WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has been in talks with key members of the Senate on potential gun control legislation in the wake of mass shootings that left more than 30 dead earlier this month.
Among the senators with whom Trump has been discussing a proposed bill, according to a senior administration official, are Chris Murphy, D-Conn., one of the Senate’s leading gun control advocates, along with Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., two authors of a 2013 background checks bill that failed to pass in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
White House and Senate aides have also been meeting to discuss the issue, marking the most substantive talks the Trump administration has had to date on gun control policy. The meetings were first reported by the New York Times.
Trump said last week that he had “tremendous support” for possible new measures to tighten background checks on gun buyers, claiming that even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a traditional opponent of such laws, was backing the effort.
“I spoke to Mitch McConnell yesterday. He’s totally on board, he said ‘I’ve been waiting for your call,’” Trump told reporters Aug. 9 before leaving the White House for his summer retreat in Bedminster, New Jersey. “I spoke to senators that in some cases, friends of mine, but pretty hard-line senators … hard-line on the Second Amendment.”
“And they understand, we don’t want insane people, mentally ill people, bad people, dangerous people, we don’t want guns in the hands of the wrong people,” Trump said.
Following the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and teachers dead, the president at first indicated he could support tightening background checks for gun buyers, but backed away and instead threw his support behind a proposal to arm and train some teachers how to use firearms and called for institutionalizing mentally ill people believed to be capable of violence. Trump has also moved to ban bump stocks, devices that allows semi-automatic rifles to fire continuously like machine guns.
In February, the Democratic-controlled House passed two bills that would have tightened background checks on gun buyers, but the GOP-controlled Senate never took up either of the bills, and Trump had promised to veto the legislation.
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Jewish people who vote Democratic show ‘great disloyalty’
President Donald Trump on Tuesday told reporters that “any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat” are either uninformed or show “great disloyalty.”
Trump made the comments after he was asked about Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s suggestion that the U.S. might want to reconsider how much it pays Israel in aid after she and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., were barred from entering the country last week.
He again attacked the two Democrats — saying Tlaib had said “horrible things” about Israel and that Omar is “a disaster for Jewish people.” He also baselessly accused Tlaib, an American of Palestinian descent, of violence.
“I can’t even believe that we’re having this conversation. Five years ago, the concept of even talking about this — even three years ago — of cutting off aid to Israel because of two people that hate Israel and hate Jewish people. I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation,” Trump fumed. “Where has the Democratic Party gone? Where have they gone where they’re defending these two people over the state of Israel? And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty, alright?”
Tlaib and Omar are the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress, and both have been critical of the Israeli government and its treatment of Palestinians. The two lawmakers had been set to travel to the country this past weekend but the Israeli government announced last week that they would be barred over their support of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement.
Omar was accused of engaging in the dual loyalty trope earlier this year over comments she has made about pro-Israel groups, especially the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee.
“I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country,” she said at an event in February. Her comments were made following backlash to a tweet she sent about AIPAC, for which she later apologized.
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said those statements were anti-Semitic.
“Accusing Jews of having allegiance to a foreign government has long been a vile anti-Semitic slur that has been used to harass, marginalize, and persecute the Jewish people for centuries,” Greenblatt wrote in March.
Responding to Tuesday’s remarks, Greenblatt called on Trump to “stop using Jews as a political football.”
Halie Soifer, Executive Director of Jewish Democratic Council of America, called Trump’s comments “yet another example of Donald Trump continuing to weaponize and politicize anti-Semitism.”
“At a time when anti-Semitic incidents have increased — due to the president’s emboldening of white nationalism — Trump is repeating an anti-Semitic trope,” she said in a statement. “If this is about Israel, then Trump is repeating a dual loyalty claim, which is a form of anti-Semitism. If this is about Jews being “loyal” to him, then Trump needs a reality check. We live in a democracy, and Jewish support for the Republican Party has been halved in the past four years.”
It was not the first time that Trump suggested American Jews and Israeli politics must be in lockstep.
“I stood with your prime minister at the White House to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” he said in remarks at a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting on April 6th in Las Vegas.
According to 2016 exit polls, 71 percent of voters who identified as Jewish voted for Hillary Clinton while 23 percent voted for Trump.
In the 2018 midterms, per exit polls, 79 percent of Jewish voters reported voting for Democratic House candidates, while just 17 percent voted for Republicans.
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