On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers said Thursday they’re moving on from the debate over gun control, after failing to pass a single bill on firearms in the wake of last month’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, which killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School. The congressional inaction came as President Trump appeared to backpedal Thursday from his surprise announcement a day earlier that he supports comprehensive gun control measures. Chris Cox, a top lobbyist with the National Rifle Association, tweeted after a meeting with Trump and Vice President Pence last night, ”POTUS & VPOTUS support the Second Amendment, support strong due process and don’t want gun control.” Trump followed up, tweeting, “Good (Great) meeting in the Oval Office tonight with the NRA!” Trump’s backpedaling came just one day after he publicly chided Pennsylvania Republican Senator Pat Toomey for “being afraid of the NRA”.
President Donald Trump: “It doesn’t make sense that I have to wait 'til I'm 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18. I don’t know. So I was just curious as to what you did in your bill.”
Sen. Pat Toomey: “We”—
President Donald Trump: “You don’t address it.”
Sen. Pat Toomey: “We didn’t address it, Mr. President. Look, I think the”—
President Donald Trump: “You know why? Because you’re afraid of the NRA, right?”
Sen. Pat Toomey: “No, it’s not an issue. But…”
Meanwhile, state lawmakers in Georgia approved a bill Thursday punishing Delta Air Lines for its decision to end a promotional discount given to members of the National Rifle Association. The bill, which Republican Governor Nathan Deal has pledged to sign, ends a proposed $50 million sales tax break on jet fuel that would have benefited Delta.
President Trump announced Thursday he’s imposing new tariffs on imports of foreign steel and aluminum—in a move that sent world stock markets tumbling amid fears of a new trade war. The new tariffs—25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum—will benefit U.S. producers of the metals, while raising prices for companies that manufacture everything from cars to airplanes to high-rise apartments. The announcement prompted fears that other countries will impose retaliatory tariffs while challenging U.S. protectionism at the World Trade Organization.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday his nation has developed a new arsenal of “invincible” nuclear weapons that can reach “anywhere in the world.” Among the weapons claimed by Putin is a nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed cruise missile with unlimited range; a nuclear torpedo; and a new class of submarine-launched, long-range missiles. Putin’s announcement comes just weeks after the Trump administration unveiled its new nuclear weapons strategy, which involves spending at least $1.2 trillion to upgrade the United States’ nuclear arsenal. Nobel Peace Laureate Beatrice Fihn of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons responded to the news, writing, “Putin’s statement makes it clear we are in a new arms race that will put us under the terror of a new Cold War, in constant fear of death at any instant. While Russia and the U.S. compare the size of their arsenals, the rest of the world is joining a treaty that bans them.”
In Syria, aid groups are warning of a humanitarian catastrophe in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, after a daily “humanitarian pause” in fighting failed to materialize. This is a resident of Eastern Ghouta speaking in a video posted on a social media site.
Eastern Ghouta resident: “What truce, brother? Look at the destruction? Barrel bombs are dropping on us. What truce? Until today there were barrel bombs, and no homes are left. Nothing is left. Look at the destruction. There is no food or drink or anything at all. You cannot work. What truce? We do not want to leave the city. We do not want corridors. We are staying here and will remain resistant. We just want al-Assad to stop the strikes.”
The Syrian Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets, said today 674 civilians have been killed in Syrian government-led airstrikes and artillery attacks over the past two weeks. The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations says two of Eastern Ghouta’s hospitals have been bombed since Saturday—and that more than 1,100 sick and wounded residents are at risk of dying if they’re not immediately evacuated.
CNN reports that FBI investigators are looking into whether White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump’s business dealings leave her vulnerable to pressure by foreign agents. The investigation is centered around financing for the $360 million Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, which opened after President Trump took office. The project was led by a powerful Malaysian investor through a Canada-based development company. Investigators are reportedly looking into whether the flow of foreign money through the project might be influencing White House policy. The investigation comes as part of the first daughter’s bid to obtain full security clearance to read top-secret documents. Her husband and White House colleague, Jared Kushner, has been denied such clearance and was stripped of his temporary top-secret clearance earlier this week. This comes after The New York Times reported Kushner’s real estate company received loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars from two separate investors after he met with powerful financial executives at the White House, executives from Citigroup and Apollo.
President Trump said Thursday the U.S. should impose the death penalty on drug dealers, praising countries like the Philippines that apply capital punishment to drug traffickers. Trump made the remarks during a White House summit on the opioid crisis.
President Donald Trump: “If you want to be weak and you want to talk about just blue ribbon committees, that’s not the answer. The answer is you have to have strength and you have to have toughness. The drug dealers, the drug pushers are—they’re really doing damage. They’re really doing damage. Some countries have a very, very tough penalty, the ultimate penalty. And, by the way, they have much less of a drug problem than we do.”
Trump’s comments come just weeks after the International Criminal Court opened a preliminary investigation into accusations that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte had committed crimes against humanity by overseeing the killing of up to 8,000 people in his so-called war on drugs.
A new report finds the gains of the civil rights movement have stalled—and in some cases lost ground—over the past half-century. Among the report’s findings: School segregation is on the rise, white supremacist movements are becoming emboldened and more violent, and child poverty has increased—from 15.5 percent in 1968 to 21 percent today. The report comes on the 50th anniversary of a report by the Kerner Commission, which was assembled by President Lyndon Johnson in the wake of uprisings by African Americans in Newark and Detroit. The commission concluded that the United States was “moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.”
In Louisiana, newly disclosed documents reveal a state intelligence agency regularly spied on activists opposing construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline, which would carry nearly a half-million barrels of oil per day across Louisiana’s wetlands. The documents show the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness regularly drafted intelligence memos on anti-pipeline activists, including a gathering of indigenous-led water protectors who set up a protest encampment along the pipeline’s route. Other newly revealed documents show close coordination between Louisiana regulators and the company building the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners. In some cases, state regulators used language drafted by the pipeline company in its public documents. This comes just one week after a U.S. district judge in Baton Rouge ordered a temporary injunction against construction of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in order to “prevent further irreparable harm” to the region’s delicate ecosystems while court challenges proceed. Energy Transfer Partners owns the Dakota Access pipeline, as well.
Christian evangelical leader Billy Graham will be laid to rest at a funeral in North Carolina today, after his death last month at the age of 99. On Wednesday, Graham’s body was lain in honor in the Capitol Rotunda in Washington, where politicians including President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell paid their respects. Graham is the first religious leader to receive the honor in the U.S. Capitol, and the first private citizen since civil rights leader Rosa Parks was honored in 2005. The decision to honor Billy Graham drew fire from many civil rights activists, who say the religious leader was an apologist for racist and sexist views among evangelicals. University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler wrote, “Graham would have told Parks that she needed to obey the law, stay at home, and be content with being a black woman with no rights.”
And U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is blocking the release of a video showing protesters confronting him over the Trump administration’s policies during an appearance at the University of California, Los Angeles. About 400 people attended Monday’s free event at a UCLA lecture hall, which the university filmed, as it typically does for guest speakers. But Mnuchin withdrew his consent to have the video posted online after he was repeatedly confronted by protesters, who called out Mnuchin’s support for President Trump’s tax cuts and his record of foreclosing on homes during his tenure as CEO of OneWest Bank. Parts of Mnuchin’s appearance were captured on cellphone cameras and posted to social media. This is UCLA geography major Tala Deloria, who was lifted from her seat and hauled away by campus police after she confronted Mnuchin.
Tala Deloria: “We know that the tax bill and what that represents is sentencing people to death, including children, 9 million children who are going to be left without healthcare. So this system, that is putting people in this position in the first place, that actually moved the jobs overseas, it wasn’t black people and brown people in the inner cities who did this, and yet you are punishing them for being in that position. You are punishing them for the misery that this system, the system that you’re enforcing”—
Moderator: “We’re asking you to stop. It’s time for you to leave.”
Tala Deloria: —”is committing.”
At that point, the geography major, Tala Deloria, was hauled off by police on campus.