John T. Bennett

‘Harden’ Schools to Combat Shooters, Trump Says
Calls for offensive measures, training and arming teachers

President Donald Trump wants to “harden” schools to secure them like banks, but the security guards he envisions would be teachers and other school employees.

For the second consecutive day, the president pitched the notion of giving firearms and specialized training to some teachers and school staffers so they could combat individuals who enter schools with the intent of killing people. He further drove home that he opposes existing laws allowing individuals under the age of 21 to purchase assault rifles.

Trump Backs Minimum Age of 21 for Some Gun Buys
Rubio also opposes allowing 18 year olds to buy assault weapons

President Donald Trump on Thursday endorsed setting an age restriction of 21 on certain gun purchases, his most aggressive move yet in endorsing gun access changes after last week’s Florida high school massacre.

The president is eager to do something in the wake of last week’s gun massacre in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and teachers dead, aides say. Until late Wednesday afternoon, Trump had mostly focused on enhancing the background check system, improving information sharing among local, state and federal law enforcement, and addressing mental health problems that plague many mass shooters.

Shooting Survivors, Victims’ Families Tell Trump Emotional Stories
Father of Parkland victim: ‘I’m pissed … I’m never, ever going to see my kid again’

Updated 5:38 p.m. | President Donald Trump heard powerful testimonials Wednesday from survivors and family members of teenagers killed in last week’s Florida high school shooting massacre. But he signaled his focus is on related issues, not gun control.

The president started an emotional “listening session” at the White House vowing to be “very strong on background checks” and “very strong” on tackling mental health issues. He initially only vaguely referred to also being strong on “other things,” but later floated ideas such as arming specially trained school workers, setting age restrictions on some guns and opening new mental institutions.

Trump’s Clout on Gun Control is Limited, and House GOP Won’t Help
Connecting Congress and the White House at the intersection of politics

White House: ‘No’ Chance Ivanka Trump Meets With North Korean Officials
President’s daughter is leading U.S. delegation to Winter Olympics closing ceremony

Ivanka Trump is not expected to meet with any North Korean officials later this week when she leads the White House’s official delegation to the closing ceremony for the Winter Olympic Games.

Asked if the president’s daughter and senior adviser could meet with North Korean officials while in Pyeongchang, South Korea, a senior official replied, “No.”

Pence: Give Police, Families Tools for Mentally Disturbed
VP vows massive job creation via beefed-up space program

The Trump administration intends to give law enforcement and families the “tools they need to deal with” people who have health issues that might drive them to commit violent acts like mass shootings, Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday.

As during similar remarks late last week, however, the vice president did not specify how much that might cost or whether the administration will seek emergency funds or push Congress to include the required monies in fiscal 2018 and 2019 spending measures.

Trump Wants Russia Investigation to Look at Obama White House
President appears to shift messaging on Mueller investigation

President Donald Trump is suggesting that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III should expand his probe of Russia’s election meddling to include top Obama administration officials.

Trump’s veiled suggestion that former President Barack Obama and his team be investigated instead of him and his campaign advisers is part of a shift in the president’s messaging in recent days.

Trump Focuses on Shooting Fallout — but Challenges Abound
Lack of common ground, White House could stop gun-access bill

The White House is eager to portray Donald Trump as working to protect American students after the Florida high school massacre, but the president himself showed Tuesday why his staff’s intended messaging may fall flat.

West Wing aides have scheduled a series of events for later this week intended to allow Trump to appear presidential in the wake of the AR-15 killing spree by a troubled former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 dead.

Trump Denies Forcibly Kissing Woman in 2005
‘The whole thing probably lasted two minutes,’ accuser says

President Donald Trump, less than an hour before his scheduled daily intelligence briefing, fired off a series of tweets denying a 13-year-old allegation that he forcibly kissed a young woman in Trump Tower.

At issue is an allegation by Rachel Crooks, who was a secretary for a company that had an office in Trump’s Manhattan building. She alleges that after she met Trump near the elevators, he held her hand and began kissing her against her will.

Kelly Admits Missteps With White House Aides’ Clearances
Embattled chief of staff to phase out interim security clearances

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, under fire after a former staffer’s domestic abuse scandal, has admitted the Trump team mishandled aides’ background investigations, and ordered new steps in how the West Wing handles security clearances.

In a five-page memo to staffers released Friday afternoon by the White House, Kelly alluded to the Rob Porter scandal but also attempted to spread the blame for a process he said was flawed but was one he inherited.

Analysis: Trump’s Hawks Won Senate Immigration Debate (By Not Losing)
White House remains well-positioned for coming rounds as DACA deadline looms

President Donald Trump’s immigration hard-liners proved Thursday it is possible to win even when the outcome of a battle is, on paper, a draw.

An immigration overhaul amendment backed by the administration received fewer votes Thursday than three other Senate proposals that also failed to pass the Senate. But the White House emerged from that chamber’s underwhelming and unproductive floor debate in strong shape for future fights on the issue.

Trump’s Two Personas on Full Display After Shooting
President hints he will visit with families of victims this weekend

The two public personas of Donald Trump were on full display Friday morning, illustrated by a pair of tweets posted just a dozen minutes apart.

In the first social media post, the president flashed the somber side he has shown in the midst of some national tragedies and disasters since he took office. Trump suggested he will be meeting with family members and others affected by the high school massacre in Parkland, Florida, over the long Presidents Day weekend.

White House Call on Immigration Plan Gets Personal, Testy
Bipartisan compromise ‘spectacularly poorly drafted,’ official says

The White House is “alarmed” by a bipartisan immigration measure offered by nearly 20 Republican and Democratic senators, a senior administration official said during a testy midday briefing.

The measure is “totally and completely unserious,” the official said during a conference call that would only be attributed to senior officials despite their sharp critiques, by name, of sitting U.S. senators. Other terms and words this official used: “dead on arrival,” “reckless,” and “spectacularly poorly drafted.”

After Shooting, Trump Focuses on Mental Health, Not Guns
President says safety at schools will be priority, not limiting access to firearms

An American citizen’s use of a military-style semi-automatic weapon to carry out a mass murder on U.S. soil thrust President Donald Trump into a somber spotlight on Thursday, and he sent a clear signal he views the incident as about mental health, not guns.

The president offered his condolences to the loved ones of the 17 people law enforcement officials say 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz shot dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. He also spoke in the same measured tone he and his predecessor, Barack Obama, have used following shooters’ murderous rampages.

Trump to Address Nation About Florida School Shooting
Report ‘bad and erratic behavior,’ president says of reports that those close to alleged shooter had concerns

Updated at 9:25 a.m. | President Donald Trump will address the nation Thursday morning about the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school after contending there were “so many signs” that a 19-year-old who killed 17 people was “mentally disturbed.”

Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Trump will deliver remarks from the White House at 11 a.m. about the Wednesday shooting, something his predecessor often did following such incidents. The president also has ordered all flags at public buildings to be flown at half staff to honor the Parkland victims, according to Sanders. 

Trump Divided, Conquered in First Year in Office
An analysis of votes cast in 2017 shows GOP senators voted with the president 96 percent of the time

Donald Trump campaigned as a successful business mogul whose negotiating skills made him uniquely qualified to be a president capable of ending Washington’s decades of bitter partisanship to get things done.

Trump, in fact, got his way on almost every vote last year where he publicly stated a position, setting a record for success. The results of votes by both House and Senate combined show he won 98.7 percent of the time on issues he supported. That set a new bicameral record, besting Obama’s 96.7 percent success level in 2009 (the last time a president’s party controlled both chambers.)

Trump Condemns Domestic Violence a Week Into Porter Scandal
‘I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind,’ POTUS says

One week into a scandal involving a now-former staffer who is accused of abusing his two ex-wives, President Donald Trump finally condemned such actions on Wednesday.

“I am totally opposed to domestic violence, everybody here knows that,” the president told reporters. “I am totally opposed to domestic violence of any kind. ... It almost wouldn’t even have to be said.”

Kelly Should Keep Job Despite Missteps, Pence Says
VP: ‘Talking’ to North Korea ‘is not negotiation’

Vice President Mike Pence wants embattled White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly to keep his job even as he admits officials mishandled the fallout of the Rob Porter domestic abuse scandal.

“John Kelly has done a remarkable job as chief of staff for the president of the United States,” Pence said Wednesday at an event in Washington sponsored by Axios. “And I look forward to continuing to work with him for many, many months to come.”

Short DACA Fix Would Be ‘Insufficient’ for Trump, White House Warns
Senate debate just beginning, coming on heels of court orders halting end of program

Senior White House officials on Wednesday warned lawmakers against turning to a possible fallback measure that would temporarily make legal a program that protects nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation.

It appears a longshot that the House and Senate will both pass immigration overhaul bills that address the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program and reconcile differences ahead of a March 5 deadline for its termination. One option should Congress fail to act by that date would be a measure legalizing DACA temporarily as members keep trying to strike a broader deal.

Analysis: Trump Takes the Budget Out of Budget Day
‘This is going to be awful,’ Mulvaney says of own budget briefing

Sometimes it’s what a president doesn’t say that reveals his true priorities. That certainly appears to be the case with Donald Trump’s second budget request.

The Trump administration is asking Congress to spend $4.4 trillion in taxpayer funds, but the president has shown little interest in selling the fiscal 2019 request. The chief executive had multiple opportunities Monday and Tuesday to speak into microphones and use his bully pulpit to advocate for the spending priorities. Instead, he focused on other matters.