Last night, Robert Mueller’s senior deputy, Andrew Weissmann, filed a motion to revoke Paul Manafort’s bail. Weissmann premised his motion upon an affidavit filed by an FBI agent that testified to the fact that Manafort contacted at least one witness and attempted to establish a “story” that would be told on the stand.
Politico does a nice breakdown:
After the superseding indictment’s public disclosure on Feb. 23, one of the people whom Manafort tried to call “sought to avoid Manafort” and “ended the call,” according to the affidavit. Manafort tried again with an encrypted text message, stating, “This is paul.” Two days later came another text with a news article describing the allegations and another message: “We should talk. I have made clear that they worked in Europe.”
No one needs a law degree to sniff out what Manafort intended to convey in that last sentence. We can only guess the context, but when it gets to trial, we can tell that Manafort’s defense, whatever it might be, that “they” worked “in Europe,” as opposed to? Well, as opposed to wherever Robert Mueller’s team accuses them of working, most likely in the United States, though one can’t rule out the Middle East or Russia at this point.
More to the point of this article, however, is look at what Manafort did, and compare it to the actions of another famous person currently investigated by the Mueller team. Manafort communicated a concocted story “made clear that they worked in Europe” (if it is clear, then Mueller knows they worked in Europe and there’s no reason to talk), in order to re-frame how something happened, with an important witness.
Transition to Air Force One amidst the exploding news that Donald Jr. led a Trump campaign team meeting with a high level Russian operative in Trump Tower during June of 2016. The media had the story, thus everyone could be sure that Mueller had the story.
Compare what Manafort did with what Donald Trump did. From a Guardian report dated August 1, 2017:
According to the Washington Post, Trump personally intervened to prevent senior White House advisers from issuing a full and truthful account of the meeting on 9 June 2016 in which Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and then presidential campaign manager Paul Manafort came face-to-face with four Russians. One of the Russian visitors was the well-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Mueller has already filed a criminal complaint for conspiracy to defraud the United States case against high level Russian officials. Donald Junior – along with everyone else in the Trump campaign – held a meeting with a Kremlin-linked attorney regarding “dirt on Hillary,” an event that would surely be material in the case against the Russians, and possibly Trump and/or his son.
It was in that scenario, that Trump knowingly intervened, to “create” (dictate) the appropriate story that all witnesses would “agree” as to what happened.
The players are different, the scenarios different, context entirely different (one was awaiting trial), but fundamentally, the same thing occurred, one man tried to hide contact with a witness in his case and agree to a story, one man held a meeting and dictated “what the story would be” – both men knew the entire matter was under criminal investigation.
It is witness tampering, both Manafort and Trump, as far as the law is concerned, both accomplished the same task, committing the same crime. That’s the other part of the Manafort story that isn’t covered quite as much – yet, “Witness Tampering” will be the basis of a new criminal indictment against him. And, it’s not just any old crime. Witness tampering carries with it the possibility of a 25 year prison term, the most of any crime he had been charged with.
Don’t think that Robert Mueller didn’t intend to send a signal directly to the White House in its charges against Manafort. Mueller knows that Trump is working to “get the story straight” with everyone.