At The White House
DIVISION TRUMPS UNITY: Twitter Trump trounced Teleprompter Trump once again.
Trump’s back-to-back visits to El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, were a major test of his ability to be the comforter-in-chief — to console the victims and a grieving nation after two mass shootings killed 31 people. It could have been a high-profile moment to prove he was willing to follow through on his pledge to tone down his rhetoric — at least for one day — and to work with Democrats on passing gun control legislation.
- He started off the day with a bold call to expand background checks for gun buyers: “I think we can bring up background checks like we’ve never had before,” he said at the White House.
- And suggested he’d set politics aside: “I would like to stay out of the political fray,” he said.
- But by day’s end, Trump had gone after a laundry list of Democrats, including the leaders of the cities he set out to help heal. The American public woke up to the president’s tweeted attacks on former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and got to end the night with a Twitter tirade fired off at Texas Rep. “Juaquin” Castro.
- “We had an amazing day,” Trump said in El Paso. “As you know, we left Ohio. The love, the respect for the office of the presidency.”
- “Both in Dayton and El Paso, Trump kept almost entirely out of public view, a marked break with tradition, as presidents visiting grieving communities typically offer public condolences,” our colleagues write.
- “In his only public remarks during the trip, Trump lashed out at Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, both Democrats, over their characterization of his visit with hospital patients in Dayton.”
- Here’s the Dayton mayor’s reaction to Trump’s tweets calling her news conference “a fraud”: “I’m really confused. We said he was treated, like, very well,” Whaley said. “Oh well, you know. He lives in his world of Twitter.”
Trump’s ‘world of Twitter’ was indeed very active: He also went after former vice president Joe Biden, who gave a speech saying Trump’s removal was key to heal the country’s divisions: “The LameStream Media will die in the ratings and clicks with this guy,” he tweeted en route from Dayton to El Paso. He went after Castro as “the lesser brother of a failed presidential candidate (1%) who makes a fool of himself every time he opens his mouth.”
Trump may have declared the day a success but he largely ignored the protests and anger in both El Paso and Dayton.
- In El Paso, Trump was greeted by several hundred protesters, according to my colleagues: “Congregating under the hot midday sun in a baseball field for an “El Paso Strong” event, some held homemade signs. “Go home! You are NOT welcome here!” read one. ‘This was Trump-inspired terrorism,’ read another. ‘Trump repent,’ read a third.”
- “None of the eight patients still being treated at University Medical Center in El Paso agreed to meet with Trump when he visited the hospital, UMC spokesman Ryan Mielke said. Two victims who already had been discharged returned to the hospital to meet with the president,” Bob Moore reports for The Post.
- Trump avoided the Oregon district where the shooting took place: “Whaley said he would not have been welcome in the Oregon District, where scores of demonstrators congregated, holding anti-Trump signs and chanting ‘Do something!’ in a call for stricter gun laws,” per Ashley, Phil, Jenna and Felicia. Here are more pictures of the scene.
Reporters were barred from covering Trump in Dayton hospital visit to avoid the appearance of a photo op.
- However, shortly thereafter, the White House released official photos of Trump’s visit — and what my colleagues noted was a “slickly produced video, helping make the president the center of attention.”
On The Hill
LONG SHOT DEPARTMENT: Democrats are still holding out hope that Trump will take the lead on a push for expanding background checks.
Key quote: “If the president tells the Congress, ‘Pass an assault weapon ban,’ if the president says, ‘Pass legislation for universal background checks,’ the Republican Congress and the Senate will move on it, and the House will undoubtedly move on it,” Brown told reporters after greeting Trump in Ohio. “We can do that.”
But it remains to be seen whether Trump is willing to defy the National Rifle Association, which advised Trump privately on Tuesday that support for a gun background check bill would not be popular among Trump voters, our colleagues Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report.
Trump has actually proved he can get some things done on guns: After the Las Vegas shooting in 2017, in which a gunman killed 58 people, Trump vowed to ban bump stocks. By the end of 2018, the administration finally rolled out a federal regulation officially banning the rapid-fire gun attachments.
But background checks may be a different story: Trump has previously expressed openness to the idea of expanded background checks after other mass shootings but there’s been effectively zero momentum since then — from either the White House or from Republican leadership on the Hill.
- Take March 2018: “Very strong improvement and strengthening of background checks will be fully backed by White House,” Trump tweeted after the shooting that killed 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., high school. “Legislation moving forward. Bump Stocks will soon be out. Highly trained expert teachers will be allowed to conceal carry, subject to State Law.”
- “Don’t worry about the NRA, they’re on our side,” Trump also claimed after Parkland. “Half of you are so afraid of the NRA. There’s nothing to be afraid of. … And you know what, if they’re not with you, we have to fight them every once in a while, that’s okay.”
- “Trump has waffled, current and past White House officials say, between wanting to do more and growing concerned that doing so could prompt a revolt from his political base,” Josh and Seung Min report.
- Trump, however, threatened to veto the two gun control bills that passed the House earlier this year.
The prospects: “Supporters of universal background checks for gun purchases face a daunting reality in their demand for a snap Senate roll call: They don’t have the votes; not even close,” our colleague Paul Kane reported this week.
- “Just two Republican senators — Patrick J. Toomey (Pa.) and Susan Collins (Maine) — are on record in support of expanding background-check laws, specifically through a bill Toomey drafted with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.).”
- Counterpoint: “Republicans are headed for extinction in the suburbs if they don’t distance themselves from the NRA. The GOP needs to put forth solutions to help eradicate the gun violence epidemic,” Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor, told Josh and Seung Min.
ON THE SPLIT SCREEN: “Joe Biden and Cory Booker took on President Trump, racial division and white supremacy in a pair of unusually impassioned speeches Wednesday, though their contrasting approaches reflected differences among Democrats on the path forward as the nation reels from the weekend’s mass shootings,” our colleagues Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Matt Viser report.
Biden lit into Trump in Iowa: “How far is it from Trump’s saying this ‘is an invasion’ to the shooter in El Paso declaring ‘this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas’?” Biden said after scrapping his prepared remarks in Burlington. “I don’t think it’s that far at all. In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation.”
- He also called Trump ‘low energy’: “His low-energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him condemning white supremacists this week fooled no one. The energetic embrace of this president by the darkest hearts, the most hate-filled minds in this country, says it all.”
While Booker focused on race in America: The New Jersey senator “spent much of his time exploring the nation’s painful racial history in broad terms, depicting Trump as more symptom than cause and refraining from mentioning his name,” Cleve and Matt write.
- The key quote: “We are not called to tolerate injustice; we are called to combat it,” Booker said during a speech at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church, where nine people were killed by a white supremacist in 2015. “We are not called to tolerate each other; we are called to love one another. . . . As much as much as white supremacy manifests itself in dangerous and deadly acts of terror, it is perpetuated by what is too often a willful ignorance or dangerous tolerance of its presence in our society.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) joined former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke in calling Trump a white supremacist: “Asked in a brief interview with the New York Times if she thought Mr. Trump was a white supremacist, Ms. Warren responded without hesitation: ‘Yes,'” the Times’s Tom Kaplan reports.
- “He has given aid and comfort to white supremacists,” Ms. Warren said during a campaign swing in western Iowa. “He’s done the wink and a nod. He has talked about white supremacists as fine people. He’s done everything he can to stir up racial conflict and hatred in this country.”
From South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg:
DOCUMENT DUMP FROM WALL STREET: Major Wall Street banks have given congressional committees investigating President Trump thousands of pages of documents related to Russians who may have had dealings with Mr. Trump, his family or his business, people familiar with the congressional probes said,” the Wall Street Journal’s Jean Eaglesham, Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Siobhan Hughes and David Benoit write. “Some banks are also giving documents related to Mr. Trump’s business, the Trump Organization, to New York state investigators, people familiar with the New York investigation said.”
NEARLY 700 PEOPLE ARRESTED IN MASSIVE IMMIGRATION RAID: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents swept through seven work sites in six cities across Mississippi on Wednesday, arresting approximately 680 people the agency said were undocumented immigrants in what officials said is the largest single-state workplace enforcement action in U.S. history,” our colleague Abigail Hauslohner reports. The raid involved more than 650 federal agents from around the country.
- The scene on the ground: “Workers filled three buses — two for men and one for women — at a Koch Foods Inc. plant in tiny Morton, 40 miles east of Jackson. They were taken to a military hangar to be processed for immigration violations,” the Associated Press’s Rogelio Solis and Jeff Amy report. “About 70 family, friends and residents waved goodbye and shouted, ‘Let them go! Let them go!’ Later, two more buses arrived.”
- More: “A tearful 13-year-old boy whose parents are from Guatemala waved goodbye to his mother, a Koch worker, as he stood beside his father. Some employees tried to flee on foot but were captured in the parking lot.”
- What happens next: “Some of those arrested will be prosecuted for crimes, others will be swiftly deported, and some will be released pending immigration court hearings,” Abigail writes.
In other immigration news: “Kimberly Breier, assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere since October, has resigned, leaving a key vacancy at the top of the diplomatic office in charge of the Trump administration’s efforts to control immigration from Mexico and Central America and to build stronger partnerships in South America,” our colleague Karen DeYoung scoops.
Breier squared off against White House policy adviser Stephen Miller: “One senior administration official said she had been chastised, in a particularly unpleasant recent email chain, by [Miller], who considered her insufficiently committed to publicly defending last month’s sudden agreement over asylum between President Trump and the government of Guatemala.”
And a Michigan man who had never lived in Iraq was deported there. He is now dead. “Jimmy Aldaoud, spent most of his life in the U.S., but was swept up in [Trump’s] intensified immigration enforcement efforts,” Politico’s Ted Hesson and Nahal Toosi report. “The death appeared to be linked to the man’s inability to obtain insulin in Baghdad to treat his diabetes.”
- Aldaoud’s deportation is part of a larger move: “The Trump administration has sought to deport more than 1,000 Iraqis with final orders of removal, including Chaldean Catholics in the Detroit metro area, of which Aldaoud was one,” Hesson and Toosi write. “Chaldeans are an eastern branch of the Roman Catholic church who trace their roots to ancient Mesopotamia in present-day Iraq, where they are at high risk of being tortured or killed by the the terror group ISIS, the American Civil Liberties Union argued in a related legal case.” Aldaoud was an Iraqi national, but he never lived in the country and was born in Greece. He came to the U.S. at a young age.
- Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.) weighs in: “Jimmy Aldaoud … should have never been sent to Iraq. My Republican colleagues and I have repeatedly called on the executive branch to cease deportation of such vulnerable people. Now, someone has died.“