Why Manafort’s Plea Deal Is So Important

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Of all the fish that have been caught by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation, Paul Manafort is, by far, the biggest. He served as the chair of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign from May to August, 2016.

Well before Manafort was indicted by a federal grand jury, President Trump tried to minimize Manafort’s role in his campaign by pointing out that he had served just briefly a campaign chairman, implying that he had had just a minor walk-on role.

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Unlike several other individuals against whom Mueller's investigation has brought charges against, only Manafort refused to cop a plea, and he ended up being convicted of tax evasion, bank fraud, and money laundering. But after considering the high likelihood that he would be spending the rest of his life in prison, he decided to cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.

Manafort obviously thought it likely that the jury would not convict him: indeed one of the twelve jurors held out for days against the other eleven, before finally agreeing to find Manafort guilty of eight of eighteen counts.

He probably also thought he may have been given a “get-out-of-jail-free card” by the president. But Trump was well aware of the uproar that a presidential pardon would have caused -- at least during the remaining seven weeks before the Congressional elections. As he, himself readily acknowledged to his supporters, if the Republican lost, Congress would begin impeachment proceedings against him.

Having lost his gamble, Manafort decided to make a deal. He certainly has a story to tell, and mueller's investigation staff will be very happy to hear it.

Manafort’s story begins with his dealings with Russian oligarchs and members of the Russian mafia, who enabled him to make tens of millions laundering money, and then failing to report his illicit income to the IRS. It is hard not to notice the parallel between his and Trump’s activities.

Trump, of course, has been under a years-long tax audit, and has famously refused to make his tax returns public – unlike every other presidential candidate. Millions wonder what he’s trying to hide.

Trump has also long been suspected of money laundering for the Russians. Indeed, they may well have bailed him out of his last three bankruptcies. See: Trump’s Fifth Bankruptcy

As a former chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign, Manafort would likely be able to provide answers to questions about any collusion with the Russians. It is certainly conceivable that he had been placed in that position because of his Russian connections.

Still, right now this is pure speculation. After all, honorable men would certainly refrain from such illegal activities. On the other hand, consider whom we’re actually dealing with.

It is understandable that Trump’s enablers would one day turn on him to save their own skins. Surely Trump would have done the same thing had he been in their place.

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