The Review, Feb. 24, 2018: Kushner Failing Security Clearance; Arming Teachers Futile; Attorney and Rick Gates Plead Guilty

Trump with his cheat sheet for his conversation with massacre survivors (Carolyn Kaster, AP)

In a touch of good news, there is another chance for the Dreamers not to be deported. Congress has an omnibus spending bill that must pass by March 23. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Democrats and pro-immigration-reform Republicans will attach relief for Dreamers to the bill. It’s too early for a good read on how likely this is to pass. The proponents have some leverage as Trump wants funding for his border wall included in the legislation.

Turning to the usual Trumpian twisted news, an unnamed White House official said that the Florida shootings offered a “reprieve” from a variety of scandals afflicting the administration. The situation at the White House is not good when a massacre is seen as a welcome distraction.

Trump met with some of the student survivors; he had to carry a cheat sheet reminding himself to say “I hear you;” apparently otherwise he would not remember to show empathy.

Trump wants to prevent future shootings by having teachers carry guns. We learned that the armed Sheriff’s Deputy assigned to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida took a defensive position outside and did not enter the school while the shooter was killing 17 people there. Teachers hardly are going to be more effective than a Sheriff’s Deputy. Meanwhile, a third grader in Minnesota managed to fire a police officer’s holstered gun at a school event while the officer was sitting on a bench. That would never happen to a teacher, of course.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a Quinnipiac poll meanwhile showed that twice as many American voters favor gun control as don’t, the highest level of support ever measured by the poll.

Turning back to the White House, last week Chief of Staff John Kelly said employees with interim security clearances would no longer be given access to top-secret information. Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, is one who has not been able to obtain permanent clearance. He is fighting the new rule.

This week we learned that one reason Kushner cannot get clearance is because of Robert Mueller’s investigation. Apparently, Kushner has enough involvement to make him a security risk. In response, Trump said that Kushner was doing “outstanding” work but that Kelly will “make that call” as to Jared’s security clearance. Will Kelly get the hint and let Jared have continued access?

On Tuesday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted an attorney connected with former Trump campaign advisors Rick Gates and Paul Manafort. The attorney pled guilty.

Perhaps in response – and after waffling — Rick Gates, a business associate of Paul Manafort, on Friday pled guilty to two indictments brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. This means that Gates has decided to cooperate fully with Mueller against Manafort and others in the Trump White House.

In turn, that puts immense pressure on Manafort to cut his own deal with Mueller, although it’s not clear that Manafort will do that. We don’t know who else Gates might be able to implicate, although he stayed with the Trump campaign even longer than Manafort.

Just today Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee released a memo heavily redacted by the Trump administration. This countered the memo by Republican Devin Nunes contending that the FBI illegally surveilled Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Despite the redactions, the Democratic response memo said that the surveillance was justified because Page was “someone the FBI assessed to be an agent of the Russian government.” That seems a pretty good reason for surveillance.

Last week Special Counsel Robert Mueller brought indictments against 13 Russians and three Russian companies for violating U.S. criminal law by interfering in the 2016 election. The week before that, U.S. intelligence chiefs told the Senate Intelligence Committee that Russia again will be trying to affect the 2018 U.S. elections. Despite this, Trump refuses to take any action to protect the country.

In case there was any doubt, with just one year in office political scientists already rate Trump as the worst president ever. Trump wrestled the position away from James Buchanan, who for many decades was rated the worst because he made no attempt to avoid the U.S. Civil War in the years leading to it. Congratulations, Mr. Trump, on your new title.

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