WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Monday that he is “watching court cases and rulings” before taking action on raising age limits for purchasing some firearms, arguing that there is “not much political support (to put it mildly).”
Trump’s tweet came after his White House put out a plan to combat school shootings that doesn’t increase the minimum age for purchasing assault weapons to 21 — an idea Trump publicly favored just last month — and leaves the question of arming teachers to states and local communities.
Instead, a new federal commission on school safety will examine the age issue as part of a package the White House announced Sunday in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month that left 17 dead.
At a rally in Pennsylvania on Saturday, Trump criticized policy commissions while speaking about the opioid problem, saying, “We can’t just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees.”
On Twitter on Monday, Trump described the school shooting effort as a “very strong improvement” and said, “Armed guards OK, deterrent!” On age limits, he said: “watching court cases and rulings before acting. States are making this decision. Things are moving rapidly on this, but not much political support (to put it mildly).”
The president quickly drew Democratic criticism over age limits. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., tweeted that Trump “couldn’t even summon the political courage to propose raising the age limit on firearm purchases – despite repeated promises to support such a step at a meeting with lawmakers.”
For now, the White House is backing a modest background check bill and a school safety measure, which both are expected to have widespread bipartisan support— even though some Republicans object and many Democrats say they are insufficient.
Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, who wrote the school safety bill, tweeted he was “grateful” for the White House backing, calling the measure “the best first step we can take” to make students safer.
The president on Monday also repeated his criticism of keeping guns out of schools, tweeting: “If schools are mandated to be gun free zones, violence and danger are given an open invitation to enter. Almost all school shootings are in gun free zones. Cowards will only go where there is no deterrent!”
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who on Sunday called the proposal “meaningful actions, steps that can be taken right away to help protect students,” said Monday that the plan was “the first step in a more lengthy process.”
No deadline was set for the commission’s recommendations, but officials expected them within a year.
Pressed repeatedly Monday on NBC about why the White House backed off Trump’s support for increasing the minimum age for purchasing assault-style weapons, DeVos said that “everything is on the table,” stressing that the commission will study a wide range of issues.
The administration also pledged to help states pay for firearms training for teachers and reiterated its call to improve the background check and mental health systems.
DeVos declined to say how many teachers should be armed.
“This is an issue that is best decided by local communities and by states,” DeVos said on NBC. “It’s not going to be appropriate in every location, but it is going to be appropriate in some places.”
The plan was immediately panned by gun control advocates, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
“Americans expecting real leadership to prevent gun violence will be disappointed and troubled by President Trump’s dangerous retreat from his promise,” said Avery Gardiner, the group’s co-president.
Trump was moved by the Florida school shooting and convened a series of listening sessions in the weeks after the massacre. In televised meetings with lawmakers, survivors of recent school shootings and the families of victims, Trump made a strong case for arming teachers and for increasing the age for purchasing long guns.
“I mean, so they buy a revolver — a handgun — they buy at the age of 21. And yet these other weapons that we talk about … they’re allowed to buy them at 18. So how does that make sense?” he told school officials last month. “We’re going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18.”
But Trump has also spoken repeatedly in recent weeks with the heads of the powerful National Rifle Association, which considers increasing the age of purchase to be an assault on the Second Amendment. The NRA on Friday sued Florida over a new gun law signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott that bans the purchase of firearms by anyone under the age of 21.
During the meetings, Trump also advocated arming certain teachers and school staffers, arguing that gun-free schools are “like an invitation for these very sick people” to commit murder.
As part of the plan, the White House has directed the Justice Department to help states partner with local law enforcement to provide “rigorous firearms training to specifically qualified volunteer school personnel,” said Andrew Bremberg, director of the president’s Domestic Policy Council. The White House did not immediately say how much money would be made available.
Trump also called on states to pass court-issued Risk Protection Orders, which allow law enforcement to confiscate guns from individuals who pose risks to themselves and others, and temporarily prevent them from buying firearms. And he called for the reform and expansion of mental health programs, as well as a full audit and review of the FBI tip line. The bureau has been criticized for not following up on warnings about the suspect in the Parkland school shooting.
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This nightmare needs to end soon, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with the lies, flip flops on policy, the shattering of long standing relationships with allies, the connections to Russia, the people cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team, and the hour to hour of revelations and BREAKING NEWS!
This runaway train needs to stop and let us all off!! This criminal isn’t doing anything in reference to Russia. Nothing!
***We already know he is under investigation from Special Counsel looking into whether members of his campaign tried to collude with a foreign government.
***We know that he has repeatedly expressed doubt that Russia actually meddled in US elections.
***His supporters may not believe it, but we comprehend that the investigation into collusion, which he denies, and the whole idea of meddling by Russia against his opponent, Hillary Clinton, he sees as a threat to his legitimacy.
***We know that he and other Republicans continue to blame Barack Obama for doing nothing, (which is a lie), except that they tend to leave out the fact that a Republican letter was drafted by Republicans led by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, warning Obama not to interfere with the elections by openly vocalizing anything in reference that Russia seemed to be helping the liar-in-chief, according to Obama White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. https://www.cnn.com/…/denis-mcdonough-barack-oba…/index.html
***Vladimir Putin who spearheaded the campaign to disrupt the 2016 US presidential election, has yet to see any serious repercussions for his country’s actions. The liar-in-chief won’t even sign the bill to place new sanctions on Russia, and neither Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan or Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has done anything to convince him to do so either.
In the meantime, there was this press conference that revealed more lies!
1. The liar-in-chief isn’t doing anything to counteract Russia meddling in United States’ elections. That was proven in testimony from US Cyber Command Chief and National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers to the Senate on February 27, 2018. Admiral Michael S. Rogers testimony 2/27/2018: https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/downl…/rogers_02-27-18
2. There is no ongoing White House study to develop a strategy to stop the Russians from interfering in the Congressional midterm elections. If there was, it would be known, the White House press pool would have received it from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, it would have leaked from the White House, and Congressional Republicans would be boasting about it.
3. The State Department has yet to spend any of the $120 million it has been allocated since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts to meddle in elections or sow distrust in democracy. Executive Budget Summary, Congressional Budget Justification 2011 – 2019: https://www.state.gov/s/d/rm/rls/ebs/index.htm
4. No one wants to work for this administration and so many are looking for an exit, have been terminated, have resigned or stepped down due to inappropriate behavior, had a disagreement with the liar-in-chief and abruptly ended their service. There are still hundreds of unfilled top positions in the Executive Branch. More than half of State Department positions requiring Senate confirmation still don’t have a nominee, including the ambassador to South Korea and the assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs. So even the announcement today that N. Korea wants to talk about normalizing the Korean peninsula is suspect.
5. No! It wasn’t other countries that interfered with elections and the democracy of the United States in 2016, it was Russia as recognized by all the US intelligence agencies.
Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution: https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf”
6. Paper? Paper? Really? Paper? That is all the liar-in-chief has to offer as a solution to stop Russia from interfering in US elections? Most states already use either paper ballots or a combination of physical, digital and electronic voting systems. That would include optical scan paper ballot systems, direct recording electronic (DRE) systems, ballot marking devices systems, and punch card voting systems. That still didn’t stop Russian cooperatives directed by Putin from the Kremlin to interfere with US elections, and it won’t stop them if they try it again. Voting methods and equipment by state: https://ballotpedia.org/Voting_methods_and_equipment_by_sta…
7. He isn’t concerned about the elections system being compromised because he benefits from it not being safe and secure. It’s the reason he’s done absolutely nothing to put in place, anything, to deter and prevent Russia from interfering in US elections in primaries, in November and beyond.
Qatar Refused to Invest in Kushner’s Firm. Weeks Later, Jared Backed a Blockade of Qatar.
By Eric Levitz
New York Magazine
Perfecting the politics of personal profit.
Jared Kushner’s father met with Qatar’s minister of finance last April, to solicit an investment in the family’s distressed asset at 666 Fifth Avenue, according to a new report from the Intercept.
The Qataris shot him down.
Weeks later, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates organized a blockade of Qatar. The Gulf monarchies claimed that this act of aggression was a response to Donald Trump’s call for the Arab world to crack down on terrorists — after taking in the president’s majestic sermon in Riyadh, the Saudis simply couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t take action to thwart Qatar’s covert financing of Islamist extremism.
In reality, the Saudis’ primary aim was to punish Doha for asserting its independence from Riyadh by, among other things, engaging with Iran and abetting Al Jazeera’s journalism. This was obvious to anyone familiar with the Saudis’ own affinity for (shamelessly) exporting jihadism — which is to say, anyone with a rudimentary understanding of Middle East politics.
And it was equally obvious that the United States had nothing to gain from a conflict between its Gulf allies. Qatar hosts one of America’s largest and most strategically important air bases in the Middle East. Any development that pushes Doha away from Riyadh pulls it toward Tehran. Thus, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — and virtually every other arm of the U.S. government — scrambled to nip the blockade in the bud.
But Jared Kushner was (reportedly) an exception. Donald Trump was more than happy to endorse the idea that his speech had moved mountains, and commended the Saudis for punishing Qatar — first on Twitter, and then during a press conference in the Rose Garden. According to contemporary reports, his son-in-law was one of the only White House advisers to approve of this stance.
Perhaps, Kushner’s idiosyncratic view of the blockade had nothing to do with Qatar’s rejection of his father. Maybe the senior White House adviser simply wanted to tell Trump what the latter wished to hear. Alternatively, it’s at least conceivable that contemporary reports were wrong, and that Kushner played no significant role in Trump’s decision to support the blockade.
Regardless, the senior White House adviser is adamant that there was no relationship whatsoever between his family’s business dealings and the administration’s policy. “It is fantasy and part of a misinformation campaign for anyone to say or any media to report that Mr. Kushner took any action with respect to Qatar or any other country based on whether anyone in that country did or did not do business with his former company from which he disengaged before coming into the government,” Peter Mirijanian, a spokesperson for Mr. Kushner’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement. “Mr. Kushner has not taken part in any business since then. This is nonsense.”
The government of Qatar, however, suspects otherwise. As NBC News reports:
Qatari government officials visiting the U.S. in late January and early February considered turning over to Mueller what they believe is evidence of efforts by their country’s Persian Gulf neighbors in coordination with Kushner to hurt their country, four people familiar with the matter said. The Qatari officials decided against cooperating with Mueller for now out of fear it would further strain the country’s relations with the White House, these people said.
It’s worth noting that the project the Qatari foreign minister refused to finance wasn’t just one more item in the Kushner family’s portfolio; it was Jared’s baby — his misbegotten, sickly, drowning baby.
In 2007, Jared Kushner decided that the real-estate market had nowhere to go but up. And so the 26-year-old mogul decided to plow $500 million of his family’s money — and $1.3 billion in borrowed capital — into purchasing 666 Fifth Avenue for twice the price it had previously sold for. Even if we’d somehow avoided a global financial crisis, this would have been a bad bet: Before the crash, when the building was almost fully occupied, it generated only about two-thirds of the revenue the Kushners needed to keep up with their debt payments.
After the crisis, however, things got really hairy. The Kushners were forced to sell off the building’s retail space to pay their non-mortgage debt on the building — and then to hand over nearly half of the office space to Vornado as part of a refinancing agreement with the real-estate giant.
The office space that the Kushners retained is worth less than its $1.2 billion mortgage — which is due early in 2019. If their company can’t find some new scheme for refinancing and redeveloping the property by then, Kushner will have cost his family a fortune.
And Jared really doesn’t want that to happen. In the months between his father-in-law’s election and inauguration, Kushner divided his time between organizing the transition, and seeking capital from (suddenly quite interested) investors aligned with foreign governments: During that period, Kushner attempted to secure a $400 million loan from the Chinese insurance firm Anbang, and a $500 million one from former Qatari prime minister and billionaire investor Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, also known as “HBJ.” Anbang pulled out once the deal attracted critical media scrutiny, and HBJ jumped ship when the Kushners failed to find a second major source of capital.
In those same weeks, Kushner met with Sergey Gorkov, head of the Kremlin-affiliated Vnesheconombank. The senior White House adviser has insisted that this meeting was strictly political; Gorkov maintains it was strictly business.
All of these interactions are currently being scrutinized by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
They have also, apparently, been studied by top government officials in the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel, and Mexico — all of whom have privately discussed strategies for exploiting Jared Kushner’s business interests for geopolitical gain, according to a report from the Washington Post on Wednesday.
And if America’s allies and adversaries are looking for further (circumstantial) evidence that U.S. foreign policy might be for sale, the New York Times provided some this week, when it revealed that Kushner’s family company had won $500 million in financing last year from a pair of American firms right after their top executives had White House meetings with one Jared Kushner.
Maybe all of this looks worse than it is. But it looks like the president’s son-in-law worked to sour relations with a key U.S. ally in the Middle East — which has since drifted further into the orbit of a regime hostile to the United States — because it refused to bail out his family’s underwater real-estate investment.
Even if this is appearance is deceiving, why isn’t the mere semblance of such high corruption enough to bounce Kushner from the White House? Are Kushner’s personal skills really more valuable than his conflicts of interest are toxic? Is a real-estate heir who has no policy-making experience, background in geopolitics, or security clearance — but does have significant business interests in Israel — really such an ideal choice for brokering peace in the Middle East?
Kushner’s sole qualification for his senior White House position (beyond having been born and betrothed to the right people) is the business savvy that allowed him to avoid squandering his family’s enormous fortune — and if he doesn’t auction off American foreign policy for an emergency loan, he very well may have to delete that item from his résumé.
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