Gun control, Mueller indictments and CPAC: Here’s what you missed this week

Busy week? Here are some of the biggest headlines from a week jam-packed with news to get you all caught up.

CPAC

Republicans gathered just outside of Washington in Maryland for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. The conference hosted a full slate of high-profile speakers, including President Donald Trump.

A CNN analysis from CPAC reported that the mood on the ground was a full embrace of Trump.

“From the paying attendees to the headliners on stage, CPAC’s embrace of Trump — both the man and his politics — is complete. His enemies — the ‘crooked media’ and, still, Hillary Clinton — are their own,” CNN’s Gregory Krieg wrote Friday.

During his speech Friday, Trump went off-script when he touted the success of his administration’s first year, recited a familiar fable from his time campaigning, titled “The Snake,” and expressed thoughts on various other issues, like immigration.

The President also used the opportunity to announce new sanctions on North Korea.

National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre also spoke, accusing Democrats of pushing a “socialist” agenda to limit gun ownership and warning that conservative voters should be “frightened” of future Democratic victories.

His controversial speech came in the midst of a national debate over gun laws following the February 14 mass shooting that left 17 people dead at a high school in Florida.

Gun reform

CNN held a town hall, titled “Stand Up: The Students of Stoneman Douglas Demand Action,” in Sunrise, Florida, on Wednesday with students, parents and community members of the school where a shooter killed 17 of their classmates and teachers.

One of the lawmakers in attendance was Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida. Rubio defended the political contributions he’s received from the NRA, but did say he would support raising the purchasing age for individuals to buy rifles.

“I absolutely believe that in this country if you are 18 years of age, you should not be able to buy a rifle, and I will support a law that takes that right away,” Rubio said.

Also in attendance at the town hall was NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, who emphasized the importance of following up on red flags that indicate when individuals may be a risk to themselves and others.

“I don’t believe this insane monster should have ever been able to obtain a firearm,” Loesch said Wednesday night, calling the suspect “nuts.”

You can read the full transcript of the town hall here.

Rubio wasn’t alone in voicing support for legislation that would raise the age for purchasing semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, but on Friday, the second ranking Republican senator said he didn’t think such a measure would have the votes to pass.

“I think what we want to focus on is things that will actually save lives,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said when asked if he supported raising the minimum age. “That’s why I think the focus should be on the Fix NICS bill, which is the only bipartisan piece of legislation that can be signed into law.”

Diplomacy

Ivanka Trump traveled to South Korea on behalf of the United States for the 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony, set to take place Sunday.

The President’s daughter and senior adviser met privately with the South Korean President to brief him on the economic sanctions against North Korea that were announced Friday.

She “delivered a personal message to President Moon from President Trump about today’s North Korea related sanctions announcement at a small meeting at the Blue House. They also discussed the continued effort on the joint maximum pressure campaign against North Korea,” a senior administration official said in a statement.

Also on Friday, the State Department announced plans to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.

“By the end of next year, we intend to open a new Embassy Jerusalem annex on the Arnona compound that will provide the Ambassador and his team with expanded interim office space,” said a statement from State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. “In parallel, we have started the search for a site for our permanent Embassy to Israel, the planning and construction of which will be a longer-term undertaking.”

Russia investigation

Former Donald Trump campaign official Rick Gates pleaded guilty Friday to two criminal charges in special counsel Robert Mueller’s wide-ranging investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential campaign and related activities.

He’s now the third Trump associate known to be working with Mueller’s investigation.

Mueller also filed new charges late Friday against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Prosecutors allege that Manafort, with the assistance of longtime business partner Gates, “secretly retained a group of former senior European politicians to take positions favorable to Ukraine, including by lobbying in the United States.”

Missouri governor indicted

Missouri GOP Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted Thursday amid looming allegations of sexual misconduct and blackmail following an admission of an affair last month.

He was charged in St. Louis with a first-degree felony invasion of privacy, according to the Missouri court system.

In a statement Thursday, Greitens denied committing any crime and instead called the situation “a personal mistake” from his time prior to taking office.

West Wing shifts

There’s been controversy surrounding senior White House adviser Jared Kushner’s security clearance and on Friday, Trump said it’s up to his chief of staff, John Kelly, whether Kusher will be allowed to keep his temporary security clearance.

Kushner has been unable to obtain a full security clearance in part because of Mueller’s investigation, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN earlier this week. Kushner is unlikely to obtain full clearance as long as the special counsel’s probe is ongoing, one of the sources said.

Another looming question in the West Wing is whether Trump national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster is on the outs.

The Pentagon is considering options that would allow the President to potentially move the three-star general out of his current role and back into the military, according to half a dozen defense and administration officials.

Several sources told CNN that the push for a replacement comes after months of personal tension between McMaster and Trump.

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