Mueller Ups the Ante on Paul Manafort

When I want to remind myself that Robert Mueller currently knows a lot more than we are aware of about a potential conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians to influence the 2016 election, I think about the fact that Michael Flynn has already reached a plea agreement with the special counsel’s investigation. We have heard absolutely nothing so far about what he has revealed. But his fate (and perhaps that of his son) rests on full cooperation, so there is a lot more to come.

It has become increasingly clear that the other target Mueller is focused on flipping is former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Just this week we have seen two things that increase the pressure on him. The first is that Manafort’s former business partner, Richard Gates, is reported to have reached a plea agreement that will be announced shortly. To the extent that Mueller lacked information that could put Manafort away for a very long time, that should fill in the blanks.

Yesterday, Mueller upped the ante even further, perhaps with testimony that has already been provided by Gates.

In a surprise development, a lawyer who worked at the firm that produced a report for Paul Manafort’s Ukrainian lobbying campaign has been charged with lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team. The charges were revealed in court documents filed on Friday that became public on Tuesday.

The lawyer, Alex Van Der Zwaan “willfully and knowingly” made “materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations” to the investigators about his conversations with Manafort deputy Rick Gates and an unnamed third person, prosecutors alleged in the new court filings.

What we see is that even lawyers are not exempt from charges if they lie to the investigators.

In light of all of this, it is important to keep in mind that the special counsel cut off any possibility of a Trump pardon for Manafort months ago.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team is working with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on its investigation into Paul Manafort and his financial transactions, according to several people familiar with the matter.

The cooperation is the latest indication that the federal probe into President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying. It also could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign, as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes.

As a remind of why Manafort’s testimony could be crucial to this investigation, here is what was reported in the Steele dossier:

The “well-developed conspiracy of co-operation” between the Trump campaign and Russian leadership was managed on the Trump side by Paul Manafort. To the extent that Christopher Steele’s sources are correct, Manafort holds the keys to the entire game.

Contrary to what right wing media would have you believe, Sen. Dianne Feinstein recently wrote that “Not a single revelation in the Steele dossier has been refuted.” If this item turns out to be true, it makes sense that Mueller is pulling out all the stops to apply pressure on Manafort to flip.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.