Trump, GOP leaders hand NRA new relevance amid gun debate: The Note

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The National Rifle Association is not the force it once was — not with its financial woes and legal troubles, along with infighting and jostling for influence that have come with the changing political landscape.

Yet for at least one day, the NRA will be at the center of a raw debate — and Friday promises to be quite the day ahead of an emotional if not combustible Memorial Day weekend. Former President Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz are among the boldfaced GOP names whose presence at the NRA gathering in Houston will confer fresh relevance on the gun lobby. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to give a virtual address.

Geographically, they will be close — at least by Texas standards — to the grieving families of Uvalde, who will get a visit from President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden on Sunday. They might be too close emotionally for a large swath of Americans, including those represented by the range of advocacy groups planning to protest in favor of stronger gun laws near where the NRA is holding its first major in-person gathering since the pandemic.

Texas Governor Gregg Abbott is accompanied by Senator Ted Cruz as he speaks to the media at Robb Elementary school, the day after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at the school in Uvalde, Texas, May 25, 2022.

Marco Bello/Reuters

The big question in Washington is whether the NRA point of view and the assumed views of its members matter to the bipartisan group of senators engaged in the umpteenth round of talks on the topic of guns. Those views could also resonate with leaders in both parties who have given those senators limited leeway in pursuing a compromise package.

The NRA has been tested before, with mixed recent results. The Manchin-Toomey bill has been effectively blocked for nearly a decade, first through the Obama years and then even after Trump himself oddly chided Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., for not going far enough because he was “afraid of the NRA” — only to revert to his old, pro-gun position.

The more instructive recent example may be when the NRA failed to stop then-Gov. Rick Scott, R-Fla., from signing laws raising the minimum age for long-gun purchases to 21 and creating a red-flag judicial process after the Parkland shooting in 2018. (Scott, now the chairman of the National Senatorial Campaign Committee, is so far steering clear of bipartisan talks on gun control, despite his endorsement of a national red-flag law.)

This week that tested Trump’s political sway, to decidedly mixed results, now closes with one of the most closely watched speeches of his post-presidency. If Republicans want to prove that other voices matter in messaging, even this close to the midterms, they’ll have their chance.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Republicans have blocked a domestic terrorism bill that could have allowed for debate on gun violence in the wake of deadly mass shootings in Uvalde and Buffalo.

The Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act of 2022 passed the House in the aftermath of the horrific Buffalo grocery shooting, in which all victims killed were Black. Investigators have called the attack a hate crime.

Not a single Senate Republican voted in favor of the bill that aimed to make it easier for federal agencies to communicate in order to track domestic terrorism threats and take action to prevent violence. Some GOP senators said the proposed legislation was duplicative of other laws pertaining to terror, and some took issue with parts of the legislation that focus on tracking white nationalist activity, despite federal agencies like the FBI noting the growing threat.

PHOTO: Sen. John Cornyn attends a press conference at Uvalde High School, May 25, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas.

Sen. John Cornyn attends a press conference at Uvalde High School, May 25, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas.

Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

It highlights the challenge Democrats face in their efforts to address gun violence in a 50-50 Senate. Republicans have remained ardently opposed to gun-related measures. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer signaled openness to negotiation on the issue but tempered expectations, referring to “MAGA Republicans for whom no amount of gun violence, whether it’s domestic terrorism, a school shooting, a neighborhood shooting, or something else, will ever, ever convince them to take any action.”

A bipartisan group of senators did meet Thursday to determine if there is a path forward.

“I’m not interested in making a political statement. I’m not interested in the same old tired talking points,” said Sen. John Cronyn, R-Texas. “I’m actually interested in what we can do to make the terrible events that occurred in Uvalde less likely in the future.”

Even with the urgency of an elementary school massacre, successful negotiations are anything but guaranteed.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Democrats head into the holiday weekend with two congressional races yet to be determined in Oregon and Texas as intraparty divisions take center stage in both states.

In Oregon, Rep. Kurt Schrader may have received one of just two presidential endorsements issued so far this year, but Biden’s backing did not help him cinch a decided victory in the state’s 5th Congressional District. The incumbent is currently trailing progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner while election officials wade through an ongoing process to verify damaged ballots. The election will be certified on June 13.

The battle for Texas’ 28th Congressional District was poised to illustrate a response to national fallout over the Supreme Court’s leaked opinion on Roe v. Wade, as incumbent Rep. Henry Cuellar — the last anti-abortion Democrat in the House — faced off with progressive immigration attorney Jessica Cisneros for a second time.

PHOTO: Progressive Democrat Jessica Cisneros addresses her watch party attendees during her primary election runoff with U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar in Laredo, Texas, May 24, 2022.

Progressive Democrat Jessica Cisneros addresses her watch party attendees during her primary election runoff with U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar in Laredo, Texas, May 24, 2022.

Veronica Cardenas/Reuters

As of Friday, Cuellar led Cisneros by fewer than 200 votes, and the margin separating the two candidates allows the losing candidate to request a recount no later than two days after all votes are tallied. The final vote count won’t be available until next week after Tuesday’s deadline for military and overseas ballots passes. Counties will then have until Thursday to tally their results and report them to the State Department. The campaign requesting a recount would also be required to put in deposits for the process to take place, and the cost is based in part on the number of Election Day polling places or precincts.

Although she currently trails Cuellar in the vote count, Cisneros has been fundraising for a “recount fund” but has not yet filed a petition to start the process. In a recent fundraising email following Tuesday’s runoff, Cisneros blasted “Cuellar’s corporate backers” whom she alleged would “spend as much money as they can on legal challenges, trying to muddy the waters and get as many of our votes thrown out as they can.”

So far, Cuellar’s campaign has not filed any legal challenges, but the race continues to expose fractures within the party. In an email with the subject line, “What the Democratic Party did in TX-28 is infuriating,” Justice Democrats, a progressive group that backs Cisneros, blasted Democratic leadership for supporting Cuellar in the race.

“As we witness the end of Roe v. Wade and one horrific mass shooting after another, it’s astonishing to see the Democratic Party dump resources into TX-28 to back an anti-abortion, NRA “A-rated” Democrat,” the email said.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

58. That’s the share of Americans who said they supported stricter gun laws a week and a half later after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. But as FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley, Nathaniel Rakich and Elena Mejía write, there is often a huge surge in support for stricter gun laws following a mass shooting like the one that happened Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas. Read more from FiveThirtyEight on America’s complicated relationship with stricter gun laws.


ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. “Start Here” begins Friday morning with a special episode from ABC’s Vika Aronson on the conflict Russian Americans are facing about their own heritage and identity as the war in Ukraine wages on.


  • President Joe Biden addresses the United States Naval Academy’s Class of 2022 graduation and commissioning ceremony at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland, at 10 a.m.
  • The National Rifle Association holds its 2022 annual meeting in Houston from Friday until Sunday. Speakers include NRA head Wayne LaPierre, former President Donald Trump and Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, among others.
  • ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos: Co-anchor Jonathan Karl goes one-on-one with Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. Roundtable: Former DNC Chair and ABC News Contributor Donna Brazile, The New Yorker Staff Writer Susan Glasser, New York Times National Political Correspondent and Co-Author of “This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America’s Future” Jonathan Martin, and National Review Editor and Bloomberg Opinion Columnist Ramesh Ponnuru.

Download the ABC News app and select “The Note” as an item of interest to receive the day’s sharpest political analysis.

The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day’s top stories in politics. Please check back on Tuesday following the Memorial Day holiday for the latest.

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