Gates, Cohen, Flynn, Papadopoulos … Manafort?
The recently convicted Paul Manafort is about to go on trial in Washington, D.C., for another slate of alleged crimes. And the president’s former campaign chairman could still be retried on 10 charges that a Virginia jury remained deadlocked on last month, while declaring him guilty on eight others.
The crushing reality of prison time may be cracking the polished GOP operative who managed Trump’s White House bid, and, for years before that, was one of D.C.’s most venerable swamp creatures. The Washington Post reports that Manafort “is in talks with the special counsel’s office about a possible plea deal” — one that would almost certainly involve him telling Robert Mueller’s team everything he knows about possible illegal activity by the president and/or Trump’s family members.
Until now, Manafort has presented a steely demeanor as he’s contested charges of tax evasion and illegal lobbying. He blasted his criminal co-conspirator, Rick Gates, for testifying against him on their financial crimes, saying Gates lacked “the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence.”
The president himself has praised Manafort’s adamantine spine, tweeting his “respect” for a “brave man!” who’d stood up to “tremendous pressure” and refused to “‘break’” or “make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’”
But the wheels of justice have a way of rolling over even the most macho exteriors. (Just ask Trump’s former lawyer-fixer, Michael Cohen.) And presented with the right deal — including the chance to someday trade a prison jumpsuit for an ostrich-leather bomber jacket — Manafort could soon spill the tea on the Trump family.
We understand that Manafort knows a lot: At minimum he could tell the special counsel exactly what was said in the infamous Trump Tower meeting he attended with Donald Trump Jr., Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer connected to the Kremlin who had offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. He could also shed light on the candidate’s own awareness of that meeting and its potentially criminal terms.
As he racks up convictions, Mueller is toppling dominoes — and Manafort is now wobbling. If and when he falls, Manafort will fall toward the center — setting off a potentially spectacular finale in the Trump-Russia investigation.
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