Donald Trump’s presidency is like life itself. It will end but you wonder when and how it will happen. My guess on the When is sooner than we think. The How came into clearer focus this week, when the Paul Manafort piece dropped from the three-dimensional chessboard.
Manafort, the former Trump Campaign Manager, agreed to cooperate with the Special Counsel, without limitation. Manafort pleaded out his second indictment, giving up four of his properties. The fate of his ostrich jacket remains a mystery.
Manafort will have to open up every crevice of his seamy life. Here are a few of the subjects he will expose:
- Why he agreed to work for no money, when he was deeply in debt to Oleg Deripaska, one of the Russian billionaires involved in what the Russians like to think of as a public-private partnership.
- Details of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, who arrived offering dirt on Hillary Clinton; and Donald Jr. and Jared Kushner’s roles.
- Whether there was an agreement to reduce sanctions against Russia in exchange for the information on Clinton.
- The movement of money after the June meeting.
- Whether there was coordination between the Campaign and the Russian hackers, one of whom was extradited from Spain and is now in an American jail.
- The story behind the change at the Convention in the GOP Platform to weaken US support of Ukraine independent from Russia.
- Whether the Wikileaks information dump was coordinated with the Campaign.
- Whether the targeting of specific voters, whose information was obtained from Democratic databases, was shared with the Trump Campaign.
- What the Future Ex-President knew about these matters and when he knew them.
There’s more. Manafort no doubt can lead the law to records and people with direct knowledge of Trump’s pre-candidacy connections with Russian lenders and their connection to the Russian State.
Prior to Manafort’s Virginia trial, the prosecution had to turn over all of the information received from Rick Gates, Manafort’s former associate, who made a deal with Mueller and testified in Virginia against his former boss. That must have been when Manafort and Trump found out how much the government already had on them. Coincidentally, it’s when Trump’s narrative changed from “No Collusion” to “Collusion isn’t a Crime.”
Once Manafort was convicted in Virginia, he faced a second trial in DC, which would expose his role in the Russian penetration of the 2016 election. He and his attorneys would have determined that he couldn’t win and had nothing to gain by going to trial. He held his optimal leverage for settlement before jury selection. The trial was delayed at Mueller’s request, and that was when the lawyers began to discuss a plea bargain in earnest. Manafort still had something Mueller wanted that only he could provide.
Once a deal was struck, Manafort terminated his joint defense (information-sharing) pact with the Trumps, freezing them out from further information about the government’s case against them.
Impeachment is the least of their worries— believe me! Trump’s portfolio, like Manafort’s, might be in jeopardy. Between the Mueller investigation and the New York State investigations, there is no limit to the potential exposure Trump and his kids face. The Trump Campaign (slush fund), Organization and Foundation are being pursued, and Junior, Eric and Ivanka are tied to them.
When Anonymous(s) described FEPOTUS as amoral, they meant that he is guided by money, not ethical considerations. Trump should be aware that part of his fortune, however much it is, now is in play. Many pundits believe that he ran to enhance his brand. I’ve come to see it as a broader ambition — to the power and wealth of a Putin. Money remains the coin of his realm, the way he measures himself and others. I believe that he fears losing his fortune more than he fears disgrace. For Trump, losing his empire, not losing his presidency, is his disgrace.
It would not be a surprise if, within the next few weeks, channels are opened to extricate the Trumps financially, politically and legally from their predicament. It would necessitate his resignation and a transition to Mike Pence, which the GOP would welcome. It’s hard to envision any other outcome.