After Las Vegas, GOP says restrictions on ‘bump stocks’ are possible

Published: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 2:46 PM
Updated: Thursday, October 05, 2017 @ 2:46 PM


            Flowers and signs are left at a memorial for the victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Las Vegas. A gunman opened fire on an outdoor music concert on Sunday killing dozens and injuring hundreds. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
            Marcio Jose Sanchez
Flowers and signs are left at a memorial for the victims of a mass shooting in Las Vegas, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Las Vegas. A gunman opened fire on an outdoor music concert on Sunday killing dozens and injuring hundreds. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)(Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Even as Republicans oppose broad new restrictions on guns, Gov. John Kasich and other key GOP lawmakers in Ohio appear willing to embrace changes designed to prevent people from modifying semi-automatic weapons so that they have more lethal, rapid-fire capabilities.

Republicans have resisted calls for major changes in gun laws following previous mass shootings. But in a sign that last Sunday’s Las Vegas shootings have prompted a shift, the National Rifle Association said Thursday there should be “additional regulation” on a device known as a “bump stock.”

The device, which was used by the killer in Las Vegas when he murdered 59 people and injured hundreds of others, can cheaply and legally make a semi-automatic weapon more deadly, allowing it to fire as many as 800 bullets in a minute.

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U.S. Rep. Mike Turner of Dayton, and Columbus area Reps. Steve Stivers of Upper Arlington and Pat Tiberi of Genoa Twp. were among the Republicans who say they want to review possible bump-stock restrictions.

RELATED: What is a bump stock?

Blaming a 2010 Obama administration letter that allowed such devices to be legal, Turner called on Congress to review whether the modification “is still appropriate” while Stivers said the issue “should be re–examined.”

Turner, Tiberi and Stivers, meanwhile, signed a letter calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to “re–evaluate bump stocks and other similar mechanism to ensure full compliance with federal law.” Later Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan also called for a review of such devices.

Federal law prohibits private ownership of automatic weapons built after 1986. But the bump stock has been used to essentially circumvent that ban.

On Wednesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D–Calif., introduced a bill to ban bump stocks, a measure swiftly endorsed by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. A spokeswoman for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who has been a longtime supporter of gun rights, said “we will do our due diligence on this legislation and review.”

On the CBS Morning News Wednesday, Kasich went even further, saying, “of course” he supports outlawing bump devices.

RELATED: Some in GOP open to ‘bump stock’ changes

It was a marked shift by Kasich, who as governor has signed bills backed by the National Rifle Association, including allowing people to carry concealed guns on college campuses and day-care centers and allowing hunters to use noise suppressors while hunting certain birds.

On the broader issue of whether Americans should have relatively easy access to high-capacity semi–automatic weapons, Republicans have shown little interest in Democratic sponsored measures to require universal background checks before purchasing them.

“We must outlaw tools like bump stocks that make firearms even more lethal,” said Andrew Patrick, a spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence in Washington. “But that’s not enough. Bump stocks do not typically contribute much to the 36,000 American gun deaths we see every year.”

The debate over bump stocks, however, was a change from what, for the most part, has been a common refrain in the gun control debate: From the right, that such tragedies should not be politicized, and from the left, that something had to be done.

RELATED: Las Vegas shooting: Remembering the victims

“While the events that occurred in Las Vegas are an enormous tragedy, and my heart and prayers are with those who are still grieving, I do not believe this is the time for politics,” said Rep. Warren Davidson, R–Troy. “I still believe the Second Amendment is an important part of the Constitution.”

Rep. Jim Renacci, R–Wadsworth, who is seeking next year’s Republican gubernatorial nomination, said, “While I know the media is anxious to start and politicize the gun control debate, I believe we must allow the FBI and local police to continue their investigation and establish the facts at this point.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, gave a similar statement: “The Second Amendment is enshrined in our Constitution, and so when the time comes to address what happened, anything we do to try and stop similar horrific and astonishing acts of evil like this must be consistent with the Constitution,” he said.

By contrast, Rep. Joyce Beatty, a Columbus area Democrat, called for “immediate action,” saying “prayers are needed — and certainly help — but those alone will not solve this problem.”

Brown said he was “incredulous that no matter what happens … that my colleagues are doing the bidding of the gun lobby. It’s clear we can do common sense things here to protect the American public better.”

RELATED: Piqua Marine hailed as Las Vegas hero

Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Niles, said, “We cannot accept the notion that living in America means living with mass shootings as a common occurrence,” adding that he believes Congress can approve some gun restrictions without denting the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms.

Richard Martinez, whose son was killed in 2014 when a shooter open fired on the campus of the University of California Santa Barbara, said this week he’s frustrated by some of the comments he’s heard since the Las Vegas killings.

“I hear this stuff about we shouldn’t be talking about politics today, but you know, after 9/11, Congress, they didn’t say, ‘Let’s wait until we calm down to do something,’’’ Martinez said. Referring to the murder last year of 49 people in a Florida night club, he added: “It’s been at least a year since the Pulse shootings. What is Congress doing?”

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FBI releases declassified Carter Page FISA application

Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 7:04 PM

The Federal Bureau of Investigation on Saturday released a highly redacted copy of the application made by the bureau to a special intelligence court, asking to establish surveillance in the fall of 2016 on Carter Page, a one-time foreign policy adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign, showing officials feared that Page was working with Russia to undermine the Presidential election.

“The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian Government,” the document states – interrupted by redactions – but then continues, “undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election in violation of criminal law.”

The FBI released an unclassified version of the FISA application document after requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

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At one point, the 412 page document states that “the FBI believes that the Russian Government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with Candidate #1’s campaign.”

“Page has established relationships with Russian Government officials, including Russian intelligence officers,” the documents states, before additional evidence was redacted, in order to protect intelligence sources and classified information.

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White House figures show Trump on pace to equal Obama deficits

Published: Saturday, July 21, 2018 @ 4:18 AM

Despite clear signs of expanded economic growth, the latest White House budget estimates predict that President Donald Trump is on the verge of overseeing an expansion of federal deficits which will rival that of President Barack Obama’s two terms in office, as the Trump Administration now forecasts a deficit next year that will be over $1 trillion, with no signs of a balanced budget on the horizon.

The latest figures issued by the Office of Management and Budget now predict a deficit this year of $890 billion – and deficits of over $1 trillion per year in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

When you take the $665 billion deficit from Fiscal Year 2017 – Mr. Trump’s first year in office – and then add the projected deficits from the White House budget office for seven more years – you get $7.3 trillion in debt for what would equal two terms of a Trump Administration.

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That would be almost identical to the $7.28 trillion in deficits run up under the eight years of the Obama Administration.

The deficit for 2018 is already running at $607 billion, not far from the 2017 total of $665 billion; one reason for the increase this year is fairly straightforward according to figures from the Treasury Department – revenues coming in to Uncle Sam are down since the implementation of the tax cut plan earlier this year, and overall government spending is up.

The update in budget deficit estimates earlier this month by the White House drew almost no attention on Capitol Hill, where GOP demands for budget restraint have for the most part, gone silent.

The last time the budget was close to being balanced was 2007, when the deficit dropped to $161 billion. But in 2008, the Wall Street Collapse led to an extended recession, as deficits jumped to $458 billion in 2008, and $1.41 trillion in 2009.

A few weeks ago, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow boldly pronounced in a television interview that the federal deficit was coming down, because of a jump in revenues spurred by economic growth under the Trump tax cuts.

But figures clearly show, that just is not the case, as the budget estimates for the White House show flat revenues in 2018, when compared to a year earlier.

“The White House is living in an alternate economic universe,” says Maya MacGuiness, the head of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

But few in Washington seem to be listening to warnings from budget watchdog groups like the CFRB, as the deficit just keeps going up, generating little consternation among GOP lawmakers in Congress who once badgered the Obama Administration about its deficit spending.

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Cohen’s lawyer confirms existence of Trump tape

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 6:28 PM

A lawyer for Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney for President Donald Trump, confirmed late Friday that Cohen does have a recording of a phone call with Mr. Trump from 2016, disputing assertions by the President’s current lawyer that it would be ‘exculpatory’ evidence which would help the President.

In a post on Twitter, Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis wrote, “suffice it to say that when the recording is heard, it will not hurt” Cohen.

“Any attempt at spin can not change what is on the tape,” Cohen added, in what was interpreted by some as a jab at Mr. Trump’s lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who downplayed the tape to news organizations on Friday.

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The recording of the President – if done by Cohen in New York – would be legal, as the Empire State has laws which only require one party on a phone call to consent to any recording.

The White House made no statement about the tape. The President ignored questions shouted at him about the subject, as he left the White House for a weekend at his golf club in New Jersey.

The tape was part of extensive evidence seized by the FBI during an April 9 raid on Cohen, which sparked outrage from the President – “Attorney-client privilege is dead!” Mr. Trump tweeted a day after the raid.

The raid was an effort by prosecutors in New York to find out more about work that Cohen had done for the President on payments to women such as porn star Stormy Daniels, and model Karen McDougal. Both women have claimed they had relationships with the President, and were paid money to keep quiet.

Prosecutors have indicated that they are probing questions about how the payments were made before the 2016 elections – and whether any of the transactions could run afoul of federal campaign finance laws.

In recent weeks, Cohen has cut his legal cooperation with the President, making it clear in statements and interviews that his loyalty was to his family, and not Mr. Trump.

“I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy,” Cohen told ABC News earlier this month.

It wasn’t immediately clear if this tape recording of a Cohen-Trump phone call was among the items which had been reviewed by a former federal judge, as to whether or not attorney-client privilege would prevent its release to prosecutors.

Acting as special master in the Cohen case, Barbara Jones has already released over 2 million items seized by the FBI to prosecutors.

On Friday, she told a federal judge in court documents that of 4,085 items designated as privileged – either by Cohen or by the President’s lawyers – 1,452 of those did not deserve that designation, and were given to the feds for further review.

No charges have yet been filed against Cohen, as he now is being represented by Davis, well known for his unyielding defense of President Bill Clinton during the Whitewater investigation.

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Trump faces more domestic flak over tariffs, trade policies

Published: Friday, July 20, 2018 @ 4:16 AM

In a loud, bipartisan message from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and across the landscape of American business and agriculture, President Donald Trump is facing sharp questions about his tariffs on China, Mexico, Canada, and Europe, as businesses and farmers say they’re being economically harmed by the President’s actions on trade.

In hearings this week in Congress and at the Commerce Department, in speeches on the floors of the House and Senate, and in news conferences outside the Capitol, the message has been simple – the Trump Tariffs are hurting, and more won’t help.

Sporting signs that said, “Say No to the Car tax,” auto workers rallied outside the Capitol on Thursday morning as Commerce Department officials were listening to car industry officials denounce the idea of a new tariff threatened by President Trump on imported cars from Europe.

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“The opposition is widespread and deep, because the consequences are alarming,” said Jennifer Thomas, with the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

Thomas’ testimony was echoed by a series of other industry groups, all arguing that a new tariff on imported autos and auto parts would only hurt U.S. consumers.

“The tariffs will lead to higher vehicles prices for all automakers, foreign and domestic,” said Matt Blunt, the former Governor of Missouri, now with the American Automotive Policy Council.

“Tariffs on parts will also increases cost on other things made in America,” said Linda Dempsey of the National Association of Manufacturers.

On Capitol Hill, 149 lawmakers signed a letter to the Commerce Secretary opposing the use of a special ‘national security’ tariff procedure.

“We do not believe that imports of automobiles and automotive parts pose a national security threat,” read the letter, spearheaded by Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN). “Price increases from tariffs, quotas, and other trade restrictions will ultimately be borne by American families in the form of higher vehicle prices.”

A day earlier, Walorski had joined members in both parties at a House hearing to vent their frustration at how earlier tariffs levied by the Trump Administration were hurting U.S. farmers back home.

“We are concerned with the administration’s decision to place tariff’s on our trading partners,” said Russell Boening, the head of the Texas Farm Bureau, who said one-quarter of Texas agriculture depends on exports.

“The current tariffs, the continuing back-and-forth retaliatory actions, and trade uncertainties are hitting American agriculture from all sides,” said Kevin Papp, the President of the Minnesota Farm Bureau.

“Once you lose a market, it’s really hard to get it back,” Papp added, who grows corn and soybeans on his family farm.

“Farmers are dealing with big shifts in the commodity markets because of trade and tariff threats,” said Scott VanderWal, who heads the South Dakota Farm Bureau.

The stories of concerns on the farm – and in other every day businesses – are echoed almost daily by lawmakers in both parties, who worry that President Trump’s drive to level the trade playing field is going to turn into a trade war.

“If this starts to spiral out of control, business will pull back,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), who has been an especially sharp critic of the President’s tariffs on imported steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and Europe.

Rattling off examples of businesses back home who are feeling the pinch from either the higher tariffs – or retaliatory tariffs by other nations – has become almost a daily experience on Capitol Hill.

“We’re in the midst of a full-blown trade war,” said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “If it gets out of control, it can take us into an economic recession.”

It has led Democrats to hammer on the issue more in recent weeks, convinced that rural voters with ties to agriculture might not be as thrilled to vote Republican in the fall elections for Congress.

At the White House, there has been no sign that President Trump is going to back off of his push on trade, as he looks at tariffs as leverage to force other countries to lower their own trade barriers.

But so far, the only response from other countries has been retaliatory tariffs – and those are clearly being felt across the U.S., especially in agriculture.

“There have been very few issues in my career as a farmer that have caused me to lose sleep,” said Michelle Erickson-Jones, with the Montana Grain Growers Association.

“But these tariffs are one of them.”

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