After a mountain of evidence was publicly rolled out confirming that Paul Manafort had been on the payroll of a pro-Kremlin oligarch, he announced through a spokesman last week that he was taking appropriate steps to resolve the matter. That was a very clear hint that he was going to follow in the footsteps of Michael Flynn and retroactively register as a foreign agent. But that still hasn’t happened. And it’s a sign that something new is afoot between Manafort and the Feds.
Back when Michael Flynn retroactively registered as a foreign agent in early March, it was a rather obvious sign that he was looking to put himself on the right side of the law, and in turn it strongly hinted that he was looking to cut a deal with the FBI in the Trump-Russia scandal. Why formally admit to a past crime, unless you’re planning to take the necessary steps to get leniency for that crime? Sure enough, a few weeks later, Flynn publicly announced he was seeking an immunity deal.
So last week, when Paul Manafort made it sound like he was also registering as a foreign agent, it seemed a clear sign that he was ready to come in and cut a deal. But as NBC News is reporting today (link), Manafort still hasn’t registered. These things are a matter of public record, and if he’d done so, we’d know it immediately. So there’s a new twist in the tale.
Manafort, who seems to be no fool, is way too far down the road of being demonstrably guilty of money laundering and other crimes to suddenly decide he’s going to try to fight this. He’s going to cut a deal, it’s just a matter of when and how. So why’s he suddenly holding out from taking his promised first step? Perhaps Manafort saw Flynn’s request for a deal get summarily rejected after he’d already registered.
It’s entirely possible Paul Manafort is trying to make sure he has a leniency deal in place before he registers, because at that point he’d be admitting guilt. But any such deal would require Manafort to provide evidence and testimony that incriminates a bigger fish in the Trump-Russia scandal, and the only bigger fish than Manafort is Donald Trump himself. The fact that Manafort has gone this far with it means he’s willing and able to take Trump down to try to save himself in the process. Contribute to Palmer Report
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report