Paul Manafort
Credit: Daily Brian/Flickr

On November 26th, Robert Mueller announced that Paul Manafort has breached his plea agreement by lying repeatedly to investigators. Manafort’s lawyers responded by saying that he “has provided information to the government in an effort to live up to his cooperation obligations” and both parties requested an expedited sentencing hearing to make their case. That prompted some interesting speculation about what the special prosecutor might be up to.

Since then, the Mueller team released a memo outlining their case that Manafort has been lying to them. But as I documented, the parts that were most relevant to a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia were redacted.

On Tuesday, while the rest of us were marveling at the Pelosi-Schumer take-down of Trump in the Oval Office, the parties were back in court primarily discussing scheduling matters when Manafort’s lawyers surprised U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson with this:

Manafort’s lawyers told her it was increasingly possible the defense might not ask for a hearing to challenge the government’s allegations. They have previously said Manafort believes he has been truthful…

“If we reach a place where the effect is not something we have a problem with,” Westling said, “it’s possible within the very near term we may inform the court after talking to our client that we don’t feel the need for the hearing.”

Jackson expressed surprise on that point, saying, “It seems unlikely to me this is going to be irrelevant.”

She added: “I don’t want to get to sentencing and have them say, he wasn’t truthful, and have you tell me he was. I get the feeling they’re going to want me to know whether he was truthful or not truthful with them when I think about sentencing him,” and whether to credit him for any cooperation.

Here’s the deal. Manafort lied to the investigators, he knows he lied to the investigators, and he knows that Mueller knows he lied to the investigators. In other words, he’s been caught. If there is a hearing about his lies, the Mueller team will go into detail with proof that he lied and potentially expose his piece of the Trump-Russia conspiracy.

We also know that Manafort has been updating the Trump team on his interactions with Mueller. In that sense, he’s been Trump’s mole inside the investigation and there’s been some collusion going on. So is he getting instructions to take one for the team and squash the idea of a hearing on his lies? Very possible. Why else would he contemplate not even attempting to defend himself?

Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.