Is It Possible Mueller Has Used Manafort To Entrap Trump?

Is It Possible Mueller Has Used Manafort To Entrap Trump?

Paul Manafort (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

According to prosecutors from Robert Mueller’s office, Paul Manafort — a convicted criminal who was Donald Trump’s campaign chairman — is in violation of his plea agreement. Prosecutors allege that Manafort lied to them after agreeing to cooperate with their investigation in September to avoid trial on various financial crimes.

Manafort’s lawyers dispute the charges. But since Manafort has basically lived a life of propping up oligarchs while lying about where he gets his money, Manafort doesn’t have a whole lot of credibility. Remember, this was a guy who apparently tampered with witnesses while he was under indictment, awaiting trial, under federal surveillance. I’m going to go ahead and believe that he continued to lie after he promised to stop.

Speculation is rampant about why Manafort continued to lie. Some argue that Manafort is basically the scorpion from the Aesop fable: it’s just in his nature to be a shady liar even when it manifestly hurts his cause. Others argue that Manafort still expects a Presidential pardon and is unwilling to say anything that would anger his benefactor, Donald Trump.

But to believe that you either have to believe that Manafort is just a straight pathological liar, or you have to believe that Trump is willing to give Manafort a pardon just for shutting up. For some people, it’s hard to believe that Manafort has so little sense of self-interest that he’d either keep lying or keep trusting Trump, absent some very specific promise from the President himself.

Which is how we get to the “mole” theory: Manafort only took the plea deal so he could learn more about Mueller’s investigation and feed that information back to Trump as the President prepared written answers to Mueller’s questions. In exchange for this, Trump has promised to pardon Manafort once his service is complete.

I have trouble believing this because it requires Trump to think three steps ahead and still requires Manafort to believe Trump will keep his word. But nothing in Trumpworld actually makes sense if you assume “rational actors” so I guess this is possible.

And if it’s possible that Manafort is a mole, then it’s possible that the Mueller people knew he was a mole and have been using him to feed misinformation to Trump and the Russians. It’s also possible that we are living inside a computer simulation and our programmer is trying to sell a spy/thriller holoscript to galactic executives.

This brings us to the Marcy Wheeler theory that is ripping around the internet. Her theory, amazingly, fits all the “facts” we actually know. From EmptyWheel:

Just about the only explanation for Manafort’s actions are that — as I suggested — Trump was happy to have Manafort serve as a mole in Mueller’s investigation.

But Mueller’s team appears to have no doubt that Manafort was lying to them. That means they didn’t really need his testimony, at all. It also means they had no need to keep secrets — they could keep giving Manafort the impression that he was pulling a fast one over the prosecutors, all while reporting misleading information to Trump that he could use to fill out his open book test. Which increases the likelihood that Trump just submitted sworn answers to those questions full of lies.

And that “detailed sentencing submission … sett[ing] forth the nature of the defendant’s crimes and lies” that Mueller mentions in the report?

There’s your Mueller report, which will be provided in a form that Matt Whitaker won’t be able to suppress.

I mean, it is interesting that prosecutors exposed Manafort’s post-plea lies right after Trump submitted written answers to their questions.

Personally, I find it easiest to believe that Manafort is a pathological liar who lied his whole life and then entered a plea deal and then kept lying. That’s the most simple explanation, and I like to roll with Aesop and Occam whenever possible.

But it’s nice to think that Mueller’s team found some way to use Manafort against Trump. It’s nice to imagine, for at least a little while longer, that there will be actual consequences for the most corrupt President in the history of the United States.


Elie Mystal is the Executive Editor of Above the Law and the Legal Editor for More Perfect. He can be reached @ElieNYC on Twitter, or at He will resist.

Published at Tue, 27 Nov 2018 18:13:25 +0000

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