It threatened to get lost in the news cycle, on a day whose headlines were rightly dominated by the FBI raid against Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, but it’s nonetheless a crucial development. Special Counsel Robert Mueller has gained a key new Trump-Russia witness whose role has been shrouded in secrecy, and who could end up helping Mueller to take Trump down.
We’d love to tell you the name of Mueller’s new witness, but it hasn’t been disclosed. All that’s known is that the witness is a former employee of Paul Manafort, who has begun cooperating with Mueller, and has already led Mueller to Manafort’s secret storage locker full of documents. The name of this witness is being redacted in court filings, and that alone raises eyebrows. But the upshot here is that this is bigger than being about just Manafort.
Mueller has long had so much evidence against Manafort, he recently revealed in court filing that he told Manafort’s sidekick Rick Gates last year that he didn’t need his help to take down Manafort. Mueller instead cut a deal with Gates to get information to help take down Trump himself. That means Mueller presumably doesn’t need this new witness in order to take Manafort down, either. So why is Mueller bothering with yet another witness against Manafort, unless that witness can deliver him more than just Manafort?
In other words, what all was in that storage locker, and who else did it incriminate? Paul Manafort and Donald Trump have longstanding financial ties, including Manafort’s apartment in Trump Tower. At the least, this new witness helps Robert Mueller to further incriminate Manafort, which increases the odds of Manafort cutting a plea deal against Trump. At most, it sounds like there may be more to this.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report