Dear Commons Community,
Paul Manafort agreed yesterday to tell all he knows to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as part of a plea deal that could shape the final stages of the inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election. As reported by the New York Times:
“The deal was a surrender by Mr. Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, who had vowed for months to prove his innocence in a case stemming from his work as a political consultant in Ukraine. And it was a decisive triumph for Mr. Mueller, who now has a cooperating witness who was at the center of the Trump campaign during a crucial period in 2016 and has detailed insight into another target of federal prosecutors, the network of lobbyists and influence brokers seeking to help foreign interests in Washington.
Mr. Manafort’s decision, announced at a federal court hearing in Washington in which he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy charges, was likely to unsettle Mr. Trump, who had praised Mr. Manafort for standing up to prosecutors’ pressure and had hinted that he might pardon him.
It is not clear what information Mr. Manafort offered prosecutors in three days of negotiations that led to the plea deal. But in court on Friday, Mr. Manafort agreed to an open-ended arrangement that requires him to answer “fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly” questions about “any and all matters” the government wants to ask about.
A New York Times editorial this morning commented:
“…Mr. Trump’s expectation that there is any honor among thieves has been confounded once again…
Unless Mr. Trump is watching Fox News, he can’t be feeling too good right now. In January, NBC News reported that he had told friends and aides he had decided Mr. Manafort wouldn’t “flip” on him. And the two men’s lawyers have been in regular contact as part of a joint defense agreement, according to Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. If any of those conversations involved the dangling of a pardon for Mr. Manafort — which prosecutors might consider to be obstruction of justice — they would not be protected by any privilege and would probably be fair game for Mr. Mueller.
What else might Mr. Manafort reveal? Mr. Mueller is very interested in that curious meeting he attended, along with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner, at Trump Tower in June 2016 — the one with the Russian government representative who promised to provide “dirt” on Hillary Clinton…
The bad news for Mr. Trump is that there are still many unanswered questions about how Mr. Manafort exploited his Russian connections in the service of helping Mr. Trump’s campaign, and whether Mr. Trump knew or was involved in any way. Beyond the Trump Tower meeting, there’s evidence that Mr. Manafort hoped to use the campaign job — for which he took no paycheck — to help Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch with close ties to President Vladimir Putin, and to extract himself from a multimillion-dollar debt to the tycoon.
For now, Mr. Manafort can take comfort in the knowledge that he joins an ever-growing crowd of top Trump associates who have pleaded guilty to federal offenses: Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser; George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign; Rick Gates, Mr. Manafort’s business partner and deputy campaign chairman; and Mr. Cohen, whose case is being handled by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. All have agreed to cooperate with authorities, except Mr. Cohen — and even that may be changing.
How many more guilty pleas and convictions will there be in Trumpworld before all this crime starts to look — how can we put it — organized?”
The dominoes are toppling!