“That Good Man” – Paul Manafort
Paul Manafort prior to being hired by President Trump as his campaign manager in 2016 was the campaign strategist and lobbyist for Victor Yanukovich, the former President of the Ukraine for about ten years from 2004 through 2014. During that period, Yanukovich stole vast sums and jailed his political opponents. He was thrown out of office twice by the Ukrainian people and is now living in exile in Russia under the protection of President Putin. The issue that caused his second downfall was that Ukraine’s electorate wanted to have stronger economic relations with Western Europe and maybe become a part of the EU or even NATO. After Yanukovich’s second ouster, Putin invaded Crimea and annexed it and then sent his troops into Eastern Ukraine to foment a Civil War. At that point, the US and its European allies imposed economic sanctions on Russia – a position strongly supported by Candidate Clinton. Candidate Trump advocated for a warmer approach to Russia and greater understanding and forbearance for their intervention in the Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.
Relief from sanctions is what the Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential election was all about and the same for Russia’s interference in elections in Germany, France and England among others. Relief from sanctions was surely on the agendas for the Trump Tower meeting as well as subsequent meetings with National Security Adviser to be Flynn and son in law Jared Kushner and the Russian Ambassador.
Prior to his involvement in the Ukraine, Manafort had a pretty checkered career supporting tyrants, torturers and kleptocrats. He served as the US lobbyist for Ferdinand Marcos, the kleptocratic dictator and torturer of his opponents in the Philippines. He served as the lobbyist for Mobutu Sese Seko, the long time tyrant, kleptocrat and torturer of opponents in the Congo.
Once ensconced in the Trump campaign, he began to offer "briefings" on the campaign to a Russian oligarch and friend of Putin, Oleg Deripaska, to whom he was allegedly $10 million in debt. He was bartering positions in the Trump campaign as a sweetener to secure a bank loan.
He might be a wonderful husband, might love his children, cats, dogs, homes, and most of his ostriches, but he is hardly a naïf innocent caught in Mueller’s web. The President is sending clear messages to him, “keep your mouth shut, and we’ll take care of you”. Prior to that he was trying to send messages to the jurors “do not convict this good man”. The evidence was overwhelming that Manafort engaged in tax and bank fraud, and justice was served despite the President’s entreaties.
The President’s allies are warning him “do not pardon Manafort”. Let’s see what happens next.