OK, I give up, somebody is gonna have to explain it to my dumb ol’ ass. The Prosecutions court filing yesterday saying that Manafort had blown his pea deal by lying apparently caught everybody by surprise. But, because media pundits are paid to be big know-it-alls, they all have it figured out. Except they don’t.
One way that you can tell that they really have little idea as to what’s going on is that they can’t even come up with one consistent story line to push. There are actually three conflicting ideas of what’s going on in Paul Manafort’s head right now, and none of them make any sense, if you look at even the most rudimentary information that we already have.
Manafort is frightened of Russian retaliation — OK, for starters, this line isn’t anything new, it’s been around since the summer. When Manafort appeared to be steaming inexorably towards his first trial, some pundits posited that Paul Manafort was going to trial on a high risk case because he was afraid of Russian retaliation if he cooperated with Mueller and the FBI. As long as he stayed in jail and kept his mouth shut like a good little droogie, he and his family were fine. But, if he strayed off of the gulag, it was the :London Tap” for the whole lot of them.
Now, considering some of the people that Manafort had been involved with for years, there is some merit to this argument. But here’s where it falls apart. Nothing has changed for Manafort since June, except that he got convicted! The whole premise of Manafort going to trial was for him to be convicted, and keep his mouth shut, in return for safety for himself and his family, right? Then why in the hell did he roll over and sign a cooperation agreement with Mueller?!? If he was too afraid of the Russians to save himself with a plea deal before the trial, when he held more leverage, what made him think that it would be any safer to sign up with Mueller after his conviction. And now that he’s “cooperated” with Mueller, what makes Manafort think that the Russians will trust him to not roll over again? The whole premise makes no sense.
Manafort thought he could scam Mueller and the FBI — This one also has some merit on the face of it. In fact, most of the former federal prosecutors who are now more than willing to share their expertise and experience with us everyday Joes for a cool chunk of change, admit that in their careers, they repeatedly entered into plea agreements criminals who thought that they could scam the prosecutors silly. And it never worked.
But there is one big difference this time. In most of those cases, the defendants copped a plea after discovery, when they saw what the government had, in an attempt to shut things down, and mitigate the damage. Paul Manafort doesn’t have the luxury of that excuse. Because he just went through a trial back in August. A trial in which he was convicted on eight counts, and should have been convicted on eleven more counts. A trial with so much evidence that the trial judge limited the amount of evidence that the prosecution could put on, in order to keep the trial from going sic months. If Manafort honestly thought that he could con Mueller and the FBI, then he obviously got his brains from the same bargain basement bin that his former boss did.
Trump or his minions dangled a pardon in front of Manafort — This is the most popular supposition at the moment, mainly because it fits so neatly. And there is merit for this one as well. After all, one of Trump’s own lawyers was alleged to have dangled the possibility of pardons in front of both Manafort and Flynn months ago, an allegation that was denied. But there are actually two problems with this one.
For one thing, this assumes that Trump will actually come through with the pardon. This is a bigger risk than plunking $1000 down on the table at a 3 card Monte game. Anybody who trusts Trump to deliver anything more than a stupid MAGA hat needs prescription pharmaceuticals. And there’s another problem. Even if Trump had one of his fall guys hint at a pardon for Manafort, and even if he wants to deliver on that promise, he likely can’t. Once Trump’s lawyers and GOP Senators hear him seriously discussing granting Manafort a pardon, and once they start screaming bloody murder about the fallout over such an action, what do you think the chances are that Trump will drop the idea like an empty KFC bucket?
But here’s the second problem with this theory. Somebody is going to have to explain to me what damn good a Presidential pardon does for Manafort. He pled guilty to income tax evasion. Both Virginia as well as New York state have state income taxes. If he ducked out on federal income taxes, what do you think the odds are that he bailed on his state taxes too? Do you think that those state Attorneys General might like to have state troopers waiting outside of the jail in Virginia, ready to give Manafort a ride back to town? Hell, you could have a shootout at the OK corral if both states send escorts for him.
Manafort also pled guilty to money laundering. What do you think the odds are that any of the financial institutions involved are headquartered in New York? Ya think that the New York Attorney General might be interested in getting her pound of flesh? Ya think that a stand up guy like Mueller might want to share some of what he knows with the NY AG, just to ensure that a total miscreant faces justice for his sins? A Presidential pardon solves absolutely nothing for Manafort, since he has a plethora of sins that can be charged at the state level. I’m betting that if
Trump pardons Manafort, New York will have extradition papers viled with the feds before Manafort can be released, and probably Virginia as well. Manafort will never take a free breath, the feds will turn him over to whichever jurisdiction presents the best case.
So, the long and short of it is that nobody really knows what’s going on in Manafort’s head, and what the hell is really going on. And if there’s one thing we know for sure in this dystopic Republic of
Trumpmenistan, it’s that things will get murkier before they get clearer. In this case, it might be better for the pundits to just shake their heads, shrug their shoulders, and say “Duh, I dunno.” They won’t look quite so foolish when the real explanation turns out to be something completely different.
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