Nov 27 2018

Wriggling On The Hook

So Manafort has violated his sentencing deal with Mueller. What does this mean?

In terms of the investigation? Probably nothing. The way Mueller knows Manafort is lying is because he already has the facts. Would Manafort have been useful? Yes, as a witness against Trump. Both he and Roger Stone provide a direct connection between Russian Intelligence and Donadl J. Trump. They met the Russians and they told Trump about it. The Quid in this equation is illegally obtained emails and other campaign support. Pro means “for” in Latin. The Quo is the anti-Sanctions Plank in the Republican Party Platform (not to exclude other things) which Manafort directly organized.

This is flat out Bribery, the exchange of something of value for Political favors and Donald J. Trump is guilty, guilty, guilty. Not quite the slam dunk case on Obstruction of Justice but pretty damn close.

Among other things Manafort could have testified about the June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower because he was there. That meeting will still likely send Don Jr. to jail for a very, very long time.

For Manafort personally? This is an incredibly bad move. Not only will Mueller now seek maximum sentences on the charges he’s already been convicted of, there are a boatload of them that Mueller could have brought in D.C. and the 10 in Northern Virginia where the Jury was hung (by 1 vote I might add).

What about a pardon? It’s a sucker’s bet. Even if Trump pardons him on the Federal level the Bank Fraud of which he’s accused is also a State crime and I seriously doubt that New York, where he lived and most of these crimes were committed, is going to ignore him.

Of course Manafort’s biggest fear is that he’ll meet someone called Ivan in the exercise yard. This is why he’s been in solitary, to protect him because he was a potential witness. Not any more, General Population for you. Good luck with that, it worked out fine for Whitey Bulger.

I wish I could bring you Chris Hayes for the MSNBC Trifecta, but these are the clips posted now.

Ali Velshi on Maddow

Lawrence O’Donnell

Manafort Breached Plea Deal by Repeatedly Lying, Mueller Says
By Sharon LaFraniere, The New York Times
Nov. 26, 2018

Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, repeatedly lied to federal investigators in breach of a plea agreement he signed two months ago, the special counsel’s office said in a court filing late on Monday.

Prosecutors working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, said Mr. Manafort’s “crimes and lies” about “a variety of subject matters” relieve them of all promises they made to him in the plea agreement. But under the terms of the agreement, Mr. Manafort cannot withdraw his guilty plea.

Striking a plea deal with Mr. Manafort in September potentially gave prosecutors access to information that could prove useful to their investigation. But their filing on Monday, a rare step in a plea deal, suggested that they thought Mr. Manafort was withholding details that could be pertinent to the Russia inquiry or other cases.

The question of whether Mr. Trump might pardon Mr. Manafort for his crimes has loomed over his case since he was first indicted a year ago and has lingered as a possibility. A former lawyer for Mr. Trump broached the prospect of a pardon with one of Mr. Manafort’s lawyers last year, raising questions about whether he was trying to influence Mr. Manafort’s decision about whether to cooperate with investigators.

The filing Monday suggested that prosecutors do not consider Mr. Manafort a credible witness. Even if he has provided information that helps them develop criminal cases, by asserting that he repeatedly lied, they could hardly call him to testify.

Mr. Manafort had hoped that in agreeing to cooperate with Mr. Mueller’s team, prosecutors would argue that he deserved a lighter punishment. He is expected to face at least a decade-long prison term for 10 felony counts including financial fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Instead, after at least a dozen sessions interrogating him, the special counsel’s prosecutors have not only decided Mr. Manafort does not deserve leniency, but they also could seek to refile other charges that they had agreed to dismiss as part of the plea deal.

A jury in Northern Virginia convicted Mr. Manafort, 69, of eight counts of financial fraud in August stemming from his work as a political consultant in Ukraine. The jury deadlocked on 10 other charges.

Faced with a second trial in the District of Columbia on related charges in September, he pleaded guilty to two conspiracy counts and agreed to an open-ended arrangement requiring him to answer “fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly” questions about “any and all matters” of interest to the government.

It was unclear at that time how much Mr. Manafort had to offer prosecutors. Although he had arguably deeper ties to pro-Russian figures than anyone else connected with the Trump campaign, he had consistently said he had no information against the president. Legal experts suggested that if he had been able to significantly further Mr. Mueller’s inquiry, he could have negotiated a more favorable deal.

As it is, the plea agreement specifies that if prosecutors decide that Mr. Manafort has failed to cooperate fully or “given false, misleading or incomplete information or testimony,” they can prosecute him for crimes to which he did not plead guilty in the District of Columbia. They could also conceivably pursue the 10 charges on which the Virginia jury failed to reach a consensus. Mr. Manafort is scheduled to be sentenced in the Virginia case on Feb. 8.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers responded last week to questions Mr. Mueller had for the president about ties between his campaign and Russia. Among the questions were inquiries about what Mr. Trump knew about Russian offers to Mr. Manafort during the campaign to assist Mr. Trump’s presidential run. The president’s lawyers have declined to discuss what he told Mr. Mueller, and it is not clear whether any of his answers conflicted with what Mr. Manafort told investigators.

Mr. Manafort’s allies have hoped that his sessions with the special counsel would end soon so he could be sentenced and transferred to a federal prison, where conditions are comparatively better than in a local jail. At a recent court hearing in Alexandria, Mr. Manafort came into the courtroom in a wheelchair, his foot wrapped in a white bandage, possibly from an attack of gout.

But few of Mr. Manafort’s friends predicted that his sentencing would be hastened by prosecutors declaring him to be a liar. The development stunned some people close to the White House, as well as legal experts.

“Everybody who lies to Mueller gets called on it — so he had to know that Mueller would catch him. So the question is: What was he hiding that is worse than going to jail for the rest of your life?” said Joyce Vance, a professor of law at the University of Alabama law school and former federal prosecutor. “There are often rocky dealings with a cooperator, and Mueller didn’t cut bait at the first sign of trouble. It was likely more than one lie and this would not have been a minor detail — it had to be something material and significant and intentional.”

emptywheel has some interesting insights summarized in this AlterNet piece from Cody Fenwick.

This reporter argues that Trump used Manafort as a ‘mole’ inside Mueller’s investigation — but it just blew up in their faces
By Cody Fenwick, AlterNet
November 26, 2018

With the dissolution of Paul Manafort’s plea deal this week, the former Trump campaign chairman’s role in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation had been once again been thrown into doubt.

It’s not clear, for instance, if Mueller’s accusation that Manafort has been lying to the investigators marks a devastating blow for the probe or if it’s a sign that the former campaign chairman has made a serious mistake.

But Marcy Wheeler, one of most astute Mueller watchers who once provided as yet undisclosed information to the FBI about the investigation, argued compellingly that Manafort has been acting as a mole within the investigation for President Donald Trump. Even more intriguingly, though, she believes Mueller knew this and may have used Manafort against the president.

The only sane reason, she claimed in a new blog post, that Manafort would lie to Mueller even after taking a plea deal, is that he’s banking on a pardon from Trump, which would, in any case, cover only federal and not state crimes.

“Just about the only explanation for Manafort’s actions are that — as I suggested — Trump was happy to have Manafort serve as a mole in Mueller’s investigation,” she wrote.

If this is right, it could be devastating for Trump. He finally turned in his answers to the special counsel’s investigation last week — and he may have relied on Manafort’s “insider knowledge.”

“But Mueller’s team appears to have no doubt that Manafort was lying to them,” Wheeler explained. “That means they didn’t really need his testimony, at all. It also means they had no need to keep secrets — they could keep giving Manafort the impression that he was pulling a fast one over the prosecutors, all while reporting misleading information to Trump that he could use to fill out his open book test. Which increases the likelihood that Trump just submitted sworn answers to those questions full of lies.”

There are several reasons Wheeler’s argument is compelling. First, as she previously noted, Manafort’s plea agreement did not include a provision to limit him from speaking with outside parties about the investigations, even though Rick Gates, Manafort’s deputy who also pleaded guilty in the probe, was forced to agree to such a provision. For some reason, Mueller wasn’t worried about Manafort’s lawyers communicating with Trump — which he has been doing.

At the same time, while Manafort’s agreement allowed him to speak to outside parties about the probe, it set a relatively low bar for the special counsel to demonstrate that the former campaign chair had broken the agreement. While Gates’ agreement required that prosecutors show that the preponderance of evidence suggests that he lied in order to overturn the deal, Manafort’s agreement only requires that prosecutors show that he has violated the agreement by “good faith,” a lower standard.

“They probably never really believed he was going to cooperate,” Wheeler said.

There’s another piece of evidence that Manafort was serving as a mole for Trump by becoming a cooperating witness.

On Nov. 15, Trump tweeted: “The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want.”

As many pointed out at the time, this suggested Trump had some new insight into the investigation that he previously lacked. Some speculated that Trump’s dubiously appointed Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker might have been the source, but Manafort could also have played this role.

A few days before that, ABC News had reported that there were “tensions” between Mueller and Manafort as investigators struggled to get the answers they wanted from him. As I reported at the time, this was most likely a leaked report from Manafort’s allies. It appeared to be an attempt to make the investigators look desperate. In fact, the Mueller team might have been intentionally playing Manafort.

Wheeler also argued that the upcoming presentation of evidence that Manafort lied could be a key moment for the Russia investigation — it may be the much anticipated “report.” The special counsel intends to submit a “sentencing submission” regarding Manafort to the court that “sets forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies.”

If this submission is made public, it could be revelatory. By demonstrating that Manafort lied as part of his sentencing agreement, Mueller could answer any number of outstanding questions regarding the 2016 election, the Trump campaign and Russia — and potentially implicate even Trump, who may not be otherwise indictable.

It’s an open question whether, if Wheeler’s theory is right, there was an explicit deal that Manafort would act as a mole in exchange for a pardon. It’s possible the scenario could have emerged somewhat organically as an alignment of interests, rather than a spelled-out quid pro quo. But many observers have noted that Manafort’s moves seem exceptionally risky without a pardon guarantee (and even then, nothing is for sure). And if Trump made such an explicit promise, it would clearly be an impeachable offense.