Paul Manafort Remains a Bigger Scandal than Hunter Biden

I haven’t had the time to dig into Gary Shapley’s purported whistleblower claims about the case against Hunter Biden, which several US Attorneys have already disputed.

My read, thus far, matches Andrew Prokop’s: after IRS investigators tried to take steps during a pre-election prohibition period last year, someone in their vicinity leaked to Devlin Barrett, as right-wingers do every pre-election period. That led Delaware US Attorney David Weiss to (justifiably) remove the suspected leakers from the case. As other right wing officials have before, they then ran to Congress and belatedly claimed whistleblower status.

The purported whistleblowers claim that investigative steps — pertaining to allegations about conduct after Biden left the Obama White House — were slow-walked in 2020, during Bill Barr’s tenure as Attorney General. The most serious claim made by the purported whistleblowers is that US Attorneys appointed by Joe Biden refused to file charges against Hunter in the venues where they occurred — MDCA and DC. Merrick Garland, David Weiss, and Matthew Graves have all denied that.

But even if that allegation is true, even if Weiss continues to investigate and substantiates some foreign influence peddling (at this point, limited to 2017, a time when Biden was not in office), the allegations against Hunter Biden would still be far less scandalous than the Paul Manafort case. That’s true because the scale of Manafort’s tax crimes were far worse. That’s true because Manafort has confessed to his foreign influence crime. And that’s true because Trump pardoned Manafort after his former campaign manager lied to investigators about what he did with (since confirmed) Russian agent, Konstantin Kilimnik, during and after the 2016 campaign.

Here’s my understanding of the comparison. The claims against Hunter, in bold, reflect the two Informations docketed as part of the plea deal. All but the pardon TBDs in his case reflect allegations from the so-called whistleblowers that remain unresolved.

Note: I have not listed “lied to protect the president” for Hunter because, as far as I am aware, the President’s son has not made sworn statements to law enforcement — true or false — about matters affecting his father. Manafort did make false statements about matters implicating Trump during his breached cooperation with Robert Mueller’s prosecutors.

A whole pack of DC journalists have chased the IRS allegations, like six year olds do a soccer ball, but with perhaps less consideration of what they’re chasing. They’re doing that even as Trump’s pardons remain largely unreviewed since he announced his run. This manic response to contested IRS claims reflects a choice. Just not a justifiable journalistic one, given the contested allegations to date.

Paul Manafort sources

Millions in tax avoidance: On August 21, 2018, an EDVA jury convicted Manafort of filing false tax returns each year from 2010 to 2014. On September 14, 2018, Manafort pled guilty to tax crimes spanning from 2006 through 2015. Between 2010 and 2014, he failed to report over $15M in income on FBAR.

FARA component: On September 14, 2018, Manafort pled guilty to serving as an unregistered foreign agent from 2006 through 2015.

Money laundering: On September 14, 2018, Manafort pled guilty to laundering over $6.5M in payments, from 2006 through 2016, as part of his FARA scheme.

Bank fraud: In August 21, 2018, an EDVA jury convicted Manafort of two counts of bank fraud, totalling $4.4M. On September 14, 2018, Manafort admitted to over $25M more in bank fraud.

Conspiracy with foreign spy: On September 14, 2018, Manafort pled guilty to a conspiracy to witness tamper with Konstantin Kilimnik. In a 2021 sanctions filing, Treasury stated as fact that Kilimnik is a Russian Intelligence Services agent.

Joint Defense Agreement with President: Before Manafort pled guilty, Rudy Giuliani confirmed that Manafort was part of a Joint Defense Agreement with the President.

Lied to protect President: On February 13, 2019, Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Manafort had breached his plea agreement by — among other things — lying about what he did in an August 2, 2016 meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik at which he described how the campaign planned to win swing states.

Intervention from Attorney General: On May 13, 2020, Manafort was given COVID release to home confinement, even though his prison was at that point low risk and his case did not meet the criteria laid out by Bureau of Prisons. He served less than two years of an over seven year sentence in prison.

Pardoned: On December 23, 2020, Trump pardoned Manafort.

Hunter Biden sources

Hundreds of thousands in tax avoidance: In both 2017 and 2018, Hunter failed to pay full taxes on $1.5M in income ($3M total).

Gun possession: For 11 days in 2018, Hunter possessed a gun in violation of a prohibition on gun ownership by an addict.

Update: Just to give a sense of scale, in his Ways and Means interview, Whistleblower X tried to explain how big the scale of Hunter Biden’s graft was by noting that he and his associates, over five years, got $17.3M.

But Manafort was doing more than that himself.

35 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    The other comparison that keeps coming to my mind is (a) Hunter/Ukraine and (b) Ivanka/China & Jared/Saudi Arabia&UAE&Qatar. If the right wing insists on criminalizing presidential family members of trading improperly on the family name with foreign sources, let’s compare them all.

    • emptywheel says:


      As I was doing this, I was thinking I probably need to do one for Jared.

      But this one sticks in my craw, given how the GOP claims to care about tax crimes all of a sudden.

      • Rugger_9 says:

        Of course the GOP cares about tax crimes, but only for the DFHs for which IOKIYAR doesn’t apply. Animal Farm comes to mind here:

        ‘All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others’

        Jared and Ivanka might rate individual writeups, since Ivanka got all of those privileges from the PRC while Defendant-1 was still POTUS and IIRC had (alleged) PRC spies running loose at M-a-L.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        Yes. Where are all the “whistleblowers” relating to Kushner? I wonder if the number and scale of his scams might have simply overwhelmed a system designed for the likes of Hunter.

        • Rayne says:

          The right-wing built the Hunter Biden narrative to ensure there were whistleblowers/leakers, but to their benefit. Kushner was never a narrative, and much of what he did was likely offshore (like the meeting in Oct 2017 with MBS) AND likely protected by the same entities which did so for others for decades.

          Harvey Weinstein comes to mind as an example; his biggest problem was pissing off enough of the wrong people who wouldn’t get his back in spite of the resources he employed to protect his criminal extortion and sexual assaults. Kushner has been like wallpaper paste, hasn’t yet pissed off enough of the wrong people and that’s served to protect his backside.

        • Rugger_9 says:

          Speaking of offshore, there is also Erik Prince (Betsy DeVos’ brother) who keeps popping up in the posts here if more in the background than Stone or Bannon are. The meeting in the Seychelles hasn’t been explained, and it’s not alone.

          Also, would the Panama Papers have something useful?

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          I am looking forward to all the various versions of dirty laundry to be drug out into the sunlight; preferably before the election campaigning gets into full swing.

          I am in complete agreement about Eirk Prince. His escapades are the least known of all of them and that makes me the most uncomfortable.

  2. Upisdown says:

    Although it’s an indirect link to presidential families, you may also want to look into Eric Branstad and his ties to the ZTE sanctions relief that coincided with the $500 million loan from China to the Indonesia project involving Eric and Don Jr. Branstad’s father, Terry, was Trump’s ambassador to China and closely tied to Xi. Eric Branstad signed up with Mercury Lobbying to help lift the sanctions imposed on ZTE for possible spy software installed on phones. Trump wanted the sanctions lifted while his defense and national security people were opposed. Now we learn that Susie Wiles was shown top secret documents at Bedminster. Wiles also works at Mercury and has many clients in China. It all makes Hunter Biden look small time with his out of office VP dad compared to having a father who was the current ambassador and the POTUS whose family business was engaged in a massive business project.

    Eric Branstad also had involvement in the Tom Barrack Saudi nuclear deal and a deal with Elliott Broidy in Romania. Each time with Rick Gates as a go between with Wilbur Ross. That’s a bunch of swampy characters. BTW, Branstad is currently co-chair of Trump’s Iowa campaign and Wiles is active in his Florida campaign.

    • Rayne says:

      Ugh. Trying to remember where I ran across Mercury about a different subject. That’s a nexus in need of more research.

      ADDER: there have been several discussions in comment threads here about Mercury Public Affairs since 2017 related to Susie Wiles, Bryan Lanza, tangential relationship with Boris Epshteyn, Manafort. I ran across the name again recently looking into a subject related to Qatar, for which Mercury has been a registered lobbyist.

    • Grain of Sand says:

      Yep. Terry Branstad, long time governor of Iowa, installed Kim Reynolds as governor. Thanks for info re Eric.

    • Willis Warren says:

      If we get word that Rudy’s fllipped, or someone else, remember not to celebrate too early. Manafort completely screwed Mueller. I wouldn’t trust Rudy or Nauta at all. I suspect both of them will end up in jail, Rudy until someone pardons his dumb ass.

    • vigetnovus says:

      Didn’t Marcy or Rayne warn us about the Independent? I wouldn’t put too much stock in this yet, although I do believe more charges are coming, and not in SDFL.

      • emptywheel says:

        Yes, I did. Whoever is sourcing this guy–and he does have a source, I suspect one that could wildly bollox the case against Trump–doesn’t know fuckall about the law, and neither does he.

        EITHER you’ll have a superseding in FL OR you’ll have separate indictments in other venues. I pointed to EVIDENCE that was the case on day one.

    • bmaz says:

      Lovely. Stringing out charges everywhere. What bullshit. This makes the overall case weaker and would reset time frames. Idiots.

      • Elvishasleftthebuilding says:

        Well, as Bob Dylan suggests, we could just have a public stoning, where everyone could stand around Trump and pelt him with rocks until he succumbed.

        At some level, biblical justice was far more emotionally satisfying than all of this kerfluffle. I suspect that eating the flesh of the condemned after the stoning wasn’t all that great.

      • says:

        (to bmaz’s comment, just above Bob Dylan)…

        and look like unnecessary pile-on and ‘overcharging’ of which GOPers are already complaining. It’s the time clock reset that is most upsetting.

        Fingers crossed, it’s separate-case-or-witness-only, additional Ds, and not supercedes.

      • smf88011 says:

        Ever thought it was because Trump committed so many crimes in so many places that this resulted in his having charges everywhere? It doesn’t weaken the case – it just shows that this guy is a serial criminal, nothing more. He chose to break the law in multiple different jurisdictions and therefore the charges are being filed where they were broken. He can always try to consolidate them at a later date too.

        If you or I did this level of classified document mishandling, we would already be in jail. How do I know? I was going to be an expert witness in the Jessica Quintana trial but she took a plea bargain instead. I have been handling classified documents/materials/records on virtually an everyday basis for the last 3 decades. I also teach monthly classes on the handling of classified documents/materials/records. Finally, I am an Authorized Derivative Classifier – the person that determines if something is or isn’t classified. That means that I know for a fact that there are things that a President cannot unilaterally declassify on his own.

        Things protected under the Atomic Energy Act is one such example. Even “Formerly Restricted Data” is something that a President cannot declassify on his own. Charge 19 shows that he had this type of document on hand at Mar-a-Lago. By the way, it is VERY rare that documents that concern nuclear weapons of the US that are classified as Secret/FRD are later on fully declassified. I think I have seen it maybe 6 times in my 3 decades of work in the area. The Presidential Daily Briefing is another document that is rarely declassified. The majority that have been are from as recent as the 1970s.

        • emptywheel says:

          Perhaps, unlike all the other cases you prejudge, you should wait and see what comes out?

          The Indy’s source obviously has only partial visibility. But I can think of a number of ways a separate charge that must be charged in DC or NJ demonstrates the problem with Trump storing the nuclear secrets in the bathroom.

        • bmaz says:

          Naw, I will stick where I am at. I simply do not favor serially stringing it out. Irrespective of what the particular case may be. File on J6 or don’t, but get on with it.

          Granted, my concerns are a bit different than those of a lot of people in this regard. I would very much like to see Donald Trump prosecuted, but without screwing up, and damaging, the criminal justice system. There is more at stake than just Trump. I truly think that gets lost.

  3. vernster says:

    OT: Elon et al now require a login to even view tweets. I’ve been a view only browser lurker for years. I apparently can’t live without being able watch you think out loud – so, I caved. My handle is @fluffoffelon (because foff and actual fuckoff were already taken).

    Sigh …

    • bmaz says:

      Here is a hint: make a private list and when I say private, lock it) with only those you want to follow and add them to that list. You don’t have to actually follow them to add them to your private list. That way you don’t get all the Twitter “Home” garbage.

      • harpie says:

        I’m thinking about doing this. My ONLY interest is to be able to continue reading what certain people have to say. Does this locked private list make it impossible for people who are not on the list to tweet at or contact me?
        [Also, I’ll be away for a couple days, but will come back to read any answers next week.] THANKS!

      • greenbird says:

        it works.
        it has its own website for more info, too.

        “names” should more exactly say “HANDLE” bc some are cryptic.
        it found for my brother who has no twit account, a very good account to see.

        even if it’s a temporary thing, this is good to know about for future needs.
        invaluable! – have an heirloom potato from my UKRAINE friends [image].

    • interrobang says:

      Musk said: “Temporary emergency measure. We were getting data pillaged so much that it was degrading service for normal users.” Thanks c-i-v-i-l, that should tide me over until Twitter’s remaining engineers figure this out.

      • bmaz says:

        Or, there is still a better way, if you are not so antagonistic. Seriously, some of this horseshit vis a vis Twitter is every bit as dumb as Musk’s antics himself. If you want to whine about that and look for idiotic and fleeting other things, please spare me.

  4. vicks says:

    It may be old news, but it looks as if the “whistleblower’s” texts that has MAGA jumping up and down are fakes.
    “Lowell writes that the screenshots of the message as tweeted by Smith, “both include a photo of Mr. Biden not from 2017 but from the White House Easter Egg roll in April 2022 (long after the purported message was sent); both images portray the message in a blue bubble, when WhatsApp messages are in green; one image super-imposed the Chinese flag for the contact ID, when surely that was not how a text or contact was kept; and one purports to be a screenshot with the ‘. . .’ of someone composing a text (as in Apple’s iMessage) when that does not happen on WhatsApp.”

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