Trump, NRA form tight alliance

Trump, NRA form tight alliance
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice Department preparing for Mueller report as soon as next week: reports Smollett lawyers declare 'Empire' star innocent Pelosi asks members to support resolution against emergency declaration MORE and the National Rifle Association have formed a tight alliance.

Even as high-profile Republicans distance themselves from their presidential nominee, the NRA is sticking its neck out for Trump.

It did so most recently on Tuesday, defending Trump after he made a remark about “Second Amendment people” taking action against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFBI’s top lawyer believed Hillary Clinton should face charges, but was talked out of it Harris adds key Clinton aide, women of color to 2020 campaign: report Democrats more likely Trump's foil, than to foil Trump MORE.

While critics accused Trump of inciting violence, NRA spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told The Boston Globe that Trump’s comment was only a “call to action for people who care about this issue to get to the polls.”

“There is something Second Amendment supporters can do,” Baker told the Globe. “All Americans who value their individual right to self protection must vote for Donald Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton.”

Trump and the NRA have been tight since May, when the gun rights group, known as the most powerful lobbying organization in Washington, offered an unusually early endorsement of the Republican nominee.

The alliance might seem strange at a glance.

Trump is a New York billionaire who once supported the federal assault weapon ban and a longer waiting period on gun purchases.

But allies of Trump and the NRA itself say the alliance makes sense for the nation’s most powerful lobbying group given the alternative: a Clinton presidency.

“I think they regard the election of Hillary Clinton as a mortal threat to the Second Amendment,” said former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), an ally of Trump, in a telephone interview with The Hill on Wednesday.

The NRA has also stepped up financially for Trump with a $3 million ad campaign to back him and oppose his Democratic rival.

The new ad, titled “Defenseless,” began airing this week on national cable and local broadcast stations in battleground states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada and North Carolina.

It's the third installment in a series of anti-Clinton ads by the NRA's political action arm.

The NRA’s political action committee has already spent more than $6.5 million to help Trump and oppose Clinton, according to The Hill’s analysis of Federal Election Commission data.

The NRA’s money is sorely needed as Trump and his allies are outspent by Clinton on a scale unseen in modern politics.

Trump, as of Tuesday, had spent not a single cent on traditional advertising in the general election campaign, compared with more than $90 million spend by Clinton and her allies, according to NBC News.

Gingrich said the NRA’s stamp of approval for Trump is equally important.

“It's probably the single most reliable base of votes, and it's one of the reasons that in rural America you now see the virtual collapse of the Democratic Party,” he said.

Stopping Clinton is critical for the NRA given the growing cries for gun control legislation from congressional Democrats.

Perhaps even more important is the Supreme Court.

If elected, Clinton would likely nominate a successor to late Justice Antonin Scalia who would swing the court to the ideological left. The next president will likely make additional appointments to the court as well.

“Despite what [Clinton] says to try and get elected, she would stack the Supreme Court with anti-gun justices who would overturn our fundamental right of self-protection,” Chris Cox, chairman of NRA's Political Victory Fund, said in a statement Wednesday. 

“So it is not an understatement to say that the future of American freedom is at stake in November.”

Trump frequently thrills crowds by saying that if only more people carried guns on their hips or strapped to their ankles they’d be able to shoot back at terrorists and prevent massacres from occurring.

He’s made gun rights and a defense of the Second Amendment a centerpiece of his campaign.

But Trump hasn’t always been a reliable supporter of gun rights.

He voiced support for gun control measures in his 2000 book, “The America we Deserve.” Trump at the time was considering a run for president as a third-party candidate. In a debate hosted by Fox News earlier this year at which moderator Bret Baier pressed him on those comments, Trump said he had changed his position.

Trump replied to Baier, “I don’t support it anymore. I do not support the ban on assault [weapons],” he said.

More recently, Trump earlier this summer appeared ready to challenge the organization on legislation that would prevent people on terrorist watchlists from being allowed to buy firearms.

Democrats in Congress were pressing the legislation, which the NRA argues would infringe on Second Amendment rights. The organization has also noted that many people are incorrectly put on the watchlists.

Nonetheless, Trump in June offered a message that seemed supportive of the Democratic effort.

“I will be meeting with the NRA, who has endorsed me, about not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns,” Trump tweeted.

It’s unclear what happened in that meeting or whether Trump pressed the issue.

What is known is that the NRA publicly rejected any change regarding a ban on gun purchases by suspected terrorists. Trump, for his part, has stopped talking about the watchlist issue.

Congress did not approve any gun control legislation before leaving for its August recess, though Democrats have vowed to press their case again this fall.

Republican consultant Keith Appell said the NRA's decision to go all in for Trump despite the candidate's less-than-perfect record on gun rights makes political sense.

“Over the years, a great deal of the NRA's success has been due, in many cases, to a very practical worldview,” he said. “Vis-à-vis this race, they've concluded Trump's the nominee. That's not going to change.

“He is their horse, and they are going to ride that horse with all they've got because they look at Hillary Clinton as someone who is a direct threat to what they stand for,” he said.