On Friday, Former Trump campaign chairman and international influence peddler Paul Manafort made a plea deal to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign cooperated with those efforts.
The latest guilty plea and cooperation agreement earned by Mueller’s team is the biggest one so far, and it indicates that the probe will go one of two ways for the president: badly or very badly, depending on what else Mueller uncovers and places in the public realm.
Even if Mueller finds no wrongdoing by the president, Manafort flipping indicates the special counsel is digging deeper into everything related to the three crucial months that Manafort served as the 2016 Trump campaign’s chairman and chief strategist. And the overall investigation — which has led to eight guilty pleas so far — will surely remain a constant source of rage for the president.
If Mueller finds wrongdoing by the president — whether it be related to deliberate collaboration with Russian meddling or obstruction of justice or Trump’s business empire — then the potential outcomes become more perilous for President Trump.
‘Manafort’s cooperating with Mueller may be the motherlode’
After nearly a year of fighting Mueller indictments and going through a trial that led to his conviction on eight counts, the 69-year-old agreed to forfeit an estimated $46 million in assets (including four properties) and to cooperate “in any and all matters as to which the Government deems the cooperation relevant.”
From an outside vantage point — given that we have little idea of what Mueller knows — Manafort flipping leads the Russia probe into a new phase: Now that the most Kremlin-linked member of Trump’s inner campaign circle is cooperating with Mueller, the public is closer to knowing whether Team Trump collaborated with Putin’s multifaceted intelligence operation to influence the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort is not only the most prolific Washington swamp figure to be targeted by Mueller, but also the only person cooperating with Mueller who was at the now-infamous June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower that featured candidate Trump’s son Don Jr., Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Manafort meeting with a team led by a Russian government lawyer promising dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
“Manafort’s cooperation is a tremendous achievement for the Mueller investigation — maybe the single biggest development yet,” Seth Waxman, a former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., told Natasha Bertrand of the Atlantic. “Manafort provides Mueller with an insider to the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting and likely many other key moments.”
As Yahoo Finance’s Rick Newman said on Friday’s Final Round (video above): “The big question is: Was [the Trump Tower meeting] just a one-off kind of a bumbling effort to get some damaging information on the opponent or was that part of something that might look like a conspiracy? We don’t know. And it’s Mueller’s job to figure it out and tell us.”