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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 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.

After 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 on 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 allow 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.

The president, his daughter Ivanka Trump and senior White House officials began conversations last week with key senators about what legislative action could be taken on gun control, and this week conversations began at the staff level to begin hammering out the details.

On background checks, the White House is looking to model a bill after the Toomey-Manchin legislation that failed following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, according to a senior administration official. Even though the bill wasn’t successful, the White House says it believes it has a good policy framework and bipartisan support.

The White House isn’t considering asking Congress to pass a federal “red flag” law, according to the official, but rather talking about working with lawmakers to assemble a framework for states to follow if they choose to put in place their own such laws.

The White House is also working with Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., who heads the Judiciary Committee, on potential changes to the federal death penalty statute.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, was also present for a White House meeting on the issue Tuesday, his spokesman Taylor Haulsee told NBC News on Wednesday. Alexander is among the chairmen McConnell tasked with coming up with legislative solutions to address gun violence.

“I am writing to ask for your recommendations on bipartisan proposals within the HELP committee’s jurisdiction that could help prevent future mass shootings like the recent tragedies in California, Texas, and Ohio,” Alexander wrote in a letter obtained by NBC to his committee members on Friday.

Alexander said that he has asked his committee staff “to evaluate existing mental health and school safety programs, including current appropriated funding levels for these programs, and to examine bills that have been introduced within the Committee’s jurisdiction so we may begin to look for bipartisan proposals to provide possible solutions to this crisis.”

In addition, the White House has been reaching out to members of Congress to discuss actions that could be taken on mental health and violence in video games and entertainment, though no specific legislation is being proposed on either front yet.

McConnell, who has been resistant to take up gun control legislation, has been involved with the White House in the process. Trump has been hearing criticism from advisers and allies over the political and policy risks that exploring new gun legislation could bring, according to the official, but is so far unmoved.

Rebecca Shabad contributed.



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House Judiciary Committee votes to impeach Trump, capping damaging testimony

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WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee, in a historic vote that fell along party lines, approved articles of impeachment Friday against President Donald Trump, charging he abused his power as president and obstructed Congress.

“Today is a solemn and sad day,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said after the vote in brief remarks. “For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House will act expeditiously.”

The measures, which will most likely be voted on by the full House on Wednesday, were passed by the committee after weeks of damaging testimony about Trump’s alleged conduct from past and present diplomats and other government officials, as well as legal scholars. They asserted the president had improperly withheld security aid to Ukraine for political reasons, including seeking an investigation of the Bidens.

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, said: “Rather than help Americans move into the future with confidence, Democrats are attempting to knee-cap our democracy. They’re telling millions of voters that Democrats will work to overturn the will of the people whenever it conflicts with the will of liberal elites.”

The votes on Friday followed 14 hours of debate Thursday on the articles and amendments offered by Republicans that sought to gut the resolutions. There was no further discussion of the impeachment articles on Friday morning before the two quick roll call votes, which lasted only a few minutes.

Lawmakers had expected to cast votes on the measures late Thursday night, but Nadler abruptly recessed the committee meeting shortly after 11 p.m. ET, catching Republicans off-guard and leaving them outraged at the surprise move.

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For Democrats, the vote was an expression of their belief that Trump had engaged in conduct that must be punished. Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif., a member of the committee, tweeted after the vote that it showed “no one is above the law.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., a constitutional law and election law professor for nearly three decades, said more public engagement is needed to help convince the GOP-controlled Senate that Trump should be removed from office.

“The reason that the framers of the Constitution made impeachment a matter of legislative jurisdiction rather than within the courts is because they understood that there would be public opinion involved,” Raskin said. “So we need an engaged public to deal with the president’s crimes, to confront the reality of the president’s misconduct.”

Trump, speaking to reporters a couple of hours after the vote, called it a “sham,” “witch hunt,” and “hoax” and said it was “trivializing” impeachment, while Republicans on the Judiciary Committee condemned the action and blasted Democrats.

“This is an outrage,” Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said after the impeachment vote Friday. “It sets the bar for any president, in any party, for the future to go through three years of hell like this president has.”

Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., told reporters, “This is really a travesty for America and it’s really tearing America apart. I have never in my entire life seen such an unfair rigged railroad job against the president of the United States. … They predetermined they were going to do it and they did it, come hell or high water.”

On Thursday night, Nadler said that the committee would vote Friday morning in an effort to give lawmakers time overnight to contemplate how they plan to vote on such an important measure. Democrats also said the vote was so significant that it should take place during daylight hours when more people are likely to be watching.

The vote count sits on a desk at the House Judiciary Committee as members voted on House Resolution 755, Articles of Impeachment Against President Donald Trump, on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Dec. 13, 2019.Saul Loeb / AFP – Getty Images

“A vote on Articles of Impeachment is one of the most consequential and historic votes any member will cast. It should only take place in the light of day — not at 11:30 at night,” Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., tweeted.

In the next step, a Senate trial about whether to convict Trump and remove him from office will be held, most likely beginning in early January. It is unclear how long the trial will last.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Sean Hannity on Fox News on Thursday night that there was “no chance” Trump would be convicted in the Senate, which would require a two thirds vote.

“The case is so darn weak coming from the House. We know how it’s going to end,” McConnell said. “There’s no chance the president’s going to be removed from office. My hope is that there won’t be a single Republican who votes for either of these articles of impeachment, and, Sean, it wouldn’t surprise me if we got one or two Democrats.”



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Not another one! EU demands Brexit delay as Von der Leyen bemoans ‘challenging’ timeframe

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EUROPEAN UNION officials want to see the Brexit transition period pushed beyond the December 2020 deadline, arguing 11 months is simply not enough time to lay down the terms of a free trade agreement.

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Former Kentucky governor under fire for controversial pardons

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Former Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin issued 428 pardons and commutations before leaving office, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. Among them: a man convicted of raping a 9-year-old and a man who killed his parents.

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