don / Flickr DonJohnstonLC business Paul Manafort Trump x27...
don / Flickr

You know, when it comes to excuses regarding high level members of his campaign, Trump really is a one trick pony. He hardly knew Michael Flynn (although he was treated very unfairly, and we all know how Trump is married to fair play), George Papadopoulos was just the coffee boy, and Rick Gates was Manafort’s “boy.” I got a big kick out of it yesterday when Trumpelforeskin said that Manafort was “Only with me for what, 49 days?” Not exactly, but what’s 95 days among comrades, right?

With Manafort, at least Trump is trying to tie a new ribbon in the nag’s mane. He claims that Manafort’s current troubles have nothing to do with his campaign, they’re all issues 12 years old. What Trump is ignoring, and hoping like hell everybody else will ignore too, is that these charges are all charges that Robert Mueller referred to the southern district of New York as being outside of the scope of his investigation. Who knows what kind of Sturm unt Drang Mueller has on Manafort’s time with the campaign, handy in his back pocket for when he issues his report on collusion? Hell, there may well already be sealed indictments sitting in a drawer somewhere for Manafort on those charges.

Editor John Podhoretz raised an interesting point on MSNBC yesterday, but on a little reflection, it’s clear that he didn’t think it through. Podhoretz’ contention was that Trump had made his own life more complicated than it needed to be. In July of 2016, the Times broke an article showing a secret ledger from exiled Ukrainian President Yanakovich, listing $12.7 million in secret payments to Manafort. Manafort was fired from the campaign the next day. Podhoretz contended that with this action, Trump had a chance to make a rare trip to the high ground. When asked about Manafort and Russia, Trump could simply point out, “Hey! We found out about this the same way you did, in the papers. And when we found out, we bounced his ass, we’re running a clean shop here.” But he didn’t. Instead, he tried to minimize Manaforts role, without referencing Russia. Why would he do that?

Because he couldn’t. Trump already knew that Manafort wasn’t just one bad apple, he had a whole rotting orchard in his campaign. Paul Manafort was Trump’s campaign chairman for 144 days, not 49. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane at just some of the events involving Russia that took place during Manafort’s reign as Trump’s campaign chairman.

George Papadopoulos advised his superiors in the campaign that he was in touch with a Kremlin linked Professor in London who was offering Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. He also discussed, in a meeting with Trump present, the possibility of his brokering a back channel meeting between Putin and Trump.

Sam Clovis, Papadopolous’ supervisor, gave his approval for Papafopolous to continue contact with the professor on dirt on Hillary, but to soft peddle the Trump-Putin meeting for the moment.

Carter Page was zipping back and forth to Moscow, giving paid speeches, and meeting with mid to high level Kremlin officials, trips he claimed were known of, and allowed by the Trump campaign.

Jeff Sessions was playing footsies under his Senate desk, and at a political bash with then Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. His later lies about those meetings in his Senate confirmation hearing led to his eventual recusal from the Russia investigation, and directly to the subsequent appointment of Robert Mueller.

Roger Stone was communicating directly with Russian hacker Guccifer 2.0, attempting to obtain the Russian stolen e-mails on Hillary Clinton and John Podesta, and also with Julian Assange and Wikileaks, attempting to assist in the distribution and dissemination of said documents.

Millionaire GOP operative Peter Smith set up a secret working group trying to communicate directly with Russian hackers to obtain stolen Clinton e-mails. Smith told prospective employees and friends he was running the operation with the knowledge of, and blessings of Trump campaign adviser Michael Flynn

The Trump campaign hired Robert Mercer funded Cambridge Analytica to do digital research, using software developed by another Kremlin aligned British professor to illegally mine Facebook user data.

Michael “The Mook” Cohen, with assistance from Russian ex-con Felix Sater, was desperately trying to jury rig an agreement to build the Trump Tower Moscow, possibly including a clandestine trip to Prague to meet with a Russian intelligence officer. He got far enough for Trump to sign a letter of intent, proving Trump’s knowledge of Cohen’s and Sater’s actions.

Robbie the Hut Goldstone was e-mailing to Donald Trump Jr, trying to set up a meeting with a Kremlin backed lawyer with dirt on Hillary Clinton. This is the infamous June 9th meeting, attended not only by Donnie redux, but Manafort and Jared Kushner as well.

I’m sure that I’ve missed as many examples as I’ve listed, those were just the ones that came to the top of my head. The question begs to be asked, why were so many separate and disparate Russians, and Russian backed entities playing a little game of slap-and tickle- with the Trump campaign in the backseat of the Trump limo?

One strong possibility is Paul Manafort. Manafort and his sidekick, Konstantin Kilimnik, a GRU trained linguist, had extensive contacts in both the Ukraine, as well as Russia. Within days of taking over as the Trump campaign chair, Manafort was e-mailing Kilimnik, asking him if he was forwarding his press clippings to oligarch Oleg Deripaska, whom Manafort and Kilimnik were in hock to their eyeballs to, and asking “How we can use this to get whole?” Offering “personal briefings” on the shenanigans of the Trump Klown Kar Kampaign was unlikely to blow up Deripaska’s skirts, but maybe offering intelligence and contact inroads to the FSB on greedy and gullible Trump campaign staff could entice Putin to put in a good word for Manafort with Deripaska?

Look, Carter Page already had existing contacts with Russian intelligence, from their attempt in past years to turn him into “a useful idiot” as opposed to the garden variety, run-of-the-mill idiot that he already was. But none of these other people, Clovis, Papadopoulos, Stone, Kushner, Trump Jr, none of them had obvious ties to Russia’s FSB. How did the FSB know just which ripe cherries to pick from the tree, with minimal fear of exposure. Manafort had long and close experience with snuff-your-enemies politicians in Europe and elsewhere, it would have been child’s play for him to determine the avarice and ignorance of the political infants in the Trump campaign.

So, Trump can bluff and bluster all he wants about Manafort’s transgressions being long in the past, before he was a part of the Trump campaign. But when Robert Mueller starts airing his tonsils on the matter of Russian collusion? To borrow an old phrase from Arte Johnson on “Laugh-In,” Trump and Manafort are likely to look “Verrrrrrry interestink. But schtupid!

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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