Paul Manafort Sets Fire To His Plea Deal
Say what you will about Paul Manafort, but he puts on a hell of a show! Guess who blew up his plea agreement by telling ALL THE LIES to federal prosecutors? Oh, Pauly, you dumb son of a bitch.
Last night, Manafort's Joint Status Report dropped, and it is not good news. The guy who was in the infamous Trump Tower meeting, who understood exactly what the Russians were offering when they talked about bouncy Russian babies, who worked for years with Roger Stone, who had all the Ukrainian and Russian connections, who knows why the RNC changed its platform regarding Ukraine, the guy who HELLO BREAKING!!! met with Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean embassy in the spring of 2016 --- the guy whose information was likely central to proving collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign -- has just set fire to his FBI testimony.
After signing the plea agreement, Manafort committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel's Office on a variety of subject matters, which constitute breaches of the agreement.
If the government wants to use Manafort's statements against a third party, they have to tell that third party all the times Manafort lied. At which point the defendant's lawyer will turn to the jury and say, "Ladies and gentlemen, you can't possibly believe a word this man says. My client is pure as the driven snow." Remember how the Manafort jury disregarded everything Rick Gates said because he was a proven liar? Manafort may have provided important information to the Special Prosecutor, but his value as a witness just plummeted to zero.
Naturally, Manafort is saying that he totally complied with the plea agreement, in each and every particular.
Manafort has provided information to the government in an effort to live up to his cooperation obligations. He believes he has provided truthful information and does not agree with the government's characterization or that he has breached the agreement.
To which Mueller replies,
The government will file a detailed sentencing submission to the Probation Department and the Court in advance of sentencing that sets forth the nature of the defendant's crimes and lies, including those after signing the plea agreement herein.
So we're going to find out about the all the dirty lies Paul Manafort told the Special Counsel. They'll be laid out in court documents that no one, including Trump's wingnut hitman Matthew Whitaker, can suppress. Which is a sliver lining, but is still not nearly as valuable as having Manafort's complete testimony available for prosecutors to use against all the little crimers in Trumpland.
So what does this all mean? Well ... that depends whether you think Manafort is a rational actor, or a lunatic criminal who just can't help himself. Did he lie because he doesn't want to risk his family's health by squealing on all those nasty Ukrainian gangsters he's done work for, especially if Trump is just going to pardon him anyway? Or is he a lifetime con artist who's always got twenty scams running and doesn't know when to fold?
There are a lot of theories on the intertubez about what happened here. Did Mueller outsmart Trump by getting a court to order him to lay out his facts in a speaking indictment, so that any denial will constitute a waiver of executive privilege? Uhhh ... some people hear hoofbeats and think ZEBRAS!
Did Mueller expect that Manafort would lie -- this is the guy who uploaded his attempted witness tampering to the iCloud, after all -- and deliberately fed him bad information so that it would get back to Trump and wind up as corroborating lies submitted in President Trump's written responses, as eponymous Russia-watcher Marcy Wheeler suggests?
But Mueller's team appears to have no doubt that Manafort was lying to them. That means they didn't really need his testimony, at all. It also means they had no need to keep secrets — they could keep giving Manafort the impression that he was pulling a fast one over the prosecutors, all while reporting misleading information to Trump that he could use to fill out his open book test. Which increases the likelihood that Trump just submitted sworn answers to those questions full of lies.
Some people hear hoofbeats and think TRICERATOPS!
Let's check in at the White House and see how the news is landing there.
Seems like The Very Stable Genius is FREAKING THE FUCK OUT. Duly noted.
Look, the bottom line is, without knowing what Manafort lied about, it's all just guessing. If the question was, "Did the president ever offer you a pardon in exchange for withholding information from the Special Counsel?" that's a pretty big deal, since offering someone a favor in exchange for a crime is illegal. If the question was, "Did you ever launder money for Ukrainian oligarchs?" well, the lie is likely immaterial to the investigation into the Trump campaign.
Luckily, we're all going to find out soon when Mueller files his report with the court. Bet it's a page-turner!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.