Quick Takes: Manafort is Facing Life in Prison

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* The judge overseeing Mueller’s case against Paul Manafort had some dire words for Trump’s former campaign manager today.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, who is based in Alexandria, Virginia, and is assigned to a newly filed indictment against Manafort dealing with bank fraud and tax evasion, said the veteran lobbyist and political consultant posed “a substantial risk of flight” because of his assets and the gravity of his legal predicament…

“Given the nature of the charges against the defendant and the apparent weight of the evidence against him, defendant faces the very real possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison,” wrote Ellis, an appointee of President Ronald Reagan.

* Who will be worse as Secretary of State, Tillerson or Pompeo? Michael Tomasky has some thoughts on that.

Prediction one: In two months or so, we’re going to be seeing lots of flattering news stories about how new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has his department functioning well again.

Prediction two: While this sounds like good news, it will in fact be very bad.

Why? Let me put it to you this way. Which would you rather have: a bumbler who disagrees with Donald Trump from time to time, or a seemingly efficient bureaucrat who agrees with him almost all of the time? Because we had the former in Rex Tillerson, and soon, in Pompeo, we will have the latter, and that’s a lot more dangerous.

* Trump is determined to start a trade war with China.

President Donald Trump is getting ready to crack down on China.

Trump told Cabinet secretaries and top advisers during a meeting at the White House last week that he wanted to soon hit China with steep tariffs and investment restrictions in response to allegations of intellectual property theft, according to three people familiar with the internal discussions.

During the meeting, which hasn’t been previously been reported, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer presented Trump with a package of tariffs that would target the equivalent of $30 billion a year in Chinese imports. In response, Trump urged Lighthizer to aim for an even bigger number – and he instructed administration officials to be ready for a formal announcement in the coming weeks, according to two people involved in the administration’s trade deliberations.

Interestingly enough, that should please Silicon Valley and outrage farmers.

* Most of the world is pointing the finger at Vladimir Putin for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in the U.K. last week. It looks like he might have done it again.

A Russian exile who was close friends with the late oligarch Boris Berezovsky has been found dead in his London home, according to friends.

Nikolai Glushkov, 68, was discovered by his family and friends late on Monday night. The cause of death is not yet clear…

In the 1990s Glushkov was a director of the state airline Aeroflot and Berezovsky’s LogoVAZ car company. In 1999, as Berezovsky fell out with Vladimir Putin and fled to the UK, Glushkov was charged with money laundering and fraud. He spent five years in jail and was freed in 2004. Fearing further arrest, he fled to the UK and was granted political asylum.

In 2011 he gave evidence in a court case brought by Berezovsky against fellow oligarch Roman Abramovich, who remained on good terms with the Kremlin. Glushkov told the court he had effectively been taken hostage by Putin’s administration, which wanted to pressure Berezovsky to sell his stake in the TV station ORT.

* Roger Stone knew.

In the spring of 2016, longtime political operative Roger Stone had a phone conversation that would later seem prophetic, according to the person on the other end of the line.

Stone, an informal adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump, said he had learned from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that his organization had obtained emails that would torment senior Democrats such as John Podesta, then campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

The conversation occurred before it was publicly known that hackers had obtained the emails of Podesta and of the Democratic National Committee, documents that WikiLeaks released in late July and October. The U.S. intelligence community later concluded that the hackers were working for Russia.

* Finally, because I live in an area of the country where the seasons are as stark as they are here in Minnesota, there are certain songs that have come to signify different parts of the year. I always start listening to this one when the pining for spring starts to take hold.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .