Morning Report

The Hill’s Morning Report — Texas school shooting roils gun debate; Trump dealt Kemp blow

President Joe Biden speaks about the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, from the White House
Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press
President Joe Biden speaks about the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, from the White House.

America’s national anguish about mass school shootings and its deep political divisions about guns continue today.

President Biden used the word “carnage” to describe the shooting deaths of at least 19 children and two adults including a teacher at a Texas grade school on Tuesday. With first lady Jill Biden by his side at the White House after returning from a trip to Asia, Biden emotionally urged members of Congress “to act” to renew a ban on assault weapons and “stand up to the gun lobby” in response to news that an 18-year-old suspect in Uvalde, Texas, reportedly armed with an assault rifle, opened fire on children before being killed by responding police (The Hill).

“I am sick and tired of it,” Biden said from the Roosevelt Room after expressing grief and empathy for victims’ families and their tight-knit community. “In God’s name, where is our backbone? … We can do so much more. We have to do more.”

The president on Tuesday phoned Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) as he flew home from Tokyo to express his sorrow following the deadliest school shooting in Texas history and the worst in the United States since 20 children and six adults were gunned down by a 20-year-old shooter in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. 

Tuesday’s killings by a suspect identified as Salvador Ramos in a community about 85 miles from San Antonio occurred 10 days after the murders of 10 people and injuries to three others at a Buffalo, N.Y., grocery store, also the work of an 18-year-old gunman. The Buffalo suspect, whose attacks with an assault rifle were described as a hate crime and domestic terrorism, surrendered to police and he has pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

CNN: The San Antonio suspect allegedly shot his grandmother, who was reported to be hospitalized in critical condition Tuesday night.

KSAT: One student victim, fourth-grader Xavier Lopez, had been joined by his mother at a school awards ceremony hours before the Texas school shooting.

Houston Chronicle: Gunman bought AR-15 style rifle a day after turning 18.

The New York Times: Several other children were injured in the shooting at Robb Elementary School, including at least one 10-year-old who remained in critical condition at a nearby hospital.

The Associated Press: Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) seeks congressional action on guns after Texas shooting: “I’m here on this floor to beg — to literally get down on my hands and knees — to beg my colleagues. Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely.”

The Daily News: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a potential presidential candidate in 2024, on Tuesday criticized Democrats who speak of gun control and want “to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Houston Chronicle: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) urged the National Rifle Association to cancel a planned annual forum this weekend in Houston. (Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) canceled his planned appearance; former President Trump is scheduled to speak.)

The undeniable epidemic of mass killings in the United States — often with legally acquired weapons wielded by white, male shooters acting alone — confounds elected leaders, law enforcement officers, America’s schools, mental health professionals, social media platforms, video game manufacturers, the nation’s clergy and millions of parents who live in fear that their children will become targets of what communities routinely label “active shooters.”

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 43 mass shootings in the U.S. since May 1. 

The Hill: Biden ordered flags to be flown at half-staff following the shooting deaths at a Uvalde, Texas, school on Tuesday.

© Associated Press / David J. Phillip | A mural of George Floyd in Houston.

Biden today will mark another violent milestone: It has been two years since George Floyd, pinned down by a Minneapolis police officer, struggled for air and told officers “I can’t breathe” 27 times before he died. Former police officer Derek Chauvin, convicted of Floyd’s murder, recently cut a federal plea deal to serve between 20 and 25 years in prison, to be served concurrently along with a state prison sentence.

Biden will use his presidential powers to order all federal agencies to revise their use-of-force policies, create a national registry of officers fired for misconduct, use grants to encourage state and local police to tighten restrictions on chokeholds and no-knock warrants, and restrict the transfer of most military equipment to law enforcement agencies (The New York Times).

In a related action, the Justice Department on Friday told agents they must intervene if they see police violence involving suspects (The New York Times).

The Hill: Democrats want Biden to rescind Trump-era tariffs on Chinese and other international goods. 

The Hill: Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a pro-abortion-rights Catholic, on Tuesday asked why the Catholic Church does not punish supporters of the death penalty. 

The Hill: The House Jan. 6 investigative panel was blocked by a federal appeals court from obtaining Republican National Committee records.  


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LEADING THE DAY

 POLITICS & PRIMARIES

Trump encountered yet another Georgia problem on Tuesday after his preferred candidates in statewide primary contests were thumped, headlined by Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) easy win despite months of intense criticism from the ex-president.

The incumbent governor, who crushed former Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) by a 52-point margin on Tuesday, had been targeted by Trump because he refused to overturn Biden’s 2020 electoral victory in the Peach State. Kemp’s win sets up a general election showdown against Democrat Stacey Abrams, which will be the second matchup between the two candidates (The Hill).

Celebrating the win, Kemp did not reference the former president in his remarks and instead made defeating Abrams the centerpiece of his focus.  

“I want to be crystal clear with all of you here tonight: Our battle is far from over,” Kemp told supporters in Atlanta. “Tonight the fight for the soul of our state begins to make sure Stacey Abrams isn’t going to be our next governor or our president”(The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Trump’s revenge tour is derailed in Georgia.

Politico: “We’re going to go f—ing scorched-earth”: How Kemp crushed Trump in Georgia.

The Hill: Five takeaways from primaries in Georgia, Alabama and beyond.

Kemp’s victory was the embodiment of the night for Trump as Republican voters by and large spurned candidates and challengers he threw his weight behind. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), who Trump infamously called on to “find” nearly 11,000 votes to overturn Biden’s win in the state two years ago, defeated Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), while state Attorney General Chris Carr (R) also defeated a Trump-backed opponent by a wide margin.

© Associated Press / John Bazemore | Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp easily won Tuesday’s primary.

In Alabama, Trump was dealt another temporary rebuke as Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) won a place in a runoff contest against Katie Britt next month, topping businessman and Army veteran Mike Durant for the spot. Brooks nabbing the spot comes only months after Trump rescinded his endorsement of the congressman, who was among the most vocal backers of the former president’s false claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election. 

Britt is the favorite to emerge in the runoff to replace her old boss, the retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), having pulled 44.7 percent support on Tuesday. 

Trump’s night was not without a couple of victories, however. Herschel Walker, the former University of Georgia football star, easily won the Republican nomination to take on Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) in November. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) won the GOP nod by a hefty margin in her deep red district. 

In addition, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), who has been under indictment since 2015 for state securities fraud charges, defeated George P. Bush in his push for a third term in office, marking another political loss for the Bush dynasty in recent years.

Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) secures GOP nomination for his Senate seat.

The Hill: Sarah Huckabee Sanders sails to Arkansas GOP governor nomination.

Across the aisle, it’s too close to call in Texas’s 28th District where Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) is narrowly hanging on against progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros. As of press time, Cueller, one of the foremost moderates within the House Democratic Caucus, leads by 175 votes with almost all votes accounted for, having declared victory late on Tuesday night despite the race not yet being called.

Cisneros did not concede, saying that she is “still waiting for every ballot and eligible vote to be counted.” As The Texas Tribune notes, the contest might not be called for days as there are likely still some mail-in votes that need to be tallied and a recount could be in the cards. 

If Cuellar holds on, that would be a big win for Blue Dog Democrats as Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) trails in his reelection bid and the number of moderate House Democrats continues to dwindle. 

Elsewhere, Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.) defeated fellow Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Ga.) in the state’s 7th District in the lone member versus member matchup of the evening, topping her by more than 32 percentage points. 

The Hill: New Hampshire Democrats spotlight abortion issues in tough Senate election.

The Associated Press: Courts stymie abortion bans in Iowa, other GOP-led states.

  ADMINISTRATION 

On Tuesday, the FBI apprehended Iraqi national Shihab Ahmed Shihab, accused of being an ISIS operative who plotted to assassinate former President George W. Bush, according to Forbes. Shihab, who appeared in court in Ohio after his arrest, allegedly planned to smuggle four Iraqi foreign nationals into the United States for the purpose of killing Bush in an operation titled “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” the Justice Department charged.

🍼 The nation’s critical infant formula shortage continues. The administration, seeking to speed distribution of available baby formula products by truck, waived maximum driving time limitations for truck drivers (The Hill). … FedEx flew a European shipment of baby formula to Dulles International Airport outside of Washington for FedEx transport to a Nestle facility in Pennsylvania (American Shipper).

A Pentagon panel tasked with recommending new non-Confederate names for nine Army bases released its list on Tuesday (The Hill).  

IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES

   UKRAINE CRISIS 

Russia’s war against Ukraine entered its fourth month today as it continued to engage in an effort to encircle two eastern Ukraine cities along the Siverskiy Donets River — Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk — as part of Moscow’s effort to gain a larger foothold in the Donbas region. 

The two river cities represent the easternmost part of Ukrainian-held territory in the Donbas region, making them a Russian priority after it took control of three towns in the Donetsk region, including Svitlodarsk (Reuters).

“The situation on the [eastern] front is extremely difficult because the fate of this country is perhaps being decided [there] right now,” said Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk.

Meanwhile, the question of what a potential resolution to end the war would look like continues to crop up, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has mentioned in recent days that it will take diplomacy to make that happen. On Tuesday, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who helped ease tensions with the Soviet Union and normalize relations with China, suggested that Ukraine should cede territory in the east in order to bring the war to a conclusion. 

The Associated Press: Ukraine: 200 bodies found in basement in Mariupol’s ruins.

Reuters: Zelensky says he is willing to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war.

The New York Times: Russia and China held a joint military exercise while Biden was in Asia, their first since Russia invaded Ukraine.

The Associated Press: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny lost his appeal of a conviction and sentence of nine years in prison on charges of defrauding supporters. He will be sent to a high-security prison in Russia. 

“Negotiations need to begin in the next two months before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome. Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante,” Kissinger, 98, said at the world economic forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself” (The Washington Post).

That idea is highly unlikely to go over well with Ukrainians, however. According to a new poll conducted by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, 82 percent of Ukrainians believe the country should not give Russia land as part of a final deal under any circumstances, even if it means a continuation of the war (Reuters).

The Associated Press: Russian sentenced to life in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial.

The Wall Street Journal: The island where Roman Abramovich kept $7 billion is now scrutinizing the Russian oligarch.

CORONAVIRUS

Individuals who experience a second wave of COVID-19 symptoms after finishing a course of Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral drug, are advised to isolate for five more days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday. 

Dozens of people who have taken Paxlovid to recover from a COVID-19 infection have reported recurring symptoms, which Pfizer says is uncommon. According to the CDC, people who experienced a second bout of infection did not suffer severe disease (Reuters). 

Elsewhere, a new study published on Tuesday showed that long COVID-19 symptoms can last up to 15 months after an initial case of the virus. The deep dive into the mysterious symptoms comes as researchers push for more research on long COVID-19, a topic that has been sparsely looked into at that level.  

The Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology studied 52 people who were part of an initial group of 100 long COVID-19 patients for the survey. Patients participated in the study between 11 and 18 months since they initially tested positive for COVID-19.

Participants reported “improvements in their recovery, cognitive function, and fatigue, but quality of life measures remained lower” (The Hill).

Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,002,742. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 279, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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OPINION

■ Is this how the Bush dynasty ends? by James Hohmann, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3MPRP5u

■ On Taiwan, Biden should find his inner Truman, by Bret Stephens, columnist, The New York Times. https://nyti.ms/3MN2XQy 

WHERE AND WHEN

The House meets on Friday at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session. 

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and will resume consideration of the nomination of Sandra Thompson to be director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 1:30 p.m. Biden will sign an executive order at 4 p.m. in the East Room and speak, along with Vice President Harris, about “accountable policing” and public safety. 

The Federal Reserve will release minutes from its April meeting at 2 p.m. Want to know in general why the minutes are important to analysts? Forbes has the answer HERE.


🖥  Hill.TV’s “Rising” program features news and interviews at http://thehill.com/hilltv, on YouTube and on Facebook at 10:30 a.m. ET. Also, check out the “Rising” podcast here.


ELSEWHERE  

INTERNATIONAL

North Korea test-launched a suspected intercontinental ballistic missile and two shorter-range weapons into the sea Wednesday, South Korea said. If confirmed, it would be North Korea’s first ICBM launch in about two months (The Associated Press). 

STATE WATCH

Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) on Tuesday vetoed a bill to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, setting the stage for a possible battle with the state legislature, which may attempt to muscle it into law. Carney reiterated his support for decriminalizing the drug, but maintained that he could not go further (The Hill). … Walmart announced on Tuesday an expansion of its drone delivery operations at 34 locations across six states, with the intention of reaching up to 4 million households. According to Walmart, it will be able to deliver 1 million packages via drone over the course of the year. The service will be implemented across Arizona, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Utah and Virginia and will cost customers $3.99 per delivery order of up to 10 pounds (The Hill).

© Associated Press / Michael Shroyer | A Wing Hummingbird drone carries a package, 2018.

RAIL

U.S. supply chains could see a new complication if there’s a rail shutdown. Railroad worker unions, which complain that tens of thousands of employees have been laid off by four major railroads, this week will ask a government board to be released from tenuous contract talks with the railroads, a move that would allow rail conductors to strike (The Hill).

THE CLOSER

© Associated Press / Chris Gardner | Jesse Bigham of Massachusetts and the shark from the movie “Jaws,” 1988.

And finally … 🦈 In the 1975 hit movie “Jaws,” which made many Americans think twice about entering even a bathtub, young Jonathan Searle was cast as one of two boys who snorkel near the shore hiding beneath a fake dorsal fin to scare beachgoers (The Associated Press). Last week, Searle was named police chief in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, on the Massachusetts island on which the movie was partially filmed. “It’s something I’ve been working toward my whole career,” he said, adding he’s excited to get started in a new job in a community he knows well, the Vineyard Gazette reported.

The shark prank clip from “Jaws” (“He made me do it!”) can be seen HERE.


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