Rick Gates, a former top official in President Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty Friday afternoon to conspiracy and lying to the FBI, striking a deal to cooperate and provide information to special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation, the Washington Post reports.
“The plea caps a tumultuous 24 hours for Gates in which he was hit with fresh charges, changed lawyers and admitted crimes.” This move “signals he is cooperating with the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election,” the New York Times reports.
“The plea deal could be a significant development in the investigation — a sign that Mr. Gates plans to offer incriminating information against his longtime associate and the former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, or other members of the Trump campaign in exchange for a lighter punishment.”
Garrett Graff puts it in perspective. “Indeed, Mueller’s probe is accelerating. Yesterday’s new indictment—together with Tuesday’s guilty plea by Alex van der Zwaan, a Dutch lawyer associated with Gates, Manafort, and Ukraine; last Friday’s bombshell indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian entities; and now the Gates plea—underscores that Mueller is applying the full strength of the US government’s resources to follow every thread of the investigation. His indictments have astounded Washington with their level of specificity and detail, delivering a litany of facts that he’s confident he can prove in court beyond a reasonable doubt. His hammering of the Dutch lawyer for lying to investigators continues his consistent message that the special counsel’s office will treat seriously anyone who stands in their way…
Mueller clearly knows where this investigation is going and is methodically building it brick by brick: His first wave of charges, against Manafort, Gates, and George Papadopoulos, established that the Trump campaign had been lying about its contacts with Russians; his second wave—the guilty plea by Michael Flynn—established that those lies extended to figures inside the White House; his third wave of charges, against the Internet Research Agency, establishes that there was a criminal conspiracy to help Trump and undermine Hillary Clinton. Any Americans who knowingly participating in that conspiracy will also, presumably, be vulnerable to prosecution.”
— Daily Intelligencer (@intelligencer) February 24, 2018
Trump has consistently lied about the diversity visa lottery program. He did so again yesterday at CPAC and Eric Levitz called him out.
“Trump then turned his fire on the diversity visa lottery, and declared, in no uncertain terms, that he does not believe that all Americans deserve his respect. “Lottery, think of the lottery. You have a country, they put names in, you think they’re giving us their good people?” Trump asked rhetorically. “So we pick out people, then they turn out to be horrendous and we don’t understand why.”
This is, of course, not how the diversity visa lottery works. Every year, the United States reserves 50,000 visas for prospective immigrants from nations that have not sent many immigrants to America in the past (in many cases, because those nations were barred from sending immigrants to the U.S. for much of the 20th century, due to explicitly racist immigration laws). Millions of people apply for those slots, and the field is winnowed through a lottery. But these immigrants are self-selected (not appointed by their governments as Trump suggests), and must meet America’s stringent education and work experience requirements for all newcomers, and then undergo vetting by the State Department before entering the country (as opposed to being immediately flown to the United States, no questions asked, as Trump implies).”
CPAC this year has been a celebration of Donald Trump, and boos were directed at some of his favorite targets https://t.co/YBPWByJ3E4
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) February 24, 2018
Amy Walter: “One of the most enduring and predictable answers is that the NRA squelches any and all forward movement on the issue of gun legislation. Many point to the power of the gun lobby as the most insidious and powerful force in all of politics.”
“However, pointing the finger at the gun lobby misses the underlying values that define the owning of a gun in the first place — the values of safety and freedom. In the American version of the ‘hierarchy of needs,’ these two values are at the top. According to Pew Research polling, 67 percent of gun owners own a weapon for ‘protection.’ Guns = safety and security. Those who want more gun restrictions argue that guns are often used to harm not protect. That even the most conscientious gun owners can cause accidents. But, gun owners don’t see things that way. That may not make sense to many of us who don’t own one, but it does to them.”
“Successful politicians and political movements meet people where they are, not where they believe they should be. Portraying the NRA as an all-powerful manipulator of gullible gun owners not only insults gun owners but only further deepens the cultural divide on the issue.”
A new CBS News poll finds 65% of Americans “now say laws covering the sale of guns should be stricter – an eight-point increase from December. It is the highest number recorded in this poll for stricter gun sale laws.”
“The rise has been primarily among Republicans and independents, with a large increase among Republicans from last December. Democrats remain in favor. “
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) February 22, 2018
Washington Post: “To date, Mueller’s team has brought more than 100 criminal counts against 19 different individuals. In four cases, the individuals pleaded guilty before the charges were made public. Thirteen of the individuals are Russian nationals involved in efforts to influence the 2016 election through social media. Four of the individuals facing or pleading to charges worked for or with Trump’s campaign team.”
Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch indicted last week by special counsel Robert Mueller, is believed “to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month” and “was in close touch with Kremlin and Syrian officials in the days and weeks before and after the assault,” the Washington Post reports.
— Will Wilkinson 🌐 (@willwilkinson) February 22, 2018
James Hohmann: “President Trump’s promises to take meaningful action on guns after Florida look increasingly hollow. His moves to get right with the National Rifle Association on Thursday reflect how much the contours of the debate have shifted and the degree to which the Republican Party has radicalized in recent years.”
“So it should not be surprising that the president’s comments at the White House yesterday afternoon closely mimicked a speech that LaPierre delivered earlier in the day at the Conservative Political Action Conference.”
The Hill quotes Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY): “Not surprised the NRA reeled President Trump back in. Just amazed at how fast it happened.”
“Talking to the president, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn’t make me feel better in the slightest.” — Samantha Fuentes, who was shot in both legs during the Parkland assault, recounting her phone call with President Trump to the New York Times,
— Jonathan Chait (@jonathanchait) February 22, 2018
First Read: “The felony indictment of Republican Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens — for allegedly taking a compromising photo of a woman with whom he was having an affair — could have a ripple effect well beyond the governor’s mansion.”
“For one thing, Missouri is holding one of the most competitive Senate races in the country between incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and likely GOP opponent Josh Hawley, who just happens to be the state’s top law-enforcement official as state attorney general. Additionally, the Greitens matter isn’t going away anytime soon, because Greitens is fighting the charge, and because the state House is investigating it.”
“The McCaskill-Hawley race, right now, is viewed as a 50-50 contest, with control of the U.S. Senate possibly on the line for whichever party wins it. And this felony indictment will be in the background. Possibly for months.”
President Trump mocked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — without using his name — for his no vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act, Axios reports.
Said Trump: “Remember, one person walked into a room when he was supposed to go this way (Trump enthusiastically gives a thumbs up) and he said he was going this way, and he walked in and he went this way (Trump throws his thumb down) and everyone said what happened? What was that all about? … I don’t want to be controversial so I won’t use his name. What a mess!”
Just two weeks ago, Meghan McCain told Politico that Trump had called her to say he would “back off” her cancer-stricken father.
Nothing shows the extent of Trump’s disengagement from policy quite like his infrastructure plan. "The builder president" has no vision for what to build, and likely doesn’t know his budget is a net cut to infrastructure funding. https://t.co/5Svcwint0L
— Ezra Klein (@ezraklein) February 22, 2018
A new Public Policy Polling survey in the Kansas third congressional district finds Brent Welder (D) leading Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) by seven points, 49% to 42%.
Playbook: “They believe the CNN town hall has provided a visual that the masses in this country want changes to the gun laws of this country. They believe this is false, despite polling that shows a movement in this direction. Seeing Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a long-time ally, change his position under public pressure has many nervous that he is just the first Republican willing to make concessions on the issue.”
“Look for them to support, or at least not try to stop, legislation to ban bump stocks and close mental health loopholes. Raising the age limit for purchasing the AR-15 would be a lot tougher for them to swallow. Still, they realize that their biggest advantage has been winning elections. The stakes have never been higher for the NRA than in the 2018 midterm elections. And the president of the United States has publicly said the NRA wants to cut some sort of gun-control deal, so they’ll need to find some safe ground.”
“Soon after the RNC came under pressure for paying legal bills for President Trump and his eldest son in the special counsel’s Russia probe, it started covering expenses for the president’s re-election campaign,” CNBCreports.
“The RNC is using campaign funds to pay Trump’s company more than $37,000 a month in rent, and to pay thousands of dollars in monthly salary to Vice President Mike Pence’s nephew, John Pence, party officials confirmed this week. The rent pays for office space in the Trump Tower in New York for the staff of Trump’s re-election campaign. John Pence is the Trump campaign’s deputy executive director.”
The arrangement “is highly unusual but legal, and it appears the RNC disclosed it correctly.”