Pushed by Voters, GOP Moderates Rebel on Immigration

Cipriano Garza says Rep. Carlos Curbelo is “a decent man, a family man.” He lauds the South Florida Republican for defiantly pushing his party to protect young “Dreamer” immigrants from deportation.

Founder of a nonprofit that helps farm workers, Garza happily hosted Curbelo at a reception honoring high school graduates last week at the massive Homestead-Miami Speedway. But his praise came with a warning about this November’s elections.

“He better do what’s right for the community,” said Garza, 70, himself a former migrant laborer. “If not, he can lose.”

Pressure from home

Across the country — from California’s lush Central Valley to suburban Denver to Curbelo’s district of strip malls, farms and the laid-back Florida Keys — moderate Republicans like Curbelo are under hefty pressure to buck their party’s hard-line stance on immigration. After years of watching their conservative colleagues in safe districts refuse to budge, the GOP middle is fighting back, mindful that a softer position may be necessary to save their jobs and GOP control of the House.

“Members who have priorities and feel passionate about issues can’t sit back and expect leaders” to address them, Curbelo said. “Because it doesn’t work.”

Curbelo, 38, is seeking a third term from a district that stretches from upscale Miami suburbs to the Everglades and down to eccentric Key West. Seventy percent of his constituents are Hispanic and nearly half are foreign-born. Those are among the highest percentages in the nation, giving many of them a first-hand stake in Congress’ immigration fight.

​Petition drive in the House

Curbelo and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., whose Modesto-area district thrives on agriculture powered by migrant workers, have launched a petition drive that would force House votes on four immigration bills, ranging from liberal to conservative versions. Twenty-three Republicans have signed on, two shy of the number needed to succeed, assuming all Democrats jump aboard.

Another supporter of the rare rebellion by the usually compliant moderates is Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., a former Marine who learned Spanish when his district was redrawn to include Denver’s diverse eastern suburbs. In an interview, Coffman expressed frustration over waiting nearly 18 months for House Speaker Paul Ryan to deliver on assurances that Congress would address the issue.

“He was always telling me, ‘It will happen, it will happen.’ I never saw it happen,” Coffman said. “One cannot argue that those of us who signed onto this discharge petition didn’t give leadership time.”

​Path to citizenship

The centrists favor legislation that would protect from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children. They back a path to citizenship for these immigrants, who have lived in limbo since President Donald Trump ended the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, called DACA. Federal courts have blocked its termination for now.

Trying to head off the petition, Ryan, R-Wis., and conservatives are negotiating with the centrists in hopes of finding compromise. Roll calls are on track for later this month, but it will be tough to steer legislation through the House that’s both liberal enough to survive in the more moderate Senate and restrictive enough for Trump to sign into law.

At the speedway, a local economic anchor since Hurricane Andrew shattered the city in 1992, Curbelo didn’t mention his battle in Washington to the graduates. 

“Our country and our community need you,” he told his audience, some of whom Garza said were DACA recipients.

Districts won by Clinton

Curbelo’s district backed Democrat Hillary Clinton by a whopping 16 percentage points in the 2016 presidential race over Trump, who has fanned immigrants’ resentment by repeatedly linking them to crime and job losses. That’s left Curbelo facing a competitive re-election, though he’s raised far more campaign cash than his likely Democratic challenger, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell.

Of the 23 Republican petition signees, nine represent districts whose Hispanic populations exceed the 18 percent national average. Clinton carried 12 of their districts in 2016, and several are from moderate-leaning suburbs of cities like Philadelphia and Minneapolis and agricultural areas in California and upstate New York that rely on migrant workers.

The centrists’ petition echoes the hardball tactics often employed by the hard-right House Freedom Caucus. Its roughly 30 members often band together with demands top Republicans ignore at peril of losing votes in the narrowly divided House.

GOP leaders and Freedom Caucus members fear that under the votes the petition would force, liberal-leaning legislation backed by most Democrats and a few Republicans would prevail. That would infuriate conservative voters who’ll be needed at the polls to fend off a Democratic wave threatening GOP House control.

Some in GOP not persuaded

Among those envisioning that scenario is Nicholas Mulick, GOP chairman of Florida’s Monroe County, which encompasses the Keys and is the reddest portion of Curbelo’s district. 

“With the greatest respect for the congressman, I don’t think it’s going to work,” Mulick said.

Others reject that argument, saying moderates’ worries should be heeded because they must be re-elected for Republicans to retain their majority.

“That sounds like somebody who’s never run in a swing district,” former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who once led his party’s House campaign arm, said of claims that immigration votes would dampen conservative turnout. “Do they want to be in the majority, hold gavels?”

Democrats and local immigration activists say they wish Curbelo’s effort well but question his motivation. They say he’s reacting to election pressures and simply wants to show voters he’s fighting for them.

“It feels very late, opportunistic, theatrical,” said Thomas Kennedy, deputy political director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition.

Not all constituents on board

Many at the speedway event, sponsored by Garza’s Mexican-American Council, were sympathetic to Curbelo’s battle in Washington, signaling the type of support he’ll need to be re-elected.

Rosa Castillo, 51, of nearby Florida City, said she knows people who don’t get driver’s licenses for fear of having their residency challenged. 

“He’s doing an awesome job for our DACA people,” said Castillo, a Democrat who said she’ll back Curbelo.

“He’s aware of our issues in our community,” said Pedro Sifuentes, 45, an independent from Homestead.

That sentiment isn’t universally shared. Over breakfast at a nearby Cracker Barrel restaurant, retiree and Trump backer Randy Nichols, 73, said he won’t support Curbelo.

“If they’re illegal, they need to leave. I hate to say that, but even for DACA kids,” said Nichols, who lives in Marathon, one of the Keys.

Mucarsel-Powell, Curbelo’s likely Democratic challenger, said in an interview that she was glad he’d “finally found some strength” to take on fellow Republicans.

The former state Senate candidate, an immigrant from Ecuador, said Curbelo’s challenge to GOP leaders “will obviously bring some positive attention.”

She said she hopes Curbelo and his supporters “aren’t doing it for political reasons.”

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Ross Arrives in Beijing for Talks on Trade Surplus

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross arrived in Beijing on Saturday for talks on China’s promise to buy more American goods after Washington revived tensions by renewing its threat of tariff hikes on Chinese high-tech exports.

The talks focus on adding details to China’s May 19 promise to narrow its politically volatile surplus in trade in goods with the United States, which reached a record $375.2 billion last year.

President Donald Trump threw the status of the talks into doubt this week by renewing a threat to hike tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods over complaints Beijing steals or pressures foreign companies to hand over technology.

Compromise on surplus

Private sector analysts say that while Beijing is willing to compromise on its trade surplus, it will resist changes that might threaten plans to transform China into a global technology competitor.

China has promised to “significantly increase” purchases of farm goods, energy and other products and services. Still, Beijing resisted pressure to commit to a specific target of narrowing its annual surplus with the United States by $200 billion.

Following Beijing’s announcement, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the dispute was “on hold.” But the truce appeared to end with this week’s announcement that Washington was going ahead with tariff hikes on technology goods and also would impose curbs on Chinese investment and purchases of U.S. high-tech exports.

Technology competitor

The move reflects growing American concern about China’s status as a potential tech competitor and complaints Beijing improperly subsidizes its fledgling industries and shields them from competition.

Foreign governments and businesses cite strategic plans such as “Made in China 2025,” which calls for state-led efforts to create Chinese industry leaders in areas from robots to electric cars to computer chips.

“The U.S. focus on so-called industrially significant technologies heightens the risk of escalation between the two countries,” BMI Research said in a report. “Indeed, while China has shown itself willing to compromise in the area of trade deficit reduction, it will not take any actions which threaten its strategically important ‘Made in China 2025’ program.”

Trump also has threatened to raise tariffs on an additional $100 billion of Chinese goods, but gave no indication this week whether that would go ahead.

Earlier, China responded with a threat to retaliate with higher duties on a $50 billion list of American goods including soybeans, small aircraft, whiskey, electric vehicles and orange juice. It criticized Trump’s move this week and said it reserved the right to retaliate but avoided repeating its earlier threat.

Tariffs on Canada, Europe Mexico

Trade analysts warned Ross’s hand might be weakened by the Trump administration’s decision Thursday to go ahead with tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, Europe and Mexico.

That might alienate allies who share complaints about Chinese technology policy and a flood of low-priced steel, aluminum and other exports they say are the result of improper subsidies and hurt foreign competitors.

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New Reports Detail Contact Between Lobbyist, EPA Chief

Newly filed reports show the Washington lobbyist whose wife rented a bargain-priced Capitol Hill condo to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt had far more contact with the agency than previously disclosed, despite repeated denials by both men.

Powerhouse lobbying firm Williams & Jensen amended its 2017 disclosure filings to show that former chairman J. Steven Hart contacted EPA on behalf of the Coca-Cola Company, pork producer Smithfield Foods and a board overseeing the finances of hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Pruitt has denied that Hart lobbied his agency in 2017, most recently during congressional testimony last month. The firm amended its required federal lobbying disclosures after an extensive review of Hart’s emails, calendar entries and other materials.

Hart was forced to retire early as a result of the scandal that erupted following public disclosure of the EPA chief’s unusual living arrangements. Pruitt has denied wrongdoing, describing Hart as a personal friend from his home state of Oklahoma.

Lobbying firm amends disclosure forms

In a statement, Williams & Jensen said Hart had failed to fully disclose his lobbying activities to his own firm, resulting in prior reports omitting information. Federal law requires lobbyists to file quarterly reports detailing their contacts with government officials, including the clients they were representing, what topics were discussed and how much they were paid.

“Following press reports of a former member of our firm engaging in lobbying activity that had not been disclosed, we engaged outside counsel to conduct a review of relevant filings,” the firm’s statement said. “Following the completion of that review and the advice of counsel, today the firm filed amendments to several disclosure reports that include information that was not previously disclosed to our firm and therefore not included in the original filings.”

A registered lobbyist

Both Pruitt and Hart have publicly denied the lobbyist had conducted any business with EPA in 2017. At a May 16 hearing before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, the embattled EPA chief erroneously insisted that Hart had not lobbied the government last year.

“Steve Hart is someone that was not registered as a lobbyist in 2017,” Pruitt testified. “He’s a longtime associate and friend.”

Records showed that Hart was in fact a registered lobbyist in 2017, though at the time it had not yet been formally disclosed that he directly lobbied Pruitt’s agency. Federal law makes it a crime to “knowingly and willfully” give materially false statements to Congress.

EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox did not respond to requests for comment Friday night about whether Pruitt still stood by his testimony.

A spokesman for Hart did not respond to phone or email Friday.

Smithfield Foods

Pruitt’s connections to Hart have been under intense scrutiny since March, when media reports first revealed that the EPA chief had rented a luxury Capitol Hill condo from a corporation co-owned by Hart’s wife for just $50 a night. Pruitt’s daughter, then a White House summer intern, stayed in a second bedroom at the condo at no additional cost.

On Pruitt’s 2017 condo lease, a copy of which was reviewed by The Associated Press, Steven Hart’s name was originally typed in as “landlord” but was scratched out. The name of his wife, health care lobbyist Vicki Hart, was scribbled in.

The AP and other media outlets reported in April that Pruitt had met in his office last year with Hart on behalf of the philanthropic arm of Smithfield Foods to discuss efforts to preserve the Chesapeake Bay. The world’s largest pork producer, Smithfield has been involved with efforts to clean up the bay since EPA fined the company $12.6 million in 1997 for illegally dumping hog waste into a tributary.

The amended disclosure report filed Friday by Williams & Jensen acknowledges the meeting between Hart and Pruitt constituted lobbying, as did additional communications by the lobbyist with Pruitt’s staff to recommend potential candidates for a science advisory board and other positions appointed by the EPA administrator.

A spokeswoman for Smithfield did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Puerto Rico, Coco-Cola

The new disclosure report says Hart also lobbied EPA in 2017 on behalf of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico about water quality and infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Maria. A spokesman for the oversight board did not immediately respond Friday to an email seeking comment.

The firm also disclosed for the first time that Hart had contact with EPA on behalf of Coca-Cola. According to the reports, Hart lobbied the agency about clean water supplies, water conservation and “environmental issues impacting the beverage industry, including hydrofluorocarbon replacement.”

Hydrofluorocarbons are potent greenhouse gases commonly used for refrigeration. Under the Obama administration, EPA had sought to phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons because they contribute to global warming, but the effort was stymied after industries challenged the proposed ban in court.

In a statement issued Friday, Coca-Cola said the company has severed ties with Williams & Jensen.

“The Coca-Cola Company is committed to the highest level of integrity in all aspects of our business, and we expect our lobbying firms to uphold that same commitment,” the statement said. 

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Turkish FM, US Secretary of State to Meet Amid Souring Relations

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is scheduled to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Monday amid souring relations between the NATO allies and trading partners over economic and other issues.

The talks come as Turkish sectors, such as the major steel industry, reel from the higher tariffs imposed by the U.S. administration on Turkey and other nations.

“Huge, huge effect, steel producers are desperate, the psychology is terrible among producers,” said Tayfun Senturk, a Turkey-based international steel trader. “For the last three months, there have been no new U.S. orders, and the U.S. is a major market for Turkish producers, especially in piping. If it continues for a few years, there will be closures.”

In March, President Donald Trump introduced 25 percent tariffs on steel from several primary producers. Turkey didn’t enjoy an exemption given to the European Union, Canada and Mexico that ended Friday.

“This is mainly a dispute with China and secondly the European Union. Why was Turkey targeted? I don’t understand,” Senturk said.

Turkey is the eighth-largest steel producer in the world and second only to Germany in Europe. Last year, Turkey was the sixth-largest exporter to the United States.

There are growing suspicions among Turkish steel producers that politics rather than economics is behind the steel tariffs.

“There have been steps by the steel industry to try to build an understanding with the USA. As far as I know, it is not progressing, because of political reasons,” steel trader Senturk said. “They [steel producers] are saying this would not have happened if the situation [between the U.S. and Turkey] was all right like it was 10 years ago.”

In addition to the manufacturing industry, Turkey’s financial sector could be next to feel the repercussions from strained U.S. relations. U.S. regulatory authorities are considering a significant fine against Turkish state-owned Halkbank after one of its senior officials was convicted in a New York court in January of violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

“Everybody is expecting a huge fine against Halkbank, but this is a political decision,” political scientist Cengiz Aktar said. Analysts predict the fine could exceed the $9 billion imposed on France-based BNP Paribas bank for breaking U.S. sanctions on Iran.

The fallout of such a fine could be considerable given international investors’ concerns about the Turkish economy.

“If we see major sanctions on Turkey, politically driven ones, the pressure on the currency could be substantial,” said economist Inan Demir of Nomura International, a Japan-based financial holding company.

This year the Turkish lira has already fallen more than 20 percent.

Worse could still be in store for Turkey, analysts say. Washington’s withdrawal from the international-brokered nuclear deal with Tehran could put Ankara and Turkish business in a tight spot. Trump has announced the introduction of trade sanctions against Iran. The U.S. has also warned that companies in violation of the measures could become targets themselves.

Ankara appears unfazed by Washington’s warnings.

“It is an opportunity for Turkey,” said Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci. “We will continue to have trade with Iran while complying with the U.N. resolutions on nuclear activities. We believe in this: The stronger Iran gets in this region, the stronger Turkey becomes as well.”

Analysts suggest Zeybekci’s combative stance could be just political rhetoric, given Turkey is in the midst of campaigning for general and presidential elections set for June 24. Taking a tough stand against Washington is seen to play well with the ruling AKP nationalist voting base.

Complying with U.S. sanctions on Iran, however, could come at a substantial cost for Ankara.

“Turkey is in a difficult position. We have to remember Iran is one of the main actors, along with Russia, providing oil and gas to Turkey,” said former senior Turkish diplomat Aydin Selcen, who served in Iraq and Washington.

“It will be difficult for Turkish banks and Turkish companies to do business in Iran, but it will be difficult to find an alternative for natural gas and oil from Iran. So Turkey will have to tread carefully,” he added.

The prosecution in Turkey of U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson on terrorism charges threatens further measures by Washington against Ankara.

“It’s a show trial taking place, and it has already hurt the bilateral relationship,” U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Sam Brownback said Wednesday in a press briefing. “I think there will be more items to follow … from the United States towards Turkey if they continue to hold him.”

Ankara says Brunson’s trial is a matter for the courts, but, analysts warn, as U.S.-Turkish relations continue souring, the economic price Ankara will pay is likely to rise.

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In Texas, Trump Meets With School Shooting Families

Seeking to comfort grieving families and shaken survivors, President Donald Trump spent more than an hour privately Thursday with some of those touched by a Texas mass school shooting that killed 10 and wounded more than a dozen on May 18.

The latest spasm of violence in a year marred by assaults on the nation’s schools, the shooting at Santa Fe High School was the latest to test the president’s role as national comforter-in-chief. Trump met with more than two dozen people affected by the shooting and did not publicly share his message for the grieving families and local leaders during a meeting at a Coast Guard base outside Houston.

​Reports from the meeting 

Pamela Stanich, whose 17-year-old son, Jared Black, was among the eight students killed, was one of the parents who met with Trump, presenting him with a family statement and a copy of her son’s eulogy.

Trump “met with us privately and showed sincerity, compassion, and concern on making our schools safer across the nation,” she wrote in a Facebook post after the meeting. “He spent time talking to the survivors and asking on what happened and what would have made a difference. Changes are coming for the good. Thank you Mr. Trump.”

Rhonda Hart, whose 14-year-old daughter, Kimberly Vaughan, was killed at the school, told The Associated Press that Trump repeatedly used the word ‘wacky’ to describe the shooter and the trench coat he wore. She said she told Trump, “Maybe if everyone had access to mental health care, we wouldn’t be in the situation.”

Hart, an Army veteran, said she also suggested employing veterans as sentinels in schools. She said Trump responded, “And arm them?” She replied, “No,” but said Trump “kept mentioning” arming classroom teachers. “It was like talking to a toddler,” Hart said.

Reporters were not permitted to witness the meeting.

A White House spokesman said Trump was “moved” by the shooting at Santa Fe High School, which left eight students and two substitute teachers dead. A student faces capital murder charges in the attack.

“These events are very tragic, whenever they happen. And you know, the president wants to extend his condolences and talk about the issue of school safety,” spokesman Raj Shah told Fox News Channel.

​Safety commission

While in Texas, Trump’s school safety commission met outside Washington, part of the president’s chosen solution to combat the rising tide of bloodshed after his brief flirtation with tougher gun laws after February’s mass killing at a high school in Parkland, Florida, went nowhere.

Also Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whom Trump put in charge of the school safety commission, announced a $1 million grant to the Santa Fe school district to help with post-shooting recovery efforts.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, both Republicans, greeted Trump after Air Force One landed at a Houston military base. Abbott joined Trump for the short ride in the presidential limousine to a Coast Guard hangar where the meeting took place.

Trump then headed to a fundraiser at a luxury hotel in downtown Houston, the first of his two big-dollar events in Texas on Thursday. A White House official did not immediately respond to requests for details about how much money was to be raised, and who was benefiting, from the fundraising events.

Florida shooting 

After 17 teachers and students were killed during a February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Trump said he would work to improve school safety, but has not called for new gun control legislation. He created the commission to review ways to make schools safer.

Trump briefly strayed from gun-rights dogma after the Parkland shooting, but quickly backpedaled. Abbott, a Republican and a staunch gun-rights supporter, has called for schools to have more armed personnel and said they should put greater focus on spotting student mental health problems. He’s proposed a few small restrictions on guns since the shooting.

As the Parkland students became vocal advocates for gun control, embracing their public positions as few school survivors had before, Trump quickly became a focal point for their anger. In Trump’s visit to Florida after the shooting, aides kept him clear of the school, which could have been the site of protests, and he instead met with a few victims at a local hospital and paid tribute to first responders at the nearby sheriff’s office.

There has yet to be a similar outcry for restrictions on firearms from the students and survivors in deep-red Texas.

Last in Texas for NRA

Before Thursday, Trump was most recently in the Lone Star State on May 4 to attend the annual National Rifle Association convention. He pledged in his address that NRA members’ Second Amendment rights “will never, ever be under siege as long as I am your president.”

He also touted the administration’s “aggressive strategy on community safety” and mentioned armed guards, armed teachers, mental health and metal detectors, but did not mention assault rifles like the one used in Florida.

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In Texas, Trump Meets With School Shooting Families

Seeking to comfort grieving families and shaken survivors, President Donald Trump spent more than an hour privately Thursday with some of those touched by a Texas mass school shooting that killed 10 and wounded more than a dozen on May 18.

The latest spasm of violence in a year marred by assaults on the nation’s schools, the shooting at Santa Fe High School was the latest to test the president’s role as national comforter-in-chief. Trump met with more than two dozen people affected by the shooting and did not publicly share his message for the grieving families and local leaders during a meeting at a Coast Guard base outside Houston.

​Reports from the meeting 

Pamela Stanich, whose 17-year-old son, Jared Black, was among the eight students killed, was one of the parents who met with Trump, presenting him with a family statement and a copy of her son’s eulogy.

Trump “met with us privately and showed sincerity, compassion, and concern on making our schools safer across the nation,” she wrote in a Facebook post after the meeting. “He spent time talking to the survivors and asking on what happened and what would have made a difference. Changes are coming for the good. Thank you Mr. Trump.”

Rhonda Hart, whose 14-year-old daughter, Kimberly Vaughan, was killed at the school, told The Associated Press that Trump repeatedly used the word ‘wacky’ to describe the shooter and the trench coat he wore. She said she told Trump, “Maybe if everyone had access to mental health care, we wouldn’t be in the situation.”

Hart, an Army veteran, said she also suggested employing veterans as sentinels in schools. She said Trump responded, “And arm them?” She replied, “No,” but said Trump “kept mentioning” arming classroom teachers. “It was like talking to a toddler,” Hart said.

Reporters were not permitted to witness the meeting.

A White House spokesman said Trump was “moved” by the shooting at Santa Fe High School, which left eight students and two substitute teachers dead. A student faces capital murder charges in the attack.

“These events are very tragic, whenever they happen. And you know, the president wants to extend his condolences and talk about the issue of school safety,” spokesman Raj Shah told Fox News Channel.

​Safety commission

While in Texas, Trump’s school safety commission met outside Washington, part of the president’s chosen solution to combat the rising tide of bloodshed after his brief flirtation with tougher gun laws after February’s mass killing at a high school in Parkland, Florida, went nowhere.

Also Thursday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whom Trump put in charge of the school safety commission, announced a $1 million grant to the Santa Fe school district to help with post-shooting recovery efforts.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Sen. Ted Cruz, both Republicans, greeted Trump after Air Force One landed at a Houston military base. Abbott joined Trump for the short ride in the presidential limousine to a Coast Guard hangar where the meeting took place.

Trump then headed to a fundraiser at a luxury hotel in downtown Houston, the first of his two big-dollar events in Texas on Thursday. A White House official did not immediately respond to requests for details about how much money was to be raised, and who was benefiting, from the fundraising events.

Florida shooting 

After 17 teachers and students were killed during a February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Trump said he would work to improve school safety, but has not called for new gun control legislation. He created the commission to review ways to make schools safer.

Trump briefly strayed from gun-rights dogma after the Parkland shooting, but quickly backpedaled. Abbott, a Republican and a staunch gun-rights supporter, has called for schools to have more armed personnel and said they should put greater focus on spotting student mental health problems. He’s proposed a few small restrictions on guns since the shooting.

As the Parkland students became vocal advocates for gun control, embracing their public positions as few school survivors had before, Trump quickly became a focal point for their anger. In Trump’s visit to Florida after the shooting, aides kept him clear of the school, which could have been the site of protests, and he instead met with a few victims at a local hospital and paid tribute to first responders at the nearby sheriff’s office.

There has yet to be a similar outcry for restrictions on firearms from the students and survivors in deep-red Texas.

Last in Texas for NRA

Before Thursday, Trump was most recently in the Lone Star State on May 4 to attend the annual National Rifle Association convention. He pledged in his address that NRA members’ Second Amendment rights “will never, ever be under siege as long as I am your president.”

He also touted the administration’s “aggressive strategy on community safety” and mentioned armed guards, armed teachers, mental health and metal detectors, but did not mention assault rifles like the one used in Florida.

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UN Extends Sanctions on South Sudan Until Mid-July

A U.N. Security Council resolution to extend sanctions on South Sudan has been renewed for 45 more days after the U.S.-led effort passed at the U.N. Thursday.

The resolution passed with the required nine “yes” votes and six abstentions from the 15-member Security Council.

“The United States has lost its patience. And status quo is unacceptable. It is long past time for all of us to demand better for the South Sudanese people,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said.

The Security Council delayed a decision for 30 days on imposing travel bans and asset freezes on six South Sudanese leaders accused of impeding peace, but said that move is still on the table pending a review of the parties’ commitment to adhere to a ceasefire violation.

Akshaya Kumar, the deputy U.N. director for Human Rights Watch, said the delay could be interpreted as an empty threat, but she contends it serves as “a warning to commanders responsible for abuses,” such as former army Chief Paul Malong and Michael Makuei, the country’s information minister. Both are under U.N. sanctions consideration.

Sanctions ‘unfortunate’

South Sudan’s representative, Ambassador Akuei Bona Malwal, said his government will work toward peace. He added that the proposal to impose an additional sanctions on six individuals was not necessary.

“The annex that is attached to this resolution is unfortunate, it is not helpful. The danger is that it may not give the desire that is hoped by those that have supported this resolution,” he said.

“A divided council on this issue will not be helpful to the peace process and it will not send the right message to the parties,” said Ambassador Tekeda Alemu of Ethiopia, who abstained from voting along with Russia and China.

Alemu urged council members to drop the threat of additional sanctions to allow the Intergovernmental Authority on Development to move forward with its efforts to revitalize the peace agreement.

Kumar said the 30-day delay concerning the six leaders “keeps the Security Council well-positioned to move decisively and keep adding individuals to their list if they find reason.” It also suggests the council is “watching and they are ready and willing to consider further action in early July,” Kumar said.

Ceasefire report

The Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring Mechanism (CTSAMM) is expected to brief the council on violations of the cessation of hostilities in the coming weeks. That could help “circumvent some of the problems we have had to date with the CTSAMM and the ceasefire monitoring, where information was being collected but it wasn’t going to decision makers publicly or in a timely fashion,” Kumar said.

A Reuters report this week accused CTSAMM of failing to release at least 14 ceasefire violation reports that document South Sudan’s army targeted civilians and “burned children alive and gang-raped women.” It also accuses the rebels of using child soldiers.

Kumar said that by reviewing CTSAMM’s reports, the Security Council has set the stage for more transparency in collecting evidence “and they are going to be reporting back within one month. So that’s quite strong. It shows that the eyes of the world are on South Sudan right now.”

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