“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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"As Trump signed a joint statement with Kim Jong Un that offered few details on how the North Korean leader would make good on his vow to denuclearize, Republicans on Capitol Hill said Tuesday that they want and expect the White House to submit any final agreement for their approval." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for any agreement to be in the form of a treaty.
President Trump announced that the United States will suspend "war games" with South Korea, which are "inappropriate" given his meeting with North Korean leader Kim-Jong Un. "We will be stopping the war games which will save us a tremendous amount of money," said Trump, "unless and until we see the future negotiation is not going along like it should." The military exercises "carried out each year by the US and South Korean militaries have been consistently cited by Pyongyang as a US rehearsal for war, and a reason it needs to build a nuclear arsenal."
President Trump "heaped praise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, calling him 'a very worthy, very smart negotiator' and vowing to meet with him 'many times.' Speaking to reporters in Singapore after his landmark summit with Kim, Trump said that he found the North Korean premier to be a 'very talented man' who 'loves his country very much.'"