Chris Murphy will still work with White House on gun background checks, even after Trump attack

‘At the same time that Trump is trying to claim that we’re walking away from legislative process on guns, his team is pulling us back in’

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy is still trying for a deal with President Donald Trump on background checks. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Callfile photo)

Sen. Christopher S. Murphy was not entirely surprised when President Donald Trump attacked him Wednesday, even as administration officials were trying to make sure the Connecticut Democrat was still open to a deal on expanded background checks for gun sales.

“I got a preview last night when Rudy Giuliani called for my impeachment, so I had a feeling that their focus may be turning to me,” Murphy quipped.

“I made it clear during my visit to Kiev that President Zelenskiy should not be taking orders from the Trump campaign, and that if it were to be perceived as interfering in the 2020 election, that it would greatly compromise his credibility,” Murphy told reporters. “I absolutely stand by what I said, 100 percent.”

Murphy was responding to remarks by Trump at a news conference in New York that veered into a criticism of the senator.

Chris Murphy, who I’ve been dealing with on guns, you know, so nice. He’s always, ‘oh no, we want to work it out,’ but they’re too busy wasting their time on the witch hunt,” Trump said.

Trump then referenced Murphy’s visit to Ukraine, though Giuliani was much more direct in making the accusation on Tuesday night.

“[Murphy] went to see the president of the Ukraine, and he told the president of the Ukraine that if he cooperates with the president they’ll cut off aid,” Giuliani, a Trump lawyer and former New York City mayor had said on Fox News. “Nancy Pelosi should be outraged at Chris Murphy.”

“I think it’s, you know, unfortunate that the president and his team are choosing to attack those of us who are trying to prevent the Ukrainian government from being pulled into the corruption that is being requested of them by the Trump administration,” Murphy said outside the Capitol late Wednesday.

[Democrats focusing impeachment inquiry on Trump pressuring Ukraine]

Ironically, the Trump administration has continued to reach out to Murphy and other senators and their staffs on gun policy legislation, including a potential expansion of background checks, even as impeachment talk swirls. There were staff-level discussions around the Senate on Wednesday, and Murphy heard from the White House Tuesday night.

“At the same time that Trump is trying to claim that we’re walking away from legislative process on guns, his team is pulling us back in,” Murphy said. “I remain very interested in trying to pursue a background checks deal. I will stay at the table. I can walk and chew gum at the same time, and it’s really up to the president as to whether he wants to walk away from negotiations that could ultimately get to a conclusion.”

Murphy said he did not hear a timeline for an announcement from the president on gun legislation, and a White House official said Wednesday that an announcement was not likely this week.

Shortly before he heard from the White House on Tuesday, Murphy told CQ Roll Call that he understood not everyone was going to appreciate his continued efforts to work with Trump, as he said, “notwithstanding my thoughts on impeachment.”

“Anything’s possible,” Murphy had said. “My assumption is the president still is running for reelection, and ... if he expects to be on the ballot in 2020, he should still be very interested in doing a deal on background checks. It would accrue to his political benefit.”

“That might anger some of my friends, but if we can get a deal, I’m still willing to do it,” the Democrat from Connecticut said.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.