Yesterday, the media criticized the White House for canceling its press briefing after the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school. Today, the response has been escalated to a rare presidential address, only the second of Donald Trump’s tenure. He will speak directly to the American people at 11 am ET this morning … but what will he say?
The White House says President Donald Trump will address the nation about the Florida school shooting at 11 a.m. EST.
Trump also issued a proclamation Thursday honoring victims of the shooting at the Parkland, Florida, high school where 17 were killed.
The presidential proclamation says: “Our Nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones in the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.”
CBS correspondent Mark Knoller points out the rarity of the occasion:
It will be Pres Trump's 2nd Address to the Nation. First one was Monday, August 21, 2017. Announced "path forward" in Afghanistan in speech from Fort Myer at 902pm.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) February 15, 2018
This speech will presumably take place from the White House, perhaps even the Oval Office. Trump clearly wants to establish his presidential authority on this issue, but also in as prepared and careful a manner as possible. So far, Trump has only offered a single comment about the shooting, and it didn’t have anything to do with gun control or even cultural issues. Instead, he raised the issue of reporting threats quickly, effectively, and repeatedly:
So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2018
It’s a safe bet that Trump won’t wander too far into gun-control territory, especially in a prepared speech. His base includes millions of gun owners who worried about Hillary Clinton’s policies and judicial picks, and both Trump and his sons are big public fans of the National Rifle Association. If Trump had decided to hold a press conference or wait for a rally to make his remarks, those voters might well have been nervous about what he would have to say. In a tightly-controlled, peak-visibility moment like this, Trump will stick to the script.
Trump also ordered flags to be flown at half-staff today in remembrance of the victims:
— ABC News (@ABC) February 15, 2018
Will he propose any new policies in this speech? Some Republicans proposed to tighten up background checks, which got a lot of pushback during Barack Obama’s presidency from gun groups as a “slippery slope.” Trump has in the past suggested that he’s not a hardliner on these issues, and he may revive some of those efforts in an attempt to look proactive. If so, he’s going to leave some of his allies scrambling to square some circles on previous positions. On the other hand, Trump has only signed one firearm measure, as Knoller also points out — eliminating the Social Security info from background checks. Since his election, Trump has been silent on any other policy innovations in this area. Until today, anyway. We’ll see soon enough.
We’ll embed the live video on this post as soon as it’s available, and we’ll follow up later with analysis of the speech and its reaction. Feel free to post your predictions in the Facebook comments below.
Update: This might be a hint of a reversal, at least in part:
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said the recent school shooting in Florida was a “tragedy” and called on Congress to look into gun issues.
“Personally I think the gun violence — It’s a tragedy what we’ve seen yesterday, and I urge Congress to look at these issues,” he said at a hearing.
Is this a preview of Trump’s remarks?
Update: Here’s the live feed, courtesy of NBC. Notice that it’s not from the Oval Office. That could mean that Trump might take questions afterward.