AP News in Brief 03-13-18

Trump’s strong words on guns give way to political reality

WASHINGTON — Not two weeks ago, President Donald Trump wagged his finger at a Republican senator and scolded him for being “afraid of the NRA,” declaring that he would stand up to the powerful gun lobby and finally get results on quelling gun violence following last month’s Florida school shooting.

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On Monday, Trump struck a very different tone as he backpedaled from his earlier demands for sweeping reforms and bowed to Washington reality. The president, who recently advocated increasing the minimum age to purchase an assault weapon to 21, tweeted that he’s “watching court cases and rulings” on the issue, adding that there is “not much political support (to put it mildly).”

Over the weekend, the White House released a limited plan to combat school shootings that leaves the question of arming teachers to states and local communities and sends the age issue to a commission for review. Just two days earlier, Trump had mocked commissions as something of a dead end while talking about the opioid epidemic. “We can’t just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees,” he said, adding that all they do is “talk, talk, talk.”

Seventeen people were killed in last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, prompting a national conversation about gun laws, fierce advocacy for stronger gun control from surviving students and, initially, a move from Trump to buck his allies at the National Rifle Association.

Draft GOP report: No coordination between Trump and Russia

WASHINGTON — Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have completed a draft report concluding there was no collusion or coordination between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia, a finding that pleased the White House but enraged Democrats who had not yet seen the document.

After a yearlong investigation, Texas Rep. Mike Conaway announced Monday that the committee has finished interviewing witnesses and will share the report with Democrats for the first time Tuesday. Conaway is the Republican leading the House probe, one of several investigations on Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

“We found no evidence of collusion,” Conaway told reporters Monday, suggesting that those who believe there was are reading too many spy novels. “We found perhaps some bad judgment, inappropriate meetings, inappropriate judgment in taking meetings. But only Tom Clancy or Vince Flynn or someone else like that could take this series of inadvertent contacts with each other, or meetings or whatever, and weave that into sort of a fiction page-turner, spy thriller.”

Package bombs in Texas capital likely tied to earlier blast

AUSTIN, Texas — Two package bomb blasts a few miles apart killed a teenager and wounded two women in Austin on Monday, less than two weeks after a similar attack left a man dead in another part of the Texas capital.

Investigators said the bombings are probably connected, and they are looking into whether race was a factor because all of the victims were minorities. The blasts unfolded just as the city was swelling with visitors to the South By Southwest music festival.

The first of Monday’s attacks killed a 17-year-old boy and wounded a 40-year-old woman, both of them black. As Police Chief Brian Manley held a news conference to discuss that attack, authorities were called to the scene of another explosion that injured a 75-year-old Hispanic woman.

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Authorities suspect that both of Monday’s explosions were linked to a March 2 attack that killed a 39-year-old black man. All three blasts happened as the packages were opened, and officials urged the public to call police if they receive any unexpected packages.

By wire sources