One Year After U.S. School Shooting, National-Level Gun Legislation Remains Elusive

One year after a mass high school shooting that killed 17 students, there is no sweeping, federal-level U.S. gun legislation on the horizon, with experts saying the situation is unlikely to change.

On Feb. 14 last year, a gunman entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and opened fire on campus with an assault-style rifle, killing 17 students and educators within six minutes of hell.

Over the past 12 years, a number of mass killings have grabbed headlines: in 2007, a student at Virginia Tech killed 32 people; in 2012, a deranged gunman entered the Sandy Hook elementary school and murdered 28 people, including many children; in 2016, a gunman killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando; and in 2017, a total of 58 people were killed and hundreds wounded in the Las Vegas mass shooting.

A recent PBS News Hour/Marist/NPR poll found a slim majority of 51 percent of Americans favor stricter firearms-related legislation, down significantly from the poll's finding nearly one year ago after the Parkland killings, when 71 percent of Americans favored tighter gun laws.

Republicans and Democrats are at odds over the issue, with Democrats calling for more gun legislation, and Republicans fearing that more laws might not lessen the violence, but could infringe on rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

According to the Giffords Law Center, lawmakers on both sides of the political divide in more than two-dozen states have enacted nearly 70 new gun laws, and the U.S. state of Washington voted to increase the legal age to purchase semi-automatic rifles to 21 from 18. But those are far from the sweeping federal gun laws that many gun control advocates favor.

"Whatever is going to take place on this issue is more likely to be on the state level than at the federal level, particularly with the divided Congress," Republican strategist and TV news personality Ford O'Connell told Xinhua. He added that Democrats in Congress may introduce bills, but they won't go far in a divided Congress.

Read more from Matthew Rustling at Xinhua

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Will He Or Won't He? Weld Sparks Presidential Intrigue With N.H. Visit

Could former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld be the candidate who can topple President Trump in the 2020 primary?

According to some Republicans, crazier things have happened.

Weld has stoked presidential speculation with his vocal criticisms of Trump, and by his recent decision to return to the Republican Party after spending several years as a registered Libertarian. In his speech, Weld isn't expected to pull any punches when it comes to his views of the president.

If he does declare his candidacy or announce the formation of an exploratory committee, Weld would become the first Republican to announce a primary challenge to Trump.

But Weld wouldn’t necessarily have to win the primary to topple Trump, strategists said. They point to a number of recent presidents who fended off serious primary challengers only to lose in the general election: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

But Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said the analogies to Ford, Carter and Bush “don’t work with Weld in the equation.”

“I see this, like his 2016 Libertarian vice presidential nomination, as a way to keep his name in the news,” O’Connell said. “Unless something dramatically changes, Trump has a stranglehold on the 2020 Republican presidential nomination.”

Read more from Kimberly Atkins at WBUR

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Like Clinton's Emails, Doubts About Warren's Ancestry Claim Aren't Going Away

As Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., prepares to hit the road promoting her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, her failure to definitively resolve long-standing questions about her dubious claims of Native American heritage has some critics declaring her campaign dead before it even begins.

“She’s done as a 2020 presidential candidate,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Days before its official kickoff event in Massachusetts, Warren’s nascent presidential campaign was shaken Tuesday by a Washington Post report that she identified herself as “American Indian” on a 1986 Texas Bar registration form. A registration card obtained by The Post provided documentary confirmation that Warren asserted her contested Native American ancestry early in her legal career.

In field of more than 20 potential contenders for the Democratic nomination, O’Connell predicted Warren will never survive with this controversy around her neck.

“She may be a solid progressive but she’s damaged goods as a nominee,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if the White House was praying she is the nominee.”

Supporters argue the revelation that Warren declared her race “American Indian” on a form that was meant to be confidential and had no bearing on her admission by the Texas Bar adds little to the narrative that was not already known. It appears to be consistent with her assertion that she believed she had Native American blood at the time.

O’Connell, who is also an attorney, argued a bar registration card carries significantly more weight than a legal directory listing.

“The bar card, as a lawyer, is really you attesting to yourself and really doing it by your own hand,” he said.

Warren acknowledged Wednesday there could be more documents out there on which she identified herself as Native American.

O’Connell rejected those complaints and suggested Warren’s ancestry claim is an even bigger detriment than Clinton’s emails because it undercuts the central narrative of her biography.

“Hillary Clinton didn’t build her backstory on her emails,” he said. “[Warren’s] whole narrative is, ‘I rose to the top.’”

Read more from Stephen Loiaconi at Sinclair Broadcast Group

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Sasse’s Jabs At Trump Spark Talk Of Primary Challenger

Conservative Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a frequent critic of President Trump who said he could not support him during the 2016 cycle, is at risk of a significant primary challenge in 2020, according to GOP sources. 

A Nebraska Republican official told The Hill there are Republicans interested in running for Sasse’s seat, while a senior Republican aide predicted that Sasse will see a primary challenge. 

But the senator’s office brushes off the possibility that he could be challenged.

Sasse has a solidly conservative voting record and says he could raise $6 million for his reelection. He reported having $1.4 million in cash on hand in his campaign account at the end of December. 

Sasse had a 43 percent approval rating and 34 percent disapproval rating in Nebraska, according to a Morning Consult poll conducted from July 1 to Sept. 25. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who easily won reelection in 2018, had an approval-disapproval split of 42 percent to 39 percent in the same poll. 

Those are significant advantages. But they could be countered if Trump, who has a lock on the GOP base, decides to intervene in the 2020 Nebraska primary. 

Trump compiled an impressive record of endorsing GOP primary winners in 2018. According to an ABC News report, 49 of the 51 Republicans he endorsed in 2018 primaries were victorious.

“It should come as no surprise that he wields such power in Republican primaries,” Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist, said of Trump. “He’s in lockstep with the Republican base. If he wants to go after Sasse, the opportunity is there for him to do it.”

Read more from Alex Bolton at The Hill

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Democrats: The Party Of Illegal Immigration

So how is one to interpret the recent statements and actions of these prominent Democrats? The Democrats can talk until they are blue in the face about their support for stronger border security on the nation’s southern border, but when it comes to the issue of illegal immigration, not only do they have zero interest in getting it under control, they are in fact promoting and incentivizing people to come to the U.S. illegally.

The position of today’s Democratic Party on illegal immigration is a radical departure from its stance just a few years ago. In 2009, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that “illegal immigration is wrong.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took a similar position on illegal immigrants in 2008 by stating that “we certainly do not want any more coming in.” And there is former President Obama, who in his 2013 State of the Union address vowed to send illegal immigrants “to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally.”

So what explains Democrats’ startling 180 on illegal immigration?

The lazy, short-term answer is that Donald Trump sits at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and a central promise of his 2016 campaign was building the wall. Yes, it is no secret that Democrats want to make him a one-term president by driving a wedge between Trump and his base on a key issue. They will stop at nothing to achieve this goal.

But there is a more sinister long-term answer for the Democrats’ whole-hearted embrace of illegal immigration.  A 2018 Center for American Progress (CAP) Action Fund memo sheds light on this. The memo, co-authored by former Hillary Clinton communications director, Jennifer Palmieri, argues that the Democratic Party needs to protect illegal immigrants brought here at a young age as a result of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program because they are “a critical component of the Democratic Party’s future electoral success.”

This is an astonishing statement. It would seem that — as the Washington Times put it — “[w]ith declining support from white and older Americans, the Democrats have concluded that their future lies in importing a new electorate from south of the border.”

So it is full speed ahead on illegal immigration for the Democrats, and they don’t want Republicans gumming up the works even if their name is not Donald Trump. They will claim their position is rooted in compassion and in upholding American values when in fact it is primarily about naked politics and importing a new set of voters, as their ideas become increasingly too far-fetched for the citizens who currently reside legally within America’s borders.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at The Hill

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Trump Signals Wall Or Nothing Approach To Shutdown Negotiations

President Donald Trump probably won't be satisfied with any deal Capitol Hill negotiators come up with he admitted Thursday, even in the long-shot event lawmakers agree on a solution to defuse the immigration standoff that shut down the government.

Trump said he will likely go ahead and use his executive power to build his border wall anyway, in comments that could badly undercut compromise talks between lawmakers.

Trump called the consultations between Democrats and Republicans from the House and the Senate "a waste of time," in an interview with The New York Times published Thursday night.

"I've set the table. I've set the stage for doing what I'm going to do," Trump said, without specifically confirming that he plans to declare a national emergency and reprogram money already offered by Congress for other purposes.

Such a step, or some other executive action, would set off a constitutional showdown and a certain legal challenge over whether the President would be claiming power he does not have to usurp Congress's prerogative to appropriate funds.

Trump's warning came amid few signs of progress from the Capitol Hill talks and after he lashed out at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, accusing her of "playing games" because of her refusal to fund a wall he always said Mexico would pay for.

"It's not an issue for him in 2020 so long as the base of the Republican Party believes he's committed to border security," said Ford O'Connell, a Republican political strategist.

"You have to understand on this issue, regardless of how hyper-partisan and far apart the parties are, the bottom line is that they believe he is the last best hope to get illegal immigration under control," said O'Connell, who is also an adjunct professor at the George Washington Graduate School of Political Management.

This equation is the reason that the best political solution for the President may be to go ahead with a declaration of national emergency or some other executive action to reposition government money to build the wall.

"The national emergency solves a problem with respect to his base all being in lock step," said O'Connell.

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Despite Border Wall Funding Setback, Trump Fans Still Support Him

The no-wall deal that ended the government shutdown was a bitter pill for voters who sent President Trump to the White House, but they say they’re still backing him as the border security fight with Democrats enters Round Two.

Some conservative pundits blasted the president for “caving” to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but voters contacted by The Washington Times said they aren’t holding the setback against Mr. Trump.

“I haven’t lost any confidence in him or faith in him,” said Brian McKenna, 73, a retired police officer in Stuart, Florida. “I’m dumbfounded that people in this country don’t see the problem down at the border. The whole issue is about somebody breaking the law and the Democrats defending it.”

Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said Mr. Trump’s support will remain intact as long as he keeps fighting for a border wall, whether in negotiations with Congress or in a court battle over a national emergency declaration.

“He might be taking a short-term hit with his base but really you have to withhold judgment until Feb. 15,” he said. “As long as Trump is seen as committed to border security and physical barriers at the southern border, it is not going to hurt him in the grand scheme of things.”

The deal, while chalked up as a win for Mrs. Pelosi, puts the burden on Democrats offer a border security plan.

“Democrats say over-and-over they care about border security at the U.S. southern border. Now we are going to find out just how serious they are,” Mr. O’Connell said. “Trump is making a good faith offer and trying to govern through the legislative process, and if Congress doesn’t pick up the ball, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him declare a national emergency.”

Read more from S.A. Miller and Dave Boyer at The Washington Times

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Democrats Cheer After Trump Agrees To Deal Ending Government Shutdown

Democrats are claiming victory after President Trump announced Friday he’s agreed to a deal to reopen the government for three weeks without any funding for his border wall — though he vowed he will ultimately get it.

Trump signed a bill Friday night that will allow federal workers to receive back pay and reopen the government until Feb. 15, while a bipartisan conference committee hashes out a deal on border security.

The announcement came 35 days into the longest government shutdown in the nation’s history, as 800,000 federal workers, who were furloughed or forced to work without pay, were set to miss a second paycheck and airport delays mounted due to a lack of air traffic controllers.

Those employees will receive their back pay “very quickly, or as soon as possible,” Trump said. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will discuss a date for Trump’s postponed State of the Union address once the government is open.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said Trump was bested by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “No one should ever underestimate the speaker, as Donald Trump has learned.”

But Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said Trump has played it right.

“The shutdown was becoming a bigger distraction than the crisis on the border,” O’Connell said. Now, he said, Trump has three weeks to “make his case to the American people.”

“The Democrats say over and over they’re concerned about border security. The next three weeks we’re going to find out exactly how serious they are,” O’Connell said.

Read more from Lisa Kashinsky at the Boston Herald

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'Broken Man': Right Wing Rips Trump Over No-Wall Shutdown Deal

President Donald Trump’s deal to end the U.S. government shutdown without getting money for his border wall drew immediate scorn from some of the prominent conservative figures whose support may be crucial to his 2020 re-election bid.

Throughout the month-long standoff with congressional Democrats, Trump again and again asserted that he would not compromise on his demand for $5.7 billion to construct a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Friday, as federal government operations grew more disrupted, the president did just that.

Trump’s decision to agree to a short-term measure that funds the government through Feb. 15 came as opinion polls showed his job approval rating falling to some of the lowest levels of his tenure - and as some Democrats begin to mount candidacies to challenge his re-election.

Trump’s promise of a border wall was central to his 2016 campaign, and he viewed the standoff as a way to show supporters that he was trying to follow through.

Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who is in regular contact with the White House, said Trump will be able to push for wall funding over the next three weeks without the distraction of a shutdown and that his supporters should wait to judge his efforts.

Trump also signaled on Friday that if he doesn’t get the result he wants, he may yet declare a national emergency and re-route federal monies to build the wall on his own.

“He might take a short-term hit but overall in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a big deal as long as he is ultimately seen as committed to border security,” O’Connell told Reuters.

Read more from James Oliphant at Reuters

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Trump Offers Compromise To End Shutdown, Secure Border Funding

President Trump offered temporary protection on Saturday for DACA and TPS recipients in a bid to secure border wall funding and end the government shutdown.

Trump laid out a proposal that also included funding for humanitarian assistance, drug detection technology, more border agents and immigration judges and $5.7 billion for “strategic deployment of physical barriers or a wall.” The funding would also cover more canine units, training and portable scanners to detect smuggled drugs and weapons.

Safety for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status recipients would last three years and include access to work permits, Social Security numbers and protection from deportation.

GOP operative Ford O’Connell said Democrats should make a counteroffer to Trump’s proposal.

“They’re offering the Democrats an olive branch to come to the table and compromise,” said O’Connell. “The Democrats don’t even want to come to the table so it’s very hard to get the government back open.”

O’Connell said the proposal will play favorably in the public eye as Trump moderates his position. “He’s willing to compromise,” said O’Connell.

Read more from Alexi Cohan at the Boston Herald

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