Manafort and Trump Have No Good Options

The case will go to the jury today in Paul Manafort’s first trial. There was some buzz yesterday when the defense team declined to make a defense and opted to go straight to closing arguments. I understand that lawyers do this when neither the client nor the client’s witnesses are likely to stand up to cross examination.

Here are two articles to read together: Paul Waldman, “Why Trump will pardon Paul Manafort” and Martin Longman, “Pardoning Manafort Wouldn’t Work.”

Question One: Why didn’t Manafort flip? From what I’ve read about this trial, on the current charges the paper evidence has him dead to rights. It’s most likely Manafort will never be free again. But keep in mind there are scarier people in the world than Donald Trump. Like, Russians.

Waldman says, “Manafort may have decided that it’s better to take his chances with a jury than to find a strange substance smeared on his door handle one day.” One assumes Manafort does care about his wife and children, also.

Longman: “He still owes Oleg Derispaska somewhere around twenty million dollars–and he has no prospect of repaying that debt in cash. All he can do is keep his mouth shut and hope that’s enough to get some forgiveness on the debt.” So there’s that.

Back to Waldman: “It’s also possible Manafort really has nothing to offer special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about Trump, that his activities, criminal though they might have been, never actually involved the president. That would mean he has no one to flip on.” That’s possible, but seems to me to be unlikely. We know Manafort was involved in the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, for example. And wasn’t Manafort most likely behind the change in the 2016 Republican platform that backed off arming Ukraine? Trump may not have known about that, but it certainly points to corruption in the campaign organization while Manafort was in charge of it.

Next, is Manafort counting on a Trump pardon? Waldman again:

Trump has spent the past 15 months since Mueller was appointed trying to discredit the investigation, in a campaign designed less to persuade the broader public than to convince his base that it is a witch hunt from start to finish and therefore everything it produces, no matter how factual and supported by evidence, should be ignored and discounted. He has obviously calculated, and rightly so, that if he can keep that base firmly behind him, Republicans in the House will never vote to impeach him, and even if Democrats took control of the chamber and did so, Republicans in the Senate would never vote to convict.

You can already see the argument he’ll make: The whole thing is a witch hunt, the charges are bogus, the jury was a bunch of Angry Democrats, and I’m intervening in the interests of justice. Trump also seems to genuinely believe that the investigation is unfair, and pardoning Manafort would be a great way for him to both assert control and stick it to Mueller.

It’s important to remember that no matter what the jury in this case decides, it’s only the first of two trials Manafort faces. The next one, in a federal court in Washington, will deal more directly with Manafort’s relationships in the former Soviet Union. That’s when Trump may start feeling the heat and feeling oppressed, and look for a way to let everyone know who’s really in charge. And that’s the day Manafort, sitting in his jail cell, is fervently hoping for.

Since there’s nothing Trump can do to stop the second trial, Waldman appears to be proposing that Trump will wait until after the second trial to pardon Manafort. But remember, once he’s pardoned, he can’t incriminate himself.


Waldman thinks Trump will ultimately pardon Manafort, but only after the second trial, which will cover his dealings with Ukrainians and Russians. The problem with this prediction is that Manafort needs charges hanging over him to invoke his right against self-incrimination. If he’s pardoned for most of what he could conceivably be charged with, he could be compelled to tell the special counsel what he knows or face fresh charges of contempt and obstruction of justice. Is he really going to count on either Mueller to give up or Trump to counter every new charge with a fresh pardon?

Maybe things really will get this weird and broken, but I think the reason Manafort hasn’t already been preemptively pardoned is that it would not solve Trump’s problems. In fact, it probably would exacerbate them. Even for congressional Republicans, there’s a limit to how nakedly Trump can obstruct the investigation and get away with it. He has not fired Jeff Sessions or Rod Rosenstein, for example, and he’d run into similar problems if he started pardoning Manafort for refusing to cooperate with investigators when he faces no prospect of self-incrimination.

Probably most people expect Trump to pardon Manafort, but people advising Trump may be telling him not to.

And here’s another kicker Longman brings up: “Manafort can still face state charges, particularly in New York, and I don’t see the pardon card as much of an option for Trump.”

The second trial, which promises to be juicy, begins in mid-September.

23 thoughts on “Manafort and Trump Have No Good Options

  1. I predict Manafort will get a mistrial, the judge has repeatedly diminished the prosecutors in front of the jury, surely he found at least one Trumpkin ready to fight the Deep State!

  2. Even if there was a mistrial, I don't see Mueller giving up.  The Judge in my layman opinion went out of his way to get tough on the prosecution.  Some deserved, some not.  But it's that second trial that holds the most peril for Trump and Manafort.  Maybe Trump let's him go through the second trial, get convicted and sentenced, and once the coast is clear which, for Trump means, worst case, dems impeached and Senate refuses to convict, then Trump pardons Manafort in exchange for keeping quiet as he did in the first trial.  Once Mueller presents his report and if he is of the opinion that the president can’t be indicted, which I have read he is, for Trump it's over.  At that point he can pardon Manafort and even if he sings then, so what?  Trump can't be touched, at least not by Mueller.

    Ever see one of those movies without the Hollywood ending and the bad guys ride off in the sunset n the end?  My gut (damn gut!) Is telling me Trump may not face any legal consequences from any of this with the only possibility of "justice" coming in the form of getting voted out in 2020.  But then gut says he may have dems to find some way to lose to him in 2020, and ride to his rescue. And live to be 1000.

  3. Not all pardons are created equal.. there is an inverse proportion aspect in the public's perception of pardons. Meaning that the recipient of a pardon's value changes in and with their relationship to Trump. And the public's perception of that pardon will have a direct impact on the Senators who are supposed to be Trump's ace in the hole backstop. In short, Trump can't be throwing around pardons like they're going out of style and then expect not to pay a steep political price for doing so.

    Trump might get to the point where he becomes reckless and desperate enough to start issuing pardons to save his co -conspirators from Mueller, but ultimately he's gonna need a pardon to save his own ass…And I wouldn't putting faith in the idea that he can pardon himself. Even worse than that is the idea that Pense will give him safe passage out of the presidency. Pense will probably slip into a predictable Cotton Mathers mode where the Lord's admonition to uphold righteousness and punish evil doers must be heeded. It'll be, adios pecador.

  4. I don't think what the judge said during the trial will have any weight at all in relationship to the mass of evidence.  There is such a simple trail of crimes. The indictment is an easy read.  And no defense was made?

    The only way there's a mistrial is if a juror refuses to reason because of prior prejudice.

    It seemed like jury selection was very quick, given that possibility.

  5. Obstruction of Justice and a trial after Trump is out of office is a VERY real possibility.  Trump can't keep issuing pardons without proving intent to obstruct. 

    Forget Manifort. What happens when Don Jr is charged? Dealing with representatives of a foreign government to get "dirt" on HRC is a crime – even if no dirt was finally exchanged. Don Jr INTENDED to accept something of value in the campaign from a foreign government. Does Daddy pardon and seal his fate for Obstruction or promise Don Jr that five years in prison might be only three years and it won't be so bad. 

    If Daddy hangs Don Jr. out to dry, will Don' Jr develop a streak of patriotic fervor and flip on President Bone Spurs? This is the source of panic in the West Wing that has Mayor Bug Eyes screaming the probe sill be ended by September or else!

    Carter Page is next and  Michael Cohen is right after!

  6. Today, The Idiot revoked Brennan’s security clearance. While Trump technically has the power to do so, doing it without due process and citing political reasons in the signing statement must have had Trump’s lawyers face palming. Another lawsuit he will have to defend against, self-inflicted.

  7. I really should not comment on this, but it's been bothering me ever since Brennan stated publicly, while he was still head of the CIA, that he had evidence that Putin was personally involved in directing the attack against the U.S. election. Now I was flabbergasted by this, because I'm so old I remember the story of Pearl Harbor. We were told after the War (World War II, if you aren't sure because we've had so many of them) that the State Department had broken the Japanese diplomatic code (Code Purple) before the attack, and that they had deciphered a cable to the Japanese ambassador to America which seemed to indicate a pending military attack. Because being able to read at least the diplomatic cables was so useful, the President and those few people who were granted clearance to know about that ability decided they did not dare warn the Navy about the danger lest that leak to the Japanese, with the result that CINCPAC was incredibly complacent and had much more of the Pacific Fleet in harbor than they should have. Now, to me having an asset in Putin's inner office, which Brennan seemed to be announcing, was probably even more valuable than that. By his public announcement Brennan was divulging classified material of the highest level, and probably putting that person's life in imminent danger. He thereby endangered national security a thousand times more than Edward Snowden and Julian Assange combined, yet nobody remarked on it.

    • Procopius — I think you are seeing things that aren’t there. All of the information made public while Brennan was still head of the CIA said that this assessment was based on technical analysis of emails and such; computer geek stuff. I can’t find where Brennan said that Putin was personally involved, just that technological analysis caused them to believe the hackers were connected to the Kremlin. It’s not World War II any more.

  8. The problem with owning many mansions bought with un-taxed deal money, is that you may be sued in every state that house your many mansions.

    And that's a lot of legal fees!

    Especially when all you've got is "out-go,"  and no 'income!'

  9. Sold out Manafort, twenty million in debt to a Russian without a future.  His only purpose now is to serve as a poor example.  He religiously followed the gospel of greed and did what any man has to do when they have to make payments on two mansions.  They call it getting leveraged, but I think getting compromised is a much better term for it.  Just a little pact with devils, sell off just a small piece of ones soul.  You can make up for the guilt, if you even have such a thing anymore, by flaunting your 15K fowl skinned coat.  

    What was he thinking?  What is the path that gets a person to this point?  I reeled at the notion of a 20 million dollar loan from an oligarch to the level I had to check on it's veracity.  Supporting documents were not hard to find, though I would like to see the terms of the loan.  The provisions upon default are probably in print so small as to be undecipherable.  They must be quite strong, as I have seen with my own eyes the Helsinki moment.  It is a different, but probably quite similar case, but I can only speculate. No wonder the followers of the gospel of greed typically pray with their hands in the air.  They need the practice.   

  10. Manafort's plan: Hide in jail. Orange jumpsuit > neurotoxin.

    Also, I have a style request. Please, let's retire "exacerbate". That word is exasperating. "Worsen" means the same, and is short and bold. 

  11. The truth is always an option! In Trump's case it might not be a "good" option, but nevertheless it's still an option.

    An option that we have is to pray that Trump gets his lumps, or if you think praying has too much of a religious connotation you can always direct your mental energies toward thoughts that Trump gets what's coming to him. It's just as effective as petitioning a deity… Believe me! I speak from experience.

    The moral arc of the universe bends toward justice. In other words..the big bag of shit is going to get his lumps.


  12. Swami:  Thank you for the advice.  I feel bad about wishing bad things to happen to other people but I have no qualms about wanting people to get their just desserts.  As Dr. Phil says:  When you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences.  So I will direct my mental energies to the higher powers and also request that they hurry up with it.

  13. You're more than welcome, grannyeagle. Anytime I can help by providing sound spiritual guidance I'm more than happy to be of service. Like yourself, I'm not to one to wish bad things on people, but in Trump's case I view it from a sort of christian perspective where it's like hate the sin, but love the sinner type of mentality. It's the vile qualities of character that Trump possesses that I'm actually railing against. Trump just happens to be the vessel where those nasty characteristics abode.

    Trump is a criminal and his family is a criminal enterprise. So I'm going to continue speaking out against Trump until his criminal enterprise is ground into dust and blown into the dust bin of history. It's my patriotic duty.

  14. Trump canceled our parade. Total bummer. I was so looking forward it. Nothing inspires like a good military parade with a pass in review for the Commander in Chief. I'm surprised that Trump is being such a tight wad with our money..I mean, what's 80 million dollar in the big picture? He dropped that much in Syria with his cruise missile attack, and it didn't give half the thrill that a good military parade would.

     Well, here's a link to a Chinese military parade that might hold some of you military parade aficionados over till next year when Trump promises to have the parade when the costs are lowered. Keep your fingers crossed.   

    Gotta admit it's pretty impressive!

  15. Uncledad…. "Doctors say he has improved with anti-psychotic medication." If Florida gives veteran's points in their parole process he might be out by this time next year. 

  16. Swami,

    I'm all for treating the mentally ill but I'm not sure I'd want this guy walking the streets after the act of terror he committed, mentally ill or not? He should be confined to a treatment facility for a good long period of time I would think? What do you think the chances of Michael Drejka (the guy who shot the dude in the handicap parking spot) getting convicted? I'd say slim to none, seems like another Travon Martin incident, maybe if the guy he shot was white he'd do a couple years?

  17. You know, I think it's strange watching that video of the Chinese women goosestepping with their Nancy Sinatra boots on. Maybe it's something that comes with age but I seem to be experiencing a sense of arousal in finding gun toting women in white boots all marching in perfect unison kinda sexy. It's weird because I've never had that kind of a kink before.

     I'm not going to be too alarmed about this sudden awakening. All within the bounds of normalcy, but if, and when, Trump's parade features guys dressed as continental soldiers and I experience a similar feeling, then I'll look a little more closely at what's going on in my psyche. 

    Again, I am disappointed that Trump canceled the parade. Except for the fact that when I watched Trump's inauguration pass and review parade I couldn't help but notice how sloppy the marching was from many of the military units. They've got a long way to go to match the Chinese.

    • “You know, I think it’s strange watching that video of the Chinese women goosestepping with their Nancy Sinatra boots on.” Kind of tells us the Chinese military is stuck in the 1960s as far as women are concerned.

  18. uncledad … I hope Drejka gets convicted. He's got a history of threatening patrons about parking issues at that convenience store. When you're packing heat you have a tendency to be a little bold in your attempts to correct evildoers. That's one of the drawbacks of dispensing concealed carry permits like candy to the emotionally unstable. He was looking for trouble and he found it…I hope they make him the scapegoat for all that is wrong about stand your ground and put his ass in prison for a long time..but I think he's only facing a five year max for manslaughter. For a coward like that the worst punishment will be the loss of being able to own a firearm for the rest of his like.

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