Paul Manafort Wasn’t the “Campaign Boss” (Yet) during the June 9 Meeting

Someday soon I’ll be done reviewing the June 9 meeting materials. But as I’m revising my limited hangout post on it, I keep finding details I want to pull out.

When Don Jr told Rob Goldstone on June 7, 2016 who would attend the June 9 meeting, he said it’d be “Paul Manafort (campaign boss) my brother in law and me.”

Now, it is true that Trump had named Manafort campaign chairman on May 19, as it became clear the reason he was ostensibly hired — to managed a contested convention — would not be necessary in the light of Trump sealing his win. That set off a month of in-fighting between Manafort and Lewandowski, ultimately leading to Lewandowski’s firing — with the very active input of Trump’s children — on June 20.

I find that interesting for two reasons. First, Roger Stone and Sam Nunberg had a role in making Manafort’s case publicly, though neither was associated with the campaign anymore. Mueller has reportedly shown some interest in meetings that took place during this period. In other words, the process by which Manafort (temporarily) won the battle for Trump’s affection may be an investigative interest.

The detail is also interesting because that’s how Don Jr (implausibly) explains his enthusiastic response to Goldstone’s offer of information that would incriminate Hillary: “if it’s what you say I love it especially if it’s later in the summer.” Don Jr explained that he was busy ousting Lewandowski at the time, which is why they didn’t want dirt in June, but instead later in summer, when it came out.

Q. And in your response it says “If it’s what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer.” Specifically what did you love about it?

A . As I said in my statement, it was a colloquial term used to say, hey, great, thank you. I didn’t want to deal with anything right now. We had other stuff we had to worry about, namely a potential contested convention. We were in the process of replacing Corey Lewandowski, who was the campaign manager, with Paul Manafort. There was a lot of stuff on our plate.

On top of being totally unconvincing, Don Jr’s response is inconsistent with his response to Goldstone, which treated Manafort as the boss already.

Steve Bannon has suggested that the June 9 meeting happened because Don Jr was vying to impress his dad even as Jared assumed a greater role in the campaign. But I think at least possible–particularly given the way the Trump team tried to downplay Manafort’s role in the meeting–that the meeting happened because Manafort was vying for power with Corey Lewandowski.

15 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Don Jr. is always trying to impress his dad.  Otherwise, he’d be disowned without a cent.

    That this was a power struggle seems right.  Manafort “volunteered” for the campaign, even though he was in serious debt.  The most likely explanation is that he received comp from elsewhere, in the form of favors or debt relief.  In exchange, he would have had to deliver whatever his patrons sent him to get.  Presumably, that would require his having control over the campaign.  Lewandowski would have been in the way of that.

    Apart from his getting something for nothing, Trump would have sought something else Manafort could bring to the table.  It’s not as if Manafort had recent campaign experience.  With hindsight, it seems obvious his Ukrainian and Russian connections were critical.  They also made him an ideal fit with the other top aides Trump rallied round him.

    • Bob Conyers says:

      You’re right that Manafort didn’t have recent campaign experience, but I’d argue he brought more to the table than his Russian connections — he was almost uniquely qualified to build the bridge between the GOP establishment and the Russians.

      Others would have had Russian connections, but Manafort also knew tons of people in the party apparatus and had long experience creating connections between the GOP and unsavory countries with a facade that created plausible deniability. The bridge building capability is what made him special.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The end of the bridge that counted was the Russian.  That seems to be what Trump wanted and needed.

        Trump didn’t much care for the GOP, many of whose members despised him, but couldn’t compete with his money and vote-getting ability.  And Gates, with many of the same connections as Manafort but not the juice, stayed a lot longer.  He would have been a bridge to Manafort, bringing to the campaign everything but Manafort’s physical presence.  That also seems consistent with the Don’s intense need to hide what he’s doing, which is one of his defining characteristics.

  2. SteveB says:

    “That the meeting happened because Manafort was vying for power with Lewandowski”

    Are you suggesting that it was M who had encouraged Don Jr enthusiastic response to the Goldstone approach, albeit that there has been a pretence that M knew little or nothing about the meeting?

    That would be bad enough, because of course a neophyte might be excused over enthusiasm for foriegn dirty tricks, whereas the (putative) campaign manager ought to know better.

    But the point you make has made me wonder whether  you are considering the possibility that Manafort knew in advance that some sort of approach would be made  and was ready and waiting to encourage Don Jr when it came?

    I appreciate that may be theorising ahead of the evidence, but Manaforts insouciance about the blow out meeting and cryptic notes within it are tantalising threads. There is good reason to suppose, given his manipulative political background, that he may have had a very much better idea about what was going on than he necessarily let Don Jr in on, even though they were largely in cahoots.

    • emptywheel says:

      You may be ahead of evidence, but it’s possible Papadopoulos told him — or that that’s what Mueller is looking into with Stone now.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Manafort has decades more experience than Don Jr. But I don’t see Jr as a neophyte. I don’t think naive applies to someone so close and so much like the Don. And I don’t give him any benefit of the doubt. He is as addicted to lying and to cheating to get ahead as his dad.

    The repeated persistent Russian approaches from the top of the Don’s campaign are not close calls. Taking help from that quarter would have been illegal and only the intentionally ignorant would not have known that.

    As for Jr, he seems more like a not so bright non-com who will take any hill he thinks his captain wants taken. But never ask him to decide which hill that should be.

    • SteveB says:

      I agree:  I was attempting to characterise one aspect of the Don Jr defense narrative but I should have been clearer about that, I considered editing while in moderation, but opted not to, my mistake.

      There is no doubt in my mind that Jr is willing to lie cheat and steal and collude without compunction.


  4. Willis Warren says:

    The June 9th meeting is the salient part of the case. The 11/2013 stuff where they talked this dipshit into running for office is way too abstract. You’re right to harbor on the June 9th meeting

  5. yastreblyansky says:

    Meditating on the post and doing a little googling, stumbled on something I didn’t expect: story of a long-term relationship between Rinat Akhmetshin and Paul Manafort which Manafort categorically denies.

    Mr. Akhmetshin had tried to ally with Ukraine’s pro-Moscow elements. Before the 2014 invasion, he told reporters, he unsuccessfully sought consulting work with the political party dominated by the nation’s pro-Putin president, Viktor F. Yanukovych. A popular revolt forced Mr. Yanukovych to flee to Russia.
    Mr. Akhmetshin told journalists that he was a longtime acquaintance of Paul J. Manafort, who served as a high-paid consultant to Mr. Yanukovych for years before becoming chairman of the Trump campaign. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Mr. Manafort, said, “Paul doesn’t know and hasn’t worked with the man.”

    Does everybody already know this?

Comments are closed.