Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
There’s a lot to unpack in the Manafort plea deal, but right now what’s jumping out and grabbing me by the throat is his attorney Kevin Downing’s statement to the press:
“[Manafort] wanted to make sure that his family was able to remain safe and live a good life.”
Conspiracy theories are cultivated in large open full of holes that one wanders through in the witching hours holding a small Mag-Lite. You don’t fall into these holes so much as you’re suddenly on an imperceptible incline; you’ve gone several miles below the surface and taken turns within the tunnels before you recognize you might have gone too far. In some cases, your brain convinces you that the only way out is through, and you end up committed to the path you’ve started for much longer than you might have ever intended.
Recognizing that fully, I still think it’s a hell of a series of coincidences how many journalists, bureaucrats, attorneys, and other people who became involved with the geopolitical and economic agendas of Vladimir Putin’s regime — especially those who criticized or threatened said agendas — then ended up mysteriously or not-so-mysteriously deceased. With that in mind, the phrasing of Kevin Downing’s statement feels pointed and alarming, and offers a few potential motives for Manafort’s decision to agree to a full-cooperation deal.
This is wild speculation on my part. I admit that readily.
But consider this scenario, which requires one also to believe that the president is and has been beholden to the Russian government for his success and for other obligations currently hidden in the webs of business tricks and unrevealed tax statements.
Firstly: At the start of his presidency and through the summer of 2018, Trump has at least a perceived stable grip on the reins of power. Putin prefers Trump to have this grip; therefore, Manafort feels confident that remaining loyal to Trump (and silent about Putin) means his survival is a non-issue.
Then: Trump has a few bad weeks from the end of August and start of September, in which Woodward’s book Fear: Trump In The White House and the anonymous New York Times op-ed — combined with his unhinged Twitter responses to both — destabilize that grip on power. As other factors, such as the potential of Congressional overturn in January, lead to the possibility that Trump will no longer be useful, it falls to Putin to consider clearing the board of men like Manafort.
Then: Manafort calculates that after losing badly in his New York trial, things will go no better for him in future trials. He also calculates that while Mueller is a man with some honor, Trump is a man with none at all.
So: If Manafort feels that Putin might consider him and his family expendable regardless of whether or not he flips, then he’s better off flipping and taking his chances with Mueller than he is taking his chances with a snake like Donald Trump.
Manafort also has the late-stage advantage, throughout this investigation, of seeing the way that Michael Flynn received dispensation for his son with his plea deal, seeing how little time George Papadopoulos has received for his cooperation, and exactly how shabbily Michael Cohen was being treated by Trump even before Cohen agreed to provide evidence to the special counsel.
All things considered, turning on Trump might be the smartest and most selfless choice that Paul Manafort has made throughout his entire corrupt career.