When it comes to the investigation being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, no one associated with Donald Trump has been as intimately involved in the 2016 collusion case as the former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who had dozens of connections to Russia thanks to “consulting work” he did for various individuals and companies that have extensive ties to the Kremlin.
It has long been speculated that Manafort is the key to the Mueller probe, and the fact that he’s been charged with more crimes than any other suspect in the case certainly seems to add validity to that theory. Manafort is looking at spending the rest of his life in federal prison on charges that range from tax and bank fraud to conspiracy against the United States.
So what exactly is Manafort supposed to do if he wants to avoid spending the next 30 to 40 years behind bars? The only move he has left is to plead guilty of lesser charges and agree to cooperate with Mueller’s team of investigators.
Nelson W. Cunningham, who served as a federal prosecutor in the Southern District of New York under Rudolph Giuliani and general counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, speculates that Manafort is about to flip on Trump, and that’s got Trump in a tizzy, firing off tweets about people spying on his campaign.
In an article for Politico, Cunningham notes:
“Manafort at the moment is exercising his own Hail Mary defense: claiming that Mueller has exceeded his authority in charging him. That claim was roundly dismissed last week in the D.C. court, and in all likelihood the Alexandria court will follow suit. Rosenstein’s charge to Mueller to investigate allegations that Manafort ‘[c]ommitted a crime or crimes arising out of payments he received from the Ukrainian government’ could not be more clear.”
Manafort’s former business partner, Rick Gates, has already agreed to assist Mueller in exchange for leniency, so that puts even more pressure on Manafort to make a deal of his own. That, Cunningham adds, gives us a new equation for what we can now expect in the months ahead:
“Once his Hail Mary motions fail, Manafort (and Mueller) will have every incentive to quickly reach a resolution. Manafort, who is 69, does not want to spend the rest of his years in prison.”
Once Manafort is in the fold and Mueller has his testimony, Trump can either choose to talk to Mueller or not. Whether the president agrees to an interview or not is a moot point. Either way, Mueller can write his report and make his recommendations. Then, if Trump wants to tell his side of the story, he can do so before a judge and jury and/or at his impeachment.