Paul Manafort Is Out of Options

It makes sense that lawyers for Bob Mueller’s special counsel’s office do not want anyone with strong opinions about Ukrainian politics to be serving on Paul Manafort’s jury. Those with a pro-Russia bent might see Manafort as a hero of sorts. On the other hand, I don’t think Manafort would want the more typical anti-Russian Ukrainian attitude to be present in the jury box, so this restriction should benefit both sides.

Meanwhile, Manafort’s last realistic hope of beating the charges against him ended in court today when his lawyers’ effort to suppress evidence seized from his storage locker failed:

A federal judge in Washington, DC, on Thursday denied Paul Manafort’s challenge to the seizure of evidence from his storage unit, finding that agents were allowed to look inside the storage unit before they got a search warrant because they had permission from a person on the lease.

Manafort is pursuing motions to suppress evidence taken from the storage unit and his home in Virginia in both of the criminal cases brought against him by special counsel Robert Mueller’s office — one in DC and one in Alexandria, Virginia. This is the first ruling on the suppression motions; the judge in Virginia is scheduled to hear arguments later this month.

US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote that the initial search of the unit by FBI agents before they got a search warrant — and before they opened boxes or actually took evidence — was lawful because the agents got consent from a person listed as a lessee for the unit; that individual had been an employee of Manafort. Even if the initial search was unlawful, Jackson wrote, the seizure of evidence later on was still lawful because a judge granted the search warrant based on an affidavit that laid out why investigators believed Manafort was engaged in criminal activity.

The judge also rejected Manafort’s arguments that the search warrant was too broad, finding that it instructed agents to look for evidence that directly related to the alleged criminal activity described in the search warrant affidavit to the judge.

Since Manafort is already sitting in prison and no longer has any reasonable prospect of getting out in this lifetime, some decisions can no longer be put off. He could hold out for a pardon from the president, but that’s risky for three reasons. The first is that even if a pardon eventually comes, it won’t compensate him for all the legal fees that are bankrupting him and his family or keep him safe in prison in the meantime. The second is that the pardon may never come. And the third is that he’s still potentially vulnerable to state charges that a pardon would not impact.

A better bet is surely to start negotiating with the special counsel’s office to see what kind of reduction in sentencing he can get in return for his cooperation. This would save him money and it would mean that he’d have a decent prospect of being a free man again one day before he dies. We could also avail himself of the witness protection program if he’s concerned about his safety or the safety of his family. It’s definitely the rational course for him to take now that it’s clear that the prosecutors will be allowed to present their evidence.

But he could hold out hope for a pardon and that the state charges will never materialize.

I don’t think it will be much longer before we learn of his decision.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.