For the past several days, Donald Trump has been publicly and repeatedly attacking NBC News, to the point of twice threatening to find a way to revoke its broadcast license and shut it down. Initially it appeared Trump was merely upset about NBC’s report that Rex Tillerson had called him a “moron” – but as the week went on, it became clear there was far more to it. Now we at least partially know what was going on, as NBC has just gotten its revenge on Trump.
This evening NBC News finally published the results of a long running investigation into former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s financial dealings with Russia (link). NBC was able to confirm that Manafort was personally in debt to a Kremlin-connected oligarch to the tune of at least $26 million, as part of overall transactions of around $60 million. Here’s why this is such bad news for Trump himself.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been aggressively trying to pressure Paul Manafort into flipping on Donald Trump for more than a month now. Mueller has had the FBI raid Manafort’s home in the middle of the night. He’s made clear Manafort is going to be indicted on serious charges. But Manafort appears to have been standing his ground, perhaps gambling that he could somehow beat the charges of financial fraud in court. This changes things, however. It gives Manafort clear motive for having played a role in helping Russia rig the election on Trump’s behalf – which is the kind of criminal charge he can’t beat.
A major news outlet like NBC News would typically have asked Donald Trump’s White House for advance comment several days before a story like this was published. That explains how Trump knew that NBC was about to expose the evidence that could prompt Paul Manafort to finally flip on him. It also explains why Trump has been essentially trying to publicly blackmail NBC into not publishing the story. That didn’t work.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report