Won’t Doubling Down on Paul Manafort Being a Traitor Make Him More Likely To Flip?

Here is the full substance of what Steve Bannon said about the June 9, 2016 meeting between Don Jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort.

“The chance that Don Jr. did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero,” said an astonished and derisive Bannon, not long after the meeting was revealed.

“The three senior guys in the campaign,” an incredulous Bannon went on, “thought it was a good idea to meet with a foreign government inside Trump Tower in the conference room on the twenty-fifth floor—with no lawyers. They didn’t have any lawyers. Even if you thought that this was not treasonous, or unpatriotic, or bad shit, and I happen to think it’s all of that, you should have called the FBI immediately. Even if you didn’t think to do that, and you’re totally amoral, and you wanted that information, you do it in a Holiday Inn in Manchester, New Hampshire, with your lawyers who meet with these people and go through everything and then they verbally come and tell another lawyer in a cut-out, and if you’ve got something, then you figure out how to dump it down to Breitbart or something like that, or maybe some other more legitimate publication. You never see it, you never know it, because you don’t need to. . . . But that’s the brain trust that they had.”

I’ll return, at some point, to this formulation, which complains more about how Don Jr took this meeting with Russian figures than that they didn’t involve cut-outs to maintain plausible deniability.

But for the moment, I want to look at the substance of Bannon’s non-apology apology.

Threatened with being cut off from the Mercer family wingnut welfare, Bannon has offered this peace offering (you can click through to see how he boasts of his own importance in his obsequious comments on Trump):

  • “Donald Trump, Jr. is both a patriot and a good man. He has been relentless in his advocacy for his father and the agenda that has helped turn our country around.”


  • “My comments about the meeting with Russian nationals came from my life experiences as a Naval officer stationed aboard a destroyer whose main mission was to hunt Soviet submarines to my time at the Pentagon during the Reagan years when our focus was the defeat of ‘the evil empire’ and to making films about Reagan’s war against the Soviets and Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them.”
  • “My comments were aimed at Paul Manafort, a seasoned campaign professional with experience and knowledge of how the Russians operate. He should have known they are duplicitous, cunning and not our friends. To reiterate, those comments were not aimed at Don Jr.”
  • “Everything I have to say about the ridiculous nature of the Russian ‘collusion’ investigation I said on my 60 Minutes interview. There was no collusion and the investigation is a witch hunt.”
  • “I regret that my delay in responding to the inaccurate reporting regarding Don Jr has diverted attention from the president’s historical accomplishments in the first year of his presidency.”

The statement is notable for the utter silence on Jared Kushner, a rivalry with whom is the chief source of animus for Bannon. Bannon appears willing only to suck up to Trump Senior and Junior, not the “globalist” son-in-law.

Bannon pretends that the reporting about his comments on Jr were inaccurate. Lordy, that sounds like an invitation to Michael Wolff to release the tapes he claims he has of his Bannon interviews.

Bannon nods to his 60 Minutes interview, which he did in fact say was a waste of time. But he also allegedly said firing Comey was the stupidest decision in modern politics, because it led to the Mueller investigation, with its expanded scope. That suggests he thinks Mueller will find things, which is consistent with the other Bannon statements reported by Wolff, that he believes Mueller will find evidence of money laundering, that the path to Trump “goes through Deutsche Bank and all the Kushner stuff.”

Bannon invokes his Navy experience as a way, I guess, to explain why he used the word treasonous — to suggest he was speaking like a jingoist rather than someone with awareness of what a treason charge requires.

Which leaves us with his comments about Manafort. Given his walk-back of his comments about Jr and his stubborn silence on Kushner, Bannon suggests that Manafort should have known better. While, here, Bannon suggests Manafort should have told the neophyte global businessmen who also attended the meeting how duplicitous the Russians are (which is curious, because the Trump and Russian participants in the meeting keep pretending they’re all telling the same true story about the meeting, evidence that this is a cover story notwithstanding).

Savvy Paul Manafort, who got hired to work for the campaign for free and who took that position, apparently, to pay off a favor if not $19 million to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, Paul Manafort whose reputation of working with such thuggish types goes back years, Steven Bannon blames Manafort (who didn’t set up the meeting) for not carrying out the meeting with more plausible deniability.

It doesn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense, given the known events surrounding the meeting.

But it also doesn’t make sense, if Bannon’s goal is to fix the damage his comments have done. Because, by issuing a statement that you believe will be acceptable to Trump that effectively calls Manafort a traitor — those other young men aren’t traitors but that savvy businessman we had working for free is — you make it more likely he’ll flip on Trump. You make it more likely that Manafort does precisely the thing that will bring down the whole scheme.

Maybe that’s actually Bannon’s intent?

61 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Muddying the waters, perhaps, as in Karla’s attempt to keep his mole Bill Haydon intact after Smiley was on the trail. That would be consistent with Bannon’s operating style.

    Bannon also seems to be having a stab at lawyers, the most common denizen inside the Beltway. “They didn’t have any lawyers,” says Bannon. He knows full well why they didn’t. Most lawyers other than Roy Cohn would have nixed the meeting. “DK” in the previous comment explains why. It would have been virtually impossible for Trump campaign staff – let alone his top campaign staff – to hold such a meeting without falling afoul of campaign laws.

    The use of “lawyers” as cut-outs would have been just as ineffective in shielding Trump’s staff. If the lawyers were hired by the persons who needed to be their clients in order to invoke client confidentiality – the campaign or its principals – the lawyers would have simply become complicit – co-conspirators – in violating campaign laws.

    As for the low quality of Trump’s “brain trust”, that’s not news, it’s a punch line. It didn’t improve when Bannon or the Mercer’s money came along.

        • JAAG says:

          I don’t even know why you would think that is just some drivel. Its an honest question.  You are not obligated to answer it either.

          From an amateur timeline in my mind – Cohen was still working as counsel in ways that included campaign stuff like the meeting.  It would have made sense for him to be present given that Veselnitskaya is also counsel. But cohen wasnt there and that is what is significant to me. FWIW the dossier has Cohen being used as a cutout, just as Bannon recommends lawyers be cutouts in the Woolff book.   I know the dossier is probably weak, very weak on Cohen. Still, if he was not willing to attend, or was kept away for some reason, then I am curious why. Hasn’t he worked in the goddamned building for 20 years. Why not walk down the hall.  If he said they shouldn’t take the meeting, then he nows they did and therefore he knows that they ignore his advice and therefore his continued work for them is suspicious and something I would put to him if I were Mueller, just as some added pressure.

          So I should have said his absence is suspicious in the other post.  I always catch myself wondering how Cohen and McGahn must have to do backwards somersaults to cover their ass from a legal ethics perspective.

          I have no idea how counsel really should act in a campaign when it is in transition, and negotiating adoptions and/or sanctions and still being an in-house counsel at a dysfunctional family business – its a a lot to juggle and a lot of exposure.  Thats all I am really trying to figure out here.  If Cohen said he was conflicted out of the meeting for some reason then its interesting to ask why, whatever his assertions of privilige would be. I bet the hill has asked, that is if he ever showed up, I lost track of that.

          The only thing a counsel with all of these roles could really use as a nortern star would be the need to give DT plausible deniability, at least would be good goals to have.  To that end, I wonder why you wouldn’t just send Cohen to listen.  Perhaps the campaign was already aware that they were under surveillance of some kind. Perhaps he said he was conflicted out, whatever that answer was, I wish I knew it.

          If there is one part of the whole fiasco  that we have seen very little reporting about, it is Cohen.  Thats really weird to me since he is pretty crucial in Dossier.

          • bmaz says:

            If you are focused on “The Dossier” you are beyond silly. And I will take your invite not to respond further.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            The only thing a lawyer could do with clients like this is to keep her malpractice insurance up to date, move the decimal point to the right on her retainer and hourly rate, and do a “full Sgt. Schultz” (“I know nussink…”) when clients repeatedly do stupid things.  Giving up the representation should also be high on her list.

            Acting as a cut-out for such unrestrained high-profile clients concerning such dubious high-profile acts can be a career limiting decision.  Not to mention the problem of working for a client renowned for not paying his bills.

            • JAAG says:

              Where I practice law one MUST withdraw when clients ignore advice. Obv people ignore that, that doesn’t make it irrelevant.


          • TGuerrant says:

            Michael Cohen seems not to have served Trump as a lawyer. His work, over many years, was that of a business associate and as a communications conduit. Translation: a bag man and enforcer who happened to have a JD along with lots of real estate parcels and taxi medallions.  For lawyering, Trump hired others, from Roy Cohn to Marc Kasowitz.

            The “little reporting” on Cohen’s role in the dossier is largely due to Cohen’s robust attack on the dossier’s assertion that he was in Prague on a particular date. Cohen went so far as to let Buzzfeed photograph his passport to prove he wasn’t there. Of course, the EU would have permitted him to move across borders without having his passport stamped and, as Paul Manafort’s shown, it’s legal to have more than one passport.

            But in any event, Cohen having been so “open” about that issue seems to have moved him off the stove – that and the fact that the dossier isn’t really very important to the Mueller investigation or much of anything else.

            • pseudonymous in nc says:

              As has been discussed here, the reports on Cohen showed up fast in late October from a single source, and the “Schengen theory” feels like a stretch.

              Cohen’s actual documented visits to London, Page’s time in Budapest, and Papadopoulos’s jaunts around Europe from his London base, on the otherhand…

  2. earlofhuntingdon says:

    It’s possible Manafort is less worried about flipping on Trump than he is on the boys from Brighton Beach.  Trump might sue him or try to put him out of business; the Russians might be less restrained.  It seems likely that Russians supported Trump in numerous ways and might still be, if they are financing part or all of Trump’s business empire (whether or not via Deutsche Bank).

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      Yep yep. And Mueller knows that Manafort’s options are a lot narrower than Flynn’s. As Willis says, his family aren’t going to be witness-protection’d away to a small town in the middle of nowhere.

      • JAAG says:

        All you would really have to do was convice Manafort that a guy really would deliver a brown bag of cash for the rest if his life and forgive his debts to Deripaska.  Just saying it wouldn’t neccessarily require witness tampering to obstruct justice.

        • bmaz says:

          Really, how are you going to account for all the crimes? Like the ones that have nothing to do with Trump, and almost surely constitute state crimes that Trump cannot pardon for? How are you going to account for Kathleen Manafort? Even as to federal, much less state crimes? This goes so far deeper than you are contemplating.

          • JAAG says:

            I think this goes deeper than any espionage, organized crime and political malfeasance story I have ever come accross.

            I take your point about the older Manafort money laundering, his wife etc. I do worry that he could get away with telling a partial story –  there is a lot of sketchy stuff from him that predates Trump and that Mueller may leave alone, if only because it could take a lot of time to get through. I hope that that is wrong.


  3. bmaz says:

    Also notable is the gratuitous and flagrant lie Bannon inserted about

    “….Hillary Clinton’s involvement in selling uranium to them [Russians].

  4. dalloway says:

    Like another self-identified superman, Bannon thinks whatever he says in the moment are pearls falling from the mouth of a god.  To put it another way, when he was speaking to Wolff he was bloviating, awash in his own self-importance.   Also, judging from his appearance, he’s a pretty heavy drug/alcohol user, which would also lead to, shall we say, a lack of self-control.  And while Bannon realizes he stepped in it massively this time, the only way he knows to repair the situation (since he’s incapable of apology) is to smear someone else.

  5. Willis says:

    Manafort isn’t going to flip. The Russians would kill him and his wife isn’t going to go in witness protection

  6. Willis says:

    The Trump team can blame it all on Manafort, but Mueller isn’t going to buy it. He’s still going after him for obstruction and those pesky “adoption” witnesses will be the biggest problem for the orange buffoon

    • bmaz says:

      That may turn out to be right, but I am very far from being convinced of it. Remember, Manafort’s wife is hanging in the criminal liability lurch right beside him. Kathleen has serious exposure on money laundering over the years along with him. Sooner or later most any prosecutor is going to leverage that. I was stunned the Mueller shop did not do so right away. But that card is still there waiting to be played, and it is a powerful one. We shall see, but defense of family is a healthy part of what flipped Flynn, so we shall see.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        If I were a member of this gaggle, I’d be most worried about being swept up in money laundering charges.  Years of it would still be within the statute of limitations.  The number of individual crimes could be quite large, the aggregate penalties enough to make a tough guy wince.

      • Willis Warren says:

        I hope you’re right.  I’m sure she’s a “wonderful” lady.  We’ll see if Mueller gets his chance to do all this.  Even in NY, it’s going to be hard to do if Trump keeps putting hacks at US Attorney

        • bmaz says:

          Keep in mind that in several instances, NY state law is even more robust than federal law on financial crimes.

  7. Rugger9 says:

    Keep in mind that Mueller has all of those emails complained about a couple of weeks back.  I suspect what we are seeing is some calibrated pressure brought on the WH knowing the Paul M has pled guilty, the Papadopolous has flipped to the point of maybe wearing a wire, and Bannon’s book (what a weasel to try to walk it back, enjoy that double-wide trailer in outer Barstow, Steve because you’re never seeing another wingnut welfare dime) detailed many things that Mueller’s email cache can corroborate.  Will it also get Pence and McTurtle and LyinRyan?  Possible, and that’s why the GOP is Congress is trying to shut down an investigation while opening yet another one for HRC’s emails and soon the ninth Benghazi probe.

    Kaiser Tweeto has been pounding the device lately, in a pattern that clearly shows he is scared about some bombshell revelation.

    There is also some fairly interesting speculation as to why Lindsey Graham put his stoolie hat back on for the Kaiser.  It seems his campaign manager (a Mr. Ferry) was close with Manafort (having worked at Davis Manafort) and there was some kind of reason that Lindsey needs to have this show stopped now.  As a reservist JAG, he knows better.

    • bmaz says:

      Cannot speak personally, and have some doubts based on his conduct in the Senate over several years, but have a good friend I trust very much who worked with Graham as a JAG. Says he is bright and a good lawyer. Take it for what it is worth.

      • dalloway says:

        If Graham’s a good lawyer, he may have concluded he’s screwed (or his beloved party is) unless they can derail the investigation.  Another possibility is that,  since RNC and other Republican e-mails were also hacked, folks who are in the closet because their constituents are so very homophobic are behaving this way because someone is blackmailing them.

        • bmaz says:

          Yeah, I have no clue. And that JAG service was a long time ago, not one of his PR stints over in Iraq or Afghanistan in more recent years. Would not be the first competent lawyer to lose his mind in the heat of Congress and politics. And, frankly, it is not limited to one political aisle or the other. But it is a thing.

        • cat herder says:

          I have wondered about that, and wondered why more isn’t made of it.

          Stuff was stolen from both camps. One camp’s stuff was dumped to Wikileaks. We haven’t heard so much as a whisper from the stuff stolen from the other camp. Why is that? Could it be that whatever foreign intelligence service took it used/is using the materials in the most effective way? Dump one batch to the 24/7 gossip machine because it’s useless for anything else, and hold the other batch, the one with the really good shit, to be used later?

    • greengiant says:

      Thanks, memory serves there are many links to Mr. Ferry in the conspiracy nets. Some concern that Wolff is just a disruptive provocation all of whose work should be viewed with suspicion. Trump doesn’t read?  Parscale says he does.

      Writing of provocation,  Alice Donovan was a sockpuppet(s) linked to over 150 articles.  Perphaps first noticed here https://twitter.com/JohnArterbury/status/945404702757408768   Dec 27.   and followed by counterpunchs dig out. https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/05/ghosts-in-the-propaganda-machine/    Along the lines of Bannon’s plan to destroy the media.

      • greengiant says:

        If Wikileaks is publishing Wolff’s book, then triple down on the book being provocation/distraction.

        • bmaz says:

          Think this is discounting the various motives of Wikileaks and its titular head, Assange, who is crazed and locked in an Ecuadoran broom closet. The spectrum of interests at play here is far larger than simply that.

        • TGuerrant says:

          The Wikileaks PDF of Fire & Fury is a revenge strike to undercut Wolff’s and Holt’s profits.

      • Trip says:

        I see Wolff as wanting to be the modern day Truman Capote.  Like Capote, he enjoys celebrity, attention, money and hobnobbing among the elite while simultaneously harboring a level of disdain for them. There are parallels between “In Cold Blood” and “Fire and Fury” in how facts may have been sacrificed for the story or setting a scene, creating a consistent theme. I’m not equating Wolff’s writing to Capote’s talent, however. I’m guessing only that this is Wolff’s ambition. I do not think he is an agent of distraction, even if his book is being used for this purpose by Trump Inc. I don’t know what Wikileaks’ game is in promoting it. Perhaps they are attempting a soft landing for Trump as incapacitated and thus unable to be part of a conspiracy.

    • HanTran says:

      Lindsey has been off the wall since the election. I think its possible he is just having fun at this point.

  8. Trip says:

    Bannon fancied himself an untouchable brilliant political mastermind mover and shaker, but he has only recently come to realize that he was every bit just a simple tool of the Mercers et al as Trump is of the GOP-Koch-establishment. I think he got back on ‘the program’ of hitting at only approved targets of this administration in “I-Hardly-Knew-Him-Manafort” and the classic, and much loved, “Devil-Incarnate-Criminal-Clinton”. I give him credit for having less delusional grandiosity than Trump, for knowing he had to come back crawling on bended knees to keep the gravy train running somehow, just being Bannon wasn’t gonna be enough. Perhaps it’s more complicated than this, but right now, I’m not seeing it. None of the closest people surrounding Trump, including Trump, are remotely public servants. They’re all in it for themselves.

    • JAAG says:

      I am listening to the Wolff book now.

      Bannon really worked hard to separate himself from the Russia stuff. He complains about the Trump tower meeting so much you have to wonder if he actually called the FBI at some point.

      I am just saying that, if I were Jared, I would be really wondering about that as I read Wolff.

  9. JAAG says:

    This may be OT, I apologize in advance.

    Two things from the book that shocked me, I probably missed EW noting this somewhere way back.


    1. 9 reputable washington firms declined to represent Trump.

    2. Weisman was the first lawyer Mueller hired. Weisman prosecuted Felix Sater.

    Sorry if this was already common knowledge around here.

    • pseudonymous in nc says:

      The thing I noted from the book was the idea of the FBI and DOJ being corrupt comes primarily from his rich pals on the phone who cultivate insider sources in FBI/DOJ presumably to ensure that they get fair warning if the feds come knocking.

      It’s Wolff, so it might be bullshit. But the idea that his social circle is made up of people with that mindset is extremely plausible.

      • JAAG says:

        Yeah. Basically makes you wonder if guys like Rudy and real estate schmucks could tell him about Preet and whatever else was/is/will be going on in that district.  Scary.

        I don’t know a goddamned thing about white collar crime law, it feels like North American prosecutors are still sort of figuring out exactly what to do with capital flight from the second/third world.  I mean, when exactly did swiss bank accounts become too small for this stuff? That is an honest question.

      • JAAG says:

        Has there ever been a group of political people who had less in common ideologically than the group Trump had? What did they even believe in?

        It was just a bunch of people trying to do persona branding, to be on the scene and etch it into a resume. I can’t believe I am uttering this –  Bannon was the only person who gave a shit about policy, as cancerous as he is.  I was fascinated by the fact that Wolff clearly preferred him to every other spineless New York amoeba-flake present.  They all wanted to be around, make personnel decisions, avoid rolling up their sleeves and watch TV.  It barely seemed to matter to any of them which policy tack was taken on any given day/month year.  It is something like the simulacra of a government.

        I am relatively young:  In a twisted way, I think that this is the kind of government my flaked out generation deserved. We tuned out and convinced ourselves that satire or comedy was the main ingredient in any given political reality.

        • Trip says:

          Bannon was bankrolled by uber-rich Koch-connected lobbyists who seemed to be in arrears of an enormous tax bill, if I recall correctly, while spewing populist rhetoric. That doesn’t square with his pure capitalism theme, in everyone and everything being equal for financial opportunity and influence. He’s as full of it as anyone else on the Trump team, being an opportunistic vulture, looking for the next big gig to personally rake in money and power for himself. In fact, he was considering his own run in 2020. He was also perfectly copacetic with white supremacists driving the dialogue on Breitbart. He’s an-end-justifies-the-means kind of guy, with little to no scruples or adherence to pure ideology and principles. He just talks a more consistent game than Trump.

  10. Trip says:

    @JAAG (the direct reply button doesn’t seem to be working)
    JAAG says:
    January 7, 2018 at 7:45 pm
    “I am listening to the Wolff book now.
    Bannon really worked hard to separate himself from the Russia stuff. He complains about the Trump tower meeting so much you have to wonder if he actually called the FBI at some point”.

    I’ll preface this by saying I don’t have a copy of the book, but from the published excerpts, Bannon’s commentary didn’t sound anything like firsthand witness knowledge. One example: ““The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.” He’s talking opinion-based statistical probabilities, which might have been developed from upclose and personal insight of these characters, or it could be a plain old method of backstabbing retribution, since he figured them influential in his ouster, or a combination of both. At any rate, his comments seem to be pure supposition. He may have been contacted by Mueller’s team to find out what he knows. Or he might have contacted them, anything is possible. He hasn’t, at least in those comments, provided proof or hinted that he has evidence, only speculation, which is not much beyond typical punditry, although more politically damaging coming from an insider and close Trump confidante.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      “The chance that Don Jr did not walk these jumos up to his father’s office on the twenty-sixth floor is zero.”

      Maybe they took the secret elevator.

      Here is the ‘secret elevator’ for threading replies:

      Right Click on ‘Reply’ (or Long Press if touchscreen).
      Open in New Tab.
      Fill in the form boxes. Submit.

      It will thread properly.

  11. maybe ryan says:

    I assume jumo is Bannon’s dialect term for the word that in fin de (20th) siècle Chicago would be jamoch (with a ch like in Koch brothers.)  Ie, idiots, jagoffs.  Beneath contempt.

    The new distinction he’s making is that Manafort isn’t a jumo.  He’s deserving of contempt rather than beneath it.  Treason (sensu populo, pace Bmaz) is serious business, and Manafort is serious enough to be charged with it.

    That’s why he raises his naval experience – to say anyone who has ever been within 10 miles of a naval base, or of a genuine foreign policy meeting, would have know this was treason.  So Manafort can legitimately be accused.

    While there’s no excuse for Manafort, on consideration, he believes Don Jr and Kushner to be idiots who didn’t see the danger and it’s not treason if you’re too stupid to realize you’re selling out.   He hasn’t come out and said this, since he is hoping to rehabilitate himself.  But he has left DJ and Kush in the category of jumos.  They didn’t commit treason the way chipmunks can’t commit treason.  They remain boys from a Wes Anderson film playing at campaigns.

    • maybe ryan says:

      And I don’t know that Bannon cares much whether Manafort flips.  I suspect Bannon in his own mind maintains a distinctnio between his intentions and “burn the whole thing down.”  But at the same time, he hasn’t shown any loyalty to Trump.  He clearly used Trump instrumentally for his own ideology and ‘principles.’  I think we have to accept him in a weird way as one of the few principled people in the administration.  They aren’t my principles …

      If he feels his hands are clean, why be concerned that Manafort might flip Trump? Trumpism without Trump needs a new flag-bearer, and if there is convincing evidence of Trump treason, Bannon’s star will rise.

      At least, I bet that’s something like the way he sees things.

  12. Rugger9 says:

    Good Lord, the “treason talk” won’t stop on the left. Krugman nailed the distinction quite well in his column last Friday, but there are those on DKos that continue to muddy the waters parsing the Constitution.

    Treason so far is not proven Constitutionally. Espionage (does anyone think there was no pro quo for the quid?), foreign interference in US elections, Logan Act violations (discussion of the adoptions policy alone would still qualify as a Magnitsky Act undermining much less the other stuff on HRC “dirt”), lying to investigators (the thing that got Martha Stewart sent to Club Fed), conspiracy to commit these offenses, etc. et al would all apply and carry plenty of jail time.

    I’m just heading this BS off now. Until there is evidence that Russia is a formal enemy (and as a former Cold Warrior I do know the difference) any blathering about “aid and comfort” could only at this time apply to Al Qaeda, anyone else covered by the AUMF (and that could be a reach as well since it’s not a declaration of war, either), and North Korea since we still are in a technical state of war with them. Russia is not on the list and in fact we are allied with Russia for issues in some parts of the world. That is true even before we examine the Kaiser’s bromantic bootlicking of Putin.


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