As Streiff noted yesterday, Paul Manafort’s charges are serious. He faces up to 80-years in prison and millions in fines. If that’s not leverage for Mueller to make a deal, nothing is. Manafort doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who will do well behind bars.
So, there are two questions and a wildcard in play. Let’s start with the two questions…
Are there beans for Manafort to spill?
Anyone who claims to know the answer to this question has a narrative they’re pushing. President Trump’s supporters will say there’s nothing to any of this, though they have no idea whether there is or not. The President’s detractors will claim there was certainly collusion of some sort because otherwise there’s no way he could have beaten their chosen queen, Hillary Clinton. They’ll say this without a shred of evidence (no, Jr.’s meeting with Russians doesn’t count, yet).
That’s the whole point of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller. He’s supposed to find the beans. The easiest way to find them is to get someone to tell him where they are. Assuming the only people who have this information are members of the Trump campaign and the Russians themselves (unlike Duke the dog from Bush’s Baked Beans, they’re not talking), Mueller would have to rely on two things: mistakes and leverage.
He has what it takes to get Manafort to talk. Will he?
Would Manafort spill beans if they do exist?
If the government can make the case against Manafort stick, there’s (almost) no reason for him to not talk. It has nothing to do with honor or loyalty. At this point, the charges are damning enough that Manafort would probably accept a deal. Despite what liberals will tell you, flipping on the Trump campaign isn’t like flipping on the mafia. He could easily make a deal, help Mueller prove collusion, and enjoy the rest of his life in Aruba or Ukraine or wherever he’d like.
This is all assuming there are beans to be spilled in the first place which, as I noted above, nobody knows for sure. If there are, we get to our wildcard…
Did Manafort already make a deal?
What if Manafort already has the ultimate trump card up his sleeve? What if he knows where the beans are but won’t spill them because he knows if he keeps his mouth shut, he won’t have to spend much time in jail. Three years, max.
Could he have a pardon waiting for him following the 2020 election or even sooner? If there are beans, we have to assume someone has already talked to him about keeping his mouth shut no matter what. The promise of a presidential pardon may actually be a better deal than what Mueller would offer him. Unless Mueller is willing to drop all charges and/or give him immunity in exchange for his testimony against the Trump campaign, he’d probably be better off getting convicted and pardoned anyway.
Oh, and if you believe Trump’s lawyer when he says there will be no pardons, you probably still think Mexico is going to pay for the wall.
Trump may come out of this fully vindicated
If there was never collusion in the first place, Manafort has nothing with which to barter. He’ll face his charges and the dice will roll.
If there was collusion that Manafort knows about but he’s unwilling to make a deal with Mueller, the same scenario as the one above plays out with the addition of a potential pardon waiting for him if he gets convicted.
Either way, the President and the campaign come out of this looking better than they did before the investigation… assuming there are no other charges filed against others involved in the campaign.
The only way Trump or his campaign get hurt is if one of the three charged men spills the beans or Mueller discovers something else on his own. Otherwise, Trump’s golden.
Things are going to either break quickly if Manafort, Rick Gates, and/or George Papadopoulos bring forth damaging evidence, or this is going to be long and drawn out, potentially for years. Either way, there’s one guaranteed winner in all of this: Russia. Even if there was no collusion, the specter of their assumed involvement will hang over every major election for years.