August 19, 2019

There has been a push for stronger gun laws after back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, and if anything is going to happen before the 2020 election, "it's September or bust," a source involved in discussion between the White House and Congress tells Axios. "We'll either have everything ready for when Congress returns, drop it on the floor, vote on it, and move on — or we blow it." White House and Capitol Hill officials tell Axios that Trump genuinely wants to expand background checks, but Trump was noncommittal when talking to reporters on Sunday.

"I don't want people to forget that this is a mental health problem," Trump said when asked about expanding background checks to all gun purchases and trades — an idea supported by 89 percent of U.S. adults in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll and 90 percent of voters in a recent Fox News poll. "Congress is working on various things, and I'll be looking at it. We're very much involved." Mental health experts are adamant that mental illness isn't a significant factor in mass shootings.

When a reporter asked, "Would you support banning high-capacity magazines?" Trump also hedged. "Well, we're going to look at a whole list of things, and I'll make a determination then," he said. "A lot of things are happening on the gun level." And then he shifted to the closure of mental institutions decades ago, adding: "Unrelated to that, I believe that the concept also of voter identification has to be looked at."

"Sir, what does that have to do with guns?" a reporter asked Trump.

If you wanted an answer to that, well, sorry. Trump pivoted again, to how golf "is so unimportant to me." Peter Weber

July 15, 2019

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday night said the House of Representatives will not raise the debt ceiling unless it is combined with a budget agreement.

Earlier in the day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that if a budget deal is not reached soon, Congress will have to raise the debt ceiling before its August recess, otherwise there won't be enough money to pay the government's bills. This idea, Pelosi said, is not "acceptable to our caucus."

Lawmakers have until the end of September to hammer out a budget deal, as that's when funding for several agencies is scheduled to run out. The Treasury Department can only issue debt up to the limit set by Congress. Since President Trump's inauguration, total government debt has increased by about $3 trillion, to more than $22 trillion. Catherine Garcia

June 27, 2019

Marshae Jones, 27, was taken into custody in the Birmingham, Alabama, area on Wednesday after a Jefferson Country grand jury indicted her on manslaughter charges over the death of her unborn child after a December 2018 incident where another woman shot her in the stomach. The woman who had the gun and pulled the trigger, 23-year-old Ebony Jemison, also faced manslaughter charges, but the grand jury declined to indict her so the charges were dismissed, AL.com reports.

Police argued that Jones, five months pregnant, started the fight and was ultimately responsible for the death of her fetus. The altercation was over the father, according to Pleasant Grove police Lt. Danny Reid. "The investigation showed that the only true victim in this was the unborn baby," Reid said after the Dec. 4 shooting, outside a Dollar Store. "It was the mother of the child who initiated and continued the fight which resulted in the death of her own unborn baby."

Not everyone agreed with Reid. "The state of Alabama has proven yet again that the moment a person becomes pregnant their sole responsibility is to produce a live, healthy baby and that it considers any action a pregnant person takes that might impede in that live birth to be a criminal act,'' said Amanda Reyes, executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund. "Today, Marshae Jones is being charged with manslaughter for being pregnant and getting shot while engaging in an altercation with a person who had a gun. Tomorrow, it will be another black woman, maybe for having a drink while pregnant. And after that, another, for not obtaining adequate prenatal care." Read more at AL.com. Peter Weber

May 6, 2019

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin notified House Democrats on Monday that he will not turn over President Trump's tax returns, claiming that the request from the Ways and Means Committee "lacks a legitimate legislative purpose."

Under a 1924 law, Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-Mass.) is one of just a few lawmakers with the authority to request the president's tax returns, and he asked the IRS for six years of Trump's business and personal returns. In his letter to Neal, Mnuchin said he spoke with officials in the Justice Department and concluded the IRS is "not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information." He did not explain their reasoning. The law in question does not require Neal to have a legislative purpose.

Democrats argue that to perform their oversight duties, they need to see Trump's tax returns, but Mnuchin says providing them could potentially violate Trump's right to privacy. This move will almost certainly trigger a legal battle, with Democrats expected to file a lawsuit in order to have a federal judge rule on the issue. Catherine Garcia

December 26, 2018

Actor Kevin Spacey broke his long silence about sexual assault allegations against him in a video he posted Christmas Eve — or rather, he kind of broke his silence. Minutes after The Boston Globe reported that Spacey will be arraigned in Massachusetts on Jan. 7 to face criminal charges for allegedly sexually assaulting the son of Boston TV news anchor Heather Unruh in 2016, when the son was 18, Spacey posted a video entitled "Let Me Be Frank" in which his Frank Underwood character from House of Cards appears to defend Spacey. Netflix's House of Cards fired Spacey last year, after earlier sexual assault allegations, and killed off his character.

Netflix said it had nothing to do with Spacey's bizarre new video. Peter Weber

October 29, 2017

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said no to a meeting with President Trump last month, when Rouhani was in New York City for the U.N. General Assembly, Iran's foreign ministry said Sunday.

ILNA, Iran's semi-official news agency, reported that Bahram Ghasemi, spokesman for the ministry, said "an intention was expressed by the American side that was not approved by President Rouhani." Diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Iran were cut in 1979, and when former President Barack Obama and Rouhani spoke over the phone in 2013, it was the highest level of contact between Tehran and Washington in several decades. Catherine Garcia

June 29, 2017

All 50 states have received a letter from President Trump's new Election Integrity Commission, requesting the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits, and voting history back to 2006 for each voter in the state, and several state officials have already said they won't be turning this personal data over.

In the letter, the commission's vice chairman, Kris Kobach, said that "any documents that are submitted to the full commission will also be made available to the public." On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence's office said the commission is seeking "feedback on how to improve election integrity," but the commission is focusing on the wrong issues, multiple governors said. "I have no intention of honoring this request," Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said in a statement. "Virginia conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia."

Trump, who has made baseless claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election, created the commission to investigate voter fraud, which is incredibly rare in the United States. Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state who was fined $1,000 this month by a federal judge who ruled that he presented "misleading arguments in a voting-related lawsuit." Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrrill told The Washington Post she would share publicly available information with the commission "while ensuring that the privacy of voters is honored by withholding protected data," adding that Kobach "has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas" and due to his history "we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this commission." Catherine Garcia

June 21, 2017

The Congressional Black Caucus is likely to turn down a meeting with President Trump due to frustration with the administration's apparent disinterest in its priorities and an opposition to being a willing photo-op "that the president could use to bolster his standing among African-Americans," Politico writes. The group will officially decide how to handle the president's request at its weekly meeting Wednesday, although people close to the caucus say a summit with the president is definitely "off the table."

The 49-member CBC also reacted poorly to the invitation from the White House, extended by former Apprentice contestant Omarosa Manigault:

"As requested by the president, we would like to schedule a follow-up meeting with the entire membership of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss issues pertinent to your members," Manigault wrote in the invitation, obtained by Politico.

But multiple CBC members said they were put off that she signed the invitation as "the Honorable Omarosa Manigault," saying she hasn't earned that title nor has she helped raise the profile of CBC issues within the White House as promised. [Politico]

As one senior Democratic aide put the CBC's likely decision: "No one wants to be a co-star on the reality show."

Update 3:51 p.m.: The Congressional Black Caucus has officially turned down the meeting with President Trump. "While we agreed to explore possible future discussions when we first met, it has become abundantly clear that a conversation with the entire CBC would not be entirely productive, given the actions taken by your administration since our first meeting," the CBC wrote. Read their entire letter here. Jeva Lange

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