Over the past few days, multiple major news outlets have reported that Paul Manafort is in serious negotiations with Special Counsel Robert Mueller about a plea deal. Last night Palmer Report pointed out that Mueller would only give Manafort a lenient deal at this point is if Manafort is willing to flip on Trump. Today, major news outlets are reporting that Manafort’s deal might not include cooperation of any kind. So how does this square up? We’ve seen it before.
Back when the news first broke that Michael Cohen was cutting a plea deal, Palmer Report pointed out that the Feds wouldn’t have given him a deal unless they expected that he was going to cooperate against Trump. Then it was revealed that his plea deal didn’t officially require any cooperation from him – but it did leave the length of his prison sentence wide open. Sure enough, by the end of the day, Cohen had gone into court and named Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator.
This erased any doubts about Cohen’s willingness to cooperate, and sure enough, more recent reports have him working with everyone from the Feds to the State of New York. This brings us to the Paul Manafort deal. It’s not surprising to learn that his deal may not officially include a specific cooperation clause. But it’s a given that the length of his prison sentence will be dependent upon how much he does choose to cooperate. Manafort wouldn’t take a deal like that unless he was planning to fully cooperate, because it would land him in prison for a veery long time, and the deal would serve no purpose for him. Mueller’s willingness to give Manafort a deal is a sign that Mueller believes Manafort will cooperate.
So why go this route? The most obvious explanation is that it allows people like Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort to flip on Donald Trump without having to put it in writing in a court document that they’re doing so. It potentially gives them just enough deniability so that the increasingly clueless delusional Trump won’t figure out that they really have flipped on him. So when the media says that Manafort is cutting a deal that doesn’t include any cooperation, that’s a fundamental misunderstanding on their part about the realities of plea deals. Ignore it. If Manafort cuts a deal, it’ll be because he’s selling Trump out.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report