The Manafort Political Theater Project Launched

Some absurd MSM political theater is about to unfold, as if it were a serious scandal for Trump that a guy who was his campaign chairman for a few months is going to be charged for alleged crimes committed years before that relationship was forged.  Paul Manafort and his longtime protégé are the big news for the MSM to inflate into a conspiracy that traces back to the puppet master in the Kremlin.  They have been told to report for arrest, which means they are to be indicted.

Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times got the scoop.  He describes Gates as:

... a longtime protégé and junior partner of Mr. Manafort. His name appears on documents linked to companies that Mr. Manafort's firm set up in Cyprus to receive payments from politicians and businesspeople in Eastern Europe, records reviewed by The New York Times show. ...

Mr. Manafort had been under investigation for violations of federal tax law, money laundering and whether he appropriately disclosed his foreign lobbying.

The alleged offenses lie far in the past:

Mr. Manafort, a veteran Republican strategist, joined the Trump campaign in March 2016 to help keep delegates from breaking with Mr. Trump in favor of establishment Republican candidates. Mr. Trump soon promoted him to chairman and chief strategist, a job that gave him control over day-to-day operations of the campaign.

But Mr. Trump fired Mr. Manafort just months later, after reports that he received more than $12 million in undisclosed payments from Viktor F. Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president and a pro-Russia politician. Mr. Manafort spent years as a political consultant for Mr. Yanukovych.

Amber Phillips of the Washington Post puts the dates and context around those years he spent as a consultant:

In 2005, Manafort got a job advising a Ukrainian steel magnate, one of the richest men in that country, on how to improve his business empire's public image. The job helped revive Manafort's political career and shore up his struggling finances[.] ...

And here's where Manafort's ties to pro-Russian politics really begins: His billionaire client was a supporter of Viktor Yanukovych, the prime minister of Ukraine and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yanukovych, too, had an image problem. He had just lost a nasty presidential election fight that was fraught with allegations of fraud, the poisoning of the pro-Western opposition leader, a court ruling invalidating Yanukovych's win, and widespread, violent protests that became known as the Orange Revolution. ...

Yanukovych had relied on Russian advisers for that disastrous election, and decided to turn to an American for a makeover (though PolitiFact reports that Manafort had actually unofficially counseled Yanukovych during that 2004 election).

Manafort officially worked as a political consultant for Ukraine's ruling party from circa 2006-07 to 2012.

The theory under which prosecutors work, of course, is to squeeze the little guy with the threat of prison and get him to implicate the higher-ups.  But for that strategy to work for Mueller on Manafort, there have to be facts to reveal.  So far, despite extensive private and prosecutorial research for over a year, there are no facts.

It's all a cover for Uranium One, and for a while, it is a pretty good one.  Meanwhile, the investigations will continue and evidence accumulated for a Justice Department to prosecute, under an attorney general who should be so inclined.  If not, Jeff Sessions will not survive the blowback and will be replaced.

Tough luck for Manafort and Gates.  I have no idea if they are guilty, but they are in for an expensive defense no matter what.  If you believe that Trump must be guilty of dirty business, then Manafort is going to be the mother lode.  So the excitement will be genuine today among the MSM talking heads and in the newsrooms.  And it will last for a while.

Note: My thanks to Rick Moran for his thoughts.

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