Throughout the election, the media obsessed over a “Hillary Clinton email scandal” that ultimately never existed, as the FBI ended up fully exonerating her from any legal wrongdoing. Donald Trump spent the general election dishonestly exaggerating Hillary’s emails. Now, in what might finally bring the true definition of irony into the 2016 election saga, Trump and Paul Manafort may both end up being taken down in their Russia scandal due to email.
The latest revelation is that Paul Manafort offered to give a Russian oligarch regular briefings about the status of the Donald Trump campaign, which he was running at the time (link). More specifically, Manafort used his official Trump campaign email account to make this offer to Russia. This means there’s an incriminating record of the entire thing. It also hints at Trump’s own role in, and knowledge of, Manafort’s interactions with the Russians.
Trump may end up having to rely on an ignorance defense, in which he claims that he had no idea his own campaign chair Manafort was colluding with the Russians under his nose. But if Manafort had been trying to do this without Trump’s knowledge, he’d have been likely to avoid using his official campaign email account. The technical people running the Trump campaign email system could have spotted Manafort’s emails and made Trump aware of it. Manafort would have known about this possibility. Thus his decision to use his campaign email strongly suggests that he didn’t care about Trump finding out – because he had already told Trump about it anyway.
At the least, this gives Special Counsel Robert Mueller reason to steer his investigative activities under the presumption that Manafort told Trump about the arrangement at some point. Mueller simply has to find a record that proves it, perhaps in Manafort’s wiretapped phone calls with Trump. In the end, Manafort’s activity on a Trump email account may be what leads to their downfall.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report