Trump says NRA 'loves this country' - | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

NRA Executive Director Chris Cox and Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne La Pierre welcome President Donald Trump onstage to deliver remarks at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum at the Georgia Worl

More companies quietly avoiding NRA's big show

President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and a host of other conservative figures are scheduled to address the NRA's annual convention in Dallas on Friday. "So, let's ban immediately all trucks, all vans, maybe all cars", he said sarcastically.

The NRA "guns everywhere" agenda will be on full display in Dallas, even as the FBI investigates whether Alexander Torshin, a top Russian banker, and ally to Vladimir Putin, illegally funneled money to the NRA to help sway the 2016 election in Trump's favor.

The judge asked pointed questions about whether prosecutors are trying to get former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to "sing" against the president.

After the Parkland shootings, Trump said he was open to stronger gun control measures but has opposed a ban on assault rifles, a key demand of the student protesters.

Additionally, investigators for three congressional committees probing Russia's 2016 operations have also shown an interest in Torshin, who is a lifetime NRA member and has attended several of its annual conventions.

It is the second year running that Trump has addressed the gun-toting, hat-waving jamboree, but the first time since the school massacre in Parkland, Florida.

The event is also drawing protests, including by those who lost loved ones to gun violence.

Trump endorsed a top NRA goal to allow trained teachers to carry concealed weapons and to install more armed security guards in schools.

The massacre that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14 seemed to mark a turning point in America's long-running gun debate, sparking a youth-led movement for tighter gun controls. He later backpedaled on that tough talk.

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Trump said Giuliani "is a great guy but he just started a day ago".

He also argued that John Kerry is "not the best negotiator we've ever seen".

Trump has long enjoyed strong backing from the NRA, which spent about $30 million in support of his presidential campaign.

NRA officials Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox and Dana Loesch will be among those speaking Friday.

But one of the Parkland student survivors, David Hogg, was critical of Trump's planned attendance. "It proves that his heart and his wallet are in the same place".

During a televised meeting with lawmakers in late February, two weeks after the Parkland shooting, Trump wagged his finger at a Republican senator and scolded him for being "afraid of the NRA", saying he would get results in quelling gun violence. "It doesn't make sense that I have to wait until I'm 21 to get a handgun, but I can get this weapon at 18".

Bump stocks were used by the gunman who mowed down 58 people at a country music concert in Las Vegas in October, the deadliest such attack in modern USA history.

Those words rattled some Republicans in Congress and sparked hope among gun-control advocates that, unlike after previous mass shootings, tougher regulations would be enacted this time.

Trump initially expressed enthusiasm for measures to close loopholes for gun buyers seeking to avoid the background check system, raise the age limit for buying rifles, and find ways to seize guns temporarily from people reported to be unsafe. "Russian politician Alexander Torshin said his ties to the NRA provided him access to Donald Trump - and the opportunity to serve as a foreign election observer in the United States during the 2012 election".

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