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Week In Politics


A guilty plea from a former Trump campaign aide in the Russia investigation, new questions about the security clearance of another White House staff member, this time the president's son-in-law, and some fresh voices in the gun debate in America. To help us walk through all of this news is NPR's Ron Elving, senior editor and correspondent of the Washington desk. Ron, thanks so much for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: We like to speak with you on Saturday morning about the week in politics. But we could almost just ask you about yesterday, couldn't we?

ELVING: The Trump phenomenon distilled into one day. It began with the president speaking to the Conservative Political Action Conference. That's a group that once regarded him with a certain amount of suspicion as a former Democrat. But yesterday, he was greeted as though he were Moses and all the prophets. It was a throwback to the raucous campaign rallies of 2016. Chants of lock her up and all of that.

Then in the afternoon, the president was back in the White House, having a civilized news conference with Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull. The stock market had a strong final hour to close the week. But there's also news the same afternoon that former deputy campaign manager from the Trump campaign Rick Gates had agreed to plead guilty to charges filed by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. Now, that's in a case involving money laundering, lying to the FBI. But it probably means he's going to testify against his former boss, Paul Manafort, who was the president's actual campaign manager. So more to worry about on that front.

SIMON: And also some developments, Ron - and the president touched on them, asked to respond to them in that press conference with the prime minister of Australia - on this ongoing controversy around security clearances for the White House staff, including Jared Kushner, senior White House adviser, who happens to be the president's son-in-law. What happened?

ELVING: Yes, the president said Friday he's going to leave that matter up to the White House chief of staff John Kelly, who has been trying to get his arms around this. There are scores of people working without final security clearances. So there's a problem here because the Justice Department, according to The Washington Post, has told the White House that Jared Kushner is not going to get a final security clearance for some time. And Kushner says he plans to go on doing what he's been doing. So we have something of a confrontation here still unresolved. The president says he's going to leave it to John Kelly.

SIMON: And that could put more stress on what is reportedly a lot of strain already in the relationship between John Kelly and Jared Kushner, couldn't it?

ELVING: Yes, indeed. And, of course, we're also told that the president is on something of bad terms with his own national security adviser - that's H.R. McMaster - perhaps also his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. So you need to keep doing your batting order in pencil when you go to this ballpark.

SIMON: It's been more than a week since that devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. And it seems that the students there have done something that was really almost unimaginable, moving the gun debate off dime into a new setting.

ELVING: It's heartbreaking to think about how many times we've been here, Scott. The aftermath of a mass shooting, and then nothing changes. But we are hearing a chorus of new voices. It's become a generational issue. Teenagers asking, why are you killing us? And teenagers sharing their nightmare experience in real time with the world with their videos on social media during the shooting. There's a different kind of anger here - people saying, enough with your thoughts and prayers. It's time to do more. And you see 2-to-1 polls saying people want more gun control. You see a number of businesses, including car rental companies and a bank cutting their ties with the NRA. None of this will bring back the ban on assault-style weapons. But there is some movement, some change. This time does feel different.

SIMON: Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.