In what could amount to game over for Donald Trump, his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, pleaded guilty to 2 counts in federal court today: conspiracy against the United States and obstruction of justice. And, as part of the deal, Manafort has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel.
Washington (CNN)Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department, including in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Manafort pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy against the US and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice due to attempts to tamper with witnesses, according to a court filing Friday.Prosecutor Andrew Weissmann told the judge Manafort’s plea agreement is a “cooperation agreement,” and other charges will be dropped at sentencing at “or at the agreement of successful cooperation.”
Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort authorised a secret media operation on behalf of Ukraine’s former president featuring “black ops”, “placed” articles in the Wall Street Journal and US websites and anonymous briefings against Hillary Clinton.
The project was designed to boost the reputation of Ukraine’s then leader, Viktor Yanukovych. It was part of a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort carried out by Manafort on behalf of Yanukovych’s embattled government, emails and documents reveal.
Manafort’s Ukraine strategy anticipated later efforts by the Kremlin and its troll factory to use Twitter and Facebook to discredit Clinton and to help Trump win the 2016 US election. The material seen by the Guardian dates from 2011 to 2013.
A search warrant application unsealed on Wednesday revealed closer links than previously known between President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and a Russian oligarch with close ties to the Kremlin.
In an affidavit attached to the July 2017 application, an FBI agent said he had reviewed tax returns for a company controlled by Manafort and his wife that showed a $10 million loan from a Russian lender identified as Oleg Deripaska.
Mueller has been investigating the financial links between Manafort and Deripaska, a metals magnate who is known to be close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Deripaska was among the Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the United States in April.
In addition, Paul Manafort was present at the Trump Tower meeting that was held in June of 2016 to discuss Russia’s offer of revealing information on Hillary Clinton, information which had been illegally hacked.
Paul Manafort could potentially give incriminating evidence against not only Donald Trump, who has maintained he knew nothing about the meeting, despite two phone calls made before and immediately after the meeting from Donald Trump Jr to a blocked number (likely Trump’s number, which has been established as being blocked), but also against both Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner, who were present at the meeting and very likely could have lied to investigators about the meeting, and quite possibly could have entered into a conspiracy with Russia at the meeting. In addition, the Republican National Committee could be implicated, as per Manafort’s notes from the meeting:
Congressional investigators examining Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election are now focusing on whether the Trump campaign or the Republican National Committee received donations from Russian sources after a meeting involving two Russian lobbyists in Trump Tower last year, according to a Thursday NBC report.
President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, attended the meeting, on June 9, 2016, with two Russian lobbyists: Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, organized the meeting.
Manafort took notes during the meeting on his iPhone and submitted them to the Senate Intelligence Committee late last month. References to political donations and the RNC in the notes have “elevated the significance” of the meeting for congressional investigators, according to NBC.
Also of note is that Paul Manafort was not the campaign manager at the time of the Trump Tower meeting, but the Russians knew him well from the work he had done for them in Ukraine. So, was it coincidence that Paul Manafort was named Trump’s Campaign Manager on June 20, 2016, just 11 days after the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting? Paul Manafort could possibly give some more information on just how that came to pass. As well, Paul Manafort could give information on just why the Republican Party Platform was changed with regards to Ukraine while he was serving as Trump’s Campaign Manager:
It started when platform committee member Diana Denman tried to insert language calling for the U.S. to provide lethal defensive weapons to the Ukrainian government, which is fighting a separatist insurrection backed by Russia. Denman says she had no idea she was “going into a fire fight,” calling it “an interesting exchange, to say the least.”
Denman is a long time GOP activist from Texas. When she presented her proposal during a platform subcommittee meeting last month, “two gentleman,” whom Denman said were part of the Trump campaign, came over, looked at the language, and asked that it be set aside for further review.
The Trump campaign convinced the platform committee to change Denman’s proposal. It went from calling on the U.S. to provide Ukraine “lethal defensive weapons” to the more benign phrase “appropriate assistance.”
As can be seen, Paul Manafort has alot of information he could provide to the special counsel, none of it likely good for Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner, and possibly many others.
So, what will Donald Trump do now?
Or will he try to fire Robert Mueller so that he can block the information from getting out?
If Trump tries the latter, he may find out it is too late. Because Donald Trump can’t directly fire Robert Mueller. He would have to fire Jeff Sessions, then replace Jeff Sessions with somebody who would fire Robert Mueller, and that somebody would need to be confirmed by the Senate. It has become fairly obvious that Republicans in Congress have been covering for Donald Trump, but could they possibly aid Donald Trump in firing the special counsel after it has become public that the special counsel has gotten a guilty plea for conspiracy against the United States and obstruction of justice? Could all 51 Republican Senators go along with that? They would be basically telling the public they are part of the conspiracy and obstruction. I guess we shall see.