The TAKE with Rick Klein
The Trump show has lost a star player — and it leaves the president a more isolated figure in a stretch that’s likely to get significantly more intense.
Hope Hicks will be remembered for her youth in a top White House job, for her service to Donald Trump dating back to before he was a candidate, for admitting to white lies, and for being a communications director who rarely communicated directly with the public.
But inside the Trump White House, she was known as a loyalist who had the president’s complete trust, and someone who managed to engender the trust of those who worked for her as well. That’s a vanishing breed.
Just hours before Hicks announced her intention to resign, Trump ratcheted up his criticism of Attorney General Jeff Sessions — among the first political figures to support his candidacy — by labeling his conduct “DISGRACEFUL!” in a tweet.
Rob Porter was famously ousted as staff secretary under scandalous circumstances, and chief of staff John Kelly has been on thin ice with Trump since at least then. The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, lost his top-level security clearances, and may not be long for his job in the White House.
Trump values trust and loyalty. He may be looking a little harder to find it going forward.
The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks
Referring to President Trump’s unexpected comments supporting some gun safety ideas Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., cautioned reporters, “We”ve seen this movie before.”
Graham said he hoped this go-round would end differently, but he was clearly skeptical about the prospects of anything concrete coming from the meeting. It would not be the first time the president offered praise of centrist policies only to renege on his stance or switch gears entirely the next day. It’s one thing to give a thumbs-up in front of the cameras and another to follow through and push through specific legislation.
Democrats and some moderate Republicans, though, who were pleasantly surprised by the meeting jumped on the president’s statements and immediately introduced new bills, but it wasn’t just Graham recalling the saying: “Fool me once, shame on you …”
During the sit-down meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, Trump bucked a lot of members in his own party and suggested Washington as a whole buck the NRA. He said he liked the idea of strengthening and expanding background checks for gun purchases and raising the minimum purchase-age for rifles to 21.
Kevin Lamarque/ReutersFlanked by Senators John Cornyn, R-TX, and Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, President Donald Trump meets with bi-partisan members of Congress to discuss school and community safety in the wake of the Florida school shootings in Washington, Feb. 28, 2018.
The TIP with David Caplan
To be a fly on the wall.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, his deputy Rod Rosenstein and the Solicitor General Noel Francisco had a boy’s night out Wednesday, tucked away in a corner of the chic D.C. bistro Central Michel Richard, where the trio had dinner, Axios reported.
It’s unknown what was discussed during the two-hour get-together — a photo tweeted by Axios shows the group smiling and laughing, with glasses of wine on the table — but considering Trump took to Twitter to slam Sessions just hours earlier, that could have been a likely topic.
And those in the attorney general’s inner circle seem to have a sense of humor when it comes to the Trump-Sessions relationship. Sessions’ senior aides earlier this month gifted him with a bulletproof vest with his name printed on it to commemorate the one-year anniversary of his confirmation — and in a nod to all the flak he’s taken while attorney general, ABC News has confirmed. The Washington Post was first to report this.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Some of you people are petrified of the NRA. You can’t be petrified.” — President Trump, in a gun-control meeting he held at the White House with members of Congress Wednesday.
NEED TO READ
White House communications director Hope Hicks to resign. The president’s longest-serving aide will resign her post in the coming weeks, sources with direct knowledge confirmed to ABC News. http://abcn.ws/2CP8RMg
President Trump expected to seek age hike for rifle purchases with school, gun safety plan: Sources. The Trump administration plans to unveil as soon as Thursday a list of more than 10 administrative and legislative priorities the president intends to champion in an effort to help prevent gun violence in schools, including a call to raise the age limit on all gun purchases to 21, White House officials tell ABC News. (Jordyn Phelps, Alexander Mallin and Katherine Faulders) http://abcn.ws/2oEl1mg
In meeting with lawmakers, Trump calls for raising minimum age to buy all guns to 21. President Trump again called for raising the minimum legal age to purchase all guns to age 21 during a meeting with lawmakers on guns and school safety Wednesday, while suggesting that those who are staying silent on the topic are “afraid” to come up against the NRA. (Jordyn Phelps) http://abcn.ws/2GNKwJ6
In rare move, Sessions pushes back on Trump attack. In a rare move for the nation’s top law enforcement official, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is publicly pushed back against criticism lobbed at him Wednesday by President Donald Trump — the latest in a series of personal attacks. (Mike Levine) http://abcn.ws/2FFvC8q
After scrutiny of travel costs, EPA chief Scott Pruitt says he’ll only fly coach. The head of the nation’s environmental agency says that he’ll only fly coach in the future, after criticism that the agency was paying for him to fly in first or business class for most flights. (Stephanie Ebbs) http://abcn.ws/2oFOYm3
Critics question undisclosed money from foreign governments to Trump properties. The ballroom at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., was abuzz for the Kuwaiti Embassy’s National Day celebration Monday evening — the second year in a row the embassy has opted to host its annual fete at the luxury hotel bearing the president’s name. (Ali Dukakis) http://abcn.ws/2HPNQ89
Oversight committee asks Ben Carson to explain purchase of $31,000 dining set. A congressional oversight committee is asking Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson to provide documents explaining why the agency decided to buy a $31,000 dining set for the secretary’s office suite — despite a $5,000 spending limit to redecorate offices. (Stephanie Ebbs) http://abcn.ws/2Feolia
In Michigan, gun debate and governor’s race collide. The debate over gun control could play out in an especially stark way in Michigan -— a state with consistently high rates of gun ownership and adults with concealed-weapon permits — where the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate called the President’s idea to arm some teachers and school personnel an option that should be on the table. (John Verhovek) http://abcn.ws/2GR6gny
Judge, berated by Trump, rules in favor of border wall waivers. The federal judge President Donald Trump attacked during the campaign — claiming the judge’s Mexican heritage and Trump’s call for a border wall made him “extremely hostile” — has ruled in favor of administration efforts to speed up building that wall along the southern border. (Geneva Sands) http://abcn.ws/2GPCYpt
“No one’s getting a free ride:” For the first time in anyone’s memory, nearly all 170 state legislative races in North Carolina will feature both a Republican and Democratic candidate, reports the Charlotte Observer. http://bit.ly/2oE7MC0
The New York Times reports that Jared Kushner, while serving in the White House, met with executives of companies as they contemplated sizable loans to his business. http://nyti.ms/2CQ4wZs