Trump expresses support for senators’ gun bill

Gun control discussed after Florida school shooting

Politicians and others discussed gun control on Feb. 18, following a school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead. 

 February 19 at 10:34 AM 
President Trump signaled support for one piece of gun control legislation on Monday, five days after a mass shooting at a Florida high school left 17 people dead and scores injured.“The president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, wrote in a statement Monday morning.

Sanders said the president spoke to Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) on Friday to express support for the bill Cornyn has introduced with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). The bill is still being amended, the White House cautioned.

The statement did not address how the president would react to more aggressive gun control measures.

The calls for action get louder as the Parkland community grieves

Grieving students, friends and family gathered outside of the Federal District Courthouse in downtown Fort Lauderdale to demand stricter gun control laws. 

The senators’ bill is narrow in focus, reinforcing the requirement that federal agencies report all criminal infractions to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and creating financial incentives for states to do so, as well.

Federal agencies are required to report various felonies, indictments and other crimes — including domestic assaults — into the federal database, but Congress has no power to compel states to do the same. The Murphy-Cornyn legislation would offer direct financial incentives, as well as favorable future access to other federal assistance programs, to states that report infractions into the system.

The powerful National Rifle Association has not opposed the bill like it has more exhaustive pieces of legislation, such as banning assault rifles or limiting the sale of high-capacity magazines.

It’s unclear whether the legislation will go forward. After a mass shooting in Las Vegas last year, officials said they were studying a ban on bump stocks, an attachment that allows a rifle to fire more frequently.

Over the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Trump weighed gun control measures in conversations with friends, according to people who spoke to him. He told them he was affected by seeing victims at a Florida hospital on Friday evening.

Trump has faced two of the country’s deadliest mass shootings as president, including a gunman opening fire from his hotel room in Las Vegas in October and the shooter at the Parkland school last week. Police say 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz admitted last week that he walked into the school — where he had been a former student — and began shooting at students and staff.

Thus far, Trump has not mentioned limiting gun access in his response to the most recent shooting. He initially focused on mental health issues, calling the shooting suspect “mentally disturbed” and saying that he wanted to support local jurisdictions in addressing mental health issues. He said that fixes in the system could prevent future crimes.

Trump also said that people needed to report more to law enforcement. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!” he said Thursday in a tweet.

After the FBI admitted last week that it failed to investigate a warning from a person close to Cruz that he spoke about violence and might be capable of shooting up a school, Trump criticized the agency’s response. He accused the bureau of being too focused on finding wrongdoing related to him and his 2016 presidential campaign to follow up on a tip. His claim that the Russia investigation had anything to do with the Florida office’s failures was widely denounced.

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The president has publicly said little about the victims, but he refrained from golfing, which aides said was to show respect. On Monday, Trump arrived at his gold course around 9 a.m.

“Have a great, but very reflective, Presidents’ Day!” he tweeted.

Karoun Demirjian contributed to this report.

Courtesy: The Washington Post

Florida students call for gun control: ‘Without action, children die’

After 17 of their classmates and coaches were killed, the teens at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are making their voices heard. They want politicians to finally start taking action.

USA Anti-Waffen-Demonstration in Fort Lauderdale (Reuters/J. Drake)

The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida, have lived through a nightmare. On Wednesday, February 14, a gunman opened fire at their school, killing 17 people. The teens who survived were witness to classmates and teachers being shot. Now some of the survivors are taking action.

They are using their personal experience to try to convince politicians to pass gun control measures and to call out those who are unwilling to discuss the issue.

To the politicians saying this isn’t about guns, and that we shouldn’t be discussing this rn:

We were literally being shot at while trying to gain an education. So this is about guns. You weren’t in the school while this was happening. We were, and we’re demanding change.

The Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland was the 18th shooting at an educational institution in the US in 2018. The number includes suicides and incidents where no one was injured.

The fact that shootings happen so frequently is making many Americans angry at their government and the National Rifle Association (NRA) for creating an environment in which even the smallest gun control proposals come up against fierce resistance. At an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Saturday, MSD student Emma Gonzalez gave voice to the anger she and her classmates felt.

“If all our government and our president can do is send ‘thoughts and prayers,’ then it’s time for victims to be the change we need to see,” Gonzalez said. “We, we are going to be the kids that you read about in textbooks…We are going to be the last mass shooting.”

‘This shouldn’t be happening anymore’

One MSD student named Carly emphasized on Twitter that guns should be at the center of the discussion about what happened at her school. Carly’s tweet came as a reply to conservative talk show host Tomi Lahren, who had tweeted that the Left was trying to “push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda.”

I was hiding in a closet for 2 hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don’t know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns. 

“Blood is being spilled on the floors of American classrooms and that is not acceptable,” MSD senior David Hogg told the Washington Post.

Hogg and a group of students ended up hiding in a closet during the shooting, where Hogg started interviewing his classmates and taping their opinions on gun control with his phone. He said he didn’t know whether anyone in the closet would survive, but that he hoped his footage would spur action if it was found.

One of the students Hogg recorded is Isabelle Robinson.

“I really don’t think there’s anything new to say, but there shouldn’t have to be,” Robinson said in the video. “If you looked around in this closet and saw everyone just hiding together, you would know that this shouldn’t be happening anymore.”

Watch video02:12

Florida shooting survivors call for tougher gun laws

In an interview with CNN, Hogg said he believed there was something seriously wrong with his country.

“Some of our policy makers, they need to look in the mirror and take some action,” Hogg said. “Because ideas are great, but without action, ideas stay ideas and children die.”

The voice of their generation

Sergio Rozenblat, the father of a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said on TV channel MSNBC that he wished someone “would film these kids and then show it to the politicians with their speeches, their empty speeches.”

In the days of smartphones and social media, however, no one needs to film the students – they are making sure that pundits are not just talking about them, but that they, the survivors, are part of the conversation.

MSD student Kyra wrote on Twitter that she and her classmates were going to be “the voice of this generation” despite their grief. They were going to make their voices heard, she said.

despite having our hearts ripped out of our chests. Despite losing our friends and coaches. Despite living through a nightmare. As students of Douglas, we are the voice of this generation. And I’ll be damned if anyone thinks they can silence us.

With 14 students and three faculty members dead, the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school is among the deadliest school shootings in modern US history. In 1999, two students at Columbine High School in Colorado took the lives of 13 people before killing themselves. In 2012, a shooter killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut before fatally shooting himself in the head.

MSD students are old enough to remember the Sandy Hook massacre. One student named Isabel pointed out on Twitter that because gun control wasn’t tightened after Sandy Hook, she and her fellow MSD students are now “left traumatized.”

in sixth grade, i made paper snowflakes and wrote messages on them for the children of sandy hook. today, in 11th grade, i am left traumatized. because to politicians, guns are more important than the lives of my classmates.

But this time, maybe things will change. The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas are old enough to voice their opinions, organize and put a lot of pressure on politicians. They have technology at their fingertips to make themselves heard, that the victims of the Columbine massacre, for example, didn’t have. And they are determined to fight the powerful gun lobby in the United States and get tougher laws on who can buy firearms, so that no other students will have to experience what they went through.


Plane crashes in Iran’s Zagros Mountains with 66 on board

Iran’s state media reported the Aseman Airlines passenger plane crashed in the country’s south in a foggy, mountainous region, killing all 66 passengers on board. The crash happened near the flight’s destination.

A turboprop regional airliner operated by Iran Aseman Airlines (picture-alliance/dpa/EADS ATR)

Aseman Airlines spokesman Mohammad Taghi Tabatabai told state TV on Sunday that everyone on board Flight No. 3704 had been killed. The plane was carrying 60 passengers, including one child, and six crew members.

The ATR-72 twin-engine turboprop used for short-distance regional flying, crashed near its destination of the southern Iranian city of Yasuj, some 780 kilometers (485 miles) south of the Iranian capital Tehran.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei encouraged everyone involved “to heal the sorrow of the families and relatives of victims,” according to the the IRNA news agency.

President Hassan Rouhani said he has assigned officials to investigate the crash and apply measures to avoid similar incidents in the future.

Map showing Semirom and Tehran in Iran

Germany’s foreign ministry issued its condolences via Twitter.

We are dismayed by the crash of an airplane of Aseman Airlines in Iran this morning. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims.

Aging aircraft

After decades of international sanctions against Iran, the country’s commercial passenger aircraft fleet has aged, with air accidents occurring regularly in recent years.

Following the 2015 nuclear deal, Iran signed deals with both Airbus and Boeing to buy scores of passenger planes worth tens of billions of dollars.

Read more: What is the Iran nuclear deal?

bik,law/jm (AP, AFP, dpa)

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Trump’s top security advisor says Russian meddling ‘incontrovertible’

McMaster last year with Trump
McMaster last year with Trump (Associated Press)

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said Saturday that evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election was “now really incontrovertible” following the indictment of 13 Russian individuals and three companies.

Speaking at an international security conference in Munich, Germany, McMaster lent credence to a widening scandal that President Trump has routinely dismissed as a hoax.

“As you can see with the FBI indictment, the evidence is now really incontrovertible and available in the public domain,” McMaster said, noting that the United States was becoming “more and more adept at tracing the origins of this espionage and subversion.”

The 37-page indictment handed down Friday by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III describes a vast, secret, social-media campaign financed by a Russian entrepreneur with ties to President Vladimir Putin that worked to harm Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and promote Donald Trump.

These are the first criminal charges related to election meddling brought in the Mueller investigation. Deputy Atty. Gen. Rod J. Rosenstein said there was no allegation in the indictment of an American citizen participating willingly in the scheme.

In a tweet, Trump claimed that the charges prove his campaign “did nothing wrong.”

At the same Munich meeting with McMaster on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the accusations against his countrymen as “just blabber.”

Courtesy: L A Times

Why Trump’s Playboy Playmate sex scandal is just another ho-hum day in his presidency

Why Trump's Playboy Playmate sex scandal is just another ho-hum day in his presidency
Karen McDougal, the 1998 Playboy Playmate of the Year, at a Playboy event in Miami Beach on Feb. 6, 2010. (Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images)


Most politicians would have been swallowed up in scandal after new details emerged Friday of an alleged affair — with a Playboy Playmate, no less — that occurred the same weekend of a reported dalliance with a porn star.

Not Donald Trump.

In eight pages of handwritten notes published by the New Yorker, 1998 Playmate of the Year Karen McDougal recalled having sex with Trump in 2006, a few months after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron.

McDougal said one of their sexual encounters took place at the same Lake Tahoe golf tournament where porn actress Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, says that she, too, had a tryst with Trump.

The president denies both affairs, but the women received money to keep the matters quiet.

Americans have known for years about Trump’s history of adultery, most famously his 1989 cheating on his first wife, Ivana, with his soon-to-be second wife, Marla Maples.

He won the presidency despite accusations of sexual harassment or assault by more than a dozen women, along with an “Access Hollywood” audiotape of Trump boasting that his star power allowed him to grab women by their genitals.

“If you assume someone is a devoutly religious, family-values person, something like this will absolutely destroy their reputation and level their career,” said Lara M. Brown, who runs the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.

“If, on the other hand, you believe this is who they are going in, which, if you heard the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape or listened to interviews with Howard Stern, then this is more confirmation of your belief and your expectations.”

Billy Bush interviews Donald Trump on "Access Hollywood" at Trump Tower in New York City on Jan. 20, 2015.
Billy Bush interviews Donald Trump on “Access Hollywood” at Trump Tower in New York City on Jan. 20, 2015. (Rob Kim / Getty Images)


Also, Trump’s checkered New York business career — bankruptcies and alleged real estate swindles, among other things — inoculates him from some of the harm that a more conventional politician might suffer as details emerge on the hush money received by McDougal ($150,000) and Clifford ($130,000).

“His business reputation is not necessarily one of high character,” said Brown, an expert on political scandals.

Still, Trump is weathering a rough patch in his presidency, and the McDougal distraction is no help.

The White House’s apparent overlooking of domestic abuse allegations against former senior Trump aide Rob Porter could worsen Republicans’ troubled standing among women at a time when the #MeToo movement threatens to fuel GOP setbacks in November’s midterm election.

McDougal, who confirmed the authenticity of her notes in an interview with New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow, said she was speaking out in part because of the #MeToo movement.

“Every girl who speaks is paving the way for another,” she told the magazine.

Trump and McDougal met at a pool party at the Playboy Mansion, where Trump was taping an episode of his television show, “The Apprentice,” McDougal wrote in the notes. Their affair lasted nine months, she said.

The New Yorker article, citing previously undisclosed texts, emails and legal records, elaborates on a Wall Street Journal report in 2016 about a deal requiring her to keep quiet about the alleged affair.

It included the $150,000 payment to McDougal from American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, which never printed her story about Trump. David Pecker, chairman and CEO of AMI, is a close friend of the president.

In the supermarket tabloid world, suppressing a story as a favor to a friend or gossip source is known as “catch and kill.”

The National Enquirer published harshly critical articles on Hillary Clinton, but not Trump, during the presidential campaign. AMI denies paying anyone to protect Trump from damaging stories.

McDougal’s comments appeared to buttress the accounts of two other women who said Trump pursued them for sex in the early years of his marriage to Melania Trump. Both cases have sparked legal action against the president.

Trump lawyer Michael Cohen told the New York Times this week that he used “personal funds to facilitate a payment of $130,000” to Clifford just before the November 2016 election. In return, Clifford reportedly agreed to keep quiet about the alleged affair.

Michael Cohen, President Trump's personal attorney, in Washington on Sept. 19, 2017.
Michael Cohen, President Trump’s personal attorney, in Washington on Sept. 19, 2017. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)


The nonpartisan watchdog group Common Cause has filed a Federal Election Commission complaint saying the payment was an illegal campaign contribution, which Cohen denies.

Like Clifford, McDougal says she had sex with Trump at the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in Lake Tahoe in July 2006.

The other woman, Summer Zervos, a former contestant on “The Apprentice,” has accused Trump of trying to force himself on her in 2006. She filed a defamation suit against him after he called her a liar.

All three women say their interactions with Trump included encounters in a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel. All three also say they were escorted to the bungalow by Keith Schiller, a longtime Trump bodyguard who left his job in September as the director of Oval Office operations and deputy assistant to the president.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania expert on politics and media, said the McDougal and Daniels cases were likely to have minimal political impact on Trump, whose most loyal supporters have ignored all manner of controversial statements and behavior by the president.

“Both instances in the news right now are consensual,” she said. “So it’s easy for voters to say, ‘That’s Melania’s concern, not the voters’ concern’ unless there are legal implications, which could be violating the campaign finance laws.”

Porn actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, at the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas on Jan. 27.
Porn actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, at the Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas on Jan. 27. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images)


Scott Basinger, another expert on political scandal, suggested Trump is also shielded by the us-versus-them tribalism of the country’s politics and the support of Christian conservatives who might have been expected to respond with outrage, or at least disappointment, at his sordid conduct.

“They’ve said pretty explicitly that they’re going to give him a mulligan on his personal life and anything that happened before he became president is not of interest to them,” said Basinger, who teaches at the University of Houston.

“As long as people believe he can deliver judges like Neil Gorsuch” — Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court — “they’re willing to overlook everything else.”

Whether the first lady is willing to overlook reports about her husband’s sex life is another matter.

On Friday, Melania Trump broke with protocol and did not walk with her husband across the South Lawn to Marine One, driving separately to Joint Base Andrews for the flight to Florida.

She canceled her recently scheduled trip with the president to Davos, Switzerland, declined to ride in his limo from the White House to the Capitol for the State of the Union address and has been seen swatting his hand away from hers — fueling chatter on the state of their marriage.

Twitter: @finneganLAT

Twitter: @markzbarabak

After the tragedy in Florida, Trump struggles to show his empathetic side

After the tragedy in Florida, Trump struggles to show his empathetic side
President Trump pauses Thursday before speaking about the mass shooting at a Florida high school. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)


There was a moment in President Trump’s speech Thursday about the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., when his voice seemed to catch for just a moment as he conjured up a picture of parents kissing their children goodbye, sending them off to school for the last time.

“Each person who was stolen from us yesterday had a full life ahead of them,” he said, his voice faltering for a split-second, “a life filled with wondrous beauty and unlimited potential and promise.”

Given Trump’s otherwise stoic air, it was unclear whether he was stumbling over the words on his teleprompter or displaying emotion. His shoulders slumped heavily as he walked away from the podium, but that may have reflected the uncomfortable questions about gun control that reporters were shouting at him at the time.

Either way, the moment was notable mainly for its low-key nature, by contrast with Trump’s public response to other crises. His emotions run conspicuously high when he is angry or indignant — which has often been the case with crimes in which the alleged perpetrator comes from another country.

Every new president requires time to ease into the role of helping the nation through joys and sorrows. Whether in triumph or tragedy, the country has a need for displays of sensitivity and strength from its elected leader. No prior role serves as proper preparation, according to those who have watched previous presidents grapple with the challenge.

Trump struggles more than most to display responses other than presidential anger and outrage.

“The country needs the president to lead them through that dark moment,” said Joshua DuBois, a Pentecostal minister who advised President Obama through many crises. “But before we can do that, we need to know the president understands.”

“In a moment like this,” he said, “a president has to be willing to let his heart break.”

That ability has led to memorable moments of presidential leadership in the past: Ronald Reagan promising that Americans would never forget the Challenger astronauts nor the last glimpse of them as they “slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God”; President George W. Bush climbing atop the rubble of the Sept. 11 attacks with a bullhorn; President Obama weeping over the death of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School and singing “Amazing Grace” with survivors of a church massacre in Charleston, S.C.

Each of them, however, had rocky early days. Obama came off as aloof. Reagan could be stiff as both of the presidents Bush could be awkward.

Trump, by contrast, often barges in with guns blazing. When an Uzbek man was named as the suspect in the killing of eight people on a New York City bicycle path, Trump fired back with promises of a major crackdown on immigration. Two days after the terror attack in San Bernardino, he threatened a response to terrorists so tough it would get him “in trouble.”

Survivors say that bombastic responses aren’t helpful. They’d rather see the president come to town, pay tribute to victims and offer hope that things will get better.

Obama did that in tragedy after tragedy. Still, it was a piercing wound to some in Oak Creek, Wis., when he failed to visit a Sikh gurdwara immediately after a white supremacist massacred worshipers there. The Obama team’s response was otherwise strong, Sikh activist Valarie Kaur said at the time, but the president failed in the role only the chief executive can play.

“After the attack we endured, Sikh Americans, and all brown and black people in America for that matter, need our president to directly show the nation that we belong here,” she wrote.

Trump’s White House has started to get a stronger feel for how details of the president’s schedule are perceived in the wake of a tragedy. The White House shut down public appearances in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland shooting and canceled a Friday trip to Orlando. Trump’s political operation said he would also cancel a campaign trip to Pennsylvania that would likely have coincided with funerals in Florida.

In putting the president’s Thursday address together, his speech writing team crafted a message of sympathy that focused on the victims and survivors. It hit the same notes as previous presidents in promising federal support for state and local officials dealing with the aftermath.

The address angered some listeners who hoped that the deaths of schoolchildren might inspire Trump to consider changes to the nation’s gun laws. The gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mowed down 17 people with a semiautomatic AR-15, the same kind of gun used to kill 20 first-graders at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. In the six years since that massacre, there have been at least 239 shootings at schools across the country, wounding 438 people and taking the lives of 138.

As little as Trump reveals a softer side to the public, the few times he has done so have involved children. When he declared the opioid crisis to be a public health emergency, he spoke tenderly of the “beautiful, beautiful babies” he wanted to protect. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” he said of Syrian children suffering a chemical attack by forces loyal to the country’s leader, Bashar Assad.

“To every parent, teacher and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you — whatever you need, whatever we can do, to ease your pain,” he said in his remarks Thursday. “We are all joined together as one American family, and your suffering is our burden also.”

Those words were appropriate, said DuBois, but still fell short.

“I do not sense vulnerability from him, and I did not hear real solutions,” he said. “That’s the barrier I believe he’ll have to overcome.”

Twitter: @cparsons

Courtesy: L A Times

House panel still struggles to get Steve Bannon to answer questions in Russia inquiry

(Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon remained tight-lipped during a House Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday, repeatedly refusing to answer some questions despite receiving a congressional subpoena for the panel’s Russia inquiry.

“I am not authorized to answer that question,” Bannon said dozens of times, according to two sources with knowledge of the closed-door hearing who did not have permission to speak publicly.

It was Bannon’s second appearance before the House committee, and his responses showed ongoing coordination between Bannon and the White House despite his estrangement from President Trump.

Bannon was fired last August and had a public falling-out with Trump in January after his brutal criticism of Trump’s eldest son, son-in-law and other top aides was published in the book “Fire and Fury.”

White House lawyers approved a list of 25 questions for the House committee that Bannon was allowed to answer, according to three sources.

Bannon told the lawmakers that other inquiries would infringe upon executive privilege, referring to the president’s right to protect confidential discussions or material.

The Trump administration has not formally asserted executive privilege at this point. It’s unclear whether Congress will try to force the issue by holding Bannon in contempt.

“The White House will continue to accommodate Congress’ request for information,” said Raj Shah, a White House spokesman.

Bannon apparently was more talkative when he met recently with prosecutors from special counsel Robert Mueller III’s office. A source said Bannon answered questions for 20 hours, which was first reported by NBC News.

Mueller is leading a criminal investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, and whether Trump or his aides violated the law.

Courtesy: L A Times

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