Robert Mueller arrested Paul Manafort and his longtime sidekick Rick Gates on the same day for a reason. Manafort is wealthy, so he was going to use high priced attorneys to try to get him off the hook at trial. Gates is broke, meaning that he was more likely to flip on Manafort, which might then force Manafort to flip on Donald Trump. But in reality, Mueller may not even need Manafort in order to use Gates to get to Trump.
There are two ways in which Manafort can take Trump down. One is their shared financial history with the Russians, which appears to go back decades. The other is that Trump almost surely knew Manafort was conspiring with a Russian oligarch about political matters during the election. If Manafort cuts a plea deal, he can provide testimony and evidence on both these matters. But even if Manafort stubbornly decides to go through with a trial he’ll now certainly lose, Mueller may already have everything he needs.
Keep in mind that Manafort and Gates have been business partners for several years. According to the latest court filings, they were so financially intertwined that when their business went broke just before the election, they were conspiring to fraudulently take out loans on Manafort’s real estate properties. In that regard it’s difficult to imagine that Gates wouldn’t have had access to records of any financial dealings that overlapped between Manafort and Trump. Mueller may already have those documents, and he may be strategically keeping them under wraps for the moment. There’s more.
While Paul Manafort was the Trump campaign chairman, Rick Gates was a Trump campaign vice chairman. If Donald Trump knew that Manafort was conspiring with the Russian oligarch, then Gates almost certainly knew that Trump knew. If that’s the case, Robert Mueller doesn’t need Manafort to get to Trump. He may already have Trump nailed for financial crimes and conspiracy against the United States, based on Gates’ deal alone.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report