Yesterday we all learned that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has prepared a state-level criminal case against Paul Manafort. The clear implication was that if Donald Trump tried to pardon Manafort, New York would simply lock Manafort right back up. But last night we learned that New York is preparing to file criminal charges against Manafort even if Trump doesn’t try to pardon him. So what’s going on?
Think about what we’re really looking at here. If Donald Trump were going to try to pardon an associate like Paul Manafort, he’d have done it by now, right? This isn’t about Manafort. If Trump is going to try to pardon anyone, he’s surely saving those pardons for himself and his kids as a very last resort.
The thing about Donald Trump is he’s a bit slow on these matters. He’s fairly well cut off from real news, preferring to watch the largely fictional broadcasts on Fox News instead. We can see from the timing of his Twitter explosions that he often doesn’t hear about developing stories until weeks or months after they’ve happened. So it’s not enough for New York State to simply put it out there that it’ll charge Paul Manafort if he’s pardoned; that news might not reach Trump’s ears. Instead it has to actually put Manafort on trial, to make sure Trump hears about it.
That way Donald Trump will fully understand that New York truly is willing and able to bring state-level criminal cases that he can’t do anything to sabotage – not just against a dead man walking like Paul Manafort, but also against Trump’s kids. And while New York State might have a hard time putting Trump on trial while he’s still in office, it can arrest his kids at any time.
That’s checkmate. Even if Donald Trump doesn’t care about the fate of his kids, the criminal cases against them can be used to rip apart the Trump Organization, seize the Trump family’s assets, and build a bulletproof state level case against Trump which can be brought against him the minute he leaves office.
Thanks to the state level criminal case against Paul Manafort in New York, Donald Trump is about to see very clearly that pardons won’t get him or his family off the hook. He can’t simply cut and run. He’s going to have to pay the piper. He’s in a position where he’ll be arrested the minute he’s no longer president, and his assets will be gone by then anyway. He’s about to learn that he has no option left but to trade away his resignation in exchange for reduced criminal charges. That’s checkmate.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report