Paul Manafort has now been in jail for a week, raising questions about when and whether he might finally start thinking about cutting a plea deal. After all, most legal experts don’t expect him to ever spend another day of his life as a free man, unless he flips on Donald Trump. If a week of sleeping on a metal slab wasn’t enough of a reality check for him, he just suffered the kind of blow that could push him over the edge.
Before he was sent to jail for witness tampering, Manafort and his attorneys had begun a defense strategy that essentially amounts to a last stand. Once you realize the evidence against you is overwhelming enough to get you convicted, you give up on any pretense of arguing your innocence, and instead you try to get some of the evidence thrown out on technicalities. If you can get enough thrown out, then just maybe the government’s case against you will have too many holes in it to make sense to a jury.
Manafort’s last best shot at pulling this off was to get the treasure trove of evidence thrown out that had been seized from his storage locker. We should probably talk about how it wasn’t particularly smart to keep all the evidence against himself in a locker instead of destroying it, but that’s a story for another time and place. The upshot here is that the judge in Manafort’s case just ruled that Robert Mueller can use the evidence from the storage locker to his heart’s content during the trial, which means Manafort is now probably looking at around a 99.2% chance of being found guilty.
So if Paul Manafort’s plan was to tough it out in a jail cell until the judge magically threw out the evidence against him, that plan just failed. His lawyers can make other attempts to get other kinds of evidence thrown out, but this ruling was one of the biggest, and it also suggests that the judge has no real intention of letting Manafort get out of this on weak technicalities. Now that Manafort’s last stand has collapsed, will he flip? It can only get worse for him from here.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report