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Anything but certainty from White House on guns

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Nearly three weeks since the shooting that killed 17 people, Trump appears more eager to take action on campaign promises to his base than action on guns. The disinterest is a shift from the days after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, when Trump told confidants and aides that he was moved to do something his predecessors had failed to do.
No one knows where Trump is on guns -- perhaps including Trump

Top White House officials have been working on a series of legislative priorities on guns and school safety since the Parkland shooting. They had hoped to release their work at the end of last week, but those plans were dashed by a freewheeling listening session between Trump and a bipartisan group of lawmakers. In it, the President backed proposals that ran contrary to Republican orthodoxy and were at odds with what his team had hoped to roll out.
The meeting — as one Republican senator said afterward[1] — was “surreal” and threw the entire White House internal debate over guns into chaos.

Continuing conversations

Press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday the White House was “continuing to have those conversations” on guns and school safety but offered no indication that the policy would be rolled out anytime soon.
“(President Trump) has laid out some specific things and some specific places that he does support,” Sanders said. “We are going to continue some of the discussion, continue to engage with Congress as we lay out some of the details on what we would like to see.”
Sanders said those conversations include “the meeting that will take place on Thursday with some of the video game industry.”
Sources inside the White House told CNN that the White House’s legislative priorities on guns are also expected to be far narrower than Trump has laid out during the listening session and likely won’t include a plan to raise the minimum age to purchase certain firearms from 18 to 21.
“I think the President continues to support, as he said, the 21 year old (requirement), but I think there is also probably a lack of support for that right now, so that may be a longer-term effort,” one official said.
The internal White House effort is being led by Andrew Bremberg and his team at the Domestic Policy Council, Marc Short and his White House Legislative Affairs team and Sanders and her communications team, the official said. As of now, the plan includes a grant program to help protect schools during a shooting and an endorsement of the “Fix NICS” bill, a proposal from Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, and Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, that would improve reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
The delay after the listening session has also helped another issue — trade — take center stage inside the White House. After a grueling week in the White House, Trump decided to take action on trade by imposing steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports before his policy team had a chance to write out the details.
The move helped Trump make good on a promise he first made during the 2016 campaign and dispense with the delays that have come to define his trade agenda over one year into his administration.

Interest groups

Trump has looked to present himself as unbeholden to gun interest groups, even accusing members of his own party of being afraid of the National Rifle Association. However, the NRA spent millions of dollars on behalf of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the President has met with leaders from the group twice since the Parkland shooting.
The lack of concrete action, while not surprising to gun control activists, has been disheartening to them. Trump’s comments during the listening sessions “were better than what folks expected him to say,” one senior strategist looking to push the White House to endorse gun control measures told CNN. But there was a realization that Trump could be making promises he couldn’t fulfill, similar to the recent immigration policy debate.
“We were certainly cautious with slight optimism,” the strategist said. “But we always recognized that people know who is standing in the way of getting something done: It is the NRA and more Republicans in Congress. At some level, talk is cheap.”
These activists, while deeply skeptical of Trump, were slightly optimistic that the businessman-turned-politician could get something done on an issue that as long vexed his predecessors. Their thinking went like this: Trump has a chance to change the dynamic of the guns debate because he has a devoted base of supporters who won’t break with him.
But speaking with Republican donors on Saturday[2] in Florida, Trump repeated a familiar Republican line and said Democrats would “take away your guns” if they won in the 2018 midterm elections.
“They’re going to take away your tax cuts,” Trump said, according to a recording obtained by CNN. “They’re going to take away your guns if they can.”
The lack of action from the White House has trickled down Pennsylvania Avenue to Capitol Hill, where the issue is unlikely to come to a vote.
Congressional leaders are eager to see[3] what gun proposals Trump will tack his name onto. Democrats think Trump could muster the necessary Republican support to get a gun bill through Congress and Republicans want to know where Trump stands because they would like presidential cover when debating the issue.
Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, a moderate Democrat who has signaled a willingness to take action on guns, said a bill could get through “if the President comes forward and says, ‘This is what I want done, this is what I’m going to support and I will give you the cover you need.’ “
“It’s up to President Trump,” Manchin added on Sunday. “That can be a legacy for him.”
Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican, echoed Manchin on Monday.
“He has moved the ball. He has definitely shaken things up. But he has got to follow through,” King said. “And whether he goes all the way or not, he has got to move the ball downfield somewhere, because otherwise we are going to be doing the same thing a year from now and there are going to be more kids killed in the meantime.”
But there has been anything but certainty from the White House on the issue.
Trump has both called for a comprehensive gun bill to address school shootings and pledged not to support tighter gun control.

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Houston Recalls Legacy of George Bush, Its Lone Star Yankee and Senior Booster

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HOUSTON — Inside the airport that bears his name, George Herbert Walker Bush looks, at a distance, as if he’s wearing a cape.

An 8-foot-tall bronze statue at the Houston airport shows Mr. Bush, who , Barbara Bush[4], who died in April at the age of 92. After Mr. Bush’s death on Friday, Houston lost its two most famous residents in the span of seven months.

“George H.W. Bush served with valor and integrity as the 41st president of the United States,” Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner, said in a statement. “But to Houstonians he was one of our most esteemed and relatable neighbors. He and his wife, Barbara Bush, were our sports teams’ biggest fans, and boosters for everything Houston.”

This was the man whose most memorable quote in years had to do with men’s hosiery. In 2012, as his fondness for wearing bright eye-catching socks was going strong, he explained that he simply “likes a good sock.” At his wife’s funeral at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Mr. Bush wore a pair of socks with a colorful stack-of-books design, a tribute to Mrs. Bush’s advocacy work for family literacy.

In Houston and its surrounding suburbs, Mr. Bush had not only an airport in his name but a park, a high school and a few more life-size statues. Above Buffalo Bayou, a bronze statue of Mr. Bush looks out into the distance with his hand in his pocket, gazing at, of all things, James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush’s tennis partner at the Houston Country Club. The statues of the two close friends face each other in the downtown park, separated by about 100 yards, in Houston’s oddest and longest-running staring contest.

“All I can do now,” Mr. Bush told The New York Times in 2011 about the statue, “is hope that the pigeons will be kind and gentle.”

Charles C. Foster, a Houston immigration lawyer and a longtime friend of the Bush family, came up with the idea for the George H.W. Bush Monument, which was unveiled in 2004. Mr. Foster recalled the day he sat in Mr. Bush’s office at 10000 Memorial Drive and asked for his blessing for the project.

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Mr. Bush in 1970, when he was a congressman.CreditAssociated Press

“He looked at me and he sort of looked up at the ceiling,” Mr. Foster said. “He pointed to the ceiling and said, ‘Shouldn’t you wait until I’m up there?’ And then he said, pointing downward, ‘Or perhaps down there?’”

In 1990, Mr. Bush helped turn the eyes of the world to Houston.

As president, he brought thousands of reporters and foreign dignitaries to Houston that summer for the Economic Summit of Industrialized Nations, an annual gathering of the world’s economic powers. The summits had been held in a number of global cities — London, Tokyo, Paris, Venice — and Mr. Bush made the case that his adopted hometown belonged among such world-class company.

Houston was scrappier back then. The city was rebounding from an oil bust in the 1980s that crippled the economy, and it tried hard to present its best, and cleanest, face to the cameras and the visitors, picking up millions of pounds of trash, repaving roads and enlisting the aid of 12,000 volunteers.

“That was huge for Houston,” Mr. Foster said of the 1990 summit. “When the president had a chance, he could have picked some mountain retreat. But he picked his hometown. He was well aware of the chip on our shoulders that we didn’t feel like Houston got the recognition that it should.”

Now, with 2.3 million residents (compared with 1.6 million in 1990), Houston is the fourth-largest city in America, known as much for its diversity as its energy-capital status. George Bush High School, part of the Fort Bend school district, is 43 percent Hispanic, 38 percent black, 12 percent Asian and 4 percent white. More than 90 languages and dialects are spoken in the district.

Early Saturday morning in the upscale Tanglewood area, Houstonians paused at the gates at South Post Oak Lane and North West Oak Drive — the entrance to the gated community where Mr. Bush lived. Someone draped an American flag in the center of the gates, decorated for the holidays with Christmas wreaths.

Shirley Matthews, 66, a lifelong Houstonian who lives nearby, walked up and took a picture of the memorial for her mother. “He was just a good person,” she said. “He wasn’t perfect. But it’s family, and we love each other.”

References

  1. ^ died at his home here on Friday (www.nytimes.com)
  2. ^ Read the obituary of George H.W. Bush. (www.nytimes.com)
  3. ^ the funeral for his wife (www.nytimes.com)
  4. ^ Barbara Bush (www.nytimes.com)

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A Close Race, a Mysterious Ballot and Control of Alaska’s House at Stake

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With a crucial legislative seat in Alaska teetering toward a tie earlier this month, lawmakers in Juneau braced for the possibility of a coin toss deciding control of the state’s House of Representatives. Then a mysterious extra ballot emerged that threw the process into further disarray.

Amid several counts, the latest coming on Friday afternoon, a single ballot drew scrutiny across the state.

The state’s review board certified the race, between Kathryn Dodge, a Democrat, and Bart LeBon, a Republican, as a tie earlier this week, with exactly 2,661 votes going to each candidate. The extra ballot, for Ms. Dodge, could have settled the race for the Fairbanks-area district seat.

Later on Friday, the mystery appeared to have been solved — but the standoff over who won the election continued.

Samantha Miller, a spokeswoman for the state elections office, said that workers at Fairbanks’s No. 6 precinct told officials that a woman had come into the polling place to request a special needs ballot on behalf of her husband, who was outside in a vehicle.

The woman came back into the precinct. Her husband had made a mistake, she told the precinct worker, and needed a new ballot. She left behind the one he had already marked, thus making it a spoiled ballot.

The precinct chair told the worker who took the spoiled ballot to put it into a secrecy sleeve, “and that they would deal with it later in the day,” Ms. Miller said.

But instead, the spoiled ballot was put into a compartment with other questioned ballots.

Typically, Ms. Miller said, spoiled ballots are destroyed once they are accounted for. So, because the mystery ballot was found to be spoiled, it will not be counted, she said.

Still, that left the question of what happens if the recount that began on Friday afternoon ends in a tie — again.

Ms. Miller said that both candidates had five days to file a legal challenge to the results. And if the court decided the recount went as it should have, and the race was still a tie?

The prevailing candidate would be determined “by lot,” Ms. Miller said. “It could be a coin toss or some other way of deciding, as long as it’s random.”

It would not be the first time an Alaska race was determined by coin toss.

In 2006, State Representative Bryce Edgmon[1], a Democrat from Dillingham, beat the incumbent, Carl Moses. Mr. Moses’s name was drawn, so he got to make the call: Heads.

The state’s elections director at the time flipped an Alaska Mint medallion — the side with a walrus being heads and the side with the state seal being tails. It landed state seal side up.

Ms. Miller would not speculate about when the recount would be complete, but said both candidates were present, along with observers and officials.

Mr. LeBon did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

Sara Harriger, a spokeswoman for Ms. Dodge, said in a statement that during Friday’s recount, one additional vote was found for Ms. Dodge and a challenged ballot was allowed for her opponent, Mr. LeBon, which meant that the tally stood at 2,662 apiece. Still tied.

Ms. Dodge said in a statement that she believed every legally cast ballot should be counted. “I just want everyone watching this process to take away a sense of confidence in our democratic system and a commitment to cast their votes in future races,” she said, “and knowing that their votes will matter.”

Ms. Dodge had said earlier on Friday that legal action “unfortunately” seemed probable.

“It’s certainly not what any of us expect when we set out to campaign, to find ourselves in a squeaker of this nature,” she said. “I hope we don’t have a coin toss. I don’t know quite what to say, but it doesn’t feel like it’s an appropriate way to settle an election.”

In Alaska, the repercussions of this race will be felt into the next legislative session, though party control of the House in Juneau will be far from clear-cut.

Political coalitions in Juneau do not always come down to party-line votes like in other state houses. Even if Ms. Dodge wins the race, Democrats would still not have an outright majority, and so members of the House will still be tasked with negotiating a coalition majority.

References

  1. ^ Bryce Edgmon (akleg.gov)

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3 Killed After Pickup Truck Fleeing Border Patrol Hits Tire Spikes and Crashes

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Three people in a packed pickup truck were killed on Thursday afternoon after the driver ran over tire spikes and crashed on a Southern California highway while trying to flee Border Patrol officers, the authorities said.

The officers turned on their vehicle’s emergency lights and began chasing the pickup truck on Interstate 8, near Boulevard, Calif., at around 4:20 p.m., according to the United States Customs and Border Protection. The authorities said they believed that the pickup truck had been illegally driven over the southern border and had crashed through an “iron bar vehicle barrier.” They said they identified it by matching a piece that was missing from the truck to one agents had spotted on the ground near the border, though they did not elaborate.

The pickup truck reached speeds of over 100 miles per hour, weaving between cars and bypassing others on the side of the highway, before it drove over spikes that the Border Patrol had placed on the road, the California Highway Patrol said. About a mile later, the truck spun out of control and flipped over, ejecting the nine people who were riding in the truck’s bed, the authorities said.

A woman inside the truck, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was killed, as were two people riding in the bed, the police said. Seven people who had “multiple serious injuries” were taken to the hospital, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection said.

The driver, a United States citizen whose name was not released, was the only person wearing a seatbelt, the agency said. The California Highway Patrol took the man into custody, but it was not clear whether he had been charged. The identities of the passengers in the truck have not been released either.

“The investigation into the smuggling incident is ongoing,” the spokesman said in an email, “and the Border Patrol is fully cooperating with the CHP in their investigation of the collision.”

About an hour after the crash, the Border Patrol stopped another vehicle that officers believed had crossed over the border with the pickup truck, the agency said. The driver of that car was also arrested.

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