White House

Trump: ‘Great appetite’ for background checks bill; Biden has ‘lost his fastball’

Former VP to say Trump ‘has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation’

President Trump left the White House Wednesday morning to visit Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas after gunmen killed 31 people over the weekend. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he might call Congress back to Washington if he and lawmakers “get close” to a deal under discussion to overhaul the federal background check system following deadly mass shootings in Texas and Ohio.

Trump said he senses a “great appetite for background checks” among members and predicted the various sides would strike a “really, really good” overhaul deal. As he departed the White House to visit with victims of the Dayton and El Paso shootings, he said he has had conversations with numerous lawmakers but was not yet ready to urge a special session of the House and Senate. (No such special session would be necessary, as the House and Senate are still in session. That has not stopped people from referring to calling Congress back to something special.)

“I think background checks are important,” the president said, years after candidate Trump dismissed changing the background check system because the existing system too often failed. “I’m all for it. … I think both Republicans and Democrats are getting close to doing a bill on background checks. ... We've made a lot of headway in recent days."

[Trump seeks cover from Fox News as criticism mounts]

Trump made clear that an assault weapons ban, called for by some Democrats, is unlikely to become law. 

“I can tell you is there is no political appetite for that at this moment,” he said, adding he “will certainly bring this up.”

But, he said, “there is a great appetite for background checks,” saying he is working with “leadership” in both chambers “at this point.”

Asked to respond to critics, including many Democratic lawmakers, who say his rhetoric about undocumented migrants and minority lawmakers is stirring up white supremacists like the suspected El Paso shooter, Trump replied that his words unite people.

“I don’t think my rhetoric does at all. I think my rhetoric brings people together,” he said. “Our country is doing really well — China isn’t doing really well.”

The president added he is “very concerned” when “any group of hate” rises, mentioning white supremacists and Antifa by name.

But some Democratic officials and residents in Dayton and El Paso disagree, and Trump is expected to be received by protesters when he lands in both cities.

Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar, whose district includes most of El Paso, declined a White House invitation to join Trump on the ground.

“My message would’ve been that he needs to understand that his words are powerful and have consequences. Using racist language to describe Mexicans, immigrants and other minorities dehumanize us. Those words inflame others,” she wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

As the president held yet another impromptu press conference on the South Lawn, former Vice President Joe Biden was preparing to deliver remarks later Wednesday linking Trump to white supremacists.

[El Paso skeptical of Trump’s visit as he lashes out at opponents, media]

“In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation,” Biden will say, according to excerpts released by his campaign. “At moments when we have been tested most, American presidents have stepped up.

"President George H.W. Bush renouncing his NRA membership. President [Bill] Clinton after Oklahoma City. President George W. Bush going to a Mosque shortly after 9/11. President [Barack] Obama after Charleston. Presidents who led … who opposed hate … chose to fight for what is best of the American character,” Biden, the current Democratic frontrunner, will say in Burlington, Iowa. “We don’t have that today. We have a president who has aligned himself with the darkest forces in this nation.”

But Trump contended Wednesday that “sick” individuals are to blame, not politicians’ words, noting the deceased Dayton shooter was a fan of liberal officials like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. And he took a shot at the former vice president, saying, “Joe Biden has certainly lost his fastball.”

Just before he boarded Marine One, the president also called on the Federal Reserve to slash interest rates, using tweets to slam the central bank for, in his view, being “too.....proud to admit their mistake of acting too fast and tightening too much (and that I was right!).”

“They must Cut Rates bigger and faster, and stop their ridiculous quantitative tightening NOW,” the president tweeted. His top economic advisers contend the Fed is independent, and Trump is merely expressing his opinions rather than trying to influence or set bank policies.

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