Paul Manafort May Have Something Much Worse Than Prison to Be Afraid Of
"In the months before his death," Dr Mortimer went on, "Sir Charles was a very worried man. He was near to breaking down. He believed the story of the Hound of the Baskervilles. He refused to go out at night. He often asked me whether I had seen any strange animal or heard the cry of a hound on the moor at night. He always got very excited when he asked this question."
-The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, April, 1902.
Paul Manafort is in trouble. No, really. He's in more trouble than he was before, which was considerable. A compulsive operator, he has managed to maneuver himself into a corner. Robert Mueller and his team believe that Manafort never has stopped lying to them, even in the middle of plea negotiations, and even after the plea was, you know, negotiated. From The New York Times:
Prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said Mr. Manafort’s “crimes and lies” about “a variety of subject matters” relieve them of all promises they made to him in the plea agreement. But under the terms of the agreement, Mr. Manafort cannot withdraw his guilty plea. Defense lawyers disagreed that Mr. Manafort had violated the deal. In the same filing, they said Mr. Manafort had met repeatedly with the special counsel’s office and “believes he has provided truthful information.” But given the impasse between the two sides, they asked Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to set a sentencing date for Mr. Manafort, who has been in solitary confinement in a detention center in Alexandria, Va.
The question, of course, is whether Manafort is completely stupid, overwhelmingly confident that he will be pardoned, or simply frightened by something even more terrifying than the prospect of spending his declining years in the federal sneezer-something like, say, a lovely bowl of strontium-90, served up to him by a concerned former overseas client. I used to laugh the latter explanation off. I don't do that anymore. Something is happening in Manafort's brainbox that dwarfs in his mind anything Mueller can do to him.
In any case, it is plain that Mueller and his team are fed up to the gills with this guy, and that they are shining up the really big hammer for future use. It is also plain that Manafort has spent a lot of the time during which he was incarcerated sawing off the branch behind him.
Mr. Manafort had hoped that in agreeing to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s team, prosecutors would argue that he deserved a lighter punishment. He is expected to face at least a decade-long prison term for 10 felony counts including financial fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice. Instead, after at least a dozen sessions interrogating him, the special counsel’s prosecutors have not only decided Mr. Manafort does not deserve leniency, but they also could seek to refile other charges that they had agreed to dismiss as part of the plea deal.
Meanwhile, the Guardian found another spot on the coffin into which to drive a nail. This latest tale involves Julian Assange, onetime squatter-in-residence in the Ecuadorian embassy, and a man who exchanged his reputation as a messianic truth-teller for a career as a common ratfcker.
Sources have said Manafort went to see Assange in 2013, 2015 and in spring 2016 – during the period when he was made a key figure in Trump’s push for the White House. It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last apparent meeting is likely to come under scrutiny and could interest Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor who is investigating alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
A well-placed source has told the Guardian that Manafort went to see Assange around March 2016. Months later WikiLeaks released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers. Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false”. His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits. In a series of tweets WikiLeaks said Assange and Manafort had not met. Assange described the story as a hoax.
I'm certainly convinced. How about you?
A separate internal document written by Ecuador’s Senain intelligence agency and seen by the Guardian lists “Paul Manaford [sic]” as one of several well-known guests. It also mentions “Russians”. According to the sources, Manafort returned to the embassy in 2015. He paid another visit in spring 2016, turning up alone, around the time Trump named him as his convention manager. The visit is tentatively dated to March.
Manafort’s 2016 visit to Assange lasted about 40 minutes, one source said, adding that the American was casually dressed when he exited the embassy, wearing sandy-coloured chinos, a cardigan and a light-coloured shirt. Visitors normally register with embassy security guards and show their passports. Sources in Ecuador, however, say Manafort was not logged.
Well, if a foreign intelligence service goes out of its way to memorialize that you showed up at their embassy dressed like Ward Cleaver, you're really busted, I'd say. (Where was the ostrich jacket? At the cleaners?) At the very least, this brings the heat closer to Number One Son, Sluggo.
The previously unreported Manafort-Assange connection is likely to be of interest to Mueller, who has been investigating possible contacts between WikiLeaks and associates of Trump including the political lobbyist Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. One key question is when the Trump campaign was aware of the Kremlin’s hacking operation – and what, if anything, it did to encourage it. Trump has repeatedly denied collusion.
Earlier this year Mueller indicted 12 GRU intelligence officers for carrying out the hack, which began in March 2016. In June of that year WikiLeaks emailed the GRU via an intermediary seeking the DNC material. After failed attempts, Vladimir Putin’s spies sent the documents in mid-July to WikiLeaks as an encrypted attachment.
On the electric Twitter machine Tuesday morning, the president* was even more manic than usual. Scrolling through the presidential* Twitter feed, you could feel the flop sweat soaking through to your fingertips. This is, perhaps, my favorite moment in the now customary early morning tantrum.
The Fake News Media builds Bob Mueller up as a Saint, when in actuality he is the exact opposite. He is doing TREMENDOUS damage to our Criminal Justice System, where he is only looking at one side and not the other. Heroes will come of this, and it won’t be Mueller and his terrible Gang of Angry Democrats. Look at their past, and look where they come from. The now $30,000,000 Witch Hunt continues and they’ve got nothing but ruined lives. Where is the Server? Let these terrible people go back to the Clinton Foundation and “Justice” Department!
I just love, Where is the Server?, and not just for the capitalization, either. It's one of those moments that occurs in his speeches, too, when he's rolling along and, suddenly, like a grouse startled from the underbrush, another word he heard somewhere pops into his head. At moments like this, it's like listening to a Hannity radio show on Scan.
And Robert Mueller, with no expression on his face, reaches across his desk for another file.
Respond to this post on the Esquire Politics Facebook page here.