In the old days, we only had one presidential criminal scandal at a time. Thanks to career criminal and devolving psychopath Donald Trump, we now have one per hour. We’re now seeing so many different storylines playing out at once, each of them complex and confusing in its own right, it’s become tricky to parse them in real time. There has been no better example of that than what we’ve witnessed playing out over the past eighteen hours.
The Paul Manafort plea agreement is tricky enough in its own right. First ABC News reported that Manafort and Robert Mueller had reached a “tentative” deal. Then Reuters said that the deal was “close” – which essentially means the same thing – but some mistakenly thought these two reports directly conflicted each other. This came shortly after Rudy Giuliani had revealed the long-standing joint defense agreement between Trump and Manafort, which many mistakenly thought meant there was no Manafort plea deal.
In reality, Rudy was newly revealing something very old. The Manafort plea deal means that the joint defense agreement between Trump and Manafort goes out the window. In fact, Michael Flynn and others had joint defense agreements with Trump, right up until the point where they cut their plea deals and severed those agreements.
Even after that mess was sorted out, a large number of news outlets and political pundits made the mistake of thinking that in order for a plea deal to be based on cooperation, it has to have a specific cooperation clause. It’s almost as if they were absent on the day Michael Cohen cut a deal that didn’t specifically require cooperation, and then immediately named Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator, making 100% clear that he was fully cooperating against Trump. But in all the chaos, it’s understandable by so many pundits couldn’t keep up.
On the other hand, a number of pundits acted in bad faith by incredibly trying to spin the Manafort plea deal into yet another rehash of the eternally baseless “Trump is going to magically pardon everyone and get away with it all” narrative. Manafort is now aligning himself with prosecutors because he’s finally realized that Trump is never going to bail him out with a magic pardon. But don’t tell that to certain talking heads on MSNBC and CNN who think that as long as they’re using the word “pardons” every few minutes, you’re going to be too paralyzed with fear to change the channel.
Then we got to the profoundly confusing Brett Kavanaugh sexual assault scandal. It didn’t help that the story was first broken by The Intercept, which tried to falsely spin it as an internal Democratic Party squabble, as part of the fringe left’s ongoing attempts at smearing Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein. Even after more reputable news outlets began to bring the story to life in a truthful manner, it was still tricky to piece together what was really playing out behind the scenes as the night went on.
The bottom line is that Paul Manafort has reached a tentative plea deal which could be formalized before lunchtime today, and it’ll informally involve cooperation whether it’s formally required or not. There was a joint defense agreement between Manafort and Donald Trump, but that no longer matters. There are no magic pardons, and whenever you hear that word on television, it’s probably safe to change the channel, because you’re not going to hear anything useful for the rest of the segment. Brett Kavanaugh is in a heap of trouble, the FBI is involved, and we don’t know what’ll happen with it next. As always, Palmer Report will do its best to stay on top of it all.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report