The cold opening for ‘Saturday Night Live’ featured Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller.
Friday, Donald Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investors, in a deal that called for Gates to assist authorities with their ongoing investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election. That election saw Trump lose the popular vote and ultimately win the Electoral College vote to become the 45th President of the United States. Last week, Trump blamed the inquiry, and the FBI’s focus on his alleged collusion with Russia, for the agency's inability to prevent a mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.
Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign – there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 18, 2018
Gates was initially indicted in October 2017 and pleaded not guilty. However, Friday found Gates changing course and presumably offering to cooperate with authorities in exchange for a lighter sentence. Gates is currently facing up to six years in prison. As it relates to Trump, Mark Mazzetti and Maggie Haberman of the New York Times outlined how Gates’ decision may be a move to indict one of his superiors, and ultimately the big orange nucleus himself.
“The plea agreement is further evidence that the Trump campaign attracted a cast of advisors who overstepped legal and ethical boundaries,” Haberman and Mazzetti wrote. “Mr. Gates was present for the most significant periods of the campaign, as Mr. Trump began forging policy positions and his digital cooperation engaged with millions of voters on social media platforms such as Facebook.”
Gates admitted to previously lying to prosecutors while under oath, about a 2013 meeting Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had with a person described as a “pro-Russian member of Congress.” The 37-page court filing made public when Gates and Manafort were both indicted in October, accused Gates of pocketing tens of millions of dollars as a result of lobbying efforts in the Ukraine. The documents also accuse Gates and Manafort of laundering some $30 million in money stashed in offshore accounts.
None of this directly answers the central question of if Trump coordinated with the Russian government to disrupt the 2016 Presidential Election, but it connects several dots. Gates is now the fifth person to plead guilty as a part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Rick Gates is now the 5th person who has plead guilty in the Mueller probe:
• Van Der Zwann
Gates is the 3rd member of the Trump campaign who has plead guilty.
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) February 23, 2018
(THREAD) This thread includes all you need to know—including key context others aren't reporting—about today's breaking news: Rick Gates' guilty plea.
This is the third guilty plea by a major Trump campaign figure—putting Mueller on Trump's doorstep. Hope you'll read and share. pic.twitter.com/0gvwF4OkoI
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) February 23, 2018
Some reasons why the guilty plea by Rick Gates is a big deal:
-He was the Deputy Campaign Manager for @realDonaldTrump
-He stayed on the campaign even after Manafort left
-His guilty plea suggests Manafort is guilty
-His guilty plea puts significant pressure on Manafort to flip https://t.co/6U9DzlZEN9
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) February 23, 2018
Manafort maintains his innocence, but many political commentators expect Gates to spill some proverbial tea on his former boss, and possibly implicate Trump.
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While Special counsel Robert Mueller and a congressional committee continue to investigate Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election on Donald Trump’s behalf, the President is repeating a familiar refrain. He’s defending his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Trump and Putin’s latest meeting was reportedly limited to the two leaders sharing some informal talks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Vietnam.
“He said he didn’t meddle,” Trump told a group of reporters while in Vietnam Saturday. “You can only ask him so many times … He said he absolutely did not meddle in our election. He did not do what they are saying he did.”
In this case, the “they” Trump is referring to would be the FBI and the CIA and both agencies collective assessment that Russia interfered with the 2016 Presidential Election in order to help Trump win. The former reality show host lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, but still won the 304 Electoral College votes necessary to become the 45th President. While Trump tours Asia, probes are being conducted on possible collusion between various Trump associates and Russian operatives.
The topic of Trump and Putin’s ongoing bromance came up after the Kremlin released an official statement saying the two presidents “confirmed their determination to defeat ISIS (the Islamic State) in Syria.”
According to David Jackson of USA Today, when pressed further about allegations of Putin influencing the election, Trump responded by saying, “Well, look, I can’t stand there and argue with him. I would rather have him get out of Syria.”
After dropping that diplomatic gem, Trump was summarily flamed on Twitter.
I love that Trump-Putin is trending and people’s heads are about to explode over an informal meeting of 2 world leaders. It’s as if Trump paid Russia $12 million for some fake information and colluded with them in a failed attempt to help the opposition lose.
— COVFEFE WHITE GIRL (@CLK54321) November 10, 2017
Q: Why is Trump dress up like Putin?
A: Because Trump is meeting his Puppet master. pic.twitter.com/P3G8PYRGYe
— Susan Ross (Resister (@SusanNow3) November 11, 2017
Just yesterday, Russian state media was reporting that “according to sources,” Trump admin was asking Putin for a meeting, trying to set it up for 2 months straight – and that both Putin & Trump were “prepared” for a meeting. https://t.co/4VMACnHO6W
— Julia Davis (@JuliaDavisNews) November 10, 2017
After meeting Trump at the G20, Putin had this exchange with a reporter
Putin: We didn't meddle, ask Trump.
Reporter: But WH hasn't released any info.
Putin *laughs*: We'll talk to the WH and tell them to fix that. pic.twitter.com/CQkJd1FgDi
— Ubadah Sabbagh (@Neubadah) November 11, 2017
Your Saturday morning headline essentially boils down to the man who penned The Art of the Deal, struggling to make an actual deal with someone who allegedly helped him rig an election he barely won. Putin has been accused of war crimes including the alleged 1999 Russian apartment bombings that ignited the Second Chechen War. So if you add in the layer of Putin potentially helping Trump diffuse the Syrian conflict, you end up with a storyline that sounds as if it were copied and pasted from The Onion.
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