president’s approval rating is below 50 percent.

In addition, 34 House Republicans have announced their retirement, with perhaps more on the way, and several incumbents who plan to seek re-election have been outraised so far by one or more of their Democratic challengers.

But just when things seemed darkest for Republicans, signs of light have begun to emerge. Between the humiliation of Democrats in the government shutdown, the growing popularity of the tax reform package (26 percent approval to 44 percent in less than a month), President Trump’s well-received State of the Union address and continued good news on the economy, voters appear to be taking a second look at the GOP.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at the Washington Examiner

Add your reaction Share

Does the Nunes Memo Discredit The Russia Probe? Republicans Disagree

While some Republicans spent the weekend attempting to downplay links between a controversial memo and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of alleged Russia collusion, others — including President Trump — have sought to use the memo as a vehicle for questioning the legitimacy of the Russia probe.

The conflicting responses to the memo — which Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., authored and fought for weeks to release — have highlighted lingering divisions among Republicans about how to approach the Russia controversy: with caution or with defiance.

And Trump’s claim that the memo “totally vindicates” him in the Russia investigation has put him at odds with members of his party who have warned against efforts to use the document’s findings against Mueller or to impugn the FBI as an organization.

“The memo was not exactly the smoking gun it was billed as by congressional Republicans, nor did the memo’s release threaten national security, as the Democrats and the FBI were bellowing,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist. “But it does confirm that the FBI was using the Steele dossier to obtain a FISA warrant on Carter [Page].”

The GOP-authored memo claimed the Justice Department had used a dossier of opposition research compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele in an application for a surveillance warrant on Carter Page, a former Trump campaign adviser. The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee had paid for the creation of the Steele dossier, but the memo alleged the Justice Department did not disclose the political origins of the dossier when it sought to wiretap Page under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Read more from Sarah Westwood at the Washington Examiner

Add your reaction Share

Will Washington Come Together After Trump's Nod To Democrats In SOTU Speech?

In his first-ever State of the Union (SOTU) address, U.S. President Donald Trump called for unity in Washington in a bid to get both parties on the same page and pass an agenda he said would bring tremendous benefit to Americans.

But at a time of bitter partisan rancor, many experts have expressed doubt whether unity will occur.

In a nationally televised speech, the president called for unity for the sake of serving the American people, saying "these are the people we were elected to serve," noting that his administration has boosted employment and enacted one of the biggest tax cuts in U.S. history -- which has sent the markets soaring.

Pushing for a 1 trillion U.S. dollar infrastructure spending bill, Trump told lawmakers in the audience that he was "asking both parties to come together" to produce a bill that will "fix the infrastructure deficit."

At the same time, he called for a multi-pronged immigration revamp in a bid to fix the nation's broken immigration system.

That included fixing the "deadly loopholes" that allow violent criminals to enter the United States illegally, noting a case a couple of years back in which MS-13 gang members -- a Hispanic gang with members illegally residing in the United States -- murdered two American high school girls.

The plan also called for a path to citizenship for nearly 2 million immigrants whose parents brought them illegally into the United States when they were minors.

"So let's come together" and "get the job done" he said, in an effort to reach out to Democrats.

"In his first year, he could pass legislation with only a majority. And this time around, when it comes to immigration and infrastructure, he's going to need some Democrats," Republican Strategist Ford O'Connell told Xinhua.

"And I think the big question here is...he gave a powerful speech and it was well delivered. But at the same time, is it going to make it easier to make a deal on immigration or infrastructure ? I think that's still up in the air," O'Connell said.

O'Connell said the real question for Trump will be how independent voters respond, at a time when the president has a very low approval rating among Democrats.

"Because if you look at the latest Fox News poll, Republicans are still with Trump, and Democrats are still against Trump. If he can find a way to get public opinion on his side with respect to (independents), he may be able to (pass his agenda)," he said.

Read more from Matthew Rusling at Xinhua

Add your reaction Share

Amid Divisive Debate Over Memo, Trump's Address To Call For Unity

As President Donald Trump prepares to deliver his first State of the Union address before Congress on Tuesday night, the investigation of Russia’s role in the 2016 election and the latest controversies to spin out of it continue to loom over his presidency.

Trump enters the chamber of the House of Representatives Tuesday with a 4.1 percent unemployment rate, a record high stock market, three straight quarters of strong economic growth, military victories in the Middle East, and many Americans already benefiting from the tax reform bill he signed last month.

However, he also enters the chamber with a special counsel investigation of possible ties between the Kremlin and his campaign ongoing, four former campaign aides facing criminal charges, multiple congressional probes, and accusations that he is trying to politicize the law enforcement and intelligence-gathering apparatuses of government.

“From Trump’s perspective, obviously he wants to be talking about the memo,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “I’m not so sure that he wants to be talking about it at the moment.”

That said, O’Connell doubts the memo discussion will drastically alter the public’s reception of Trump’s speech any more than various other Russia-related stories will.

“I don’t think it’s going to have any impact on the speech,” he said. “It’s not like the Russia probe hasn’t been hanging over the president’s head since he took office.”

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at WJLA

Add your reaction Share

Trump, GOP Wage Fraught Campaign To Investigate The Russia Investigators

As allegations pile up against two former members of the special counsel’s office, Obama administration intelligence officials, and former Justice Department leaders, President Trump and his allies have stepped up their criticism of the FBI and called into question the objectivity of the team created to look into allegations the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

But the president could risk overplaying his hand by whipping up his base over allegations against the investigation that could yet prove exaggerated or unfounded. And his involvement in promoting these allegations against the FBI may automatically dissuade much of the public, Democrats, and media from taking the situation seriously.

"President Trump needs to keep beating the drum on this front, albeit in a more strategic manner,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist. “The reason is simple: Trump has the biggest megaphone, and when he talks about it, everyone — voters and media — is forced to talk about it, and it becomes part of the national conversation.”

Read more from Sarah Westwood at the Washington Examiner

Add your reaction Share

Does Congress Need The President To Take The Lead?

Ironically, President Trump – a dealmaker in his past life – was nowhere to be seen when the deal to reopen the government was struck.

Mr. Trump had spent the weekend holed up in the White House, talking with friends, aides, and key Republican lawmakers, watching his surrogates speak for him on television, and perhaps most important, steering clear of top Democrats. Even his Twitter account stayed on message.

This was all by design, stage-managed by advisers who sought to prevent the chaos of the past few weeks from spilling over into the high-stakes arena of a partial government shutdown.

The gambit worked. Democratic leaders quickly concluded that Trump wasn’t going to address the plight of Dreamers – unauthorized immigrants brought to the US as children – as part of a short-term spending bill, and so most Democrats voted to reopen the government. In exchange, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky pledged to take up immigration issues, including Dreamers, by early February.

The president’s defenders say Trump’s hands-off approach was, in fact, in keeping with his past as a businessman. He was doing what CEOs are supposed to do: delegate.

“There’s no question that Trump is still learning how to govern,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell. “In this instance he was smart to let his lieutenants – in this case, Senator McConnell and [House Speaker Paul] Ryan – work it out themselves, while saying essentially, I’m not giving in on Dreamers.”

Illegal immigration was a central issue for Trump in the 2016 presidential election, and “Republicans on Capitol Hill are willing to fight for him and do what he wants,” Mr. O’Connell says. “But he needs to be clearer about what it is he wants.”

Read more from Linda Feldmann at The Christian Science Monitor

Add your reaction Share

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9    204  205  Next →
Analysis & Political Strategy