“Such Respect for a Brave Man!” but Ixnay on the Ardonpay

Manafort Guilty

Matt Ford, Robert Mueller is Winning:

On Friday, Manafort finally cracked from the pressure. President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice in a D.C. courthouse. He also admitted his guilt to ten charges on which the Alexandria jurors failed to reach a verdict. And in exchange for a lighter sentence to be determined later, Manafort gave Mueller his prize after eleven months of labor: a binding agreement to “cooperate fully, truthfully, completely and forthrightly … in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation to be relevant.” …

What distinguishes Trumpworld from an organized-crime syndicate or a money-laundering bank, of course, is the presidency itself. Trump could use its powers to shut down the Russia investigation, fire Mueller and other top Justice Department personnel, and pardon his cronies with relative ease. That threat is now somewhat mitigated. Mueller’s team told the court during Friday’s allocution that Manafort had already begun providing them with information, which limits the practical impact of pardoning him now. …

It’s theoretically possible, of course, that Trump played no part in any possible collusion, and that Manafort doesn’t know anything that could implicate him. The president, like all potential defendants, is legally innocent until he’s proven guilty.

Trump and his allies, however, aren’t acting like innocents. …

After the twin blows last month of Manafort’s conviction in Virginia and Michael Cohen’s guilty plea in New York, the president praised his former campaign chief for not bending the knee to prosecutors. “I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “[The Justice Department] took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’—make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.’ Such respect for a brave man!”

Shortly thereafter, Trump reportedly told a Fox News reporter off camera that he was considering a pardon for Manafort. He then suggested in the interview that “flipping,” a common prosecutorial tactic, “should be illegal.” Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal attorney, quickly briefed reporters that Trump and his legal team agreed that there would be no pardons until after Mueller’s investigation had ended. The implicit message seemed to be clear: As long as Manafort stays quiet, the president will spare him from prison when this all blows over.

That option now seems moot.