On Friday morning, Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally got his man. He arrested Paul Manafort a month ago, seemingly knowing that Manafort wouldn’t immediately cooperate, but that the arrest would spook Michael Flynn into cutting a deal. Sure enough, Flynn has finalized a plea deal which has him testifying against Donald Trump and others. Now suddenly it looks like Mueller may have gotten Manafort as well.
Just as Flynn’s deal was coming together last night, buzz began that Mueller was suddenly offering to let Manafort out of house arrest on bail. Some mistakenly interpreted this as Mueller letting Manafort go because he no longer needed him, but if anything, that would have gone in a more punitive direction. Instead, Mueller’s decision to suddenly go easy on Manafort strongly suggests that Manafort is now cooperating as well.
This does not mean that Manafort has formally cut a deal. He likely still believes there’s some chance he can get himself off the hook thanks to his high priced attorneys and his ability to pay them handsomely. But the last thing Manafort wants is to remain under house arrest for the next six months until his trial begins, so he’s probably given Mueller just enough to convince him to grant bail. To be clear, there is no way Mueller would give Manafort any leniency unless he’s turned over evidence that implicates Trump. That probably means money laundering records of some kind.
The question, of course, is why Paul Manafort would finally begin cooperating after a month of stubbornly rotting away under house arrest. Perhaps when he was given a day pass for Thanksgiving and got a taste of freedom, he decided he needed more of it. Perhaps he saw Michael Flynn cutting a deal and decided he needed to get on Robert Mueller’s good side while he still could. Don’t be shocked if Manafort still goes to trial and tries to beat the rap. But it sure sounds like he’s given up something on Trump, as his bail would have come with a price far heftier than money. Update: Mueller is now reportedly reconsidering the Manafort bail deal. The plot thickens yet again.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report