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 — Wisconsin Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson, a consultant for Fortune 500 companies, doesn’t look much like the renegade outsiders whom political strategist Steve Bannon says he’s recruiting for his war on the Republican establishment. But Nicholson has Bannon’s backing anyway, thanks to his loyalty to President Donald Trump.

As Bannon drafts his team of challengers to the old guard, the new guard is increasingly aligned not by ideology, but by its history of support for the president. Republicans who have criticized the president or been slow to embrace him are out.

One particular test for the Breitbart News chairman and former Trump White House strategist is how such Republicans reacted during the campaign to the 2005 “Access Hollywood” video showing Trump bragging about sexually imposing himself on women. Those who kept quiet about it or stuck with him earn Bannon’s favor now even if it means looking the other way on some policy positions and affiliations. Nicholson, for example, has backing from wealthy free-trade advocates, an awkward policy fit with Trump’s economic nationalism.

“If you were never-Trump, refused to ever endorse the president or withdrew your endorsement following ‘Access Hollywood’weekend, don’t even bother walking through Bannon’s door,” said Bannon adviser Andy Surabian.

Bannon hopes chiefly to topple Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom he has blamed for obstructing Trump’s agenda, especially efforts to dismantle Barack Obama’s 2010 health care law. Bannon has threatened to find a Republican primary opponent for almost every GOP senator seeking re-election in 2018.

“The United States Senate in particular has done, I think, a terrible job in supporting President Trump,” Bannon told the California Republican convention last month.

In Wisconsin, state Sen. Leah Vukmir is opposing Nicholson for the GOP’s U.S. Senate nomination. In last year’s presidential campaign, she first supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s short campaign before shifting to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. She helped record a pro-Trump radio ad a week before the election — perhaps too little, too late, in Bannon’s eyes.

“The voters know I have been a supporter of Donald Trump,” she told The Associated Press last month. “I’ve traveled around this state and talked to countless people who want to see the president’s agenda move and are frustrated that it’s not happening.” She hasn’t said publicly whether she supports McConnell.

Nicholson only recently swung against McConnell. He’s backed by the pro-trade Club for Growth, and in 2000, spoke to the 2000 Democratic National Convention as the national president of College Democrats.

In September he said: “I have no issues voting for Mitch McConnell.”

But the following month, after meeting with Bannon, Nicholson publicly called for “new leadership.”

While Surabian said Bannon is generally “looking for candidates who support the president and his America First agenda,” policy unity is not a prerequisite.

“You don’t have to be perfect,” Bannon told the California convention. “This is not a commoditized product like Procter & Gamble.”

Nor is it a free-for-all. Some positions, such as supporting a route to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally, would be a big problem for Bannon.

Bannon thinks his nascent insurgency is already having results, thanks to the retirement announcements of two sharp critics of Trump, Republican Sens. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona. In Tennessee, Bannon supports Rep. Marcia Blackburn, a popular conservative House member bidding for the Senate. She has McConnell’s backing, too.

Bannon also has endorsed former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward, who lost her 2016 primary challenge to Sen. John McCain. Republican Rep. Martha McSally, who never endorsed Trump, is weighing a campaign for Flake’s seat.

Bannon is also looking to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, who opposed Trump last year and opposed legislation in July aimed at dismantling “Obamacare.”

Yet Heller’s challenger, Danny Tarkanian, has supported trade treaties, specifically the Trans Pacific Partnership. Trump pulled out of the Obama-era treaty in January, a move Bannon praised.

In Montana, Bannon is supporting the state auditor, Matt Rosendale, hardly an anti-establishment figure as the former majority leader in the Montana House. But he runs without the trail of tweets left by rival Troy Downing, who last year described Trump as “not electable” and having a “tenuous relationship with the truth.”

In West Virginia, Bannon is supporting Attorney General Patrick Morrisey over Rep. Evan Jenkins, a Democrat who switched parties four years ago to run for Congress. Morrisey, however, is no Washington newcomer, having been a lawyer for a Washington lobbying firm and later a lawyer for the House Energy and Commerce Committee before he moved to West Virginia.

___

Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa.

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Politics

NRA accuses gun-control advocates of exploiting FL shooting

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Leaders of the National Rifle Association on Thursday accused gun control advocates of exploiting the deadly Florida school shooting, striking a defiant tone amid a renewed debate over guns and school safety.

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, in his first public comments since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, said NRA members mourn for the Florida victims but at the same time issued a searing indictment of gun control proponents for attempting to “exploit tragedy for political gain.”

“They hate the NRA. They hate the Second Amendment. They hate individual freedom,” LaPierre said at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Oxon Hill, Maryland, near the nation’s capital.

LaPierre addressed the conservative activists shortly before President Donald Trump held a listening session with state and local leaders on gun safety at the White House.

The president said he had spoken to NRA leaders and expressed optimism that the nation’s most prominent gun-owners organization would support his calls for raising the federal minimum age for buying or possessing certain weapons, enhancing background checks, addressing mental illness and banning the sale of bump stock devices.

NRA leaders did not address whether the federal government should raise the age requirement for young adults to buy weapons. A day earlier, the organization issued a statement saying it opposes raising the age limit.

“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” LaPierre said. “The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”

LaPierre said Democrats such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut were eagerly blaming the NRA. He also assailed the FBI for failing to follow up on warnings about the school shooter.

“Their solution is to make you, all of you, less free,” LaPierre said of gun control advocates. “They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI.”

The longtime face of the NRA was preceded on stage by the group’s spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, a prominent conservative radio host. She accused media outlets of focusing heavily on school shootings involving white and affluent neighborhoods instead of those occurring in inner cities.

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings, you guys love it,” Loesch said. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”

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Trump says raise age for buying assault rifles, defying NRA

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation should keep assault rifles out of the hands of anyone under 21, President Donald Trump declared Thursday, defying his loyal supporters in the National Rifle Association amid America’s public reckoning over gun violence. He also pushed hard for arming security guards and many teachers in U.S. schools.

“There’s nothing more important than protecting our children,” Trump said, adding that he’d spoken with many members of Congress and NRA officials and insisting they would go along with his plans in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.

But there were no words of support from the NRA for his minimum-age proposal — and outright opposition from organizations of teachers and school security guards for the idea of arming schools to deal with intruders.

“The NRA will back it and so will Congress,” Trump contended as he called for raising the legal age of purchase for “all” guns from 18 to 21. A spokesman later said Trump was speaking specifically about semi-automatic weapons. The president’s proposal came just hours after the NRA affirmed its opposition, calling such a restriction an infringement on gun owners’ rights.

Trump has spent the past two days listening to ideas about how to stem gun violence at schools after last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. On Wednesday, he heard from students and family members of those killed in recent shootings and on Thursday from local and state officials.

In Florida, meanwhile, funerals continued. And a sheriff’s deputy who had been on duty at the school but never went inside to confront the shooter resigned after being suspended without pay.

Trump has been proposing a growing list of ideas, including more stringent background checks for gun buyers, reopening some mental institutions to hold potential killers and banning “bump stock” devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic machine guns.

He said Thursday that many teachers have military experience and suggested they be paid bonuses for the added responsibility of carrying weapons. He also appeared open to other proposals to “harden” schools, such as fortifying walls and limiting entry points.

One idea he didn’t like: the “active shooter” drills that some schools hold. He called that “a very negative thing” and said he wouldn’t want his own son participating.

Spokesman Raj Shah later said Trump was concerned about the name and would prefer calling them safety drills.

In Florida, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he now is open to raising age requirements for long-gun purchases. That was the day after he was confronted at a CNN town hall by Parkland students and parents over his pro-gun votes and support from the NRA.

Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, another Republican, told reporters during a visit to the Kansas Statehouse that he supported raising age requirements, saying: “Certainly, nobody under 21 should have an AR-15.”

NRA leaders emerged in unannounced appearances at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, blaming the FBI and local reporting failures for the Florida shooting.

“Evil walks among us and God help us if we don’t harden our schools and protect our kids,” said Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre. “The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.”

NRA officials also accused Democrats and media outlets of exploiting the Florida shooting.

“Many in legacy media love mass shootings,” spokeswoman Dana Loesch said at CPAC. “Now I’m not saying that you love the tragedy, but I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold.”

She and LaPierre did not mention the age requirement issue in their fiery remarks at CPAC. But Loesch said Wednesday night the NRA opposes the higher minimum age for rifles because, “if we are asking young men and women to go and serve their country (in the military) they should be able to also have a firearm.”

She added, “I’m also thinking of young women” who may need a rifle for self-protection.

The NRA was an early supporter of Trump’s campaign, and it remains unclear how far the president will go to cross them.

Shortly before LaPierre took the stage, Trump offered a rallying cry on Twitter, calling NRA leaders “Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing.”

“I don’t think I’ll be going up against them,” he said of the politically influential group. “I really think the NRA wants to do what’s right.”

In Congress, a bill being drafted by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., would apply more broadly than just to assault rifles such as the AR-15 used in the Florida shootings. It would raise the age requirements for all rifles.

In the end, Trump did not stray too far from conservative Republican orthodoxy. His focus when it comes to background checks is on mental health concerns and not loopholes that permit loose private gun sales on the internet and at gun shows. And he remains opposed to a full ban on assault rifles, Shah said.

Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he was skeptical the president would follow though.

“The last time he showed support for sensible gun reform — no fly, no buy — he quickly dropped his support once the NRA opposed it. I hope this time will be different,” Schumer said in a statement, referring to a measure backed by Democrats to prevent people on a terrorism-related “no fly” list from buying guns.

Indeed, it is not clear that the GOP-controlled Congress, which is in recess, will take up or act on a variety of legislative proposals that have been made to address gun violence. Those include measures to expand federal background checks, allow authorities to issue emergency orders to take guns from people identified as a threat to themselves or others, and raise the minimum age for rifle purchases to 21.

The current federal minimum for buying handguns from registered dealers is 21, but the requirement in most places is 18 for rifles, including assault-type weapons such as the AR-15. In some states — mostly rural states with a strong tradition of hunting — young people can buy a rifle at age 14 or 16.

Polls show growing support for gun control measures, including 97-percent backing for universal background checks in a Quinnipiac University survey released Tuesday.

But recent mass shootings, including the 2012 mass murder of elementary school children in Newtown, Connecticut, and the killing of 58 people in Las Vegas last fall, have not resulted in significant legislation. In fact, a bill passed by the House in December would make it easier for gun owners to carry concealed weapons across state lines.

Still, Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla, said the president has a “unique ability right now to maybe really do something about these school shootings” because, at least in some districts, “nobody is more popular,” including the NRA.

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Politics

Questions continue to mount about Walter Scott’s Candidacy

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After our last Sheriff’s race update, an additional source close to the Scott campaign has come forward to News In Onslow with new details – and some questions – about his background and fitness for the Sheriff’s Office.

Our source has told us that Walter Scott, a veteran of Desert Storm, was never actually an Army Ranger. He did serve in Desert Storm and came home with some injuries. His service, however, is reputed to be as a truck driver, instead of a front lines veteran. This begs the question, has some history been embellished by Scott?

Sheriff Candidate, Walter Scott

Law enforcement experience appears to be another point of concern. Walter Scott made the rounds in Onslow County asserting his role in the Sheriff’s Office as a “public relations officer” under former Sheriff Ed Brown. So what does a Public Relations Officer do? Well, not collect a paycheck. Our source has told us that Walter served only in a volunteer capacity, and has virtually no experience in law enforcement. The Onslow County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t appear to ever employ Walter Scott in any position beyond volunteer.

It’s speculated, but so far unconfirmed, that Walter Scott could not be paid as an employee due to his long-term collection of disability benefits stemming from his military service. The same injuries that our source has told us left Walter Scott hooked on Opioids for several years, until he suddenly cleaned himself up.

That leads to another meaningful question: is Walter Scott willing to give up that same disability pension to serve as an elected and paid Sheriff of Onslow?

Finally, Scott is quoted by our source as stating, “I’m going to be the Sheriff of Iredell County, or Onslow. I don’t care which”, a remark that casts serious doubt about his loyalty to the community, and how exactly he plans to balance that with his own ego.

We have yet to see any official websites or information put out by the Scott campaign. Perhaps Scott will address his biography and experiences in some detail that provides clarity to the voters, but that so far remains unseen!

 

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