HC Wake-Up Call: White House Restricts Press Access for Trump-Kim Meeting, House Passes Universal Background Checks Bill & Gaetz Under Investigation for Cohen Threat

Good morning, Her Campus! With a break-neck news cycle, there is no possible way for you to stay on top of every story that comes across your feeds—we’re all only human, after all.

But, life comes at you fast. So grab a cup of coffee and settle in for this quick and dirty guide to stories you might’ve been sleeping on (like, literally. It’s early.)

White House Restricts Press Access for Trump-Kim Meeting

The White House restricted press access Wednesday to portions of President Donald Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Four reporters were barred from press availability as Trump sat down to dinner with Kim. The announcement came after two of those reporters asked the president questions during earlier events at the summit, including questions on the upcoming testimony of Trump’s longtime personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, ABC News reports.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement saying that due to “the sensitive nature of the meetings,” the press pool had been limited, CNN reports.

The decision to bar reporters was an abrupt change of plans, as the White House had previously said that access would be granted to the usual 13-person group of reporters who typically follow the president to events.

White House Correspondents' Association president Olivier Knox criticized the Trump administration, saying in a statement, “This summit provides an opportunity for the American presidency to display its strength by facing vigorous questioning from a free and independent news media, not telegraph weakness by retreating behind arbitrary last-minute restrictions on coverage.”

“We call on the White House to not allow a diminution of the previously agreed-to press complement for the remainder of the summit,” Knox said.

AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton said the company “decries such efforts by the White House to restrict access to the president. It is critically important that any president uphold American press freedom standards, not only at home but especially while abroad.”

According to CNN, earlier in the week, the White House press corps was forced to move out of a hotel in Hanoi because Kim was staying at the hotel and apparently objected to the setup. The decision was announced by the Vietnamese government.

Reporters said the White House should have stood up for the American press.

After Sanders told the press pool that no reporters would be allowed into the dinner, photographers said they would not cover the event without an editorial presence. One print reporter and radio reporter were allowed in.

House Passes Universal Background Checks Bill

The Democratic-led House of Representatives reached a big moment Wednesday when House Democrats pushed through legislation mandating federal criminal background checks on all gun sales, including private transactions.

With a vote of 240-190, the House passed the most significant piece of gun control legislation in more than two decades. The last gun control measure to pass the House was in 1994 — the sweeping Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that banned a number of semi-automatic weapons, The Huffington Post reports. Eight Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with the Democrats, while two Democrats — Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Collin Peterson of Minnesota — voted with Republicans against the bill, Politico reports.

With the Democratic-controlled House now able to make this background check bill passage possible, the eight Republicans who crossed party lines to vote with Democrats show that this issue isn’t exactly falling down party lines anymore.  

The measure will now go to the Senate, but it will most likely face stiff opposition by the GOP-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has not committed to bringing the bill up for a vote, and it most likely won’t have the 60 votes needed to pass. Even if it did, however, President Donald Trump, who has strong backing from the National Rifle Association, has vowed to veto the bill if it ever got to his desk.

The bill does include some exceptions, though, including some small exemptions, like for transfers between family members or temporary use of a gun for hunting.

Republicans, however, were able to get Democrats to adopt a motion that would notify the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency if immigrants without legal status attempted to purchase a gun. The motion was adopted 220-209, with 26 Democrats supporting the GOP motion.

In addition to Wednesday’s vote, House Democrats will move legislation Tuesday to close the “Charleston loophole,” which allows individuals to still buy guns before their background check is complete, and extend the duration of the background check from three days to as long as 20 days, Politico reports.

Rep. Gaetz Under Investigation for Cohen Threat

The Florida Bar confirmed Wednesday that it is conducting an investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz after the congressman tweeted a threatening message towards former Trump attorney Michael Cohen prior to his congressional testimony before the House Oversight Committee.

“The Florida Bar is aware of the comments made in a tweet yesterday by Rep. Matt Gaetz, who is a Florida Bar member, and I can confirm we have opened an investigation,” Francine Walker, the organization’s director of communications, told The Huffington Post.

Gaetz tweeted a message to Cohen Tuesday evening, shortly after reports broke that Cohen would be accusing President Donald Trump of criminal activity during his testimony before the committee.

“Hey [Michael Cohen] - Do your wife & father-in-law know about your girlfriends?” Gaetz asked in the now deleted post. “Maybe tonight would be a good time for that chat. I wonder if she’ll remain faithful when you’re in prison. She’s about to learn a lot...”

Walker said the Florida Bar received a number of calls and emails following the posting of the tweet, CNN reports.

Legal scholars have said that Gaetz, a licensed attorney and ally of Trump’s, committed witness tampering.

While Walker could not provide any details on the probe, she did note that the organization would conduct a probe “any time the words or actions of a Florida lawyer result in complaints.”

During Cohen’s hearing on Wednesday, Delegate Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat representing the Virgin Islands, said Gaetz should be referred to the ethics committee for witness tampering, as well as “referred for criminal prosecution.”

Gaetz tweeted on Wednesday night, “I’ve personally apologized to ⁦‪@MichaelCohen212⁩ 4 referencing his private family in the public square. Regardless of disagreements, family members should be off-limits from attacks from representatives, senators & presidents, including myself. Let's leave the Cohen family alone.”

The Florida Bar will send Gaetz a letter outlining the allegation against him, and he will have 15 days to respond, CNN reports.

What to look out for...

Today is Public Sleeping Day! Maybe take a little nap during class? JK.