Sanders: Trump has confidence in Tillerson after North Korea comments

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is pictured here. | Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she believed the President and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had spoken in the last 24 hours. | Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

President Donald Trump has confidence in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday afternoon, one day after the president appeared to undercut his chief diplomat on Twitter.

Sanders said she believed the two men had spoken in the last 24 hours.

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Tillerson, traveling in China over the weekend, said that the U.S. was in direct communication with North Korea in an effort to reduce tensions with the repressive state. North Korea has ramped up its nuclear program in recent months, test-firing multiple ballistic missiles and testing its most powerful nuclear device to date.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump wrote online in a pair of posts, referring to the nickname he has pinned on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

“Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail,” Trump added in a subsequent post.

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White House says now not the time for gun debate

Sarah Huckabee Sanders is pictured. | Getty Images

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders urged patience when pressed on whether the Trump administration felt the mass shooting should be treated as an opportunity for a policy discussion on preventing gun violence. | Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday said now was not the time for a debate on gun control, but rather that today was “a day of reflection, a day of mourning” for the victims in Sunday’s deadly Las Vegas shooting.

Pressed on whether President Donald Trump and his administration felt the mass shooting that claimed the lives of at least 58 and injured at least 500 — the deadliest in modern U.S. history — should be treated as an opportunity for a policy discussion on preventing gun violence, Sanders urged patience.

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“Today is more, again, like I said, a day of reflection, a day of mourning, a day of gratefulness for those that were saved,” Sanders said during a press briefing. “I think that there will be certainly time for that policy discussion to take place, but that’s not the place that we’re in at this moment. Certainly, I think there’s a time for that to happen.”

Sanders also warned against drafting “laws that won’t create or stop these type of [shootings] from happening.”

The statements came amid increased calls from Democratic lawmakers for Congress to take up increased gun regulation measures, including a bill that would see background checks expanded.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) blasted legislative inaction on gun violence in a statement released Monday, saying: “It’s time for Congress to get off its ass and do something.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged House Speaker Paul Ryan to put the background check bill to a vote on the House floor, while also calling for a select committee to be set up to provide recommendations to lawmakers on ways to curb gun violence.

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Interior watchdog opens investigation into Zinke’s travel

Ryan Zinke is pictured. | Getty

The secretary has flown on government-owned or -chartered aircraft several times this year, including one $12,000 trip from Las Vegas to an airport near his hometown in Montana. | Getty

The Interior Department’s inspector general’s office has opened an investigation into Secretary Ryan Zinke’s use of taxpayer-funded charter planes, a spokeswoman said Monday.

The watchdog has “received numerous complaints” and launched its investigation late last week, said Nancy K. DiPaolo, spokeswoman for Interior’s Office of the Inspector General.

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Zinke is one of several members of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet to face questions over his expensive travel, along with EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and former HHS Secretary Tom Price, who resigned Friday.

The secretary has flown on government-owned or -chartered aircraft several times this year, including one $12,000 trip from Las Vegas to an airport near his hometown in Montana and another trip in the Caribbean, as POLITICO reported last week.

The Las Vegas trip has attracted particular scrutiny, because Zinke was appearing at an event affiliated with a major campaign donor that kept him from catching a commercial flight to Montana. He gave a motivational speech to a dinner for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, a new hockey team owned by Bill Foley, the chairman of Fidelity National Financial. Employees and PACs associated with Fidelity and associated companies have donated nearly $200,000 to Zinke’s past congressional campaigns.

A watchdog group, the Campaign for Accountability, was among those who asked Interior’s IG to investigate. The group said Zinke’s Vegas speech “seems to be a special favor provided to a major political supporter of both Sec. Zinke and the president at taxpayer expense.”

Zinke last week called the attention paid to the events “a little B.S.” and said he followed the law. On Friday evening, after Price’s resignation, the White House cracked down on non-commercial travel by Cabinet members. “[J]ust because something is legal doesn’t make it right,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney wrote in a memo to agency heads.

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Pelosi calls on Ryan to form select committee to curb gun violence

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is pictured. | AP

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan as Democrats began edging back toward calls for gun control measures that they had largely avoided after the June shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday urged Speaker Paul Ryan to create a Select Committee on Gun Violence that would craft “common sense legislation” in the wake of a Las Vegas shooting that has left at least 58 people dead and injured more than 500.

Pelosi wrote to Ryan as Democrats began edging back toward calls for gun control measures that they had largely avoided after the June shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.). Following the mass fatalities in Las Vegas, however, Pelosi called for “a day for action” as well as remembrance of those lost.

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“As members of Congress, our words of comfort to the families of the victims of the Las Vegas massacre will ring hollow unless we take long overdue action to ensure that no other family is forced to endure such an unimaginable tragedy,” the California Democrat wrote to Ryan.

In addition to the establishment of a bipartisan select committee that would “study and report back common sense legislation” to stop mass shootings, Pelosi also called on the Republican majority to take up a bill expanding mandatory background checks of gun buyers authored by Reps. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.).

Pelosi last week rapped the GOP for considering two measures easing gun limits as Scalise returned to Capitol Hill following the June attack that nearly killed him.

Ryan’s office did not immediately return a request for comment on Pelosi’s letter.

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