Show of hands: was anyone surprised that Paul Manafort ended up cheating on his cooperating plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller? We see no hands raised. This raises the question of why Mueller bothered to cut a cooperation deal with him in the first place, as Mueller surely knew Manafort would try to two-time him. The thing is, it very much looks like Mueller strategically set up Manafort to blow it.
Back when it was first revealed last week that Paul Manafort had been lying to Mueller and secretly conspiring with Donald Trump, the weird part was that Manafort’s deal didn’t specifically forbid him from discussing it with Trump. Was it an oversight? Was Mueller being naive? But when Mueller cut cooperating plea deals with other shady Trump-Russia players such as Rick Gates, he did specifically include a nondisclosure clause. You see where this is going.
Robert Mueller made a conscious decision not to specifically forbid Paul Manafort from disclosing the details of his cooperation agreement to others. In our view, the only logical conclusion is that Mueller was counting on Manafort – who by that time had already tried to tamper with witnesses – to go ahead and two-time him with Donald Trump. It’s not that Manafort was violating the deal by talking to Trump; it’s that Manafort was violating the deal by lying to Mueller about talking to Trump.
So why would Mueller have been trying to set the stage for Paul Manafort to blow the plea deal? In short, Manafort is already toast. Mueller is only looking to use Manafort to take Donald Trump down. The quickest path at this late date is to simply use court filings to document the Trump-related crimes that Manafort committed. Because Manafort blew the deal, Mueller had an excuse to make a filing which did precisely that.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report