New York prosecutors are busy reminding us that the most surefire way of nailing Donald Trump for his crimes is to begin by nailing his underlings and associates for their related crimes. Similarly, if the DOJ does end up bringing a federal criminal case against Trump, it’ll surely be preceded by the arrests and convictions of people who can be made to flip on him.
This brings us to Stephen Calk, who was convicted this week of bribing Paul Manafort with millions of dollars in illegitimate loans in exchange for an appointed position in the Trump regime. Calk didn’t get the job, but bribery is still bribery even when it doesn’t succeed. So why does this matter?
Calk is now heading to prison for what will likely be several years. This means he’s a prime candidate to cut a plea deal. And while he may not have any dirt on Trump, he could certainly flip on Manafort, who accepted the bribe and attempted to get Calk the job.
On his way out the door, Trump did give Manafort a pardon. But there’s no such thing as a pardon for every crime you’ve ever committed. Manafort’s pardon merely focused on the crimes that landed him in prison to begin with. So it’s entirely conceivable that the Feds could turn around and indict Manafort for taking this bribe – particularly if Calk ends up cooperating.
Unless Paul Manafort wants to go back to prison, he would in turn have to flip on Donald Trump. Manafort refused to do this last time around, but that was back when Trump was dangling an eventual pardon in exchange for his silence. Trump can’t pardon Manafort this time, and Manafort knows it.
If there is to be a federal criminal case against Donald Trump, it’ll have to come from the bottom up. It could come from someone like Calk flipping on someone like Manafort, who then flips on Trump. It could come from someone like Victoria Toensing flipping on Rudy Giuliani, who then flips on Trump. There are numerous avenues for getting to Trump. But they all consist of charging and flipping his associates first.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report