To put it in overly technical legal terms, Paul Manafort is screwed. Wait, that’s not a legal term? In this case it should be. He’s facing dozens of felony charges whose combined sentencing guidelines call for several hundred years in prison. His longtime partner in crime has just signed a deal to testify against him. Unlike most defendants, Manafort can magically make most of those charges go away just by testifying against Donald Trump. So is he about to cut a deal, or are things about to get very stupid?
Throughout the Trump-Russia scandal, there has been the moment at which we knew any given individual would eventually cut a deal, and the later moment at which they finally figured it out themselves. We knew Michael Flynn would flip the minute we read that his son was facing criminal charges. For all his moral and psychological failings, Flynn has a moral code about family. We knew Hope Hicks would eventually flip when we heard that Mark Corallo had testified against her to Robert Mueller a couple weeks ago. This week she seems to be figuring it out herself. So how does this relate to Manafort?
If Manafort were to act logically, he would have cut a deal five minutes after Rick Gates cut a deal against him. But plea deals are major life decisions where the choices are all devastatingly bad, so there tends to be quite a bit of emotion involved, before logic eventually rules the day. The big question is whether Manafort is capable of coherent logic, or even of understanding the need for self preservation. Some newly reported evidence suggests otherwise.
Just a few months before Donald Trump hired Paul Manafort to chair his campaign, it turns out Manafort was apparently in the midst of a suicidal emotional breakdown and had been admitted to some sort of unspecified “clinic” according to a new expose from the Atlantic (link). This is obviously a touchy subject. But if this is an accurate portrayal, it sounds like Manafort may not be mentally stable enough to be capable of making a rational decision when it comes to cutting a deal or going to trial. Maybe he wants a trial. Maybe he wants to go down swinging. Fortunately for Robert Mueller, he probably doesn’t need Manafort to take Trump down.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report