Here comes the Trump-Russia chilling effect

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George Papadopoulos reported to federal prison today to serve a fourteen day sentence he could have avoided, if he’d simply been honest with Special Counsel Robert Mueller during their cooperation period. Then, tonight, we learned that Paul Manafort is going to spend the rest of his natural life in prison, because he also lied to Mueller. Now here comes the Trump-Russia chilling effect on everyone else.

Manafort and Papadopoulos must have truly thought they could lie to Mueller and not get caught. They thought they could cut deals, fail to fully cooperate, and still skate. Even after Papadopoulos got busted for it, he still thought he could convince a judge to keep him out of prison because of an ongoing legal challenge to Mueller’s prosecutorial authority. The judge shot that down in short order, because it’s not how anything works. But Manafort has blown it even worse.

Even if Donald Trump were to try to pardon Paul Manafort, it wouldn’t give Manafort his freedom, because that’s not how pardons work. Instead, Manafort’s chances of maybe getting out of prison before he dies have now essentially dropped to zero. Because of what’s transpired here, the judge is going to drop the hammer on him at sentencing.

So now all the other Trump-Russia players out there, whether they’ve cut a cooperation deal like Michael Flynn and Rick Gates, or they’re simply material witnesses, have just seen what happens if you try to cheat on Robert Mueller. Not only do you get caught, you end up doing prison time – potentially serious time – that you might have otherwise been able to avoid. It should create a chilling effect that’ll make everyone else think twice about trying to con Mueller.

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