Paul Manafort can’t catch a break lately. He tried to get the Feds off his tail by informing them of the Donald Trump Jr. meeting with Russia, which led to such a major scandal that his old friend Donald Trump will probably never talk to him again. Then Manafort testified before Congress to try to further appease investigators, but his testimony wasn’t seen as sufficiently forthcoming, and the next morning the FBI raided his house. Now he’s hitting the panic button.
After having spent months seemingly trying to delay the inevitable in the hope that it might somehow all just go away, Paul Manafort is finally taking decisive action. He’s fired his attorneys, according to Politico (link), and brought in a whole new team. This kind of move generally points to the adoption of an entirely new legal strategy.
Up to now, Manafort’s legal strategy has been to keep kicking the can down the road, giving investigators just enough helpful information to keep them from kicking in his door – until they finally ran out of patience and kicked in his door two weeks ago. So which new direction is he now heading in with his new legal team? One option is to close ranks and stop working with investigators entirely, and to try to mount the toughest legal defense possible, in the hope of somehow getting off the hook on a technicality. The other option is to make a full court press on cutting a deal in which he flips on Trump.
Some have posited that Trump could simply pardon Manafort and thus put an end to the whole thing. But some legal experts don’t believe a president can pardon his own alleged co-conspirators. It’s never been tried, and if Trump did try to pardon Manafort, the Supreme Court could throw it out. But perhaps more importantly, the move would bring a total end to Trump’s presidency in political terms. He’d be admitting guilt, his approval rating would drop another five points, and he’d be on his way to ouster.
So no, Donald Trump isn’t going to pardon Paul Manafort. He’s on his own. The only remaining question is whether Manafort tries to dig in his heels and survive this, or if he simply sells out Trump and moves on with his life. We’ll find out which path he’s chosen soon enough. In the mean time, the total replacement of his legal team means he’s indeed hitting the panic button.
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Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report