TRUMP BACKS BACKGROUND CHECKS. A White House spokesman says President Trump “is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system” for gun purchases, less than a week after the Florida school shooting that killed 17 people, CNN reports.
“He also said he was open to banning bump stocks in the wake of last fall’s Las Vegas shooting, but there hasn’t been significant further action by the White House on that front.”
First Read: “We’ve all become accustomed to the pattern that typically happens after mass shootings: An outcry and calls for action on gun control, followed by a slow fade of the tragedy from the national headlines as the mourning community is left to pick up the pieces on its own. But something does feel a little different this time, with so many students from Parkland speaking out with passion and clarity even after having endured a shooting less than a week ago.”
“Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have announced a nationwide march on March 24, and there’s a call for a national school walkout on April 20 (the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre.)”
Laura Clawson at Daily Kos doesn’t buy it and neither do I: “Every time there’s a sufficiently horrific mass shooting, Republicans talk for a few days about some small change to gun laws—bump stocks after Las Vegas, Cornyn’s background check legislation after the Texas church shooting that might have been averted had the shooter’s domestic violence record been in the background check system as it should have been—and then they do nothing. The Florida students will be a powerful moral voice pushing for things to be different this time, but that doesn’t mean Donald Trump means one damn word of what he and his mouthpieces are saying about changing the laws or their own behavior.”
A FAIR PENNSYLVANIA MAP. “The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday released a new congressional district map to be used for the 2018 elections for U.S. House seats,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.
“Its plan splits only 13 counties. Of those, four counties are split into three districts and nine are split into two districts. By contrast the most recent map, enacted in 2011, split 28 counties… Many of the changes seem generally favorable for Democrats.”
Rick Hasen: “The early indications are that this is a much more competitive map which will help the Democrats compared to the gerrymandered maps drawn by the Republican legislature. Given Nate Persily’s general reputation for fairness, I expect that these maps will be fair and comply with the requirements set out by the state Supreme Court.”
This map is excellent news for Democrats! It gives them a great shot at winning their fair number of seats, & more closely resembles my maps than many of the other proposals! https://t.co/TLmfVAxWuC
— Stephen Wolf (@PoliticsWolf) February 19, 2018
Nate Cohn: “Perhaps no event will do more to reshape the fight for control of the House than the new congressional map just released by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”
“Democrats couldn’t have asked for much more from the new map. It’s arguably even better for them than the maps they proposed themselves. Over all, a half-dozen competitive Republican-held congressional districts move to the left, endangering several incumbent Republicans, one of whom may now be all but doomed to defeat, and improving Democratic standing in two open races.”
WHITE HOUSE IS RELIEVED THAT THE SHOOTING HAPPENED. The Washington Post: “The White House was under siege. Domestic abuse allegations against a senior aide were ignored, pointing to a potential high-level coverup. Two Cabinet secretaries were caught charging taxpayers for luxury travel. A Playboy centerfold alleged an extramarital affair with the president. And the special counsel’s Russia investigation was intensifying. The tumult was so intense that there was fervent speculation that President Trump might even fire his chief of staff.
But a gun massacre at a Florida high school last Wednesday, which left 17 dead, seemed to shift the media glare away from the Trump scandals and gave embattled aides an opportunity to refocus on handling a rare crisis not of their own making…
“For everyone, it was a distraction or a reprieve,” said one White House official, speaking anonymously to reflect internal conversations. “A lot of people here felt like it was a reprieve from seven or eight days of just getting pummeled.”
JUNIOR WANTS TO DO FOREIGN POLICY. “The president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., is making what’s been dubbed an unofficial visit to India to promote his family’s real estate projects there. But he’s also planning to deliver a foreign policy speech on Indo-Pacific relations at an event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” the Washington Post reports.
“News that the Trump Organization would be offering buyers in the Trump Tower the chance to meet the president’s son sparked criticism of potential conflict of interest, and the fact that Trump Jr. will be giving a foreign policy speech while on a private business trip complicates the matter further.”
TRUMP THE WORST PRESIDENT EVER. The New York Times surveyed 170 political scientists and found that President Trump is currently ranked as the worst U.S. president in history.
A DEMOCRATIC SENATOR FROM TEXAS? New York Times: “It has been so bleak for Democrats in Texas that they define victory in terms of the size of their losses. A running joke in Mr. O’Rourke’s speeches is that he has almost convinced his mother, Melissa, a Republican, to vote for him.”
“But there is power in the giant-killer narrative and signs that his anti-campaign playbook campaign is working. He raised $2.4 million in the last quarter, and gets applause when he notes that was $500,000 more than Mr. Cruz took in.”
“He has a restless energy that has put him in 217 of Texas 254 counties, driving tens of thousands of miles, fueled by bad coffee and Hostess cupcakes that supporters bring him.”
It is wildly plausible that crimes of Russian interference tipped the election to Donald Trump https://t.co/GU9xQwG0JY
— Crooked Media (@crookedmedia) February 19, 2018
PARDON THEM ALL. “After months of criticizing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, President Trump’s supporters are issuing increasingly bold calls for presidential pardons to limit the investigation’s impact,” Politico reports.
“The pleas for mercy mainly extend to the four former Trump aides who have already been swept up in the Russia probe: former campaign manager Paul Manafort, former deputy campaign manager Rick Gates, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. But they don’t stop there.”
Said conservative activist Larry Klayman: “I think he should pardon everybody — and pardon himself.”
HATCH APOLOGIZES. Colbie Holderness and Jennie Willoughby, ex-wives of former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, have received letters of apology from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who defended his former aide from “a vile attack” after two ex-wives accused Porter of domestic abuse, the AP reports.
Thomas Friedman doesn't hold back on Trump's response to the Mueller indictment: "This is code red. The biggest threat to the integrity of our democracy today is in the Oval Office." https://t.co/rAVRtvTbVK
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 19, 2018
GET READY TO JOIN YOUR FATHER IN JAIL, JARED. “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in Jared Kushner has expanded beyond his contacts with Russia and now includes his efforts to secure financing for his company from foreign investors during the presidential transition,” CNN reports.
“This is the first indication that Mueller is exploring Kushner’s discussions with potential non-Russian foreign investors, including in China.”
“Mueller’s investigators have been asking questions, including during interviews in January and February, about Kushner’s conversations during the transition to shore up financing for 666 Fifth Avenue, a Kushner Companies-backed New York City office building reeling from financial troubles.”
REMEMBER WIKILEAKS, MISSING FROM THE RUSSIAN INDICTMENT. First Read: “Special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments on Friday focused only on the social media and grassroots components of Russia’s interference campaign. But they didn’t address the hacked emails from John Podesta and the DNC that WikiLeaks released — and which Donald Trump and his campaign eagerly used during the final days of the 2016 election.”
“Trump insists he and his campaign didn’t collude with Russia… But his campaign certainly took advantage of the WikiLeaks release — about which Mueller’s investigation has been silent. At least so far.”
A new Gallup poll finds President Trump’s approval rate falling to 37% to 59%.
“America was attacked, and our commander in chief said nothing in response. He looks weak, not only in Moscow but throughout the world.” — Former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, quoted by the New York Times.
CONCEAL CARRY IN SCHOOLS. “Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called for concealed carry in U.S. schools on Sunday in response to the deadly shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 and injured several others,” Politico reports.
Said Limbaugh: “The solution is we need concealed carry in these schools. If we’re not going to take action, we better have mechanisms in these schools to stop it when it breaks out.”
— AM Joy w/Joy Reid (@amjoyshow) February 19, 2018
PENTAGON TO FUNDRAISE FOR TRUMP’S PARADE. The Pentagon is considering soliciting donations to fund the President’s requested military parade, which could cost between $3 million and $50 million, according to preliminary estimates from a defense official who spoke with CNN.
Because there is currently no money set aside for a parade in the military budget, the Pentagon would likely use those private donations to offset the cost of the non-military components of the event, according to CNN. Budget director Mick Mulvaney said Wednesday that he estimates the parade could cost between $10 million to $30 million.
Defense officials are also concerned about the lack of available troops to attend a parade, CNN reported. A large-scale parade would require weeks of planning and the transportation of equipment, like tanks, to Washington, D.C. days ahead of time in order to prepare, according to the official who spoke with CNN.
A CONTRARY RUSSIAGATE VIEW. Blake Hounshell with his confessions of a Russiagate skeptic: “So what am I still skeptical about? I keep coming back the slapdash nature of Trump’s 2016 operation, and the chaos and dysfunction that everyone who covered that campaign saw play out each day. Like the Trump White House, the Trump campaign was a viper’s nest of incompetence and intrigue, with aides leaking viciously against one another almost daily. So much damaging information poured out of Trump Tower that it’s hard to believe a conspiracy to collude with Moscow to win the election never went public. If there was such a conspiracy, it must have been a very closely guarded secret.”
— Sushant Singh (@SushantSin) February 19, 2018