“If Mueller convicts Manafort, it is likely to be celebrated as proof of the legitimacy of the special counsel investigation. In truth, it is not. Manafort’s charges have nothing to do with Mueller’s original mandate involving Russian collusion, obstruction or any of the allegations directed against the President. That does not make Manafort innocent, but this was not the game Mueller was supposed to be playing.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself; that’s why I quoted Jonathan Turley from his piece in THE HILL. It’s still necessary to read all the way down the end to get to it, but it’s there! Coverage of the first day of the trial of Paul Manafort, one-time Trump presidential campaign chairman, has been incredibly biased and misleading, much of it omitting this important piece of information.
Jury selection for the Manafort trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, the Hon. T. S. Ellis III presiding, proceeded surprisingly quickly. What some trial-watchers had predicted would take two days was accomplished in just a few hours. Lawyers for both sides were instructed not to mention the “Trump/Russia” connection at all in front of the jury pool --- which makes sense, as these charges against Manafort have nothing to do with that. He’s alleged to have laundered about $30 million to hide it from the IRS and also to have lied on loan applications. The charges go back to 2005-2007. Leading the prosecution is notorious anti-Trump pitbull Andrew Weissmann.
Turley is one of the few to point out the most likely reason why Manafort hasn’t “cooperated” with Mueller and offered damaging information about the President. “...Manafort might not have enough to satisfy Mueller,” Turley says. “Manafort would need deliverables on Trump, and he may not have them. Short of a quid pro quo understanding with the Russians, or confirmation of the President’s knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting with Russians that implicates Donald Trump, Jr., and others, Manafort may not have a deliverable.”
Turley says Manafort's odds aren’t good, because he’s being tried on 18 criminal counts when all it might take is a single count of “guilty” to keep him behind bars for a decade, and he is 69. That’s before the second trial in Washington, DC, in which he’ll be tried on another seven counts. Manafort may be holding out hope that if he takes all this without granting Mueller’s dearest wish –- “singing” or even “composing” something that would help with the prosecution or impeachment of the President –- he’ll be pardoned by Trump. There’s rationale for a pardon, as sleazy as some of Manfort’s business practices may have been, and here’s why:
First, some background. On August 2, 2017 –- one week AFTER the armed pre-dawn raid on Manafort’s home in which bank and tax records were seized –- Rosenstein sent a then-classified memo to Mueller granting him authority to investigate allegations that Manafort “committed a crime or crimes by colluding with Russian officials” to interfere with the 2016 election AND crimes “arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government before and during the tenure of President Viktor Yanuovych.” When Manafort challenged the scope of the investigation, saying it was “completely unmoored” from the special counsel’s intended purpose of investigating ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Mueller responded that the original authorization signed by Rosenstein granted him the authority to investigate Manafort’s pre-campaign lobbying activities.
Why, pray tell? As THE DAILY CALLER reported at the time, Mueller said the investigation would “naturally” look into any interaction that Manafort “may have had before and during the campaign to plumb motives and opportunities to coordinate and to expose possible channels for surreptitious communications.” Ah, no limitations. Naturally. And Mueller prevailed. But it sure might induce Trump to issue a pardon, with the rationale that Manafort shouldn’t have been under investigation for his Ukraine work and financial dealings before the specific authorization Rosenstein gave Mueller on August 2, 2017.
There’s something else. As reported by Sara A. Carter, the government in 2014 had the opportunity to go after Manafort on this stuff, and they passed. So why, later on, in the “get-Trump” environment of 2017, did they decide to prosecute him on those old charges after all? More rationale for a pardon.
Also, with the witnesses they’re bringing in to testify against Manafort, prosecutors apparently hope to get the jury to find him guilty of being rich. He has definitely lived a lavish lifestyle, and prosecutors may be using psychology on the jurors, knowing that those who budget and dutifully pay their taxes might not find it in their hearts to be forgiving. They want the jury to hear about his six homes; his costly antiques; two silk rugs costing $160,000; a landscaping bill for $150,000; and a custom-tailored wardrobe that cost $1.5 million.
Judge Ellis on Tuesday was reportedly so put off by this that he stopped such talk, turned to the jury and said, “It’s not a crime to have a lot of money.” Of course, the argument will be that Manafort’s expensive tastes provided motivation for him to keep the money flowing any way he could, including committing bank fraud (lying on loan applications) to obtain $25 million in loans. He could easily spend the rest of his life in jail for this, when the average sentence for tax fraud, according to Tucker Carlson, is only 1 year and 3 months, and even the average violent felon spends 6.5 years behind bars. And, as Judge Ellis knows, he was targeted for prosecution only because he spent a few months working to get Donald Trump across the finish line at the Republican Convention. How dare he.