One Voice Louder Than Others: Manafort’s Diminishing Options

ManafortBelow is my column in USA Today on the increasingly dire situation for Paul Manafort who is looking at roughly a decade of potential jail time after the convictions in Alexandria — and substantially more jail time if convicted in the upcoming trial in Washington, D.C.  In the meantime, yesterday, White House said that no decision has been made yet on a possible pardon for Manafort.

Manafort once said, while he listens to everyone, Trump’s voice was louder than others. That voice must be uncomfortably quiet in the aftermath of the verdict.

Here is the column:

The conviction of Paul Manafort was just about as predictable as a tweet from President Donald Trump in its aftermath. The Manafort verdict in Alexandria, Virginia, confirms a rather obvious assumption that, if you do not take the stand in your own defense and then decline to actually present any defense witnesses (or even a cognizable defense), you are likely to be convicted. The real question should not be how Manafort was convicted but what he is actually trying to achieve in court.

He now heads to Washington for a second trial. It is less of a second chance as it is a repeat performance for a jury of one: President Trump.

The Virginia trial involved complex and relatively dry transactional crimes in 18 counts, including failing to file foreign bank account reports, four counts of bank fraud and five counts of bank fraud conspiracy. These were the counts that Manafort had the best chances of knocking down, but he was still convicted on eight of the 18 counts.

Manafort’s image will get worse in new trial

Manafort elected to divide the cases rather than face a single, unified trial. The reason may be that he believed the Virginia jury pool was better for him and he would succeed in defeating some of those counts or even secure a hung jury in his home state. Moreover, success in Virginia might give sufficient cover to Trump to finally issue the long-sought pardon for Manafort — citing the failure to convict and the disconnect between the crimes and the original mandate for special counsel Robert Mueller. That is if he were acquitted or the jury hung. Which didn’t happen.

The problem for Manafort is these trials make it increasingly difficult to portray him as a victim. Indeed, the next trial is likely to remove any lingering doubt about Manafort’s felonious record. The next trial starting Sept. 17 involves allegations of money laundering and foreign lobbying as well as false statements to the FBI. The government is preparing almost three times the number of documents detailing his transactions and associations with an array of sleazy characters around the world.

Manafort’s dealings in the indictment include his involvement working on behalf of a pro-Russian faction in Ukraine. The prosecutors notably held back much of the evidence of Manafort’s Ukrainian dealings in the Virginia trial, but they are likely to unleash that evidence into open court in Washington. When they do, Manafort’s already tainted image is likely to get much much worse.

Manafort was working for the interests of one of the most bloodsoaked and sinister figures in Eastern Europe — Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych — widely viewed as a Russian stooge who took over the government with the help of Moscow and ultimately did Moscow’s bidding. Yanukovych was accused of not only massive corruption, but also the murder of protesters and the arrest of political opponents. He accumulated an estimated net worth of $12 billion through alleged pilfering of Ukrainian funds. He ultimately fled to Russia.

When he fled into Russian exile, Yanokovych took away not only Manafort’s most important client but also the source of his wealth. Manafort’s opulent lifestyle now faced a serious downgrade. It was then, the government claims, that he began to lie to banks, the IRS and ultimately investigators.

Only Trump can keep Manafort out of prison

Manafort, however, does not seem seriously engaged in an effort to seek acquittal. His strategy in Virginia at best was a hung jury strategy that ultimately backfired. In Washington, Manafort is likely to be focused on one juror three blocks away on Pennsylvania Avenue. From the outset, Manafort seemed to accept that he was at best likely to knock down or hang on some counts. He would still be looking at a decade in jail on any counts remaining. Manafort could face an additional 20 years in jail if convicted in Washington.

For Manafort, the difference between 10 and 20 years may seem less significant at age 69 than the chance, even a remote chance, of a pardon.

Since an innocence defense seemed a tad forced, Manafort’s best chance was to make his trial about something other than his crimes. Manafort is hoping that Trump’s visceral dislike for Mueller’s investigation will continue to grow to the point that he is willing to issue a pardon for Manafort to spite Mueller. But the pardon would have the same fault that Trump long highlighted in the prosecution: a disconnect from the Russian investigation.

Just as Mueller has been criticized for pursuing unrelated crimes, a pardon of unrelated crimes raises questions for the White House on why Manafort should be allowed to walk away from crimes committed long before the campaign.

As an attorney, Manafort preferred to work in the shadows for people like Yanukovych, who do not improve with sunlight. Manafort was adept at finding ways to capitalize on the sometimes desperate circumstances of his clients. He made tens of millions by advancing his position through the gravitational pull of powerful men. He is still doing that.

While relatively passive in his own defense, he is actively staying close to Trump in the hope that a final break with Mueller will be the big break for him. Manafort once said, “I work directly for the boss. I listen to everybody, but I have one man whose voice is louder than everybody else’s.”

Indeed, that is now the only voice that can save Paul Manafort.

Jonathan Turley, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. Follow him on Twitter: @JonathanTurley

60 thoughts on “One Voice Louder Than Others: Manafort’s Diminishing Options”

  1. Meanwhile, we have a Supreme Court nominee being vetted. Aren’t appellate courts those in front of which the moderator actually practices?

    Their first gambit was to try to catch his wife using racial slurs in her work e-mails. Dry hole there. Their newest is to locate tracks indicating he beats his wife. Of course these dumpster dives were performed on Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, right?

    1. The fact they opposed him before he was even nominated demonstrates the opposition is void of not just right reason, but any reason at all.

  2. The main argument that the Trump supporters seem to have is that because Clinton wasn’t as thoroughly raked over the coals as Manafort and Trump, etc. then it is unfair to prosecute Manafort or Trump. That’s the whine. The issue at hand here is that Clinton is not President. Trump is. Clinton hasn’t been charged and convicted of tax and other frauds, Manafort has. The center of the universe at this point is the Trump Presidency, not the Clinton emails. It would be next to impossible to start unearthing every possible transgression of Clinton and ALL the rest, including those on both sides of the aisle. The lamest, sickest, most worthless argument is the one being put forth on this blog by the Trump supporters, ‘Well they got away with this and that, so it’s not fair to go after Manafort, Cohen, Trump, etc..’ Oh yeah, yeah it is. Trump is scum, a liar, and the worst thing that has happened to America in many decades. Sometimes you have to use whatever methods to clean house. You don’t hear anyone proposing to investigate the previous worst President before this shame, Bush. Let’s get Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld in here and talk about the million odd innocent slaughtered due to their screw ups, the economy ruined-to be turned around by Obama (well Obama had nothing to do with it, Trump did it all in secret).

    The right wing complains about how the Democrats can’t let Trump winning the election go. Let’s see how long it takes for the right to finally accept that they backed this lying piece of …..

    1. Clintons were part of a corrupt land deal. That’s where it started. It ended up with the cigar and blue dress. Get rid of the stupid Special Counsel law, it will help America accept electoral results better.

      Any don’t get started on Cheney and all them. Ok, let them be prosecuted for war crimes. The Democrats backed that war 99% with a few exceptions though so no dice. Hillary was the big booster for the pro war factions in this election anyhow so keep your story straight Isaac Son of Bacon

      1. It was Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld at the helm. It wasn’t going to war that was the fu*^ up but the absolute bungling of both wars. After 9/11 Mickey Mouse could have run this country it was so galvanized; probably Mickey would have done a better job. Afghanistan was unavoidable but bungled, by the three stooges. Iraq was a mistake but totally bungled. Regime change could have easily been accomplished in Iraq. That’s how Saddam came to power, regime change. It was the stupid ego of shock and awe, the three stooges showing the world just how tough they were. Then sitting around for eight months doing nothing; and on and on. America seems to always follow this song and dance. In the end, it was just plain incompetence. Oh yeah, they lowered taxes for the rich first; sound familiar. The only thing missing are tax crimes and other stuff that could send these idiots to jail for the rest of their lives. Amazing though; how an idiot like Trump can make certain people forget all about idiots like the three stooges.

  3. I have absolutely no problem with the convictions and prison time IF equal effort were taken to investigate, indict, prosecute and imprison everyone alleged to have committed crimes similar to Manaforts. Especially if those crimes put our electoral process and/or national security at risk.

    What reasonable and rational objection is there to that?

    1. In fact, this would be just one place of many to begin:

      Comey later told Congress that “thanks to the wizardry of our technology,” the FBI was able to eliminate the vast majority of messages as “duplicates” of emails they’d previously seen. Tireless agents, he claimed, then worked “night after night after night” to scrutinize the remaining material.

      But virtually none of his account was true, a growing body of evidence reveals.

      In fact, a technical glitch prevented FBI technicians from accurately comparing the new emails with the old emails. Only 3,077 of the 694,000 emails were directly reviewed for classified or incriminating information. Three FBI officials completed that work in a single 12-hour spurt the day before Comey again cleared Clinton of criminal charges.

      “Most of the emails were never examined, even though they made up potentially 10 times the evidence” of what was reviewed in the original year-long case that Comey closed in July 2016, said a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation.

      1. OLLY – thanks for the article. Some of it I already knew, but some was icing on the cake. 😉

        1. You’re welcome Paul. It really is a sign of the times that a call for equal justice is seen as partisan. We’ve seen on this blog time and again the cry of whataboutism from those on the Left when those on the Right are calling for accountability for all violators of the law, in a phrase; the rule of law.

          Conversely, I won’t say always, but rarely (I cannot think of an instance) will anyone on the Left concede that the evidence demonstrates laws were broken and the violators were never justly investigated, let alone indicted and prosecuted. The standard refrain is they’ve spent a billion hours and a gazillion wasted taxpayer dollars without any charges being brought. That is philosophical idiocy. Using that logic, not all trees that fall in the woods make a sound and bears do not $hit in the woods.

          This FBI “Weiner Email” investigation joke will be completely ignored because Choirboy Comey and company said so. That’s Gruberism, not whataboutism.

      2. Olly: your article includes this paragraph:

        “The search warrant was so limited in scope that it excluded more than half the emails New York agents considered relevant to the case. The cache of Clinton-Abedin communications dated back to 2007. But the warrant to search the laptop excluded any messages exchanged before or after Clinton’s 2009-2013 tenure as secretary of state, key early periods when Clinton initially set up her unauthorized private server and later periods when she deleted thousands of emails sought by investigators”.

        This paragraph raises the question:

        “Why were emails exchanged ‘before’ and ‘after’ Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State ‘relevant’ to the investigation?”

        If Clinton was a private citizen ‘before’ and ‘after’ 2009-2013, it would seem those emails weren’t relevant to the investigation. Yet this article asserts they were ‘relevant’ with no articulate explanation. In other words, the article suggests a cover-up where one didn’t really exist.

        1. Peter,
          The paragraphs just prior to what you cited in your post address how the warrant affidavit became so narrow.

          Although the FBI’s New York office first pointed headquarters to the large new volume of evidence on Sept. 28, 2016, supervising agent Peter Strzok, who was fired on Aug. 10 for sending anti-Trump texts and other misconduct, did not try to obtain a warrant to search the huge cache of emails until Oct. 30, 2016. Violating department policy, he edited the warrant affidavit on his home email account, bypassing the FBI system for recording such government business. He also began drafting a second exoneration statement before conducting the search.

          The search warrant was so limited in scope that it excluded more than half the emails New York agents considered relevant to the case. The cache of Clinton-Abedin communications dated back to 2007.

          All things being equal, look at how narrowly Strzok and the FBI conducted the investigation into what was already known to be violations of law, and which had national security implications; and how broadly they’re investigating Trump and those within his circle, looking for a crime.

          Anyway, I hope this brings you a bit more clarity.

      3. Thanks for the blather. It again raises the most puzzling question: why can’t the gullible rubes, dupes, klan-wannabes, pocket traitors and grifters on the make who spew here ever cite to a reputable source for their purported support? Problematic for the wackjobs, it appears they’ve lost another fount of information now that the capo of the National Enquirer has flipped.

        This is to “whatabouism is just about all I’ve got left in the bag” olly

        1. I don’t know why the above was “anonymous.” Obviously it’s one of my nuggets.

            1. OLLY – I was going to use a word but I was not sure if wordpress accepted it. Starts with a t, ends with a d and is 4 letters long. 😉

  4. And still nothing on Hillary. Nada. Zilch. Paul Manafort never put our country at risk.

    1. Actually, it’s people like you who “put our country at risk.” You, you ilk, the gullible rubes, dupes, klan-wannabees, pocket traitors and grifters on the make who continue to support the day glo bozo in his attempts to destroy America are the actual problem. Further, your laughable reliance on the shrieks emanating from the talking-head buffoons on Pravda Faux News exposes you as an empty-headed, addle-brained cretin. Pro tip: Clinton is not the president.

      this is to “that hannity feller shore is a looker” rosie

  5. I am still amazed at the selective prosecution of crimes that is evolving in the US. Though we may want to bash and prosecute Manafort, please tell me why ALL of the various offenders (Gates, Poedesta and the legions of PACs and Lobbyists) of the same crime are not being prosecuted. Please address the issue of selective prosecution and start naming the names of all of those in DC who have done much of the same as Manafort lobbying for the likes of Mugabe, Chavez, the Mullahs, Castro, etc. Where are their punishment and their prosecutions!!!

    1. SBG, next time a cop pulls you ever for speeding, demand to know why all the other speeders weren’t pulled over.

      1. a question that comes up with a lot of people actually for sure

        it’s called fundamental fairness

        you must never have driven the highways of Detroit. imagine being the only person pulled over for going 75 when everyone is going 85. yes, that’s a problem

  6. As I say, it’s too bad Trump won. If he lost, we wouldn’t have to go through all this.

  7. The article wants you all to assume that every defendant should take the stand or put on his or her own evidence in a criminal case. No so. Many defendants have been acquitted who had chosen this route. There is something vulgar going on in the two articles on the Manafart trial today. This is America. Not guilty unless each element of the case is proven to all twelve jurors beyond any reasonable doublt. A reasonable doubt can be in the prosecutor’s throwing dirt.

  8. As long as Trump thinks he has a chance in 2020, he will let Manafort enjoy the company of Bernie Madoff. If he wins or loses in 2020 he’ll pardon Manafort. How the Nov elections turn out may have a difference. If the Dems win big, even Trump is not that stupid so as to give them more ammunition, or ??

    1. Or as long as Putin is willing to wait for sanctions relief until 2021, Putin will give Trump a second chance in 2020.

      1. The sanctions come from Congress. Whatever Trump does or undoes, Congress can finalize or not. Putin has a puppet who is a hopeless megalomaniac in the White House which creates the ideal situation in the opposite camp, dysfunction. Read carefully Trump’s tweets. Trump will end up being a case to study for psychiatrists.

        1. Congress doesn’t enforce any of the sanctions. The POTUS and The Treasury Department are charged with enforcement of all of the sanctions. Congress requires only notification of sanctioned individuals and organizations or certification of waivers for individuals or organizations. So long as Republicans have a majority in Congress, the American people have to take the Congressional Republicans’ word for the supposed fact that the sanctions are being enforced. If the Democrats gain control of Congress in 2019, then we’re all going to find out what Trump and Mnuchin have been up to with sanction enforcement. Until then, stay tuned.

      2. Putin has you people thinking he is exponentially more powerful than he is.

        You’re doing his work for him.

          1. Excerpted from the article linked above:

            The comment is the latest instance of Trump breaking with the U.S. intelligence community but was all the more explosive when said standing next to Putin, after a nearly two-hour one-on-one meeting and extended bilateral summit in Helsinki, Finland.

            “My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others saying they think it’s Russia. I have President Putin, he just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said. “I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

  9. These are political trials and the President should take that into account.

    There’s a case to be made that the DC charges consist of (1) selective prosecution and (2) charges dependent on that selective prosecution. If that’s the case, pardons are properly issued. In regard to the Alexandria charges, there are two questions, one of which you ask the statisticians at the IRS and the Justice Department, and one of which you ask Rod Rosenstein. The question to ask the statisticians is how often tax charges with these properties are resolved with civil fines and how often they are subject to criminal prosecution. The question to ask Rod Rosenstein is why the charges in question were, for about 7 years, deemed not worth pursuing. By way of example, the Tax Division issued statements during the year 2015 on 272 cases pursued by its offices or U.S. Attorneys. That’s a rather modest number in a country where about 17% of the income taxes due go uncollected. If Rosenstein and the Tax Division cannot explain themselves, it’s proper to commute the five tax charges and the allied charge for notification failure.

  10. Forget about the full pardon. Trump has to specify the offenses for which Manafort is pardoned in order to preserve Manafort’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination on charges stemming from the Trump Tower meeting for which Manafort has not yet been indicted. Otherwise, Manafort would have to commit criminal contempt of court in order to avoid incriminating Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner as well as himself. Should that happen, then Trump will have to pardon Manafort’s criminal contempt of court. So stop and think for a moment or three what it might look like if Trump preemptively pardoned Manafort for criminal contempt of court for the sake of shielding–not just Manafort–but Trump Jr., Kushner and even President Bozo Boots, himself. A commutation of sentence for crimes of which Manafort was duly convicted and only for those crimes makes far more sense from Trump’s point of view.

    P. S. Recent developments in the SDNY case against Michael Cohen have rendered the efforts of Ninny-Na-Na Nunes, Gym Jordan and the rest of the House Republican Klown Kar Krew’s impeachment drive against The Honorable Rod Rosenstein dead as a doornail. Ditto for a Contempt of Congress citation against Rosenstein.

    1. Wait a second. Rumor has it that you can’t pardon someone for a crime they haven’t committed yet. Since Manafort has not yet committed criminal contempt of court, therefore Trump can’t pardon Manafort for criminal contempt of court. Even so, Trump could, in theory, pardon Manafort for a crime with which Manafort has not yet been charged–provided that Manafort had already committed that crime before he receives a pardon for it.

    2. Late4Yoga: If “Klown Kar Krew” is supposed to be a subtle (or not-so-subtle) reference to KKK then you are a disgusting hater. Good bye. Censor(s) of this site should beware of this type hateful/distasteful/offensive comment. They seem to have removed far less incendiary comments in the past.

      1. You have an overly active imagination, Tab. The letter K is Kuite Kommon in The Russian language. Putting three Kapital K’s in a row is pure Koincidence.

        And from where did get the idea that kalling the Ku Klux Klan the Klown Kar Krew would be an instance hate speech? Silly me. You got that idea from the Klown Kar Krew. Didn’t you, Tab? No? You got it straight from President Bozo Boots, himself? Well, then, aren’t you the lucky one.

        1. Late4Yoga, I aint buying the accidental KKK explanation: “There are no accidents…” ` Deepak Chopra. And to quote another wise man (Anonymous): “I was hoping for a battle of wits, but you appear to be unarmed”. Good day Ma’am.

          1. You just informed your fellow blawg hounds that you’ve never read the letters KKK nor kkk on the Turley blawg. You’ve have also bellowed that you have supposedly armed yourself with . . . wait for it . . . wit. Jolly good show, Lockheed.

        2. L4Yoga enables both David Benson and Marky Mark Mark – that is a horrible defense of hate speech. How cowardly.

    3. thank you for your incomprehensible language. it obscures whatever invalid point you were trying to make. keep up the good work,

  11. Manafort needs to stay “all in” and be patient. He will get his pardon either before DC trial or as late as after Muler investigation is completed. Even if government strips him of most of his assets, he can still strike a book deal,etc to help with his post-persecution recovery. If he can sustain his loyalty to Trump, then he will be ultimately rewarded with pardon. However as somebody pointed out in previous thread, his bigger issue might be Ukrainian thugs looking to collect on old debts.

    1. Manafort will be stripped of any and all future assets until he cooperates with the DoJ. Just like what happened to OJ Simpson after he was found civilly liable and tried to sell a book to make $.

      Civil asset seizure cannot be pardoned away.

      He is hiding evidence from the government about the Veselnitskaya meeting and is helping Russian spies cover up their intentions.

      1. If he had anything to offer up about Veselnitskaya meeting, he would have already done so. You lefties hang your hats on 15 minute nothing meeting and week add-on campaign finance pleading (meat was Cohen tax/bank fraud). “Don’t stop believing, hold on to that feeling…”

        1. Mr. Simple Logic said, “If he [Manafort] had anything to offer up about Veselnitskaya meeting, he would have already done so.”

          Argument by logical analogy: If Manafort had committed a crime, then Manafort would have already confessed to that crime. Manafort has not already confessed to any crime. Ergo, Manafort has not committed any crime.

          It is recommended that Mr. Simple Logic should substitute any name, or number of names, he likes for the name Manafort in the above material implication and see if his own simple logic still makes any sense to him.

          1. Dear Ms. Late4Yoga: KISS (keep it simple Stupid) and ye shall see the light! Praise the Lord! Now go take a walk around the block and get over the HRC failure of 2016 (I am guessing your therapist has similar advice for you).

      2. Is there a civil asset forfeiture action on the federal docket? if so what is the cause number. thanks.

        if not then don’t wax too clever.

  12. Manhattan DA looking at the sordid scene for probable cause of a state crime having been committed. Of interest to the gullible rubes, dupes, klan-wannabees, pocket traitors and grifters on the make: the day global bozo cannot pardon his cronies who are convicted of state crimes.

  13. Manafort might do Club Cupcake for awhile before his pardon, but it is on its way.

  14. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to know that Manafort’s full pardon is on it’s way. He’ll be on the beach soon enough.

  15. What for? Eight minor convictions relating to nothing? When there is a jail full size group just ripe for the pcking on real criminal problems?

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