“Here’s how significant things don’t get done in Washington even in a moment of crisis and opportunity. The president throws out a hodgepodge of ideas, thoroughly confusing both sides about what he really supports. Senate Republicans, grappling for an answer that responds to public clamor but doesn’t alienate their conservative base, would prefer instead to focus on a small fix unlikely to satisfy many people even if it could overcome internal divisions. House Republicans say they will wait to see what the Senate does—though history has shown that can be a very long wait. Democrats push for a broad debate that Republicans want nothing to do with.
“That’s where Washington stands now on the subject of new gun legislation after the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. Despite immense public pressure in part from students who escaped the attack, the outlook for any consequential action remains dim as the president and lawmakers diverge on how best to respond.
“President Trump upended the discussion on Wednesday during a bipartisan White House meeting with lawmakers. He seemed to side more with Democrats than Republicans on gun rights, chided fellow Republicans for fearing the National Rifle Association and even suggested that guns should be summarily confiscated from suspects who raise red flags, forcing them to go to court to regain them. Such an approach toward gun rights runs counter to Republican dogma, as did other suggestions that the president made.
“But the meeting was very similar to an earlier White House session in which the president seemed to join with Democrats on divisive immigration policy only to later reverse course, leaving the parties at an impasse. Members of both parties expressed skepticism on Wednesday that the White House meeting would lead to a breakthrough. They even suggested that it could prove counterproductive by forcing the gun lobby to dig in its heels and by making Republican leaders unwilling to push ahead given the possibility of glaring divisions with Mr. Trump. Officials said the next issue on the Senate agenda was likely to be a rollback of banking regulations, not increased gun control.” (New York Times)
HOPE HICKS. “Hope Hicks, President Trump’s communications director and one of his longest-serving advisers, said Wednesday that she planned to leave the White House in the next few weeks.”
“Her title belied the extent of her power within the West Wing—after John F. Kelly was appointed White House chief of staff, she had more access to the Oval Office than almost any other staff member. … Most significantly, Mr. Trump felt a more personal comfort with Ms. Hicks than he has established with almost any of his other, newer advisers since coming to Washington. And for a politician who relies so heavily on what is familiar to him, her absence could be jarring.”
“Her resignation came a day after she testified for eight hours before the House Intelligence Committee, telling the panel that in her job, she had occasionally been required to tell white lies but had never lied about anything connected to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.” (New York Times)
“Now a major gap exists in the White House, with few staffers left from the campaign or New York who know Trump well. The departure of Keith Schiller, a longtime security guard and body man, was a blow to the president, as is Hicks’ departure. Both were viewed as deeply loyal aides who understood the president’s whims, the rhythms of his day and his wishes.” (Politico)
KUSHNER. Jared Kushner “attended the daily senior staff meeting” Wednesday at the White House, “where he launched into a discussion about Trump’s 2020 reelection bid, according to an administration official. … Kushner’s recent focus on the 2020 election has led some in the White House to wonder whether he’ll eventually transition out of the West Wing to become an adviser to his father-in-law’s reelection bid. Trump’s newly announced campaign manager, Brad Parscale, is a close ally of Kushner’s and the two men speak on the phone regularly.” (Politico)
PENCE. Vice President Mike Pence “cast his ninth tie-breaking vote in the Senate on Wednesday to save the confirmation of Russell Vought to be deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.”(CNN)
ANOTHER STAFF EXIT. Christine Bauserman, “a political appointee at the Department of Interior resigned Wednesday after … inflammatory comments she made on Facebook and Twitter. … Bauserman, a former Republican activist in Arizona who also worked for President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign … repeatedly shared conspiracy theories, made anti-Muslim comments and shared anti-LGBT sentiments on social media.” (CNN)
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"White House chief of staff John Kelly has tapped Chris Liddell, a senior White House aide and former executive at Microsoft and General Motors, as his deputy." Prior to his appointment, Kelly had just one deputy: "Joe Hagin, who focuses on the day-to-day operations" in the White House. "Up until now, the White House had not named a deputy chief of staff for policy, though several aides, including [DHS Secretary Kirstjen] Nielsen, had informally played that role."
The Supreme Court on Monday "rejected a plea to undertake a historic reassessment of the constitutionality of the death penalty nationwide. The court denied certiorari in Hidalgo v. Arizona, which challenged the constitutionality of that state’s death penalty statute but also attacked capital punishment generally 'in light of contemporary standards of decency.'" The Court did not act on another case, Evans v. Mississippi, which would have prompted a broader review of the death penalty. "Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan issued a separate statement agreeing that the Hidalgo case should be denied because the record in the case was not fully developed, but hoping a future case would be a better platform for reviewing capital punishment."
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman begins his two-week visit to the U.S. this week, meeting with "political and business leaders in Washington, New York, Silicon Valley and elsewhere" in an effort to shore up financial support for his government and rehabilitate its image abroad. "The crown prince employed a similar public relations strategy on a three-day visit to the UK," where he met with "an array of British business and defense leaders." Bin Salman has been widely criticized for his alleged political chicanery in the Gulf, and for Saudi Arabia's devastating air campaign in neighboring Yemen.
A fourth package bomb injured two people in Austin on Sunday evening, "which the police chief says was caused by a tripwire and showed 'a different level of skill' than the package bombs used in the three prior attacks." The police are still searching for the perpetrator, and have warned residents to not pick up or approach suspicious packages. Previous explosions, which the police believe are connected, have killed two and wounded several others.
White House Lawyer Ty Cobb said that President Trump not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller. Speculation swirled after Trump attacked the investigation on Twitter, and called out Mueller directly for the first time. “In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the Administration," Cobb said, "...the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the Special Counsel, Robert Mueller." Several members of Congress, "including some top Republicans, warned Trump to not even think about terminating Mueller."