Donald Trump is treating the shameful farce known as Paul Manafort’s first sentencing as a big win. As he tweeted this morning, it “loudly” shows the world that there was “NO COLLUSION with Russia.” Who is he fooling? Trump has always been obsessed with winning, but the bigger picture reveals something about his recent wins that he and his allies should find foreboding. Trump’s presidency has reached a point where his wins are looking more like lipstick on a pig.
Judge T.S. Ellis’s sentencing of Paul Manafort to only 47 months in prison, including time served, is an upset. Four years is an insanely far cry from the 19-24 years recommended under the guidelines. Plus, the judge’s praise for Manafort’s “otherwise blameless life” makes you wonder if he was confusing him with some other defendant. Donald Trump wants us to think that this prosecutorial setback is a sign that he is winning bigly, but reasonable minds know better.
Paul Manafort was no less important a person to Donald Trump’s campaign than its manager. Already, Manafort has been tried and convicted of multiple criminal charges, and he has spent the last nine months in solitary confinement. He still faces another sentencing with Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who could tack on a decade more of prison time. Even a presidential pardon is not likely to help him. The Manhattan District Attorney’s office is preparing state charges that could keep Manafort behind bars no matter what Trump does, according to reporting from The New York Times.
Without true victories, Trump is resorting to picking through scraps in a growing garbage heap of bad news, then clumsily repackaging them as tremendous wins. Trump’s failed second summit with Kim Jong Un? A win in his mind because he had the wisdom to walk away. Trump’s shutdown over a failed border wall? A win in his mind because he drew attention to an important issue. This first Manafort sentencing is a disappointing development, no doubt. But the fact that it is the sort of thing that passes for a Trump “win” these days is a sign that truth, justice, and decency may be starting to get the upper hand.