It’s Time For Paul Manafort To Trade In His Designer Threads For A Prison Jumpsuit
and he was sent to jail to await trial.)
Of all the bad actors who attached themselves to Donald Trump in the course of the Russia scandal, former campaign manager Paul Manafort may be the baddest, and so it would be fitting — and overdue, as well — if he ends up trading one of his Italian designer business suits for an orange prison jumpsuit after his bail hearing on Friday. Besides which, those two home confinement monitoring ankle bracelets he has been wearing kind of ruin his man of the world look.
In addition to Manafort’s all-around badness, which includes a long career making and squandering several fortunes while lobbying on behalf of a rogue’s gallery of corrupt foreign leaders, including Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Mobutu Sese Seiko in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angolan guerrilla heavyweight Jonas Savimbi and more recently pro-Kremlin autocrats, he has believed himself to be above the law.
Just like Trump.
It was not particularly surprising that Manafort’s lawyers mounted a series of largely frivolous challenges to Robert Mueller’s authority after the special counsel charged he and longtime assistant Rick Gates with a slew of money laundering and tax and foreign lobbying violations last October 30 and expanded on those charges on February 22 based on evidence that not only contradicted White House statements that Manafort was an inconsequential player who did all that bad stuff prior to joining the campaign in early 2016, but was continuing doing bad stuff right up to and long past his indictment.
It also was not particularly surprising that Manafort would refuse to plead guilty and agree to cooperate with Mueller as did Gates and three other non-Russian Mueller perps — Michael Flynn, George Papadopoulos and Alex van der Zwaan — despite the probability he will spend the rest of his life in prison because of the multitude and seriousness of the charges.
But it was jaw dropping even by Trumpian standards when Manafort violated not once but twice the generous home release conditions approved by federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson and secured by Manafort putting up a $10 million bond based on his properties in New York, Virginia and Florida.
Last December 4, Manafort was back in Judge Jackson’s courtroom where he was scolded for ghost-writing an English-language op-ed piece about his work for deposed Ukrainian president and Vladimir Putin puppet Viktor Yanukovych with his Kiev office manager Konstantin Kilimnik, who has problematic ties with Russian intelligence and was a likely conduit between the Trump campaign and Russians who were merrily undermining American democracy by interfering in the 2016 election.
This was a violation of a court order banning Manafort from making statements to the press, prompting Jackson to note that “This is a criminal trial, not a public relations campaign.”
Then last Monday Mueller notified the court he had evidence that Manafort and Kilimnik had been tampering with witnesses after journalists Alan Friedman and Eckart Sager revealed that in late February they had been contacted by their one-time pals Manafort and Kilimnik as part of a scheme to try to shape and coordinate the accounts of former business partners given to prosecutors that were, in part, the basis for the indictments. In other words, to lie.
These orchestrated lies were related to the work of former Manafort-Kilimnik partners to tamp down international criticism of Yanukovych for corruption, persecuting rivals and pivoting toward Russia and Putin.
Last Friday, Manafort was slapped with two additional charges — obstructing justice and attempting to obstruct justice — and Kilimnik became the 20th notch in the special prosecutor’s belt when he was indicted on similar charges.
Kilimnik, as a Russian national, is beyond Mueller’s reach as are the 13 Russians and three Russian firms previously indicted for illegally using social media to sow political discord in the election through devastatingly effective actions that supported Trump’s candidacy and disparaged Hillary Clinton.
But it is pretty much the consensus view of former white-collar criminal prosecutors that Manafort has done his dash and his days wearing two home confinement monitoring ankle bracelets (one for indictments returned by a Virginia grand jury and another for those returned by a Washington grand jury because he has refused to allow the cases to be consolidated) may end on Friday when Judge Berman rules at a bail hearing as to whether Manafort should be incarcerated for his serial indolence.
That incarceration presumably would continue through the first of Manafort’s two scheduled trials, which begins on July 10 and should be an appropriate backdrop to the final weeks of the midterm elections lest anyone need reminding what Trump has wrought on the republic with the help of thugs like Manafort and the practiced silence of Vichy Republicans.
Manafort’s penultimate act prior to joining the Trump campaign was to engineer a social media-based disinformation campaign for Yanukovych that anticipated what Russia and its army of trolls did in the 2016 U.S. election.
It was Manafort who lobbied Trump to join his campaign and work for free despite being deeply in debt. There was a spike in campaign contacts with Moscow almost immediately after he joined the campaign and a further uptick when he was named campaign manager. That is a pretty strong circumstantial case for collusion, but the distance between circumstantial and provable can be substantial even if seeming coincidences in the Russia scandal are anything but.
Court filings by Mueller indicate that he has tacked away from investigating Manafort’s financial crimes to his campaign activities.
These filings hint at Manafort and Gates being cutouts to convey information between the campaign and Putin’s cyberwarriors, with Kilimnik being the conduit. Mueller also obtained a new search warrant for phone records and bank account information pertaining to Manafort after Gates agreed to cooperate. The phone records may be what are called “historical cell site information” in investigative parlance, meaning that Mueller is tracking the timing of Manafort’s previous movements.
It has been fascinating — in the grotesque sort of way that a slow-motion train wreck is fascinating — to watch the Russia scandal unfold.
From the first intimations in late 2016 that the dark hand of Putin was at work to elect Trump to our dawning realization that the Trump campaign colluded in that effort to our astonishment at how enormous their involvement was, there has been one jaw-dropping revelation after another. And so the notion that the Kremlin may have sent Manafort into a campaign he was soon to manage to make sure that it helped Putin play his evil game would at one time have seemed preposterous, but now is increasingly possible.
Does that explain Manafort’s refusal to cooperate? We may know more on Friday, as well as whether trading charcoal grays for orange will have a clarifying effect on the baddest of the bad.
and related developments.