The Latest: Trump calls Syria ‘humanitarian disgrace’

OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump (all times local):

2:55 p.m.

President Donald Trump is blaming Russia, Iran and the Syrian government for recent violence in Syria, calling it a “humanitarian disgrace.”

Hundreds have been killed amid increased bombardments in recent days of the rebel-controlled eastern suburbs of Damascus. The death toll from the past week has climbed to more than 400.

Trump is speaking at a joint news conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull says Australia has been very generous in accepting refugees from Syria and says the Islamic State group’s attempts to establish a caliphate has now “been smashed.”

He says what’s needed now is a political settlement reached by the people who live there.


2:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he has spoken to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about his plans to curb gun violence and bolster school safety in the aftermath of the deadly Florida high school shooting.

Trump says in a joint news conference with Australia’s prime minister that making schools a “gun-free environment” doesn’t increase safety.

He says security guards typically don’t know and don’t love the children at schools. Trump again criticized the Florida deputy who didn’t enter to try to stop the Florida shooter. He says the man standing outside the school “doesn’t love the children.”

11:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump says only a fraction of teachers and administrators should have guns to protect students from attackers.

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday, the president said, “maybe 10 percent or 20 percent of the population of teachers, etc” should have concealed weapons. He added that “nobody would ever see it unless they needed it.”

Had this fraction of school personnel been armed last week when a shooter killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a “teacher would have shot the hell out of him before he knew what happened.”

He called reports that he wants all teachers armed, “fake news.” He said he only wants school personnel already trained with firearms to have guns, because they “love their students” and want to protect them.


11:28 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he goes to great lengths to hide a bald spot revealed in a recent photo.

Speaking before the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday, Trump turned around onstage and smoothed the back of his famous hair.

He said, “I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks.” The crowd cheered as Trump glanced at a monitor and added, “doesn’t look bad. Hey, we’re hanging in.”

During the 2016 campaign, Trump let a woman tug on the top of his signature flaxen coif to prove the hair there is attached to his head.

The president’s bald spot was exposed Feb. 2 when he turned away from cameras to climb aboard Air Force One. As Trump climbed the stairs, a wind gust blew aside a flap of hair.


11:25 a.m.

President Donald Trump is blaming ailing Republican Sen. John McCain for impeding efforts to repeal “Obamacare” in a speech in front of conservative activists.

But he’s refusing to mention the cancer-stricken senator by name.

Trump tells the crowd, “I don’t want to be controversial so I won’t use his name, O.K.”

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, told POLITICO’S Women Rule podcast earlier this month that the president had called her last year to say he would back off from criticizing her father.

She said, “I don’t believe he would go there again.”


11:15 a.m.

The White House is inviting a prominent gun safety advocate to a meeting next week.

Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy tells The Associated Press the White House has asked to sit down with him.

Murphy says, “I’m here to hear the White House out.” He’s not expected to meet with the president, but likely with his aides. It’s unclear if other lawmakers are also invited.

The Connecticut senator became an outspoken advocate for more gun restrictions after the 2012 elementary school shooting in Sandy Hook.


11:10 a.m.

President Donald Trump says the Rev. Billy Graham is among the few people who deserve to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Trump tells an annual gathering of conservative activists that few people are afforded the honor and “it’s a big thing.”

The famous evangelist died Wednesday at his North Carolina home. He was 99.

Trump says he bets the lines of people waiting to enter the Capitol next week to pay respects to Graham “are going to be long and beautiful, because he deserves it.”

The president says Graham was a “great man” who had a “great family” that was “for us” from the beginning.

Trump did not say whether he would go to the Capitol to pay his respects.


11:06 a.m.

President Donald Trump is bringing back his biggest campaign hits for his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Trump is speaking to an enthusiastic crowd at the annual gathering of conservative activist and playing to the crowd.

Trump at one point asked if they minded if he went off script, saying his prepared remarks were a little bit “boring.”

He’s also talking up his appearance in front of the group in 2011, calling it a love fest and his very first political speech.

The crowd is responding with chants of “Lock her up!” ”Build the wall!” and “USA!” just like they used to do on the campaign trail.


10:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump is polling an audience of conservative activists on whether they prefer the Second Amendment or the tax cuts he signed into law late last year.

Trump tells those gathered at the Conservative Political Action Conference that if the Democrats win seats in 2018 they will “repeal your tax cuts” and “take away your Second Amendment,” which he says, “we will never allow to happen.”

Then Trump asked the crowd which priority they’d pick if they only had a choice of one.

The cheers were louder for the gun rights, but Trump assured, “We’re going to get them all.”

Trump has proposed increasing the minimum age for the purchase of certain guns in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Florida. The National Rifle Association opposes the plan.


10:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump is urging his conservative supporters to keep up the enthusiasm heading into November’s congressional election.

Republicans control the House and hold a slim majority in the Senate, but Democrats are hoping to flip either or both chambers in the fall.

Trump is telling attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference that if Democrats win they will repeal new tax cuts and take away their constitutional right to bear arms.

Trump notes that historically the party that controls the presidency suffers in the midterm elections two years later because after they “fight, fight fight” for the White House “nobody has that same drive” and “so you end up not doing that well.”

He tells his supporters that they have “got to keep up the enthusiasm.”


10:30 a.m.

President Donald Trump is telling conservative activists that he’s proven he’s one of them.

Trump is opening his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference by reminding the group that when he first started running, people questioned the former Democrat’s conservative credentials.

He says, “I think now we’ve proved I’m a conservative.”

The annual conference on the outskirts of Washington is considered the country’s highest-profile gathering of conservative activists.

Numerous members of the administration have been speaking.


10:11 a.m.

President Donald Trump says the armed officer who didn’t stop the gunman who carried out last week’s Florida massacre was either a “coward” or “didn’t react properly under pressure.”

Trump was leaving the White House to attend the Conservative Political Action Conference when he said: “When it came time to get in there and do something,” Florida deputy Scot Peterson “didn’t have the courage or something happened.”

Trump added, “He certainly did a poor job, there’s no question about that.”

Officials announced Thursday that Peterson never went inside to engage the gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while the shooting that killed 17 was underway.

Trump says this “could have been prevented.”

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