With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
In the first full day after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, we gained a much clearer picture of the victims and the scope of the loss — almost unbearable, radiating outward.
— The parents: CNN’s ANDERSON COOPER has a must-watch interview with ANGEL GARZA, the father of one of the children killed — a man who found out his daughter was murdered while tending to the wounds of a young classmate who informed him.
— The community: The Texas Tribune’s Jason Beeferman and Erin Douglas have a portrait of Uvalde, beginning with this remarkable scene: “Just 30 minutes before morning mass began at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, where dozens of residents gathered Wednesday morning to pray, FATIMA ABRAHAM, a community leader in the church, sat next to a woman weeping in the first pew and consoled her in her arms. The woman, Abraham said, was the mother of the shooter who opened fire at Robb Elementary, killing 19 children and two adults on Tuesday.
“‘We are with her because we have to pray instead of criticizing or attacking,’ Abraham told reporters in Spanish at the church. … ‘I simply told her that we were with her, that not everyone here was against her,’ she said. ‘She has to know that she is not to blame for this. She didn’t put that gun in her son’s hand.’”
MEANWHILE, IN WASHINGTON — Speaking from the White House, President JOE BIDEN reflected on the shooting and called for new gun restrictions without identifying any specific proposals. “While they clearly will not prevent every tragedy, we know certain ones will have significant impact and have no negative impact on the Second Amendment,” Biden said. “The Second Amendment is not absolute.” More from CBS
So what, realistically, will Washington do?
WaPo’s Mike DeBonis describes “a distinct sense of fatalism” on Capitol Hill, “with most Republicans standing firm in defense of expansive gun rights as Democrats said they were desperate to pursue even meager attempts to prevent another tragedy.”
To wit: A domestic terrorism bill passed by the House will run into a Republican wall in the Senate today, report Marianne LeVine and Andrew Desiderio. They write that the GOP “widely views the legislation as unnecessary and an attempt by Democrats to politicize” the mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., less than two weeks ago.
Still, it is possible that the president could issue new executive orders. After multiple mass shootings in the last several weeks, there’s increasing pressure both externally and internally to actually have some concrete action to point to.
But Biden just signed a series of executive orders last month that aimed to reduce gun violence — and, as Bloomberg’s Justin Sink, Jordan Fabian and Courtney Rozen write, there’s “little sense that the White House is preparing new executive actions.”
“The result is a president with little left beyond the bully pulpit, and dimming hopes for a tangible response to the shooting,” they write. But, but, but: “If Biden does turn to executive action, advocacy groups have asked the administration to broaden the definition of individuals under federal law ‘engaged in the business’ of selling firearms. Such a change would allow the U.S. government to crack down on unlicensed sellers and prevent certain bulk purchases of firearms.”
THE POLITICAL REALITY — “If the first 16 months of Joe Biden’s presidency demonstrated anything, it was the limitations of Democrats’ razor-thin majority,” write David Siders and Olivia Beavers. “Gun legislation has stalled, and Republicans heading into the midterms have every incentive to court the NRA.”
As the National Rifle Association prepares for a major convention in Houston this weekend, there are no meaningful signs that GOP officials are abandoning the group or weakening their opposition to gun restrictions. Former President DONALD TRUMP confirmed Wednesday that he intends to speak at the gathering. South Dakota Gov. KRISTI NOEM is speaking, too.
Meanwhile, a few hundred miles away from Houston, there was a vivid display of the anger that stems from the stasis on gun restrictions: Former Democratic Rep. BETO O’ROURKE interrupted a press conference being held by Texas Republican Gov. GREG ABBOTT and a coterie of other GOP officials.
“This is on you,” O’Rourke said. As O’Rourke was being escorted out of the event, Uvalde Mayor DON MCLAUGHLIN ripped into him: “I can’t believe that you’re a sick son of a bitch that would come to a deal like this to make a political issue.” More from The Texas Tribune
NYT’s Carl Hulse writes this morning: “Why Republicans Won’t Budge on Guns”: “Polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans support some restrictions on firearms, but G.O.P. lawmakers fear they would pay a steep political price for embracing them.”
NEW POLLING ON GUNS — We have a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted entirely after the shooting in Uvalde, offering a snapshot of the mood of American voters at this moment in time, and where they stand on a variety of gun reform proposals (Toplines … Crosstabs). Here’s a rundown of what we found:
- Requiring background checks on all gun sales: Eighty-eight percent strongly or somewhat support; 8% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +80
- Creating a national database with info about each gun sale: Seventy-five percent strongly or somewhat support; 18% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +57
- Banning assault-style weapons: Sixty-seven percent strongly or somewhat support; 25% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +42
- Preventing sales of all firearms to people reported as dangerous to law enforcement by a mental health provider: Eighty-four percent strongly or somewhat support; 9% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +75
- Making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks: Eighty-one percent strongly or somewhat support; 11% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +70
- Requiring all gun owners to store their guns in a safe storage unit: Seventy-seven percent strongly or somewhat support; 15% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +62
BUT, voters also support a proposal that’s been floated by many advocates of gun rights:
- Equipping teachers and school staff with concealed firearms to respond in the event of a school shooting: Fifty-four percent strongly or somewhat support; 34% strongly or somewhat oppose. Net approval: +20
And John Harris writes for his Altitude column: “Mass killings lead to mass amnesia”: “The news also prompts an uncomfortable question: How long do you expect you will actually think about the unthinkable? Will this month’s crimes live in memory as distinct events, so that you will recall how you learned about them, or the specific details of horror? It’s often said that American society is becoming desensitized to gun violence. But never mind society — how about you personally?”
BIDEN’S THURSDAY — The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 1:30 p.m.
Press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE will brief at 3 p.m.
THE SENATE is in. USDA Secretary TOM VILSACK will testify before the Agriculture Committee at 10 a.m. FDA Commissioner ROBERT CALIFF will testify before the HELP Committee at 10:30 a.m. about the baby formula shortage.
THE HOUSE is out. Education Secretary MIGUEL CARDONA will testify before the Education and Labor Committee at noon. Fed Vice Chair LAEL BRAINARD will testify before the Financial Services Committee at noon.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
TRUMPING TRUMP — Big-name Republicans are feeling more emboldened than ever before to challenge Trump and his grip on the GOP, Adam Wren and Natalie Allison report this morning. Yes, he’s still a heavyweight in the party — but he’s no longer the only game in town, they find: “To many, Trump’s habit of rolling grenades into Republican primaries is getting old, and fears that he might damage the party’s promising prospects for gains this fall appear to be opening a new chapter in the GOP’s relationship with him.”
— Related read: “‘Trump is in the past’: Mounting losses show limits of power,” by AP’s Jill Colvin and Jeff Martin
2024 WATCH — House GOP Conference Chair ELISE STEFANIK (N.Y.) is rising as a potential VP pick for Trump if he runs again in two years, CNN’s Mel Zanona and Gabby Orr report. “Trump has been surveying close friends and allies on what they think of Stefanik, one of several Republican women he is possibly eyeing for the potential VP slot, though he has not ruled out a few male contenders, too,” they write. “One of these people said the former President believes Stefanik has undergone a genuine transformation – leaving the moderate wing of the party to join its increasingly powerful ‘America First’ flank.”
HERE WE GO — Pennsylvania announced Wednesday that the GOP Senate primary between MEHMET OZ and DAVID MCCORMICK will officially go to a recount. It has to be finished by June 7, with results announced by the following day. Where things stand: The latest numbers show Oz ahead by roughly 900 votes, but likely a few thousand mail and provisional ballots remain to be counted (and that’s before we even get to the recount). Meanwhile, McCormick’s lawsuit over counting undated ballots will go to court Tuesday. All the latest from The Philadelphia Inquirer
— Related read:“John Fetterman and the Remaking of Political Image,” by NYT’s Vanessa Friedman
RAFFENSPERGER TICK-TOCK — How did Georgia Secretary of State BRAD RAFFENSPERGER trounce Rep. JODY HICE for renomination, despite getting on the wrong side of Trump for refusing to steal the 2020 election? Zach Montellaro breaks down what happened, writing that the incumbent “did it by meeting skeptical voters head-on, appearing regularly on conservative media and touting his support for conservative election policies. Raffensperger spent long hours on the road to talk to basically any group that would have him.” Also key: The ADAM KINZINGER-aligned super PAC Americans Keeping Country First pumped $1.4 million into the race right at the end to help push Raffensperger above 50%.
AD WARS — The MITCH MCCONNELL-aligned One Nation nonprofit will blast $43 million into the Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire and Wisconsin Senate races this summer, Axios’ Lachlan Markay reports. “One Nation’s new buys are devoted … to issue ads. Inflation will be a central component of what the group is calling its ‘Summer of Accountability’ campaign.”
THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION
PALACE INTRIGUE — Upon the departure of Pentagon press secretary JOHN KIRBY for the White House, the guessing games have begun for his replacement. Among the top contenders, Lara Seligman, Alex Ward and Quint Forgey report in National Security Daily, are Kirby deputy J. TODD BREASSEALE, who’s taking over on an interim basis; Army Col. DAVID BUTLER from the Joint Chiefs; NED PRICE from the State Department; and DAVID LAPAN. Another possibility: Kirby’s old role could be split up.
JUST POSTED — Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN was expected to be a powerhouse in the Biden administration, but her allies have been surprised by her relative sidelining in favor of National Economic Council and White House decision-makers, Kate Davidson and Victoria Guida report this morning. “[E]ven in an administration where power is centralized in the West Wing, her low profile has puzzled those inside and outside the administration,” they report. “It has also frustrated others who say the White House lacks a credible, confidence-building message” on the economy.
DEMOCRACY WATCH — The DOJ investigation into the “alternate electors” for Trump in 2020 is getting more serious, especially for Trump lawyers, NYT’s Alan Feuer, Katie Benner and Luke Broadwater report. New subpoenas from a federal grand jury are asking questions about RUDY GIULIANI, JOHN EASTMAN, JENNA ELLIS and others to determine if any crimes were committed as they sought to overturn the election. But, but, but: “The strategy of pushing the investigation forward by examining the lawyers’ roles could prove to be tricky. Prosecutors are likely to run into arguments that some — or even much — of the information they are seeking is protected by attorney-client privilege.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT — “Jury sees conflicting evidence on Michael Sussmann’s role at FBI Trump-Russia meeting,” by Josh Gerstein
PAGING JOE MANCHIN — The CBO said Wednesday that federal revenue has surged, shrinking the budget deficit this year way down to about $1 trillion. But the agency projected that deficits will start to soar again from 2024 onward. More from The Washington Times
IMMIGRATION FILES — A new report finds that a Biden administration move to make a “dedicated docket” for some asylum cases actually “has imposed new hardships on many asylum seekers and created additional obstacles that ultimately lead to higher rates of deportation orders, sometimes based on legal technicalities,” the L.A. Times’ Cindy Carcamo reports.
FED UP — “Fed Minutes Show Urgency for Raising Rates to Tame High Inflation,” by WSJ’s Nick Timiraos
THE STATE OF STATE — “Watchdog raises flags about nepotism, incompetence on State Department promotion panels,” by Nahal Toosi
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
IT’S OFFICIAL — Oklahoma Gov. KEVIN STITT on Wednesday signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban into law, allowing private lawsuits against people who help women get abortions at any point in a pregnancy. More from The Oklahoman
ON WISCONSIN — A Republican member of the Wisconsin Elections Commission abruptly resigned Wednesday, saying he couldn’t represent the party anymore because he refuses to give credence to election fraud lies. “His announced departure pushed the commissioners to delay the election of their next chair,” reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Molly Beck.
FORMULA FUROR — “Abbott, FDA offer conflicting timelines for reopening shuttered infant formula plant,” by Meredith Lee
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
FRESH FROM DAVOS …
— “RIP Davos Man, long live globalization,” by Ryan Heath
— “China’s fragility feeds the doom mongers in Davos,” by Stuart Lau and Phelim Kine
— And the final edition of Davos Playbook: “Final day blues — Scholz on stage — Party roundup”
Jimmy Carter has jumped into a debate over a gravel road project in Alaska that could affect his 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
Lindsey Graham and Bernie Sanders will participate in a public debate in Boston on June 13, moderated by Bret Baier and streaming on Fox Nation. It’s the first in a three-debate series.
Heidi Heitkamp wouldn’t answer a reporter’s question about voting against a 2013 background checks bill.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — PRESIDENTIAL ERASURE: Much has been written of President Ronald Reagan’s handling and mishandling of the AIDS epidemic, but an excerpt from James Kirchick’s new book, “Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington” ($38), sheds light on just how far Reagan went to distance himself from being associated with AIDS even as thousands of Americans were dying.
In 1985, actor Rock Hudson, a longtime friend of the Reagans, was among the most famous people in the world to publicly disclose his AIDS diagnosis. At the time, Hudson was in France “in hopes of securing access to a rare treatment being tested at a military hospital outside Paris.” His publicist sent a note to the White House, hoping that pressure from the president might help. The letter made it to first lady Nancy Reagan, who denied the request, though Reagan called Hudson “to express his and Nancy’s best wishes,” Kirchick writes.
Hudson died later that year.
Kirchick highlights a never-before-published draft of the Reagans’ statement after Hudson died of AIDS, which displayed handwritten edits in which the president literally erased any acknowledgement of their friendship. “In his public statement about the most famous figure in the world to die from AIDS, the president purged all references to the nature of their decades-long friendship, turning an expression of personal grief into one of anodyne regret,” Kirchick writes.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK —NOEM REUNITES WITH LEWANDOWSKI: Daniel Lippman reports that South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has reestablished ties with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski just months after severing them in the wake of accusations from a major GOP donor that Lewandowski had made unwanted sexual advances at a charity event. (Lewandowski has denied any wrongdoing.)
Three eyewitnesses spotted Noem and Lewandowski — along with several other people professionally associated with the strategist — on Wednesday morning at the Republican Governors Association meeting at the JW Marriott in downtown Nashville. One source told Daniel that Lewandowski was staffing or supporting Noem at the event. An aide to Lewandowski was seen fetching water for Noem at the hotel. He attended her panel at the RGA, according to a photo obtained by Playbook, and was also seen with her on a trip she made to California in April, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Lewandowski didn’t respond to a request for comment, and a spokesperson for Noem also didn’t respond.
Prior to Noem cutting ties with Lewandowski last fall, he’d been a top adviser to the governor, who is widely seen as a potential 2024 candidate. In 2021, he traveled the country with Noem, introducing her to major Republican donors and power brokers. But after the sexual misconduct allegation last September, Noem spokesperson Ian Fury said that Lewandowski was “always a volunteer” and would “not be advising the governor in regard to the campaign or official office.”
OUT AND ABOUT — Kim Sajet and Kris Coratti co-hosted a breakfast Wednesday morning at the National Portrait Gallery followed by a tour of the Watergate exhibit narrated by Kate Lemay, the gallery historian. Sally Quinn was the special guest and told stories about her days at the Post during Watergate. SPOTTED: Liz Johnson, Ashley Etienne, Karen Knutson, Carol Melton, Jessica Nigro, Heather Podesta, Jeannine Ginivan, Amy Grappone, Amy Dacey, Debra DeShong, Kathy O’Hearn, Concetta Duncan, Tammy Haddad and Usha Subramanian.Pic
NEW NOMINEES — The White House announced several new nominees, including Mark Libby as ambassador to Azerbaijan, Marie Damour as ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga and Tuvalu, Angela Price Aggeler as ambassador to North Macedonia and Gautam Rana as ambassador to Slovakia.
FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Angela Greiling Keane is joining Bloomberg in July as news director for Bloomberg Government. She currently is a managing editor for states at POLITICO.
MEDIA MOVES — Caroline O’Donovan is joining WaPo to cover Amazon and Microsoft. She previously was a reporter at BuzzFeed. The announcement
TRANSITION — Brianna Johnson is now director of comms for Kansas Gov. Laura Kell. She most recently was a manager at Evergreen Strategy Group.
WEEKEND WEDDING — Laura Davison, a reporter for Bloomberg News, and Bob Shepler, a director for Lockheed Martin government affairs, got married Saturday at The Falls Church Episcopal. They met at the Tax Foundation’s annual Tax Prom in 2017 — and plan to file jointly this year. Pic … Another pic
BIRTHWEEK (was Wednesday): Natalie Morgan of Sen. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-Tenn.) office
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) … Vox’s Noel King … Andrew Beilein … Commerce’s Mike Harney … NBC’s Tom Ranzweiler, celebrating in Portugal … John Brodtke … Matt Keelen … Miriam Cash of Rep. Mondaire Jones’ (D-N.Y.) office … ClearPath’s Chris Tomassi … Morgan Jacobs … Allison Davis Tuck … POLITICO’s Aurora Calderone, Brenda Cruz and Steven Stiles … Hana Veselka Vizcarra … E&E News’ Jess Locklear … Dina Ellis Rochkind … former Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) (4-0) and Rich Nugent (R-Fla.) … Katie Wise
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