As of this writing, the jury is still out. I refer to the six men and six women tasked with making sense of the Paul Manafort trial and reaching a verdict on whether he deliberately violated tax and banking laws. Why Robert Mueller’s special counsel team would be spending its time and resources trying a case that has absolutely nothing to do with Russian attempts to influence our elections is a real puzzler –- unless one considers that Mueller’s main focus isn’t Russia but a big American fish; then it makes sense. Mueller is after the President and he thought a good way to get him...on SOMETHING...was to get Manafort to “flip.”
But Manafort didn’t flip, most likely because he just didn’t have any information to offer. He was Trump’s campaign manager for several months –- he even made an appearance at that Trump Tower meeting that is looking more and more like a set-up involving Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS –- so if Trump had been “colluding” with Russians, he might have been in a position to know something about it. But Trump was not colluding with Russians. (Heck, I was pretty close to his campaign myself during the later months, and I swear I didn’t see Trump talking with Boris and Natasha even once!) To his credit, Manafort hasn’t tried to spare himself by making stuff up. He has to know that the whole point of his trial was to get him to do that. Even the judge knows it.
If the special counsel probe were really about Russia, those investigators would’ve handed off the time-consuming Manafort case to a U.S. attorney, or let the FBI re-file it with all the other old cases they’d decided not to pursue, and then they would have gone after the people who REALLY DID collaborate with foreigners --- including Russians --- to set up then-candidate Trump with false information to help ensure Hillary Clinton would be President. At this point, enough hard evidence has finally emerged to give us our main cast of characters, much of what they did, and a timeline for it that goes back to early 2016, months before the “official” FBI investigation. We’ve got thousands of emails, texts and handwritten notes that “go to motive” and reveal a cozy relationship among the players, notably Bruce Ohr, Christopher Steele and Glenn Simpson. All the evidence supports what we theorized long ago: that the made-up Christopher Steele “dossier” that was funded by the Clinton campaign was part of a plot used by high-level intelligence officials to make sure Trump wouldn’t be President. It’s just as obvious as can be.
And Robert Mueller had nothing to do with exposing any of it.
Refreshingly outspoken attorney Joe DiGenova may have hit the nail on the head when he said, “I think what has happened here is Bob Mueller has lost his way. And he’s been hit in the face with an outrageous set of facts which show that what he is doing is legally irrelevant to what actually happened during the campaign...the Manafort case is a joke. It is an absolute embarrassment to the Department of Justice. It should never have been brought. And, you know, what I think happened to Bob Mueller is he realized that everything he’s done is worthless --- it means nothing, that the big case is the case to frame the President of the United States. And he won’t touch it.”
There’s not much more to say about the Manafort case until a verdict is announced. Let’s not even speculate; it’s impossible to predict what a jury will do. But legal expert Andrew C. McCarthy has made an interesting observation in NATIONAL REVIEW about one major problem with the prosecution’s case: the dastardly deal made with their “star” witness.
Rick Gates is a sleazy guy. He could be charged with everything Manafort has been charged with and more. He actually embezzled from the man he’s now testifying against. (I think that’s what “adding insult to injury” means.) The jury knows he got a deal to testify against his partner and essentially has a “get out of jail free” card when his partner could get, oh, 300 years in prison. And yet in its summation, the prosecution made a point of saying the proof was in the documents, not the witness.
Okay, McCarthy says. If the documents tell the story, as the prosecutors told the jury, then why did they make that deal with Gates? Why didn’t they prosecute both men? What kind of justice is THAT? Apparently they still needed their extremely disreputable witness to provide one last piece against Manafort: that he acted willingly, not out of confusion or distraction or for some other reason. But as McCarthy put it back in March, Mueller is violating Justice Department guidelines by “alleging earth-shattering crimes” and then “cutting a sweetheart deal that shields the defendant from liability for those crimes and from the penalties prescribed by Congress.”
Just one more way the shameless Robert Mueller has overstepped his bounds. While we wait for the jury, the entire piece will make for interesting reading.