The indictment of Paul Manafort, President Trump’s one-time, brief campaign chairman, is the only news happening in the world right now, apparently. So let’s do a quick sort-out.
Manafort being indicted is important, because he really was Trump’s campaign manager for a bit. But in the bullets below, I’ll explain why there is a big asterisk to this.
The asterisk helps us digest what is happening and all of the media blather that will be surrounding this and smothering all other news — not coincidentally, the DNC and Clinton campaign paying for the Trump dossier and the very questionable Uranium One deal.
So here’s some context for this, to keep from freaking out, or overly downplaying it:
- From back during the campaign, it seemed clear that Paul Manafort was probably a dirty guy and according to media reporting, had been for decades. This was the lowest hanging, easiest fruit for prosecutors and looked pretty obvious all along. Frankly, it’s not clear why he wasn’t under investigation long ago, except Manafort may have Clinton ties also, although they appear more tangential.
- Trump made a big mistake hiring Manafort on to the campaign. He obviously was not properly vetted. However, when Trump realized Manafort’s dirty side, he fired him. So it was probably just lack of experience in the D.C. cesspool. But it was a mistake and the title of campaign manager is irrevocably attached to Manafort.
- All of the charges stem from 2014 back more than 10 years — ironically, the same Mueller was head of the FBI and Obama was in the White House. So what was happening then is a worthwhile question, but not really pertinent to what this means at the moment.
- This is not the time for conservatives to dismiss this because, Hillary! DNC! Uranium! Fusion! These are two different issues. Maybe three. And it is possible the Democratic ones are worse. But, and this is important, Manafort is easily tied to the President of the United States, during the campaign, and he has been indicted, including for colluding against the United States. That is real and it is not good. But is it Trump collusion? There is still no evidence so far. Let’s see where it all goes.
- FYI, the leaks Friday to CNN, the NYT and BuzzFeed on the indictments coming today were a violation of federal law, apparently by the team investigating violations of federal law. There won’t be any prosecutions of that. So, D.C. cesspool remains D.C. cesspool.
- The timing of today’s indictment after all these months is suspicious. It was just last week that the The Hill and then the Washington Post broke the stories about the DNC and Clinton campaign funding Fusion GPS, which created the apparently largely fictional Trump dossier, which formed part of the basis for this entire special investigator action. The news also broke that there are now straightforward connections between the Uranium One deal and Russian money flowing to the Clinton Foundation. Those are huge scandals. So it is quite — um, coincidental — that suddenly the grand jury is impaneled and the indictments come out. Considering the cesspool where this is operating, it’s hard not to be suspicious.
- It’s also hard not to be suspicious about the Mueller team investigating this when possibly all of the 17 lawyers leading the charge are donors or known supporters of Obama and Clinton. That is a pretty stacked deck of hired guns. Still, hopefully there will be actual, honest evidence at the end of the day.
- It’s worth noting that it appears that all of the charges against Manafort stem from the time before he was on Trump’s campaign for a brief period. Some of them go back many years. That doesn’t exonerate any connection, but it also does nothing to bolster any relevance to Trump colluding with Russia.
- In normal prosecutions, the first and easiest indictments are often on those that prosecutors want to flip to get the bigger prize. Manafort is no small fish. But Mueller’s team will definitely try to flip him to get Trump. They want him to cut a deal to testify against someone else in return for leniency. A reasonable concern is that if Manafort is as bad a dude as he looks, and he is facing life in prison, then what might he say, or even make up, to avoid that fate? Now, Trey Gowdy, a former prosecutor and smart, level-headed Congressman, cautions not to get too worried about that because these tend to rely more on evidence than testimony. We’ll see. The problem is, that this is no normal prosecution, so…
- However, Mueller flipping George Papadopoulos, an obscure, very low-level foreign-policy aide to the Trump presidential campaign, could be. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty Oct. 5 to making false statements to the FBI. That’s very weak charge — but its a plea deal, meaning Papadopoulos is going to testify against someone. What will Mueller get him to say? That’s no small thing. If Papadopoulos cops to there being some sort of collusion, then Mueller has the case and it’s only a matter of connecting more of the Trump campaign.
Unfortunately, this is going to go on for a long time. Certainly it will be around still as the midterm elections ramp up. None of that is coincidental. The entire purpose of the left since the election of Trump almost a year ago has been to either remove him from office — election rigged; lost the popular vote; not my president; resist!; Russia, Russia, Russia — or at the very least cripple his presidency. There’s been a fair amount of success on the latter.
Rod Thomson is an author, TV talking head and former journalist, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act.
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