Guilty plea by campaign official 'could spell the end for Trump'
The decision by former Trump campaign official Rick Gates to plead guilty to federal charges could mark the end of Donald Trump's presidency, a veteran lawyer involved in the Watergate scandal has claimed.
John Dean (79), who served as counsel to President Richard Nixon from July 1970 until April 1973 and who pleaded guilty to a single charge in exchange for acting as a key witness for Watergate prosecutors, said the decision by Mr Gates could be crucial.
Mr Gates (45), who served as a deputy to Mr Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty last week as part of a deal with Robert Mueller in the special counsel's investigation into Russia's alleged interference in the 2016 election.
"Mueller is throwing everything he can against Manafort, including Gates who can nail him. Increasingly it appears Manafort is the link to Russian collusion," Mr Dean tweeted.
"If Gates can testify that Manafort was acting with Trump's blessings, it's the end of his presidency. That's substantial."
Mr Gates pleaded guilty on two federal charges brought by Mr Mueller's team - one count of conspiracy against the United States and one count of making false statements to FBI agents.
As part of the plea deal, Mr Gates agreed to co-operate "fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly", with the special counsel's office as well as other law enforcement officials, according to court documents.
Speculation had mounted recently that Mr Gates would plead guilty and co-operate in Mr Mueller's probe, making him a key witness who could testify in the criminal case against Mr Manafort.
Mr Dean said in a subsequent tweet that people have "expressed concern in this Manafort thread that Trump will pardon him".
He said: "Many of the counts in both the VA and DC indictments have state law counterparts that can be charged in NY and VA, where Trump had no pardon power. Checkmate is coming for Paul Manafort."
Mr Manafort has pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen charges that include money-laundering and conspiracy.
Two weeks ago, Mr Mueller indicted 13 Russians on charges relating to a carefully planned scheme to incite political discord in the US in the months before the election.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors who have already indicted Mr Manafort on charges of money-laundering, bank fraud and covertly lobbying for pro-Russian interests may have additional leverage arising from a loan he received while engaged in the bankruptcies of properties in California, several former law enforcement officials say.
Reuters has found new information about Mr Manafort's handling of the loan and its potential link to the bankruptcies as Mr Mueller seeks to pressure Mr Manafort to co-operate with his investigation into Trump's campaign team.
At issue is whether the failure to disclose a loan from a lender that was also the main creditor in the California bankruptcy cases represented an illegal concealment of material information.
Reuters has also learned that over the past several months Mr Mueller has begun focusing on Jeffrey Yohai, Mr Manafort's former son-in-law and his partner in four California property deals that failed and were placed in bankruptcy, as a potentially valuable witness in his probe. (© Independent News Service)
‘I’d have run into school – even if I didn’t have gun’
Donald Trump said he would have rushed inside the Florida high school where 17 people were shot dead even if he was not armed.
The US president made the comment as he said an armed police school resource officer, who remained outside the building during the massacre on February 14, had “choked”.
Speaking to a group of 39 state governors at the White House, Mr Trump said: “I really believe I’d run in even if I didn’t have a weapon.”
He added: “I think most of the people in this room would have done that too.”
Following reports that other police officers had also failed to go in, Mr Trump said it was “frankly disgusting” and added: “They weren’t exactly Medal of Honour winners.”
However, in his first public statement about the shootings, Scot Peterson, the school resource officer, said it was “patently untrue” that he acted with cowardice, and there had been a “gross oversimplification” of what happened. He said an initial report said firecrackers were being set off near the building. Mr Peterson then heard gunshots “but believed that those gunshots were originating from outside of the buildings”. Following his training to seek cover and assess the situation in the event of outdoor gunfire, he “took up a tactical position” while alerting headquarters and initiating a “Code Red” lockdown of the school.