• Paul Manafort is the End of Act I. What’s Next?

    March 11, 2019

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Democracy, Trump


     

    No one weeps for Paul Manafort. He goes to jail for Donald Trump’s sins. The irony is his sad but uneventful end of a life lived as a parasite of a corrupt political system would not have mattered a jot if special counsel Robert Mueller didn’t think he could bring down the president alongside Manafort. That Trump is still standing means we need to prepare for Act II, what happens post-Mueller.
     
    But first the eulogy for what might have been. Manafort became the subject of an FBI investigation in 2014, centered on sleazy consulting work for Ukraine’s former ruling party. The surveillance was discontinued that same year and the FBI dropped the matter for lack of evidence. Manafort’s less then three month tenure as Trump campaign chairman provided the good-enough-for-government-work hook as the FBI went fishing for ties between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives.

    In the end Mueller was only able to convict Manafort on eight counts (he failed on ten other counts) involving false income taxes, failing to report foreign bank accounts, and bank fraud, all revolving around Manafort’s lobbying work and almost all prior to his work for Trump. The goal of repurposing the old surveillance data was to pressure Manafort into somehow tying Trump into the ambiguous collusion narrative. But via a combination of little having happened and Manafort’s lying even about that, the Mueller ploy came up dry. Oh there was all sorts of noise — Manafort handed over campaign polling data (not a crime) to someone and some of the people Manafort knew knew some of the people who knew Putin (also not a crime.) It was all as sleazy as you want it to be, just not so useful when you have to go to court and actually prove stuff to someone other than Rachel Maddow. In sentencing Manafort, the judge noted specifically there was nothing “to do with colluding with the Russian government.”

    To drive home the non-point, the judge sentenced Manafort to only 47 months, with credit for nine months already served, which means maybe two years and change after time off and parole. This was well below even the minimum recommendations for his crimes, and a far cry from the “rest of his life” the media had been braying for. The Daily Beast took it personally, saying the light sentence “felt like a slap in the face for many watching the Russia probe.” Rick Wilson went on at length over his joy in seeing Manafort’s physical deterioration while in custody, concluding “karma is a magnificent b*tch.” Summing up ‘Merica 2019, a common theme across Twitter is hoping Manafort, now age 69, dies in prison.

    Though you would be forgiven for thinking of this as blood sport, Manafort’s crimes were just white collar tax stuff that at worst forms the basis of one of those lurid backpage “how the mighty have fallen” stories. There is still another round of sentencing to go on Wednesday for Manafort with a supposedly vindictive judge (this round was the easy judge, but Google “concurrent sentences” before popping the champagne) and CNN tells us the superheroes of the Southern District of New York will someday prosecute Manafort separately (Google “double jeopardy” and put the bubbly back on the shelf) so he can’t be pardoned by Trump.

    Of course any pardon will come either at the very end of Trump’s only term, or inside his second term, and will not matter much more than Scooter Libby did in the grand scheme of politics. Further down the road, no newly elected Democratic president is going to start their administration off seeking revenge on the previous guys; it’ll all be about healing and coming together. Like Obama, who excused torture, never mind tax crimes: time to move forward, not look backward. Trump could also just leave Manafort to rot; he isn’t very important.

    UPDATE: Manafort was sentenced for his final convictions March 13, 2019. He received 73 months, with 30 concurrent with his previous sentence. That sentence was 47 months with 9 off for time served. The total by my count is: 81 months, almost seven years. With good behavior, out in about five+ maybe?

    So, so much for all that.

    Bottom Line: history books ten years from now will read “Paul Manafort’s lavish lifestyle, funded by corruption, came to an end in prison. He had nothing to do with Russiagate. He was just standing too close to Trump when he got caught.” So think of Manafort (and maybe Papadopoulos, Flynn, and Gates) as the weak curtain closer to Act I. Up next is Michael Cohen, the hoped for peppy tune that brings the audience back inside the theatre for Act II.
     
    It is increasingly clear Mueller has no bombshell (hear much good about the Steele dossier lately? Just that Steele was being paid simultaenously by the FBI, the DNC, and Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was owed money by Paul Manafort and wanted to out Manafort to the feds), even as his long-overdue freshman term paper is now dragging into junior year. #Russiagate, in reality always more a hashtag than a caper, has devolved into a placeholder, a way to prep the public for the new plan, two years of Benghazi-like hearings looking for a crime.

    Scratch that — the Benghazi hearings will look orderly and dull in comparison. This is going to be two years of bread and circuses, with Elijah Cummings playing the calm but angry Morgan Freeman role (one kept waiting to hear him say “Now easy, young blood…” to one of his freshman representatives at the Cohen hearing) while AOC and her posse own, scold, hot take, slay, tear down, slam, and crush, for the cameras. Insurance fraud! Real estate devaluation! A Trump golf course she has to drive past everyday! Something about taxes! It’s a lot of capitalism and AOC knows from college that’s bad, right? At least until a week later, when it all comes up empty in the harsh light of sobriety. A signed check with no tie to any crime but a convict’s word is the smoking gun of impeachment? The gold standard on these things is a semen-crusted blue dress.

    It’s like watching Wiley E. Coyote try something new each time but never catch the Roadrunner. Beep! Beep!

    The everlasting gobsmacker of a problem remains. Ever watch Law & Order? Most episodes begin with a body on the ground. Watergate started with a break-in at Democratic National Headquarters by people quickly revealed to have direct ties to the Republicans. All things Trump began with the disbelief he won the election fairly. Everything — everything — since that has flowed from the search for a crime to reverse November 2016.

    The media is chock-a-block with articles which while they take for granted the House will soon begin impeachment proceedings, offer no clear statements on exactly what the grounds for impeachment will be. Corruption is popular though the specifics are vague. Or maybe obstruction, a process crime like Mueller’s well-worn perjury traps created out of the ashes of an investigation of nothing of substance. It really doesn’t matter. Impeachment is the goal, someone will just have to find a reason sooner or later because Trump must be guilty. The problem is this is all an investigation in search of a crime. That sounded better three years ago when it all began. Watching the pivot from Russiagate to generic corruption as the main driver just exposes how empty the process is. What was supposed to be the end, Mueller, is now being characterized as only “the end of the beginning.”

    NBC is more straightforward in outlining the “reasons” for impeachment than most: “The lines of investigation run from Trump’s campaign and White House operations all the way to his tax records and business dealings, and some Democrats are convinced they will ultimately be able to use their findings to tell the story of a president who has committed offenses for which he should be removed from office.”

    Representative Rashida “Impeach the Mother F*cker” Tlaib is the unofficial spokesperson for the “he’s guilty, now find me the crime” line. Tlaib will introduce a resolution calling on the House Judiciary Committee “to formally move on investigating grounds for impeachment.”

    The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Green seems to have figured out the situation, writing “Unlike the Nixon impeachment inquiry, the current impeachment drive did not commence against the backdrop of identifiable events that took place after Nixon was elected, or which resonated beyond the partisan divide. Here, there was no Watergate break-in or Saturday Night Massacre. Instead, impeachment feels like a cumulative punishment for ‘modern presidential,’ Trump’s ceaseless effort to define deviancy, and decency, down.”

     
    A developing nasty truth about many of the accusations accumulating around the new Democratic House like snow drifts is the loop between what the Dems are doing and the media. The goal is to ever-widen the circle of things to be investigated in hopes of finding something. It works like this. An article will appear, based of course on anonymous sources, saying for example Trump tried to block a merger for political gain. Mere days later, citing the article as new evidence, House Judiciary Committee Democrats announce they need to look into the merger. Next up, a Democratic senator demands the Attorney General launch his own investigation. Often an editorial or Op-Ed will then complete the circle praising Congress for trying to get to the bottom of things.

    The same thing happened after a New York Times article, based in part on those anonymous sources, triggered calls to investigate Jared Kushner’s security clearance.

    The use of anonymous sources (and who knows, perhaps those “sources” are connected to the Democrats themselves) to cue the growing number of investigations up is very transparent. Concerns Trump and Fox work together are too narrow a focus on what is really going on, as mainstream outlets shift from mere partisan reporting to serving as political operatives. Donna Brazile leaking a few questions in advance to Hillary Clinton will seem quaint in retrospect.
     
    That seems to be the game plan for the next two years. What remains are two big questions: will it work, and will it end.

    Assuming something is found worth opening impeachment hearings over, the Republican majority in the Senate is still unlikely to convict. Trump will thus run for reelection in 2020. Will public opinion, empathy, following impeachment proceedings help him as it ultimately did Bill Clinton? How many voters will see through this politicization of the Constitutional process and turn away from the Dems? How many Democrats who want real things to happen on healthcare and immigration will see this all as just a waste of time?

    Then the last question: will this all end in 2020? Because if the endless investigation tactic seems to work this time around, you can bet when the next Democrat takes the White House, they will wake up the day after their inauguration to find a special prosecutor and Congressional hearings waiting. Ten years of taxes? How about we start with twenty and see where that goes? Now, Madam President, about this handwritten note in your junior high school yearbook…
      

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    Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...

      1

      IF the revelation about Trumpie paying off his whores to keep quiet so as not to offend the voting religious hypocrites in his debasement(not to be confused with the comet pizza basement), then one would predict Trump would lose in 2020. Of course, these religious hypocrites wouldn’t care if Trump was DILFing on the White Supremacist lawn as long as the host was forced to carry the demon to birth. While we are in the business of making predictions, how about this: Trumpie, having lost the 2020 election to god forbid a black woman, will reenact the hellalugia scene from the Dead Zone and with Mike Sick Pence none the wiser, release the missiles on China, May Putin be praised. And isn’t THAT what his cult wanted all along?

      03/11/19 12:18 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      2

      What’s next? Blame the Jews.

      RasPutin in an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly raised the possibility that “Jews” were the ones responsible for meddling in the 2016 US president election. After being pressed by Kelly to comment on claims of Russian interference in the elections, Putin replied, “Maybe they’re not even Russians. Maybe they’re Ukrainians, Tatars, Jews, just with Russian citizenship. Even that needs to be checked.”

      Trump says Democrats hate Jews. Putin obviously hates the Jews. Thank God, the Jews still have Trump to protect them from the Neo Nazis.

      03/11/19 3:31 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      3

      What’s next? Blame Venezuela

      The only truthful thing that bigot in the White Supremacist House ever said was the MSM is often the enemy of the people. See Greenwald’s article in the Intercept about the latest lies about Venezuela.

      03/11/19 4:17 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      4

      What’s next? More fake promises like this

      “I’m not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and I’m not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid,” Donald Trump declared in 2015. “Every other Republican’s going to cut, and even if they wouldn’t, they don’t know what to do because they don’t know where the money is. I do. I do.”

      Just like every other Repugnicans. $845 billion in those program cuts. Trump has made a nice living off the gullible.

      03/11/19 10:27 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      5

      Newsflash:

      Following the lead of the Trump minority government in declaring Guido the recognized leader of Venezuela, the Government of Albania, millions of Iranians, Iraqis, and 50 other countries recognize Chelsea Manning as the leader of the United States, and request The MSM stop referring Donald Trump as the leader of the United States. Coincidentally, these 50 countries want the US to stop invading and occupying countries because it can.

      03/12/19 11:48 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      6

      Flat earthers, antivaxxers, birthers, so many stupid people. Don’t try to educate them, Exploit them. Worked for Donald Trump University, right?

      03/12/19 12:31 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      7

      Works for us too. – Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, US State Dept Public Affairs, RT, etc etc.

      03/12/19 12:49 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      8

      “Then the last question: will this all end in 2020?”

      2020 is hindsight…assholes.

      Since the majority of Amerikans are mentallly defective, the obvious answer is the fun has just begun.

      And you really wonder why few people buy your books?

      03/12/19 3:08 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      9

      Peter- we may no longer be binging on traditional drama with a fixed number of acts followed by a final curtain call but instead be glued to a Ground Hog Day’s type aftermath of the mother of all soap opera pilots- TRUMP WINS!- a surprise hit that still baffles the major broadcast networks who first sponsored and aired it. The show will always be renewed at the end of every election cycle by the two alternating sponsors. It will become the show that is never cancelled or put on hiatus. There will be no final episode or season scripted. Instead, new characters will be introduced while older characters who appeared in the pilot, which first aired in November of 2016, will be written out. Spin- offs will run concurrently (The Paul Manafort Post Prison Show- live from Ukraine!).

      03/12/19 3:29 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      10

      What’s next? Watching the nightly news, one is constantly exposed to the corruption of our government and institutions, as well as the infinite ignorance of the American people. Donald Trump is the ideal person to represent US to the world.

      03/13/19 9:03 AM | Comment Link

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