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August 20, 2019

"After the back-to-back attacks in Dayton and El Paso, this president once again signaled he was open to tougher background checks to help curb gun violence," CNN's Chris Cuomo said Monday night. "But once again, he's lost his spine." On Sunday, Trump was noncommittal and evasive, telling reporters that the U.S. already has "very strong background checks right now," echoing messaging from the National Rifle Association.

Cuomo pointed to internal congressional Republican talking points on gun legislation, including falsely blaming "violence from the left" and claiming universal background checks are a Democratic ploy to start a federal gun registry with an eye toward seizing guns. His guest, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said the NRA has gotten to Trump.

NRA officials have lobbied Trump and his top aides since Dayton and El Paso, arguing that background checks aren't effective at preventing mass shootings and that many states Trump needs to win in 2020 are rich in NRA members who don't want new gun restrictions, White House aides and other sources tell The Washington Post. Also, "Trump's campaign commissioned a poll on guns after this month's shootings, and his political advisers warned him that there is little support for significant action among Republican voters, and even some Democrats." An unidentified White House official insisted to the Post that "the president is not backing down."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has told advisers he won't allow consideration of gun legislation unless Trump is fully on board and it has widespread Senate Republican backing; Trump seems keen to let the Senate take the lead. "I think he personally wants to do something," Brendan Buck, a top aide to former House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), tells the Post, "but I'm not sure how equipped he is to maintain his attention on it for the next two months — which this would require — in the face of pushback from people he cares about." Peter Weber

11:19 p.m.

The results of Israel's Tuesday election are starting to trickle in, and the race is too close to call.

With 26 percent of votes counted early Wednesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party has 28.42 percent of the vote, followed by the centrist Blue and White Party with 25.4 percent. Exit polls showed that Netanyahu did not appear to have enough votes for a parliamentary majority, and the Central Elections Commission told the Times of Israel the final tally might not be known until Wednesday afternoon.

The commission also said 69.4 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots, with higher turnout among Arab voters; this was likely due to Netanyahu's actions before the election, when he questioned their loyalty and vowed to annex settlements in the West Bank.

Speaking to supporters late Tuesday, Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party said that "starting tonight, we will work to form a broad unity government that will express the will of the people." At his rally, Netanyahu said the country "needs a strong and stable and Zionist government." He touted his relationship with his "close friend President Trump," and declared there can't be a government "that is being supported by anti-Zionist, Arabic parties that don't believe in Israel as a Jewish and democratic state."

Netanyahu is expected to be indicted soon on bribery, fraud, and breach of trust charges related to three separate scandals. He wanted to secure a majority so he could work with his allies to pass legislation giving him immunity, The Associated Press reports. Catherine Garcia

9:58 p.m.

The United States wants Cuban migrants who pass through Honduras to seek asylum there, rather than in the U.S., Honduran Foreign Minister Lisandro Rosales said Tuesday.

Rosales told reporters that over the last year, thousands of Cubans have made their way through Honduras, headed to the United States. Negotiations are ongoing between the U.S. and Honduras on what to do about migrants, and "one of the topics discussed in the deal with the United States is precisely that if Cuban migrants are interested in seeking political asylum ... they do so in Honduras," Rosales said.

Looking for ways to stop the flow of migrants to the U.S., the Trump administration has worked out an agreement with Guatemala, so migrants headed toward the United States can first apply for asylum there. The Guatemalan government has not yet ratified this deal. Thousands of Hondurans and Guatemalans are leaving their countries every year for the United States, fleeing poverty and violence. Catherine Nichols

8:54 p.m.

President Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said that while he is a "truth-teller" while under oath, the same can't be said for when he's not.

During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday, Lewandowski was asked by Barry Berke, an attorney for the Democrats, about comments he made to MSNBC host Ari Melber in February. During the interview, Lewandowski told Melber he didn't remember Trump ever asking him to "get involved" with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions or the Department of Justice.

Earlier in the hearing, Lewandowski confirmed something that appeared in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report — that in 2017, Trump did ask him to tell Sessions to limit the scope of Mueller's probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, in order to get the attention off his campaign. Lewandowski said he didn't do this because he was going on a trip with his family. He also said he thought it was a "joke" when Trump said he would fire Sessions if he didn't meet with Lewandowski.

After being caught in the lie, Lewandowski said "perhaps I was inaccurate at that time," adding, "I have no obligation to be honest with the media." Catherine Garcia

7:43 p.m.

At the end of a contentious hearing on Tuesday, House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) told President Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski that his behavior was "completely unacceptable" and "part of a pattern by a White House desperate for the American people not to hear the truth."

The committee's Democrats are investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Trump, and Nadler said the hearing focused on "presidential obstruction of justice and abuse of power." Lewandowski had been ordered by Trump to not answer any questions about conversations they had after Trump became president, and Nadler said this was "troubling" and "an absolute cover-up by the White House." Nadler also said he was considering holding Lewandowski in contempt.

Throughout the nearly six hours of testimony, Lewandowski refused to answer certain questions or danced around them. Nadler told him that by doing so, he was "obstructing the work of our committee," and also "proving our point for the American people to see — the president is intent on obstructing our legitimate oversight. You are aiding him in that obstruction." Lewandowski did take the time to praise Trump and accuse Democrats of hating Trump "more than they love their country." Catherine Garcia

6:39 p.m.

The Taliban's chief negotiator on Tuesday said the "only way for peace in Afghanistan" is through talks with the United States.

Speaking to the BBC, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai said the Taliban's "doors are open" if President Trump wants to restart peace negotiations. Both sides were close to reaching a deal, with Trump inviting senior Taliban leaders to Camp David, but earlier this month, Trump said talks were over after the Taliban claimed responsibility for an attack in Kabul that left a dozen people, including a U.S. soldier, dead. The deal would have reportedly included the U.S. withdrawing thousands of troops from Afghanistan over the next few months.

"They killed thousands of Talibans according to them," Stanikzai said. "But in the meantime, if one [U.S.] soldier has been killed, that doesn't mean they should show that reaction because there is no ceasefire from both sides. From our side, our doors are open for negotiations. So we hope the other side also rethinks their decision regarding the negotiation." Data collected by the BBC shows that on average, 74 people were killed every day in Afghanistan last month. Catherine Garcia

5:54 p.m.

President Trump teased the fact that he narrowed the field to replace former National Security Adviser John Bolton last week. Now, he's unveiled the contenders, Politico reports.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday, Trump rattled off the list of names, which includes: former CIA analyst Fred Fleitz, who was actually Bolton's chief of staff; Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the Energy Department's undersecretary for nuclear security; retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who now serves as the national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence; Robert O'Brien, an aide to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; and Ricky Waddell, an assistant to the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and an Army Reserve major general.

Trump reportedly had some compliments ready for the finalists, tossing around words like "great," "fantastic," and "love." But he's also been clear that whoever lands the gig should be excited to work with him, as well.

"Everybody wants it badly, as you can imagine," the president said last week. "A lot of people want the job — it's a great job. It's great because it's a lot of fun to work with Donald Trump. It's very easy to work with me. You know why it's easy? Because I make all the decisions. They don't have to work." Read more at Politico. Tim O'Donnell

5:17 p.m.

The early results of Israel's elections are in, but the country's future seemingly remains almost as uncertain as it did when the day began, aside from the fact that Israeli Prime Minister's bargaining power appears to have weakened.

Initial exit polls Tuesday reportedly indicate Netanyahu failed to secure a parliamentary majority. And while Israel's three major television stations had challenger Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party holding a slight lead over Netanyahu's Likud party, neither will reportedly be able to control a majority in the Knesset — at least without the support of former Netanyahu ally Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party, which refused to join Netanyahu's coalition in April. Lieberman may very well end up playing the role of kingmaker, Reuters reports, as the predictions that his party should capture somewhere between eight and 10 seats means he'd have the ability to form a coalition.

He reportedly wants to forge a unity government with Blue and White and Likud, though if he were to sign off on it, the government would reportedly have to exclude ultra-Orthodox parties, whose influence Lieberman is seeking to limit. Gantz has also ruled out participating in an administration with Netanyahu if the latter is indicted on corruption chargers. Basically, there's no easy path to a government at the moment.

Israel's exit polls can be imprecise, The Associated Press reports, but the consensus among the three stations implies that the forecasts might hold true. If that's the case, complicated political maneuvering could ensue while Netanyahu remains a caretaker prime minister. Read more at The Associated Press and Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

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