Is Paul Manafort Ready To Flip On Donald Trump?
The Rantt Rundown: Day 585 of the Trump presidency
The Headline: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Paul Manafort held talks with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team seeking a plea deal while the jury was deliberating in his Virginia trial, ahead of his upcoming trial in Washington DC. The talks didn’t continue over concerns that Mueller broached. Those concerns have yet to be publicly revealed.
The Context: Manafort was found guilty on 8 counts (5 tax fraud, 2 bank fraud, and 1 of hiding foreign accounts), with verdicts unable to be reached for the remaining 10 counts. Manafort is 69 years old and faces up to 80 years in prison for these convictions. Judge Ellis, who has faced allegations of bias in this trial, declared a mistrial on those 10 counts after the jurors couldn’t come to a consensus. Manafort faces another trial in DC in September.
Manafort is the fifth Trump associate to be convicted of felony charges during the Trump presidency. Trump’s former personal lawyer/fixer (and RNC deputy finance chair) Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to 8 counts that include bank fraud, tax fraud, and campaign finance violations just today. They join former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates, and former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, who all pleaded guilty to felony charges.
The Analysis: This WSJ story is the first reported evidence of Manafort showing a willingness to cooperate with prosecutors. One of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s objectives in his investigation has long been to flip Paul Manafort into a cooperating witness. But many have speculated that Manafort has not cooperated because he awaits a Trump pardon. President Trump has recently said very positive things about Manafort, raising the speculation of that possibility. Clearly, if Manafort flipped, it would be of great benefit to Robert Mueller’s investigation and great detriment to Donald Trump. Manafort’s involvement in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, role in adding pro-Russia policies to the Republican platform, and his contacts with Russian operatives are of interest to Mueller. Paul Manafort’s choice appears to be to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, await a potential pardon from Trump for his federal crimes, or spend the rest of his life in prison. We’ll see what Manafort chooses.
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- NY Mag: Internal Watchdog Thinks White House Might Have Interfered in FBI H.Q. Plans
- The Hill: Roger Stone preemptively denies upcoming report on Trump’s knowledge of WikiLeaks dump