Bizarre turn of events in Robert Mueller’s cooperation deal with Paul Manafort

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Ten days ago, Special Counsel Robert Mueller told a judge that he needed ten additional days before posting a required status update in the Paul Manafort cooperation deal. That’s led to quite a bit of anticipation about just what Mueller would end up revealing today. Now Mueller has shown his hand, and his big Manafort-related criminal target today has turned out to be – bizarrely – Manafort himself.

Robert Mueller and his team just filed paperwork alleging that Paul Manafort has violated his cooperation agreement in criminal fashion, asserting that Manafort has “committed federal crimes by lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Special Counsel’s Office on a variety of subject matters.” Manafort is arguing in the same document that he cooperated fully and did not tell any such lies. Both sides are in agreement that it’s time to move on to the sentencing phase. So where does this leave us?

Mueller’s half of the status update stresses that Paul Manafort failed to fulfill “each and every one” of his obligations, and to do so “completely.” Our read on this is that Manafort cooperated with some aspects of the Trump-Russia investigation, but (allegedly) lied about other aspects in the hope of protecting certain people. Did he sell out Roger Stone, but lie to protect Donald Trump? Did he sell out Stone and Trump, but lie to protect the Russians? We have no way of knowing. But why would Mueller need to keep this quiet for an extra ten days? We suspect Mueller was using it to bluff Trump into submission.

In any case, now that Paul Manafort’s cooperation phase is finished, there’s no need for Robert Mueller to wait before busting any more heads. He’s already gotten whatever he’s gotten from Manafort, who will now apparently rot in prison for the rest of his life. Instead Mueller simply move forward with busting big fish. Keep in mind that Mueller has the ongoing – and apparently harmonious – cooperation of Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, and Michael Cohen, among others.

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