So much for the various prevailing narratives about Paul Manafort never cutting a plea deal. It’s being reported this evening that before the verdict was reached in his first trial, Manafort tried to cut a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but it fell apart when Mueller wouldn’t give Manafort what he was asking for. This changes everything when it comes to the Trump-Russia investigation – particularly when it comes to what Mueller already has up his sleeve.
First of all, this new Wall Street Journal Report – also announced on Meet The Press today – officially puts an end to the widespread but absurd notion that Manafort was afraid to cut a plea deal for fear the Russians would somehow kill him. That was never, ever going to happen, as Putin and his oligarchs aren’t stupid enough to risk harsher worldwide sanctions over someone as relatively unimportant as Manafort. His willingness to cut a deal makes clear that he isn’t worried about any such thing. But this is really about Mueller.
As Palmer Report has previously spelled out, the difficulty with any Manafort plea deal is centered around his age and the severity of his crimes. He’s 69 years old, so something like a five year plea deal prison sentence wouldn’t be appealing to him. But now we know that he’s willing, even eager, to cut a deal if he can get a favorable enough deal. The real news is that Mueller said no.
Now we know that Robert Mueller could flip Paul Manafort right now by offering him an overly lenient plea deal, but Mueller isn’t willing to do it. This tells us that Mueller has built such an ironclad case against Donald Trump, he doesn’t need Manafort’s cooperation all that badly. This changes everything. It also means that if Manafort sees his second trial going poorly for him, he could decide to simply accept Mueller’s harsher terms and cut a deal after all.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report