Wow -- Manafort's attorney, Kevin Downing, is shouted down outside the courthouse after he falsely claims "2 courts have ruled no evidence of any collusion with any Russians."— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 13, 2019
"Liar! That's not what she said!" someone yells. pic.twitter.com/gGqdrP2ihJ
Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign manager, has now been convicted and sentenced for a variety of crimes, some of which he plead guilty to (the ones being addressed here). Last week, he was sentenced to 47 months for tax and bank fraud. The judge in that case. T. S. Ellis, commented to the effect that his downward revision of the sentencing guidelines were being made in respect of Manafort's "blameless life"--which was really just so extra when a good hard look at Manafort doesn't really indicate "blamelessness" at all. Only a chilling lack of accountability, and a startling level of heretofore not getting blamed.
In the case where Manafort was just sentenced, the judge had a different view taking in the evidence of obstruction of justice and avoiding full compliance with a plea deal with all the other evidence of Manfort's selfishness and failure to show remorse. The most striking sentence of her comments to me was something on the lines of "saying 'I'm sorry I was caught' is not an inspiring call for leniency". The lawyers for Manafort tried to make a case that Manafort was only in court because he had participated in the 2016 campaign for Donald Trump.
That is very much a case of saying "he would not have been caught unless you were looking". What a cynical take!
The judge had also stressed that her pronouncement regarding the charges was no reflection on the collusion claim, which was somehow interpreted as claiming there was no collusion by Manafort's counsel in the above video, which smart protestors were quick to claim "That's not what she said!" I think the most important thing that she actually did say, if not directly, was "Lock him up!
What is a sudden turn of events was how quickly after the sentencing the NY AG's office announced that Manafort had been indicted on 16 new state charges. (I think we all know these were being kept in pocket.) The President can't pardon state convictions. I don't know if double jeopardy pertains to any of these charges (which would then get thrown out) but for now, Manafort's life stays very complicated.
The odd "no collusion" statements made by Manafort's lawyers and contradicted by what the judge actually said and the protestors, seem to be for the benefit of the so-called "audience of one"--Donald Trump, who would have been watching this very keenly. Their best shot for Manafort not serving the 7.5 years he's been sentence to is a pardon--but well. Those state charges, tho'.
Now, why do they think a pardon could be so very much a potentiality? I guess they would know more than I do, but I'd have to say, Michael Cohen said his discussions with counsel in talks with the White House indicated that a pardon was a possibility. And former acting AG Matt Whitaker seems to have discussed Cohen's situation with Trump.
Here's the thing--I don't think anyone is really assuming that Trump won't do something that potentially obstructs justice like pardon people to make sure they don't roll on him, just like I don't think people are actually confused about why Comey or McCabe were actually fired. The dirty little secret about how Trump has been managing the Trump/Russia collusion question is that he does things that validate it. He makes himself look like he's covering up and deflecting--and maybe it's because he really is, and maybe it's because he's a vain clown who doesn't know how to act. The peculiar thing is, on some level, I don't know if this is inept self-protection from legal liability, or pathological self-protection from really bad press. In either event it looks really bad (because it is).
I think there are by now too many convictions and lines drawn between the Trump campaign and specifically Russian contacts to disregard the Russia/Trump "collusion" theory. What remains true, to me, is Trump has left himself extremely susceptible to claims of self-dealing and conflicts of interest in so many of the things he does, yet we hardly think of Mme. Yang or any wandering golfing questor as having unprecedented access and possible influence on a very green and poorly educated public official tasked with the highest office in our land, but there he is and here we are, unable to really fully address this gaping national security weakness that is our own president.
And the reasons why he is unfit will mount, and the reasons why his installation was unfit will mount. And it won't be impeachment and removal that do him in--we need the 2020 election.
I have never approached a presidential election with such trepidation. It is a tightrope over Niagara. A Niagara populated with barracudas.