It seemed like the day would never come, but Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman has decided to cooperate with Robert Mueller’s special counsel’s office. In court, this morning, Manafort pleaded guilty to two very significant charges, which we can now add to the eight felonies he was convicted of committing in a Virginia courtroom last month. Manafort has now admitted to participating in a conspiracy against the United States and a conspiracy to obstruct justice. A representative of the special counsel’s office, Andrew Weissman, said that Manafort had struck a “co-operation agreement” with the Russian election interference investigators, but he didn’t provide any additional details.
The judge in the case, Amy Berman Jackson, explained that under the terms of the plea deal Manafort is expected to co-operate “fully and truthfully” with Mueller’s office and that he may have to agree to be interviewed without counsel present, provide additional documents, and testify in other criminal proceedings. Manafort was also compelled to give up substantial property, including homes in New York City, the Hamptons and Virginia (this last one presently occupied by one of his daughters), the money in four separate financial accounts, and a life insurance policy.
It took Weissman forty minutes to spell out the details of Manafort’s crimes.
“I believe it’s fair to say that’s probably the longest and most detailed summary that ever preceded this question, but is what the prosecutor said a true and accurate description of what you did in this case,” [Judge] Jackson asked Manafort.
“I did. It is,” Manafort, said, resting both hands on the lectern before him and flanked by his attorney, Richard Westling.
As a result, Manafort will not have to endure or pay for another trial and the GOP will be spared a massive headache in the coming weeks leading up the midterm elections. That must be cold comfort for President Trump, however, who has been lavishing praise on Manafort for his refusal to become a rat. Now the biggest rat of all has turned on him.
Here’s the first mention of Paul Manafort in the Steele Dossier, from July 26, 2016:
Speaking in confidence to a compatriot in late July 2016, Source E, an ethnic Russian close associate of Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump, admitted that there was a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between them and the Russian leadership. This was managed on the TRUMP side by the Republican candidate’s campaign manager, Paul MANAFORT, who was using foreign policy advisor, Carter PAGE, and others as intermediaries. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary CLINTON, whom President PUTIN apparently both hated and feared.
The dossier is certainly not accurate in every respect, but Manafort is now expected to co-operate “fully and truthfully” with the investigation. We will find out what is accurate. If he did indeed lead “a well-developed conspiracy of co-operation between [the Trump campaign] and the Russian leadership,” we will presumably know that before long.
Everything else anyone has to say about this plea deal is a distraction. Manafort could have volunteered what he knows long ago, and certainly should have if he didn’t want to spend significant time in prison, have most of his assets seized and his daughter thrown out of her home. He made bad decisions instead. If he has nothing of interest to say now, then his behavior so far is even more inexplicable.
The White House is predictably distancing themselves with the argument that Manafort’s confessed crimes don’t have any direct relationship to Russian collusion. That’s ridiculous, of course, since the entire point of bringing these charges was to compel Manafort to speak truthfully about Russian collusion.
The vice around Trump is almost closed.