On Friday morning, former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy rather than face the second of two criminal trials related to his lobbying work. As part of the deal, he signed a sweeping agreement to cooperate with Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s attempt to hack the election. For the record, that means Mueller has won eight guilty pleas since his investigation really ramped up last fall.
And yet, even in the face of all of this, Trump still persists in his delusion that Mueller is on a windmill-tilting expedition. That’s the only conclusion you can draw from this 280-character rant on Sunday morning.
Okay, Mr. Trump. Let’s explain this nice and slow. In case you missed it, eight people–including your former campaign chairman, your former national security adviser, and two of your 2016 campaign’s aides–have pleaded guilty. That is, they admitted to committing crimes. How, pray tell, can you say that Mueller is “in search of a crime”?
Moreover, Manafort pleaded guilty after being convicted on eight felony counts last month–by a jury that included a MAGA-hat wearing Trump supporter. Hmmm, last I checked, when you are convicted by a jury of your peers who is convinced you are guilty beyond reasonable doubt, you are a convicted criminal.
Manafort no doubt knew that if he were convicted at the second trial, at his age, there was a better-than-even chance that the only way he was getting out of jail was in a pine box. Plus, he agreed to hand over a whopping $22 million in real estate. You don’t surrender assets that large unless you know you’re guilty.
The only plausible explanation for this unhinged tweet is that Trump knows Manafort’s conviction had the effect of pushing the walls further in on him. After all, it’s not likely that Mueller would have agreed to a plea deal with Manafort unless he was willing to drop dimes on people who ranked higher than him in the campaign food chain.
With few exceptions, the only people who outranked Manafort during his tenure as campaign chairmen were Trumps by birth or marriage. So while one of the properties Manafort had to surrender was an apartment in Trump Tower, this guilty plea potentially has the effect of putting Mueller in the Trump Tower penthouse.
One anecdote in particular could spell trouble for the Trump family–the infamous meeting in Trump Tower with a gaggle of Russians in hopes of getting dirt on Hillary Clinton. Manafort, remember, has been working on Republican campaigns for four decades. He was the one person in that room who knew or should have known that meeting was improper at best. He could shed a lot of light on what was discussed in that meeting–and could thus cause a world of hurt for First Son Donald Trump Jr. and First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner.
That’s why Obama White House ethics counsel Norman Eisen wasn’t exaggerating when he said that Manafort’s guilty plea could spell doom for Trump.
Anyone who has followed this case knows that Trump is deluding himself when he claims Mueller is “in search of a crime.” Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Trump. If you want Mueller to find crimes, he may find a smorgasbord of them very soon–including several with your fingerprints on them. And a substantial portion of the evidence is likely to come from the eight people–so far–who have pleaded guilty.
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