President Donald Trump said he wanted to meet with state attorneys general to hear their ideas about gun laws — he brought in two anti-gun-regulation Republicans, and the White House says that’s enough.
Trump won’t be meeting with a bipartisan group of AGs in Washington this week for the National Association of Attorneys General conference, as he did last year. After being told to leave part of Monday open to come to the White House, Democratic attorneys general have been told not to expect to see the president.
“I would have liked to have had a respectful conversation with him, but unfortunately he rescinded that invitation,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, a Democrat, said on Monday. “I would have said, ‘Mr. President, it does not have to be this way, that this is a conscious choice that you and other policymakers make to quite literally do nothing and allow these murders to continue.’”
Standing with nodding colleagues from Rhode Island, Maryland, Maine, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, D.C., at a news conference near the White House, Shapiro said he would have talked about policy measures that could be taken in response, including improved data sharing with the federal government, holding off on the efforts to pass concealed-carry reciprocity (which would allow people to follow the concealed-weapons laws of their states even when traveling to other states) and banning assault weapons.
“You don’t have to invent the wheel, Mr. President,” added California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, also a Democrat. “There are a whole bunch of us who can tell you how to save lives.”
Florida’s Pam Bondi and Indiana’s Curtis Hill both attended the White House meeting last week.
In an email sent on Monday morning and obtained by POLITICO, a White House aide dispensed with Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s attempt to secure a time for the meeting to discuss gun laws and other topics.
“The president very much appreciated the opportunity to have two state attorneys general in Thursday’s important discussion on school and community safety,” the White House aide wrote. “State attorneys general will bring an important perspective to this conversation moving forward.”
The aide pointed out that the U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, would be speaking to the AG conference this week, as did White House spokesman Hogan Gidley, asking whether that made a difference.
Gidley laughed when told officials were accusing Trump of not wanting to meet with the attorneys general because he didn’t want to talk about gun laws — “That’s their claim?” he asked incredulously. He pointed out that on Monday the president met with governors at the White House, and “he met with parents and teachers and law enforcement officials.”
Gidley said the White House tried to find a meeting date, “but scheduling conflicts prevented a meeting.”
“It is unfortunate that Democrat attorneys general are choosing to be so partisan in a time when the president is bringing Americans together with bipartisan solutions,” Gidley said. “Instead of participating in partisan political grandstanding, perhaps these attorneys general should come up with solutions of their own.”
Healey said that from what she’d seen, everything Trump has been talking about in White House meetings and in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference last week is “straight out of the NRA.”
“It’s very surprising and I think a real shame that he didn’t take the opportunity to meet with AGs,” Healey said. “He met with two who are not representative of the views of all of the AGs out there.”
As for Bondi and Hill, she said, “it was a self-selecting group. I don’t know what was discussed. I don’t know what’s going to come out of it.”
Healey said she was looking to talk about both mental health and gun regulation.
Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general, said he saw the White House’s decision as part of a pattern.
“They did not want to hear from attorneys general who reflect the will of the American people and stand for reasonable gun safety measures,” Holder said. “They don’t want to hear dissenting voices, whether they’re Republican or Democratic.”