This evening we learned that, after Robert Mueller hinted ten days ago that the Paul Manafort cooperation deal was going to produce results within ten days, the new criminal target busted by Paul Manafort is… Paul Manafort himself. Wait, what? Mueller revealed in a court filing tonight that Manafort lied to him, and that Mueller is now done with Manafort. So why did Mueller need an extra ten days to tell us this?
It took a minute, but we think we’ve figured it out – and in hindsight, it was fairly brilliant. What’s the one big thing in the Trump-Russia scandal that took place during this ten day waiting period? Five days ago, Donald Trump submitted his written answers to Robert Mueller. Trump did this at at time when he thought – as did the rest of us – that Manafort had already given Mueller the truth about the Trump Tower meeting and other incidents.
Trump’s only reason for submitting his answers, instead of trying to drag it out longer, would have been that Mueller had given him a hard deadline. Then Mueller delayed the Manafort revelation until after Trump had turned in his work. While Trump surely wasn’t honest in his answers overall, his lawyers probably at least made sure that his answers didn’t contradict anything that Manafort knew about. In other words, it looks like Mueller just bluffed Trump into confessing to the aspects of the Trump-Russia scandal that Manafort was present for.
Paul Manafort is a career criminal and serial fraudster. He got caught conspiring with a Russian spy to try to tamper with witnesses ahead of his trial. Robert Mueller probably knew from the start that Manafort would screw up the plea deal. But that didn’t prevent Mueller from using it to get Donald Trump to commit himself to written answers under the assumption that Mueller already knew what Manafort knew. Now that’s just brilliant.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report