Political News

Trump's 'surreal' guns meeting delays White House rollout of policy proposals

Posted March 1, 2018 6:56 p.m. EST

— President Donald Trump's freewheeling meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Wednesday has delayed what top White House aides had promised would be the rollout of specific policy proposals about guns and school safety by the end of the week, multiple sources tell CNN.

The chaotic meeting -- which multiple lawmakers recalled with bewilderment over the last 24 hours -- saw Trump break with his party on key issues and take positions, like a suggestion to take people's guns away before a judge has a chance to weigh in, that his administration and Republicans on Capitol Hill had never proposed.

A day before the meeting, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had told reporters that Trump would unveil tangible policy proposals on guns before the end of the week.

"Specific to school safety, yes, we expect that there will be some policy proposals that will be out by the end of the week," Sanders said Tuesday.

But then came Trump's meeting, which one source described as throwing a wrench in those plans and delaying the policy rollout. Aides had been working behind the scenes on policy proposals for school safety and guns based on what the President had stated for days.

Another source said Trump's meeting turned everything upside down inside the White House, especially because the President had taken positions that were different from what his aides had planned to roll out.

For example, one of the sources said the plan was to roll out a policy that would make it easier for a judge to weigh in on whether someone with a mental illness should have a firearm. But Trump said the opposite on Wednesday.

"Take the guns first, go through due process second," Trump said.

The source tried to walk back Trump's statement on Thursday, telling CNN that what the President meant to say was he wanted to create a process that would make it easier for a judge to weigh in on someone's ability to own guns on the front end of a dispute, rather than in the back end.

Before they roll out any policies, the source said, officials are now trying to get the President back to where he was on the issue before the meeting.

The White House rollout is also expected to include a plan to fund school grant programs to help protect against shootings and an endorsement of the "Fix NICS" bill, a proposal from Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, and Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut, that would improve reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

The subtext to the uncertainty around the White House policy rollout is that Trump was so all over the place on Wednesday that it made it impossible for the White House staff to come up with specific proposals that would comport with what he had said during the meeting and what he had previously proposed.

Even Republican lawmakers were befuddled when they returned from the White House on Wednesday.

Cornyn, who sat next to Trump for the meeting, described it as "surreal."

Others suggested Trump's meeting will lack follow-through.

"If we don't do it this time, then this will get old." said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican. "If the President has another one of these sessions and he doesn't follow through -- it's going to hurt him. It's going to hurt the Republican Party."

Graham attended a similar meeting at the White House on immigration earlier this year. Lawmakers and the Trump administration have so far been unable to strike a deal on an immigration package.

All of this comes two weeks after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.