Manafort May Be the Key

Nunes Memo, Trump Maladministration

Jeremy Stahl wrote at Slate:

The Russians appeared to start to develop a deeper sophistication around U.S. politics in the spring and summer of 2016. This coincided with the same brief period that Manafort was in charge of the Trump campaign. The Russian efforts included purchasing political ads for Trump and against Clinton on social media starting in April, staging pro-Trump rallies and false flag “pro-Hillary” events starting in June, and doing the sort of low stakes political dirty tricks that have been a mainstay of the Republican Party for decades.

For his part, former CIA Director John Brennan speculated on Friday that it would emerge that U.S. persons had actively conspired with the Russians. “While some may have been unwitting, I do think that some individuals maybe were knowledgeable about what they were doing and basically strayed from what they should have been doing,” he told MSNBC.

 If you missed Franklin Foer’s profile of Manafort in The Atlantic, do read it. It’s fascinating. This includes some details on Rick Gates, who has been one of Manafort’s sidekicks for several years. Manafort is an amoral sleazebag of the first order who has sucked up a mega-fortune for himself by out-sleazing other sleazebags, and it’s a wonder to me some mobster didn’t put a hit out on him years ago.
Reports that Bob Mueller has pressured Gates to flip on Manafort has upped the ante in the Trump-Russia investigation. The Guardian reports today:
The Guardian reported in December that the FBI asked officials in Cyprus for financial information about FBME, a defunct bank used by wealthy Russians that has been accused of serving as a money launderer by US financial regulators. FBME has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.

Manafort served relatively briefly as Trump’s campaign manager. He resigned from the campaign in August 2016 following media reports that raised questions about his former work as a lobbyist for pro-Kremlin forces. On the day he resigned, Manafort opened a shell company that received $13m in loans from two businesses with ties to Trump, according to media reports.

Manafort also had business ties to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

On Friday, new court documents filed by prosecutors alleged that bail documents submitted by Manafort had revealed new alleged criminal conduct involving bank fraud. Prosecutors said that Manafort had obtained a mortgage on a property using fake profit and loss statements, which overstated his income by millions of dollars.

Obviously, Mueller is squeezing Manafort to flip on Trump, and I’ll bet he’ll succeed. If the Russian mob doesn’t get to him first, anyway.

Trump seems to know the walls are closing in:

President Trump lashed out with fresh anger about the intensifying Russia probe over the weekend, accusing Democrats of enabling a foreign adversary to interfere in the 2016 election and attacking the FBI as well as his own national security adviser.

In a defiant and error-laden tweetstorm that was remarkable even by his own combative standards, Trump stewed aloud about the latest indictments brought by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III against Russians for their elaborate campaign to denigrate the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, and push voters toward Trump.

See also:

President Trump began the weekend believing that something good had just happened to him. An indictment leveled against 13 Russians for interfering with the 2016 election had not accused him or anyone around him of wrongdoing. “No collusion” was his refrain.

But once ensconced at his Florida estate on Friday, Mr. Trump, facing long hours indoors as he avoided breezy rounds of golf after last week’s school shooting a few miles away, began watching TV.

The president’s mood began to darken as it became clearer to him that some commentators were portraying the indictment as nothing for him to celebrate, according to three people with knowledge of his reaction. Those commentators called it proof that he had not won the election on his own, a particularly galling, if not completely accurate, charge for a president long concerned about his legitimacy.

Many people have pointed out that the indictments announced Friday pretty much invalidates the infamous Nunes memo. Jennifer Rubin:

Republicans’ clumsy efforts to attack the FISA warrant for Carter Page or to smear Comey don’t matter. House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes’s (R-Calif.) plots and antics and concocted memo are irrelevant. The investigation, at least a good deal of it, rests on facts that are unknown to the House Republicans and are beyond dispute. No Republican is going to stand up to say the indictment is a “hoax” or the allegations against these 13 Russians are “fake.” …

Indeed, Republicans look precisely like the “unwitting” operatives in the indictment who reportedly lent assistance to the Russian operatives. Republicans’ efforts to distract and distort the growing body of evidence make them unwitting (we hope) pawns in the Russians’ efforts to deny their role. (If House Speaker Paul D. Ryan has any political survival skills, now would be a good time for him to yank Nunes off the Intelligence Committee.) And incidentally, Democrats might want to forget about their counter-memo now that the GOP and Nunes have been utterly discredited. They don’t need to stab a corpse.

Trump is so obviously guilty of something that even the terminally clueless Thomas Friedman is connecting the dots:

President Trump is either totally compromised by the Russians or is a towering fool, or both, but either way he has shown himself unwilling or unable to defend America against a Russian campaign to divide and undermine our democracy.

That is, either Trump’s real estate empire has taken large amounts of money from shady oligarchs linked to the Kremlin — so much that they literally own him; or rumors are true that he engaged in sexual misbehavior while he was in Moscow running the Miss Universe contest, which Russian intelligence has on tape and he doesn’t want released; or Trump actually believes Russian President Vladimir Putin when he says he is innocent of intervening in our elections — over the explicit findings of Trump’s own C.I.A., N.S.A. and F.B.I. chiefs.

In sum, Trump is either hiding something so threatening to himself, or he’s criminally incompetent to be commander in chief. It is impossible yet to say which explanation for his behavior is true, but it seems highly likely that one of these scenarios explains Trump’s refusal to respond to Russia’s direct attack on our system — a quiescence that is simply unprecedented for any U.S. president in history. Russia is not our friend. It has acted in a hostile manner. And Trump keeps ignoring it all.

And Manafort could be the key to unraveling the whole mess.  See also “Could Paul Manafort Bring Down the Whole Trump Family” by Bob Dreyfuss, from August 2017.

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  1. Swami  •  Feb 19, 2018 @2:27 pm

    Manafort better get a food taster for any takeout that he orders.. Putin's chef might be planning to fix him one of  his famous polonium sandwiches or milkshakes. Even ordering a Pizza Hut supreme with all the toppings could be taking on a new meaning for Manafort.

    Looks like Jared isn't the only one who is going to be cracked like an egg.

  2. Tom_b  •  Feb 19, 2018 @2:28 pm

    The Orange Imbecile fails to understand that the collusion hardly matters; it’s all the felonies Mueller and his team will shine a light on in the course of Discovery; the pot smell when the cop pulls you over for a broken taillight, so to speak.

  3. James F. Epperson  •  Feb 19, 2018 @3:10 pm

    Read "Collusion," by Luke Harding.

  4. Swami  •  Feb 19, 2018 @3:14 pm

    If House Speaker Paul D. Ryan has any political survival skills, now would be a good time for him to yank Nunes off the Intelligence Committee.

    I agree with that…It's pretty clear a train is coming and it's time to get off the tracks. I think Trump has overstayed his welcome.

    Many people aren't familiar with the lost passage in Elclesiastes  that says:  a time to cleave and a time bail. Ryan would be wise know what time it is.

  5. grannyeagle  •  Feb 19, 2018 @3:56 pm

    Sometimes I think Trump is guilty of the most terrible crimes and is terrified it will come out.  Then sometimes I think he has always been telling us who he is:  an amoral human being interested only in his own welfare and pleasure, one who wants attention, wants to be adored by the whole world and is frustrated that his previous way of dealing with people is not working now. Perhaps it is both.  In any case, I am tired of him and wish he would just go away.

  6. Doug  •  Feb 19, 2018 @4:35 pm

    The press is covering the tweetstorm of the weekend as a "tantrum" and asking in the avalanche of  criticism… Obama, Clinton, Fake News, Schiff, McMasters, the FBI and even Oprah?…. WTF has there been not a word of criticism of Russia or Putin. Not one word. It's deafening.

    Anyone with an ounce of political survival skills would be enacting sanctions on Russia. Trump should have thought up an insulting nickname for Putin and declared (with chest thumping) that he's gonna show Russia who's boss. The argument that no one cares about Russia is partly true, but even conservatives aren't going to be thrilled that the West WIng is a fully owned subsidiary of the Kremlin. I don't see how anyone can deny that now.

  7. Swami  •  Feb 19, 2018 @9:04 pm

    I want to see Donny Jr. get tagged…I mean really..When he refused to answer the House Intelligence Committee's questions on the grounds that it was a lawyer-client privileged conversation because some smuck lawyer who wasn't representing either him or his father was listening in on the conversation. Just by that fact alone he deserves some prison time.

     I know you liberals will cry that Junior isn't really to blame because he suffered a devastating childhood trauma when his father was screaming to the world that Marla Maples was the best sex that he ever had. I know it can wreck a kid's head having his mother so disrespected like that, especially in a public setting, and at such a tender age when a young man is forming his own understanding of relationships with women and how they should be treated.

    But enough time has passed where Jr. should have worked through that trauma by standing up to his bullying abusive father. Donny Jr. has had ample time to step into the shoes of manhood and to be his own person, yet he still hasn't managed to break free from the clutches of his father's domination. So now he is responsible for who he is, and what he does.

  8. c u n d gulag  •  Feb 19, 2018 @10:34 pm

    "Follow the money," is what it looks like Mueller is doing.

    Gates can put pressure on Manafort, who may be able to narc-out tRUMP. 

    And since Gates' former knows a lot of Russky Oligarch's, he may be able help Mueller place the final piece in this "'DA' COLLUSION" puzzle.


    "Follow the money."

    Now, where have I heard that expression before?   


  9. moonbat  •  Feb 20, 2018 @12:33 pm

    I think it's genius how this indictment pretty much insulates Rosenstein / Mueller from being fired. Huge political cost if Trump tries to stop things now.

  10. maha  •  Feb 20, 2018 @12:52 pm

    Mueller clearly is playing 12-dimensional chess while Trump is playing tic tac toe. And losing.

  11. Doug  •  Feb 20, 2018 @12:53 pm

    From Digby – (And I do wish I could write as well as she.)

    "What if he goes to these lengths because he's actually guilty? I certainly am not saying that he has a strategy. He's clearly incapable of that. What I'm saying is that his crazy reaction to the Russia investigation isn't necessarily attributable to his insane ego. It might just be attributable to the fact that he knows he did something very bad and he knows he's going to be caught."

  12. Gerald  •  Feb 20, 2018 @3:52 pm

    THIS mother fucker IS crazy!

    For real!

    Sooo … follow the cheder because that is where the rats will be found … nibbling and stroking their wiskers!

  13. Pakilolo  •  Feb 20, 2018 @5:25 pm

    I take a more theological viewpoint on Trumpy…he is the embodiment of the Anti-Christ. 

  14. Swami  •  Feb 20, 2018 @6:53 pm

    There's a scripture that says: "and the dog returns to his vomit" It kinda is fitting when you look at Trump trying to counter the truth that Mueller is uncovering. All Trump knows are the tactics that have enabled him to rise to the position in life where he finds himself now. Unfortunately, shouting down reality and truth isn't going to save Trump from what's about to befall him. Fake news, witch hunt, blame Obama, blame everybody but himself is losing it's efficacy and he's about to go down in flames.

     Mueller's latest indictment also put the kibosh on Donnie's ability to dispense pardon's for his co conspirators.. He can always try,but I don't think he'll pull it off without an additional obstruction charge being added.

  15. Swami  •  Feb 22, 2018 @12:47 am

     Today Mueller just turned up the heat on Manafort with some additional charges in a sealed indictment.. It's like going from simmer to boil. If this keeps up it won't be long before Mueller forms a choir to sing about Trump. 

     At last count Manafort is facing 80 years in prison as a maximum. But sentencing guidelines puts him in an 11 year range. I wonder with these new charges if the short program will put him over 20. Manafort is 66 years old so he doesn't have that much time to play around with. I think it's time to roll over.

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