Whenever an establishment figure wants a story put out to the media that they can’t take official credit for, they go to Robert Costa, who dutifully repeats it in his reporting without really ever offering much in the way of his opinion as to whether the unnamed source is being truthful or not. I’m not mad at Robert; there’s a perfectly good living to be made in being the official stenographer of unnamed Republican sources.
In this light, though, it’s clear that Trump wants you to believe that he did not know anything about what was going on with Paul Manafort’s allegedly shady allegations in Russia/Ukraine. He is shocked – SHOCKED – to find that gambling is going on in here!
It seems likely, in light of this information, that the Trump campaign believes that the fit is about to hit the shan where Manafort is concerned and would like to be clear of the blast radius. According to Rosie Gray, the Podesta Group has lawyered up in connection with this scandal, so it seems pretty likely that some initial phone calls have already been made from DOJ offices to set up some initial interviews.
If true, the best possible defense for Trump, politically speaking, is that he didn’t know any of this when he hired Manafort. The main problem with this defense is that it suggests that Trump did literally no vetting of Manafort before hiring him to fill a very key role in his campaign. I can say this because when Manafort’s name was first mentioned in connection with the Trump campaign, I typed his name into Google and the first page of results was littered with the stories alleging his ties with the Russian mob and his unsavory activities in and connected with Ukraine.
While this explanation is certainly better than the one that suggests that he knowingly hired a campaign manager who was possibly compromised by Russian interests, it doesn’t really speak well of his ability to perform competent diligence for any of his possible political appointments.
Or, for that matter, Supreme Court Judges.