Is Mueller About to Bring Down the Hammer On Manafort Or Is He Throwing Him In the Briar Patch?

Caricature by DonkeyHotey flic.kr/p/Ct4G4K https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

On Monday, Robert Mueller’s team announced that it had decided that former Trump campaign manager, alleged Russian mob fixer, and convicted felon Paul Manafort had lied to them during the time in which he was supposed to be cooperating with them. This is not a huge shock, in fact, you could sort have predicted it if you are are at all familiar with the Scooter Libby case. In that case Libby was convicted of lying to investigators because he said he remembered hearing about Valerie Plame’s CIA super-spy career from one person. Tim Russert said that Libby had heard about it at a different time. Remember, Mueller’s team was able to bootstrap Manafort’s bland and benign conversations with potential witnesses (which, by the way, is allowed by the Fifth Amendment) into obstruction of justice charges and a revocation of his bond. So, of course, in any scenario where Manafort was to testify according to his memories, he was eventually going to be charged with lying by a prosecution team that seems to have a raging hard-on for Manafort.

Today, prosecutors informed a federal judge that they may go a lot further:

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office is considering retrying former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a slew of federal charges that resulted in a hung jury over the summer.

At a hearing in federal court Friday morning, prosecutors said they are also weighing leveling new criminal charges for Manafort, contending that he obstructed justice and committed additional federal crimes since entering a plea agreement with the special counsel in September.

Apparently, what has them in a high hover is the revelation that Manafort’s legal team had an ongoing information sharing arrangement with the White House Counsel’s office:

Prior to Manafort’s decision to “flip” and cooperate with Mueller, he entered into a joint defense agreement with Trump, which is a common tool used by subjects of federal criminal investigations to ensure that their attorneys can exchange information while maintaining attorney-client privilege.

A common provision of those agreements, whether they’re written or not, is that if one defendant subsequently agrees to cooperate with the government, he is required to notify everyone else who is part of the agreement. Once someone flips, as Manafort did, his interests are adverse to those of everyone else under investigation because the prosecutors will require him to cooperate against everyone else. For that reason, communications between Manafort and other subjects of Mueller’s investigation aren’t privileged.

In this case, after Manafort flipped, Mueller’s team rightfully believed that their conversations with him wouldn’t be shared with other people under investigation. Manafort’s decision to do so was highly deceptive and undermined Mueller’s investigation. He knew that Trump’s team likely had joint defense agreements with other people Mueller is investigating—Corsi claims he has one—and that Trump could share information with them.

Given that Andrew Weissmann, who if we had any societal requirement that prosecutors act with conscience or responsibility would have been disbarred years ago, is leading the prosecution, Manafort screwing him over is highly amusing.

The bigger question is what is Manafort’s game? His likely sentences on the charges he was convicted of and those he pleaded guilty to will exceed his life expectancy. His attorney revealing the joint defense agreement with Trump was still in effect might as well have been calculated to make heads explode. Either Manafort knows he’s going to be in prison for the rest of his life or he thinks he isn’t because ultimately he will be pardoned.

My suspicion is that the latter is the case. If Mueller’s team abrogates a plea agreement based on Manafort’s memory diverging from other evidence they have, I think you can bet you will hear “unfair” used a lot. And if Trump does pardon Manafort or commute his sentence to time served, you can nearly bet he will take action in other cases, like that of Mike Flynn.

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