Now that Paul Manafort has spent his first night and weekend in prison (and missed Father's Day), rather than cooperate with the Special Counsel, given the mounds of evidence the prosecution suggests it has, the question rises more prominently why Trump's former campaign manager hasn't made a deal and flipped.
I've had a theory for a while, and it has nothing to do with pardons. To be clear, it’s not what I THINK is the reason, but one of the few possibilities that I believe can possibly make sense of why he hasn’t. I’ve started to hear some in the press toss it into mix now, which give me some solace that I'm not totally off my rocker.
As I said, it’s based on the concept that Manafort not-yet flipping makes little sense, even with the possibility of a pardon. What's struck me instead is that so much of Manafort’s most-recent career is NOT based on Trump, but on dealing with Russia, Russian oligarchs and owing perhaps $17 million to Russian oligarch Oleg Derispaska. And with that in mind, it is not utterly inconceivable to me as a possibility that someone with a Russian accent has said to Manafort, “If you want to live, or if you want your family to live, you will stay silent.”
I don’t remotely suggest that this is the case. But I don’t totally dismiss it as a possibility to explain his otherwise almost-inexplicable silence. And if it’s not the case, that he’s just waiting for a pardon – well, he'd better get comfortable because at a minimum he will absolutely be in jail for the next two months, until his first of two trials is scheduled to start. I suspect that for anyone, but especially a Paul Manafort to be sitting in jail for two months in his orange jumpsuit, and with nothing to do but think about having two trials ahead and the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison, while avoiding the cockroaches and fellow inmates might be the sort of thing that could at least push someone -- especially someone used to vacationing in Biarritz and deciding which wine goes best with his Camembert -- to consider saying, “To hell with this!!!!!!!” and flip.
But I don't know if he'll flip, if Scenario A is operative. For those who think he hasn't flipped yet because of Scenario B -- the political version of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Trump -- that's always struck me as certainly possible but far-less plausible that many think. That's because if anyone knows that Trump can't be relied on to do what he says, let alone cryptically hints, because he only acts in his own personal interest, not to help others -- it's the people who know him best, who have the most to offer. And Paul Manafort has known Trump for 30 years. Consider, too, that if Paul Manafort was confident about getting that pardon, it makes no sense that he would try to tamper with witnesses. The very reason he's been spending his time now in prison.
There's another issue at hand with Scenario B. I am 100% certain that there is a plan at the state level to file charges at least in some of the cases. Consider, after all, that Manafort lives in New York. I assume he has offices in New York. I assume further that he's done business in New York. And it begs incredulity to think that among all the volumes of evidence that the Special Counsel has put together in his many indictments of Manafor that some of those crimes ("some" shall herein be defined as "many") break New York state statutes, as well.
That does bring up an oddish issue. It's sort of a confusing situation related to double jeopardy loophole, which New York politicians are attempted fix. The best I can make of it is that –
New York is one of the few states that has a sort of loophole “double jeopardy” law that says if someone receives a pardon for crimes at the federal level, they can’t be tried for the same crime at the state level. But it's important to keep in mind that the term “same crime” is the operative phrase. if the state doesn’t change the law, however, it would seem that all you need to do is just charge a person with a different state crime than the federal one. Whether that's easier said than done, though, I don't know. (It's also possible, given that the New York Attorney General is working together with the Special Counsel -- who has plenty of indictments filed against Manafort -- that Meuller perhaps has intentionally not indicted Manafort on several federal charges, leaving them instead to the State of New York alone, so there would be no federal/state double jeopardy attached.) Related to all this, here’s a quote from an article I came across that quotes Fordham law professor Jed Shugarman: “Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen -- who is currently being probed by Manhattan federal prosecutors as to his role in paying off porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election and potential bank fraud and campaign finance violations -- likely cannot benefit from the pardon loophole ‘because he has committed so many federal and state crimes.’”
The point being that the New York state loophole may not be panacea for Manafort that he might be hoping for.
That said, I suspect that there are a whole lot of things on Paul Manafort's list that he's hoping for these days. And many may be as simple as a good night's sleep.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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