Apologists for President Trump dismiss the trial of campaign chairman Paul Manafort as busywork for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who supposedly has nothing better to do than pester peripheral targets because his core job of unraveling Russian interference in the 2016 election is coming up snake eyes.
The past two weeks proceedings in a Virginia federal courtroom reveal quite the contrary: Trumps former campaign chief is a hustler of the highest order whose political clients, Trump above all, fit him like the custom $18,500 python jacket (not to be confused with the ostrich coat) that prosecutors say he purchased in a $6 million feeding frenzy on luxury goods.
Manafort stands charged with outrageous schemes to profit from secretly representing the Kremlin-linked, now-ousted leader of the Ukraine, launder the proceeds through New York City real estate (where else?), all while lying and enticing his way into multi-million-dollar loans and evading taxes along the way.
Corruption, fraud, greed did we miss anything? Oh right, a debased absence of morality that had his sidekick-turned-government witness Rick Gates setting up secret London sex trysts using funds embezzled from Manafort.
Trump would have America believe he hardly knew the man who ran his campaign, and that all the dirty deeds took place before his 2016 campaign.
Au contraire: Trump cheered Manafort for the many months of a stint that ended only when the heat from his Kremlin ties got too hot, with Gates remaining on the campaign as his contact. And Manafort pressed for loans in the heat of the campaign, securing $16 million from an institution whose chairman sought a perch high up in a Trump administration.
Nor did Manafort miss a fateful meeting in Trump Tower with Russian emissaries peddling dirt on Hillary Clinton and nudging at a request to lift sanctions.
Mueller will get to the heart of massive scandal that plainly lurks at the heart of Trump campaign in a matter of time and he should take his time. First, it is his duty, well delivered, to make potential witness Manafort squirm under the full force of evidence against him.
The New York
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