On Friday evening, a story surfaced which lacked sufficient context: Paul Manafort’s realtor testified in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Donald Trump’s Russia scandal. But then later on Friday evening, the confirmation surfaced that Mueller has filed criminal charges against one or more individuals in the Trump-Russia scandal. This appears to provide the proper context for why Mueller sought out Manafort’s realtor: asset forfeiture in the name of forced cooperation.
The original story about Manafort’s realtor came from Politico (link), and revealed that Mueller is seeking proof that Manafort’s apartment home in Virginia was purchased illegally. If Manafort paid for the apartment with the tens of millions of dollars he received from a Kremlin oligarch, and if that money is deemed to have been an illegal payment in violation of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, then Mueller can try to seize the apartment. This might get Manafort to flip more quickly than criminal charges.
Manafort has steadfastly refused to flip on Donald Trump up to this point, despite serious potential criminal charges hanging over his head. This suggested that Manafort either believed he could eventually beat the charges in court by using high priced attorneys, or he was counting on Trump eventually pardoning him. But if Mueller starts seizing Manafort’s money and property, it could leave Manafort in a position where he suddenly can’t pay his high priced attorneys anymore. It could also mean that even if Trump pardons Manafort, and the pardon holds up in court, Manafort might be left penniless.
Now that we know Robert Mueller has entered the indictment and arrest phase of the Trump-Russia investigation, it makes sense that he would go after Paul Manafort’s money and property. Perhaps Manafort will be among those arrested on Monday and perhaps not. Either way, Mueller appears to be pursuing asset forfeiture as a way of leaving Manafort with no choice but to flip on Donald Trump.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report