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Paul Manafort’s Modus Operandi: Accuse the Female Politician of Crimes She Didn’t Commit, Then Dodge Sanctions

As Paul Manafort’s plea was being unveiled yesterday, a number of legal observers were shocked by how detailed the criminal information was, complete with 38 pages of exhibits. Hopefully, this will stop me from having to bitch incessantly about how many journalists have swallowed Rudy Giuliani’s claims about Mueller writing up a report. As I keep saying (and as Mueller’s boss Rod Rosenstein has said in testimony), there won’t be a report, there will be indictments.

Ostensibly, the exhibits are there to prove the assertion that Paul Manafort lied to DOJ about what kind of work he was doing for Ukraine.

Although MANAFORT had represented to the Department of Justice in November 2016 and February 2017 that he had no relevant documents, in fact MANAFORT had numerous incriminating documents in his possession, as he knew at the time. The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a court-authorized search of MANAFORT’S home in Virginia in the summer of 2017. The documents attached hereto as Government Exhibits 503, 504, 517, 532, 594, 604, 606, 616, 691, 692, 697, 706 and 708, among numerous others, were all documents that MANAFORT had in his possession, custody or control (and were found in the search) and all predated the November 2016 letter.

But I don’t think that’s why they’re there.

They’re there to show what Paul Manafort does when he’s running a campaign.

Because they show that for the decade leading up to running Trump’s campaign, Manafort was using the very same sleazy strategy to support Viktor Yanukovych that he used to get Trump elected.

In other words, these exhibits are a preview of coming attractions.

Take out the female opponent by prosecuting her

The criminal information provided far more detail about something we had only seen snippets of in the Alex Van der Zwaan plea: Manafort’s use of Skadden Arps to whitewash Yanukovych’s prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko.

It describes how Manafort used cut-outs to place stories claiming his client’s female opponent had murdered someone.

MANAFORT took other measures to keep the Ukraine lobbying as secret as possible. For example, MANAFORT, in written communications on or about May 16, 2013, directed his lobbyists (including Persons D1 and D2, who worked for Company D) to write and disseminate within the United States news stories that alleged that Tymoshenko had paid for the murder of a Ukrainian official. MANAFORT stated that it should be “push[ed]” “[w]ith no fingerprints.” “It is very important we have no connection.” MANAFORT stated that “[m]y goal is to plant some stink on Tymo.”

And it shows Manafort seeding lies that his client’s female opponent had criminal intent when he knew there was no proof to back the claim.

MANAFORT directed lobbyists to tout the report as showing that President Yanukovych had not selectively prosecuted Tymoshenko. But in November 2012 MANAFORT had been told privately in writing by the law firm that the evidence of Tymoshenko’s criminal intent “is virtually non-existent” and that it was unclear even among legal experts that Tymoshenko lacked power to engage in the conduct central to the Ukraine criminal case. These facts, known by MANAFORT, were not disclosed to the public.

This propaganda effort against Manafort’s client’s female opponent included placing stories in Breitbart.

Sanctions will backfire

Manafort placed so much effort on inventing stories about Tymoshenko in part to take her out as a political opponent (and to create an opportunity to pitch Yanukovych’s corruption as a tolerable partner to Europe). But he did so, too, to undermine support for sanctions against Yanukovych for human rights abuses, of which Tymoshenko was the poster child.  Particularly after John Kerry replaced Hillary, Manafort undermined sanctions by promising raw material exploitation opportunities. (This bullet point, at PDF 25, is dated February 24, 2013).

We’ll learn more about what role Manafort himself played in Trump’s policy on sanctions (even aside from any quid pro quo that may have come out of the June 9 Trump Tower meeting), but we know that Trump’s view on sanctions is among the questions Mueller wants to ask Trump, and we know that in an op-ed encouraged by the Trump campaign (and highlighted to Ivan Timofeev), George Papadopoulos argued that sanctions had hurt the US.

Obama lost Ukraine

Manafort was even using some of the very same lines that Trump still uses, such as blaming Obama for “losing” Ukraine (this quarterly memo for Yanukovych, at PDF 21-, is dated April 22, 2013).

Electoral irregularities are my opponents’ fault

Shortly after Yanukovych won in 2010, Manafort boasted that he had established a baseline to be able to claim that Tymoshenko’s complaints about election irregularities were disinformation. (This memo, at PDF 6, is dated February 20, 2010.)

Manafort also prepared a full court press to influence the electoral observers in advance of Ukraine’s 2012 parliamentary election (this document, at PDF 5, is dated as October 9, 2012 in the trial exhibit list).

One thing we’re going to see in former Manafort partner Roger Stone’s eventual indictment is a focus on the work of his Stop the Steal PAC, both just after Manafort arrived to manage the Convention, and his voter suppression efforts (which paralleled Russian ones) during the general election.

Hillary Clinton is the enemy

Finally, as early as February 2013 (see PDF 14), Paul Manafort was advising his client that replacing Hillary Clinton with someone who would value raw material deals over human rights would be a positive development.

As it happens, in 2016, Paul Manafort could please all his clients by offering a man who valued raw material deals over human rights as a positive development.

As I disclosed July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

A Comparison of Rick Gates and Paul Manafort’s Plea Deals

Because I wanted to get a sense of what Gates won by pleading guilty and cooperating with Mueller’s team earlier, I decided to compare the two plea deals. (Gates, Manafort)

Manafort’s a bigger criminal than Gates

Obviously, the biggest difference comes in recommended sentence. While the government got Gates for a lie to prosecutors and got Manfort for witness tampering, the rest of the conduct was largely the same. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons (Manafort was the lead and Gates benefitted from being called a minor player, Manafort’s obstruction gets added on top whereas Gates’ lie does not, Manafort got way more money out of the deal) the sentence ranges end up dramatically different.

Manafort’s advisory sentencing range works out to 210-262 months, whereas Gates’ range is 57-71 months.

The government is intent on taking all of Manafort’s stuff

The Manafort plea includes over three pages laying out how the government is going to take his ill-gotten gains. Given my newfound obsession with Paul Manafort’s forfeitures, I’ll write that up separately (or better yet make bmaz, who actually knows something about how this works, do so). The short version, though, is the government is intent on making sure they’ll get it all.

The EDVA charges

While this plea only deals with the charges in DC, the plea is meant to work with the EDVA charges. So for example, Manafort’s plea required him to admit he was guilty of the 10 hung charges in EDVA and prohibits him to appeal that case in any way (and includes the one bank account he had saved from forfeiture in the EDVA trial in the forfeiture in this plea). Manafort’s plea notes that if he is sentenced in EDVA before DC, he will have a criminal history for the purposes of sentencing. The plea promises to recommend that both his EDVA and DC sentences run concurrently (which probably would have happened anyway), but notes that neither judge, Amy Berman Jackson nor TS Ellis, is bound by the plea.

Gates was gagged

Perhaps most interesting pertains to Section 8, the description of cooperation each man has to offer. This is mostly boilerplate, and for both includes a few things in boilerplate bullet points — most  notably the requirement to participate in undercover activities — that won’t apply to either men (though Gates likely did still have documents to turn over whereas Manafort likely doesn’t).

But Gates’ plea has a bullet point Manafort’s doesn’t.

The defendant agrees not to reveal his cooperation, or any information derived therefrom, to any third party without prior consent of the Office.

In other words, the prosecutors anticipated sharing secrets with Gates that might blow up their case. They appear to have no such concerns with Manafort. Possibly, he has already seen such details in the 302s he got from Gates; he would be bound to secrecy about those under the DC protective order.

Still, there would almost certainly be things that Manafort would be discussing going forward, and he doesn’t appear to be bound to keep that secret.

Update: Andrew Prokop notes one thing I missed: the language introducing what kind of cooperation will be required in Gates says he’ll be working with “this Office,” whereas Manafort’s says he’ll be cooperating with “the Government.” I agree with him that suggests Manafort may still be cooperating after the Mueller office has shifted all its prosecutions elsewhere and will be cooperating in other jurisdictions (for example, against Tony Podesta, Vin Weber, and Greg Craig in SDNY). Anybody who has ever broken the law with Manafort should be securing legal representation if they haven’t already.

A slightly larger obligation to Gates

There’s one sentence at the end of the Government’s Obligation section in the Gates plea. After it says he can argue for any sentence below the advisory guidelines, it says,

Depending on the precise nature of the defendant’s substantial assistance, the Office may not oppose defendant’s application.

I’m not sure what to make of the difference — perhaps it suggests the government expected Gates might have that kind of argument to make?

Note, too, that the 5K language in the Manafort plea is actually plural, meaning if he cooperates a lot he’ll be able to ask for a lesser sentence in EDVA too.

Pardon-proofing the statute of limitations

The statute of limitations paragraph, which allows the government to prosecute the underlying crimes and any other crimes not prosecuted if “any plea or conviction [is…] set aside or dismissed for any reason,” even after the statute of limitations toll includes this language in the Manafort plea that is not present in the Gates plea:

The Office and any other party will be free to use against your client, directly and indirectly, in any criminal or civil proceeding, all statements made by your client, including the Statement of the Offense, and any of the information or materials provided by your client, including such statements, information, and materials provided pursuant to this Agreement or during the course of debriefings conducted in anticipation of, or after entry of, this Agreement, whether or not the debriefings were previously a part of proffer-protected debriefings, and your client’s statements made during proceedings before the Court pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.

It also repeats that this language applies to the conduct described in the Statement of the Offense “or any other crimes that the Government has agreed not to prosecute.”

Some lawyers believe this language generally and the addition specifically provides further insurance against pardon. If Trump pardons Manafort for the crimes he has just pled guilty to, the government will then be able to go after him for the other crimes he just told the grand jury about, crimes which are probably worse and for which the President is a co-conspirator.

Gates can’t even write a story about Paul Manafort’s sleazy influence peddling

There are two slight differences under the section enumerating trial rights. Both are prohibited from profiting off their stories. But those prohibitions are described differently. Gates many not make money on stories about his:

work for Paul Manafort, the transactions alleged in the Indictment, or the investigation by the Office or prosecution of any criminal or civil cases against him.

Whereas Manafort may not make money on stories about,

the conduct encompassed by the Statement of the Offense, or the investigation by the Office or prosecution of any criminal or civil cases against him.

There’s also a really subtle difference about how proffer statements might be used. Gates waived the right to object “to the Government’s use” of his proffer statements (which started on January 29, almost a month before he pled). Manafort waived the right to object to “the use” of his proffer statements, suggesting Mueller’s team might know of other venues (or branches of government) besides the Federal government where those statements might be used.

Gates preserves two potential collateral attacks on his sentence

Gates preserved two additional rights in the collateral attacks section. First, if the sentencing range for his crimes gets lowered in the future, he can challenge that under 18 USC §3582(c)(2). Additionally, he could also challenge the sentence if newly discovered evidence comes available. Manafort has neither of these protections.

The government can declare Manafort in breach of agreement based on good faith

With Gates, the standard the government has to prove to argue he has breached his agreement is preponderance of the evidence or, in case of committing a crime, probable cause. With Manafort, the government only has to prove “good faith.”

Jeannie Rhee gets involved

This may be a minor (or huge) issue. But there’s one difference to the prosecutors who signed these pleas. Andrew Weissman, Greg Andres, and Kyle Freeny are on both. But whereas Brian Richardson signed Gates’ plea, Jeannie Rhee signed Manafort’s. That’s interesting because she has been heavily involved in the Roger Stone investigation, but she was also involved in the two Russian indictments.

The Objection that Made Mueller’s Case

This will be a grandiose statement, but what the fuck, it’s a crazy day.

The moment when Robert Mueller made his case came on August 7 when Greg Andres objected to a line of Kevin Downing’s cross-examination of Rick Gates.

The lawyers went into a sidebar with Judge Ellis. According to a successful prosecution motion to seal that part of the sidebar, the two sides argued about details of Mueller’s investigation.

On August 7, 2018, the Court held a sidebar conference to address a line of questioning pursued by the defense during their cross-examination of witness Richard Gates. During the sidebar conference, substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing investigation was revealed.

Ultimately, Ellis ruled that Manafort’s team could not pursue that line of questioning. I believe that objection is what led to Manafort’s plea deal today, and with it, likely the final bits to the key conspiracy case against Trump and his spawn.

I say that for the following reasons.

Manafort got very little (that we can see) from his plea deal

Start with Manafort’s plea deal. When I was thinking of Mueller’s leverage the other day, I imagined Manafort might plead to the charges he did today, but that Mueller would also bracket off some of Manafort’s forfeitures — probably the $16 million that the holdout juror saved Manafort in the EDVA case. That didn’t happen — Mueller dumped the EDVA forfeiture into this deal, so that Manafort will lose all of his thus far identified ill-gotten gains (he’s apparently swapping his Trump Tower apartment for one of the financial accounts, which means that the US government will soon own a Trump Tower property it has unlimited discretion to decide what to do with).

And unless he gets a downward departure for significant cooperation, he’ll do ten years. Under some scenarios, that’s what he would have gotten had he gone to trial in DC and lost. So aside from saving him from a second (and possibly third, if the government pursued the 10 hung charges in EDVA) trial, Manafort got very little that we can see in his plea — just the legal fees associated with the trial(s), while losing the forfeiture he had won by going to trial in EDVA. And for that very little, he kisses away all hope he’ll get a pardon, as well as the (admittedly slim) chance that he might not be found guilty in DC. He also forgoes any appeals and any profits off telling his story. He basically commits to going to prison and coming out an old man to a vastly diminished fortune.

The possible plea benefits we don’t know about

That says the reasons behind Manafort’s decision to accept this plea are things we can’t see but he can.

There are two related possibilities: First, that Manafort came to the conclusion that he’d never get the pardon he had been working towards. That might stem from justified distrust that Trump will ever keep his word, but I doubt it. A pardon was always Manafort’s best way out, and up to a point, it made sense for him to take his chances with Trump.

Which suggests that, for some reason, Manafort came to believe Trump wouldn’t be able to pardon him, probably because he came to understand it would be politically impossible or legally improbable.

Couple that with the other thing that might convince Manafort he’d be better off taking this plea now than continuing to fight his charges: that he knew the next thing he was going to be charged with would be far worse. Just as one example, I’ve suggested that once you’re working for the government of Ukraine (as Manafort was, in the charges settled today) or the government of Russia (as might be established if you showed Konstantin Kilimnik is a Russian intelligence officer, as Mueller has already alleged), very little separates a FARA charge (what he pled to today) from a 18 USC 951 charge, spying. It’s a lot harder to pardon someone for spying than to pardon him for obstruction and financial crimes.

It’s also possible that Manafort came to understand the scope of the conspiracy prosecutors are now pursuing. If he knew they already had the evidence to charge Trump as a co-conspirator in that conspiracy, it would also make it a lot harder for the President to pardon his co-conspirators.

In any case, whatever it is, it’s likely that Manafort had figured out where the prosecutors were heading, and he recognized he was far better off with this painful cooperation deal than being included in the next indictments. Losing his ostrich skin shirt (and five homes and $46 million) and trying to cooperate into a lesser sentence beats facing down a spying charge as part of a conspiracy with both the Russians and a president with severely curtailed pardon abilities, as it turns out.

The Rick Gates details he tried — but failed — to put into the public record

Which brings me back to that Andres objection on August 7.

Just before the EDVA trial, the government would have had to provide Manafort all their 302s from Rick Gates, so he could use that information to damage Gates’ credibility on the stand. And damage his credibility he did, among other things, by revealing that Gates stole money from the Trump transition.

But in addition to looking at those 302s for impeachment evidence, Manafort also surely looked at it to see what Gates had already provided to Mueller’s prosecutors. I’m guessing (based off what a number of people have said about the role Gates played on the campaign) that Gates got Mueller 90% of the way to a conspiracy involving the President, leaving just some meetings attended only by Manafort and Trump as gaps in the evidentiary record.

And that’s what I believe Downing was trying to do back on August 7: Elicit testimony from Gates that would lay out some of the evidence he had provided Mueller in such a way that didn’t violate the protective order he signed in the DC case (there’s not one in the EDVA case, but the DC one basically covers that, not least because the discovery significantly overlaps). So Downing was trying to put into the public record something about what Gates had told Mueller.

Had he succeeded, perhaps Trump would have recognized the jeopardy that put Manfort (and, presumably, himself) in. Perhaps he would have taken that moment to pardon Manafort, and save him from that jeopardy.

But Greg Andres piped up to object, Mueller’s team won the still sealed sidebar discussion, and Manafort failed to introduce whatever evidence into the public record for Trump and his other co-conspirators to see.

Which left Trump and his legal team, even as Manafort had his first proffer discussion with Mueller on Monday, still claiming that Manafort remained in a Joint Defense Agreement four days later, apparently blissfully unaware that Manafort had seen enough to decide it was time to flip.

Downing’s ploy probably wouldn’t have worked anyway. Pardoning Manafort might have helped Manafort, but if Mueller got 90% of the way to the conspiracy with the witnesses he has (including Sam Patten, whose plea surely contributed to Manafort’s certainty he was fucked going forward), then it wouldn’t have helped Trump and probably would have gotten us closer to when Republicans realize Trump has become an anvil rather than an electoral plus.

But I suspect that was the moment when Manafort’s cooperation, with whatever last little bits implicating Trump, became inevitable.

As I disclosed July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Checkmate: The Manafort Cooperation Is Pardon Proof

I was virtually certain that the plea deal Manafort is pleading to today would include cooperation — and I was correct. Andrew Weissmann told Amy Berman Jackson that the deal does require Manafort cooperation.

I was certain not just because of the tease in the Special Counsel announcement, above, that additional information would be forthcoming.

But the fact that no media outlet was able to confirm whether or not the plea would include cooperation could only be possible if Mueller had made silence about that fact part of the deal. Otherwise, Manafort’s lawyers would have confirmed that it included no cooperation to placate the President. As it was, no one outside of the deal knew that the plea did include cooperation until Manafort was already pleading guilty.

And at this point, the deal is pardon proof. That was part of keeping the detail secret: to prevent a last minute pardon from Trump undercutting it.

Here’s why this deal is pardon proof:

  1. Mueller spent the hour and a half delay in arraignment doing … something. It’s possible Manafort even presented the key parts of testimony Mueller needs from him to the grand jury this morning.
  2. The forfeiture in this plea is both criminal and civil, meaning DOJ will be able to get Manafort’s $46 million even with a pardon.
  3. Some of the dismissed charges are financial ones that can be charged in various states.

Remember, back in January, Trump told friends and aides that Manafort could incriminate him (the implication was that only Manafort could). I believe Mueller needed Manafort to describe what happened in a June 7, 2016 meeting between the men, in advance of the June 9 meeting. I have long suspected there was another meeting at which Manafort may be the only other Trump aide attendee.

And Manafort has probably already provided evidence on whatever Mueller needed.

So here’s what Robert Mueller just did: He sewed up the key witness to implicate the President, and he paid for the entire investigation. And it’s only now lunch time.

As I disclosed July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

 

Paul Manafort’s $46 Million Plea Deal

Mueller’s office just released a superseding complaint as part of a plea deal with Paul Manafort. He will plead guilty to ConFraudUs tied to his FARA violations and obstruction tied to his witness tampering. The Special Counsel’s office promises “additional information … in the near future.” I guess we’ll learn then whether this involves cooperation (for all we know, Manafort is sitting in front of the grand jury right now).

While Manafort will get off without many new charges in the DC case, he’ll lose his (ostrich skin) shirt. Here’s what is listed in forfeiture.

The property subject to forfeiture by PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., includes, but is not limited to, the following listed assets:

a. The real property and premises commonly known as 377 Union Street, Brooklyn, New York 11231 (Block 429, Lot 65), including all appurtenances, improvements, and attachments thereon, and any property traceable thereto;

b. The real property and premises commonly known as 29 Howard Street, #4D, New York, New York 10013 (Block 209, Lot 1104), including all appurtenances, improvements, and attachments thereon, and any property traceable thereto;

c. The real property and premises commonly known as 174 Jobs Lane, Water Mill, New York 11976, including all appurtenances, improvements, and attachments thereon, and any property traceable thereto;

d. All funds held in account number XXXXXX0969 at The Federal Savings Bank, and any property traceable thereto;

e. All funds seized from account number XXXXXX1388 at Capital One N.A., and any property traceable thereto; and

f. All funds seized from account number XXXXXX9952 at The Federal Savings Bank, and any property traceable thereto;

g. Northwestern Mutual Universal Life Insurance Policy 18268327, and any property traceable thereto;

h. All funds held in account number XXXX7988 at Charles A. Schwab & Co. Inc., and any property traceable thereto; and

i. The real property and premises commonly known as 1046 N. Edgewood Street, Arlington, Virginia 22201, including all appurtenances, improvements, and attachments thereon, and any property traceable thereto.

This adds both the Federal Savings Bank account listed for forfeiture in the EDVA case, and the Capital One case. And these are subject to both civil and criminal forfeiture, so Trump can’t pardon them away.

Update: On Twitter, several people note that with this forfeiture, the Mueller investigation just more than paid for itself.

The EDVA Holdout Juror Has (Thus Far) Saved Paul Manafort $16 Million

I want to pull something from this post into its own post. In that post, I talked about the stakes of a guilty verdict in Paul Manafort’s DC case, which subjects most of the counts to a $30 million forfeiture judgment.

Based on the EDVA indictment, I had thought that all the bank fraud charges in that case were subject to forfeiture. But with Andrew Prokop’s help, have confirmed that just charges 29 and 30 included forfeiture. The Special Counsel’s Office has confirmed that “forfeiture was limited at trial to convictions on counts 29 or 30.”

That means that the one holdout juror may have saved Paul Manafort $16 million. It also raises the stakes of a retrial considerably.

Update: Two more clarifications from SCO. First, “Nothing has changed in the D.C. case” from what was described in the indictment. When I asked about civil forfeiture, they responded, “The case filed in EDVA only references criminal forfeiture.” So here’s the distinction. The Forfeiture section in the EDVA indictment starts,

Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.2, notice is hereby given to the defendants that the United States will seek forfeiture as part of any sentence in accordance with Title 18, United States Code, Section 982(a)(2), in the event of the defendants’ convictions under Counts Twenty-Four through Thirty-Two of this Superseding Indictment.

As SCO notes, 18 USC 982 is just criminal forfeiture.

Whereas the DC indictment cites both 18 USC 981 (Civil) and 982 (Criminal).

Pursuant to Fed. R. Crim. P. 32.2, notice is hereby given to the defendants that the United States will seek forfeiture as part of any sentence in accordance with Title 18, United States Code, Sections 981(a)(1)(C) and 982(a)(1), and Title 28, United States Code, Section 2461(c), in the event of the defendants’ conviction.

 

Paul Manafort Is One of 37 People in an Omertà with the President

Apparently, Bob Woodward committed some journalism along with canonizing racist John Kelly and wife-beater Rob Porter in his book: he got a number for how many people are included the Joint Defense Agreement that gives Rudy Giuliani such confidence the President is not at risk: 37.

And Politico committed still more journalism and answered the question we’ve all been asking: yes, Paul Manafort is among those 37.

Giuliani also confirmed that Trump’s lawyers and Manafort’s have been in regular contact and that they are part of a joint defense agreement that allows confidential information sharing.

“All during the investigation we have an open communication with them,” he said. “Defense lawyers talk to each other all the time where as long as our clients authorize it therefore we have a better idea of what’s going to happen. That’s very common.”

Giuliani confirmed he spoke with Manafort’s lead defense lawyer Kevin Downing shortly before and after the verdicts were returned in the Virginia trial, but the former mayor wouldn’t say what he discusses with the Manafort team. “It’d all be attorney-client privilege not just from our point of view but from theirs,” he said.

That means when John Dowd complained that the raid of Manafort’s condo (where his eight iPods were seized), that was based on privileged conversations between lawyers. And when, in January, Trump confidently said he was sure Manafort would protect him, that was based on privileged conversations between lawyers.  And when, just before the EDVA trial, Kevin Downing was ostentatiously saying there was no way Manafort was flipping, and when he was balking on a plea with Mueller immediately after the trial, he was also talking to Rudy Giuliani.

Mind you, Rudy G will learn right away if Manafort starts considering cooperating, rather than just pleading, because Manafort will have to (finally!) drop out of the JDA before those discussions start.

And while I suspect Mueller has slowly been peeling away people like Sam Patten, that the JDA is so big likely means some or most of the following people are part of the omertà (and Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, and Mike Flynn were part of it):

  • Paul Manafort and Konstantin Kilimnik
  • Jared Kushner
  • The Trump Org defendants: Don Jr, Rhonna Graff
  • Bill Burck’s clients: Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Don McGahn (and up to three more)
  • Victoria Toensing’s clients: Mark Corallo, Erik Prince, Sam Clovis
  • The hush payment recipients: Hope Hicks, Brad Parscale, Keith Schiller
  • Roger Stone and his buddies: Stone, Michael Caputo, Sam Nunberg, Andrew Miller, plus some (probably)

That’s 20. Some other likely (and enticing) JDA members are: Devin Nunes, Jeff Sessions, Tom Barrack, Keith Kellogg, John Mashburn, KT McFarland, JD Gordon, Walid Phares, Stephen Miller, Sean Spicer, Rob Porter, Corey Lewandowski, John Kelly. Heck, it’s not even clear that George Papadopoulos is not part of the JDA.

But that still leaves space in the JDA for people who were already comparing notes with known members of the JDA, including Rinat Akhmetshin, Rob Goldstone, and Ike Kaveladze (along with Emin and Aras Agalarov, who are all represented by Scott Balber).

No wonder Rudy thinks he knows everything that Mueller has.

That’s why the collective panic on the discovery that Stone’s phone was likely among the ~10 or so that Mueller got warrants for in the wake of Rick Gates’ cooperation agreement is so interesting, and also why Manafort, playing his part as point, tried so hard to find out who the other four AT&T users whose phones were obtained with his own.

These guys may be good at omertà. But every single one we’ve seen so far has shitty OpSec; they’ve been saying their co-conspiracy communications on their phones and on iCloud. Plus there are people like Omarosa wandering among them, dismissed as irrelevant even while they record everything they hear. And meanwhile, Mueller is chipping away at the edges, people they haven’t considered (like Patten). And all the while he’s been building his case against Stone and Don Jr.

The $30 Million Leverage Mueller Has to Force Paul Manafort’s Cooperation

Yesterday, Amy Berman Jackson moved a pre-trial hearing that had been scheduled for this morning to Friday morning. That has led to further reports that Paul Manafort is seeking a plea deal. But, as ABC reported, one sticking point is whether Mueller is willing to offer a plea deal without cooperation along with it.

Sources tell ABC News that Mueller’s office is seeking cooperation from Manafort for information related to President Donald Trump and the 2016 campaign. Manafort, however, is resisting and his team is pushing prosecutors for a plea agreement that does not include cooperation, at least as related to the president, sources said.

To be clear, both sides have an incentive to find a way to avoid the trial. Mueller already has Manafort on the hook for an 8 year sentence or so, and if that’s not going to make him cooperate in the case in chief, it’s not clear that another 8 years will. And Manafort’s legal bills have to be sky high already, without another trial where he’s facing overwhelming evidence.

But the reason why Mueller isn’t just going to let Manafort plead to some of the DC charges without cooperating is because that would mean giving up the considerable leverage — $30 million worth — that Mueller built into this case a year ago.

While it hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, both Manafort indictments include forfeiture provisions, meaning the government will seize his ill-gotten gains. And because Manafort had a shit-ton of ill-gotten gains, there’s a whole lot of stuff that the government can now seize, starting with his ostrich skin suits.

Having been found guilty of charges 25 and 27 in his EDVA trial, for example, the government will seize the funds from the $16 million loan Manafort got by lying to Federal Savings Bank.

Upon conviction of the offenses charged in Counts Twenty-Four through Thirty-Two, defendants PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., and RICHARD W. GATES III shall forfeit to the United States any property constituting, or derived from, proceeds 36 obtained, directly or indirectly, as a result of such violation(s). Notice is further given that, upon conviction, the United States intends to seek a judgment against each defendant for a sum of money representing the property described in this paragraph, as applicable to each defendant (to be offset by the forfeiture of any specific property).

76. The grand jury finds probable cause to believe that the property subject to forfeiture by PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., includes, but is not limited to, the following listed assets: a. All funds held in account number XXXXXX0969 at Lender D, and any property traceable thereto.

Update: Andrew Prokop noted that the prosecutors had at least proposed a jury verdict form that tied forfeiture of these funds to just charges 29 and 30, which are both charges the jury hung on. That seems to suggest that these funds are not subject to seizure (which of course increases the stakes of retrial).

Update: SCO has confirmed that “forfeiture was limited at trial to convictions on counts 29 or 30.”

In the DC case, even more ill-gotten gains are at stake. Manafort stands to lose the proceeds of his influence peddling, the laundered proceeds of which the indictment says amount to $30 million. Manafort might lose, among other things, four of his homes.

Upon conviction of the offenses charged in Counts One [ConFraudUS tied to FARA], Three [FARA], Four [False Statements pertaining to FARA], Six [Obstruction], and Seven [Conspiracy to Obstruct], the defendants PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., and KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK (as to Counts Six and Seven) shall forfeit to the United States any property, real or personal, which constitutes or is derived from proceeds traceable to the offense(s) of conviction. Notice is further given that, upon conviction, the United States intends to seek a judgment against the defendants for a sum of money representing the property described in this paragraph (to be offset by the forfeiture of any specific property).

53. The grand jury finds probable cause to believe that the property subject to forfeiture by PAUL J. MANAFORT, JR., includes, but is not limited to, the following listed assets:

a. The real property and premises commonly known as 377 Union Street, Brooklyn, New York 11231 (Block 429, Lot 65), including all appurtenances, improvements, and attachments thereon, and any property traceable thereto;

b. The real property and premises commonly known as 29 Howard Street, #4D, New York, New York 10013 (Block 209, Lot 1104), including all appurtenances, improvements, and attachments thereon, and any property traceable thereto;

c. The real property and premises commonly known as 1046 N. Edgewood Street, Arlington, Virginia 22201, including all appurtenances, improvements, and attachments thereon, and any property traceable thereto;

d. The real property and premises commonly known as 174 Jobs Lane, Water Mill, New York 11976, including all appurtenances, improvements, and attachments thereon, and any property traceable thereto;

e. Northwestern Mutual Universal Life Insurance Policy 18268327, and any property traceable thereto;

f. All funds held in account number XXXX7988 at Charles A. Schwab & Co. Inc., and any property traceable thereto; and

g. All funds held in account number XXXXXX0969 at The Federal Savings Bank, and any property traceable thereto.

The question of how much of his ill-gotten gains is subject to forfeiture was a big deal in the Rick Gates plea (and likely was a big deal to Sam Patten when he pled guilty to earning $1 million as an unregistered sleazy influence peddler). While Manafort doesn’t have young kids to raise, as Gates does, the sheer scale of his possible forfeiture no doubt makes such discussions even more fraught.

Up until now, it has always seemed that the most logical explanation for Manafort’s actions was a calculus that the evidence against him was so overwhelming and the prison sentence he faced so substantial that his best bet was to do anything he could to get a presidential pardon.

But now, he already faces losing around $16 million and stands to lose $30 million more. He’s been effectively broke since 2016 anyway. And it’s not clear that a presidential pardon prevents that from happening.

So on top of calculating whether he trusts Trump enough to rely on that pardon, Manafort (and the lawyers he likely still has to pay) also have to be wondering how many houses his freedom is worth.

That certainly strengthens Mueller’s hand in these negotiations.

As I disclosed July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

The Government and Manafort Continue to Argue about the Agency of Being an Agent

In this post, I briefly described that Paul Manafort, in a challenge to the way the government charged his sleazy influence peddling, tried to distinguish his influence peddling from that of spies, both with respect to whether hiding the proceeds of sleazy influence peddling might merit forfeiture and whether lying about sleazy influence peddling was a separate crime from lying in his FARA filing. Manafort lost on the former point, Amy Berman Jackson punted the latter point until after trial. But in ruling on the former, she emphasized that the FARA crime was about acting as an undisclosed sleazy influence peddler, not just hiding it.

But the reference to section 951 does not support defendant’s position, since defendant acknowledges that section 951 plainly governs acting as an agent of a foreign government, and the language of the two provisions is quite similar. See Def.’s Mot. at 4–5; compare 18 U.S.C. § 951(a) (“Whoever . . . acts in the United States as an agent of a foreign government without prior notification to the Attorney General . . . shall be fined under this title or imprisoned . . . .”) with 22 U.S.C. § 612(a) (“No person shall act as an agent of a foreign principal unless he has filed with the Attorney General a true and complete registration statement . . . .”) and id. § 618(a) (imposing criminal penalties on any person who “willfully violates any provision of this subchapter or any regulation thereunder” or “willfully makes a false statement of a material fact or willfully omits any material fact” in a FARA statement). These laws are not just about paperwork; their object is to ensure that no person acts to advance the interests of a foreign government or principal within the United States unless the public has been properly notified of his or her allegiance. So both statutes expressly prohibit “acting” as a representative of a foreign entity without submitting the required notification to the Attorney General. For these reasons, the alleged international banking transactions could “promote,” and Manafort could realize “proceeds” from, a FARA violation.

With that ruling, ABJ judged that FARA is like spying, just not quite as serious.

Manafort is still fighting the issue, however (probably, in part, in preparation for an appeal, but maybe also to save the industry of sleazy influence peddling for all his fellow sleazy influence peddlers).

In both the joint pretrial statement and his proposed jury instructions, Every time the government emphasized that the crime is about acting as an unregistered sleazy influence peddler, Manafort objected and rewrote the government’s language to focus on registration. Here’s one example:

Defendant also objects to the following language under the section entitled Elements of the Conspiracy’s Objects:

In Count One, the government has alleged that one object of the conspiracy was to act as an unregistered agent of a foreign principal. For Count One, the government does not have to prove that the defendant committed this crime; only that this was an object of the conspiracy. In considering whether this was an object of the conspiracy, the following legal principles and definitions apply. A person willfully violates the FARA requirements if:

(1) The defendant acted in the United States as an agent of a foreign principal;

(2) The defendant acted without registering with the Attorney General; and

(3) The defendant acted willfully.

Defendant proposes the following replacement:

In Count One, the government has alleged that one object of the conspiracy was to fail to register as an agent of a foreign principal in violation of FARA. For Count One, the government does not have to prove that the defendant committed this crime; only that this was an object of the conspiracy. In considering whether this was an object of the conspiracy, the following legal principles and definitions apply. A person willfully violates the FARA requirements if:

(1) The defendant was required by law to register as an agent of a foreign principal;

(2) The defendant failed to register with the Attorney General; and

(3) In failing to register, the defendant acted willfully.

Manafort may be doing this just to try to avoid forfeiture.

But, in part because this is a rare case going to trial that will serve as precedent for other people, the debate is an interesting one, one Manafort may appeal no matter what happens (because the decision is worth millions to him).

Mueller is arguing that being a sleazy influence peddler without being honest about who you’re working for is like being a spy. Given how much damage sleazy influence peddlers have done to our country, that’s probably right. But (I think to save his ill-gotten gains), Manafort thinks selling out his country’s politics to the highest bidder is just a matter of paperwork.

As I disclosed July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

Roger Stone’s Excuse for His “Podesta Time in a Barrel” Comment Is Even Stupider Given the Paul Manafort Prosecution

In addition to Randy Credico, Jerome Corsi will testify before the Mueller grand jury on Friday. That means that the grand jury will hear testimony from two people who can address the truth of two claims Roger Stone made before the House Intelligence Committee on September 26, 2017.

First, there’s Stone’s claim he learned about WikiLeaks’ plans to release the John Podesta emails in October via Credico.

Now, let me address the charge that I had advance knowledge of the timing, content and source of the WikiLeaks disclosures from the DNC. On June 12, 2016, WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange, announced that he was in possession of Clinton DNC emails. I learned this by reading it on Twitter. I asked a journalist who I knew had interviewed Assange to independently confirm this report, and he subsequently did. This journalist assured me that WikiLeaks would release this information in October and continued to assure me of this throughout the balance of August and all of September. This information proved to be correct. I have referred publicly to this journalist as an, “intermediary”, “go-between” and “mutual friend.” All of these monikers are equally true.

Credico has not only said this is not true, but that Stone threatened him to prevent him from testifying as much.

Then, there’s Stone’s claim (first made publicly by Corsi the previous March) that his tweet predicting John Podesta would soon catch political heat pertained to a project he and Corsi were working on at the time.

My Tweet of August 21, 2016, in which I said, “Trust me, it will soon be the Podesta’s time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary” Must be examined in context. I posted this at a time that my boyhood friend and colleague, Paul Manafort, had just resigned from the Trump campaign over allegations regarding his business activities in Ukraine. I thought it manifestly unfair that John Podesta not be held to the same standard. Note, that my Tweet of August 21, 2016, makes no mention, whatsoever, of Mr. Podesta’s email, but does accurately predict that the Podesta brothers’ business activities in Russia with the oligarchs around Putin, their uranium deal, their bank deal, and their Gazprom deal, would come under public scrutiny. Podesta’s activities were later reported by media outlets as diverse as the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. My extensive knowledge of the Podesta brothers’ business dealings in Russia was based on The Panama Papers, which were released in early 2016, which revealed that the Podesta brothers had extensive business dealings in Russia. The Tweet is also based on a comprehensive, early August opposition research briefing provided to me by investigative journalist, Dr. Jerome Corsi, which I then asked him to memorialize in a memo that he sent me on August 31st , all of which was culled from public records. There was no need to have John Podesta’s email to learn that he and his presidential candidate were in bed with the clique around Putin.

I noted at the time that that Corsi’s explanation didn’t make any sense, because while the July 31 report did pertain to John Podesta, his August 31 report focused exclusively on Tony (the Corsi materials start at page 39 of Stone’s HPSCI testimony; note the conflation of Tony for John got repeated in Craig Murray’s explanations for the WikiLeaks’ go-between he met in September).

But the explanation is even less credible given what has happened since: Paul Manafort, whose plight the Corsi report was (per Stone) explicitly a response to, got indicted in part because he told Tony Podesta to hide his ties to Russian-backed Ukrainian politicians. Indeed, in classic Corsi style, he describes Podesta’s role in Manafort’s crime, without disclosing that Podesta was in legal trouble because of Manafort’s effort to hide his own crimes; Corsi presented them as equal partners in this crime.

CNN further reported on Aug. 19 the Podesta Group had issued a statement affirming the firm has retained the boutique Washington-based law http://www.capdale.com firm Caplin & Drysdale “to determine if we were mislead by the Centre for a Modern Ukraine or any other individuals with potential ties to foreign governments or political parties.” The Podesta Group statement issued to CNN continued: “When the Centre became a client, it certified in writing that ‘none of the activities of the Centre are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed or subsidized in whole or in part by a government of a foreign country or a foreign political party.’ We relied on that certification and advice from counsel in registering and reporting under the Lobbying Disclosure Act rather than the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”

The CNN statement concluded with the statement, “We will take whatever measures are necessary to address this situation based on Caplin & Drysdale’s review, including possible legal action against the Centre.” In breaking the story that the Podesta Group had hired Caplin & Drysdale, Buzz Feed https://www.buzzfeed.com/rosiegray/top-lobbying-firm-hiresoutside-counsel-in-ukraine-manafort?utm term=.duLexkeKBx#.rj4gn3gmln reported on Aug. 19, that both the Podesta Group and Manafort’s D.C. political firm were working under contract with the same group advising Yanukovych and his Ukrainian Party of Regions – namely the non-profit European Centre for a Modern Ukraine based in Brussels. On Dec. 20, 2013, Reuters reported http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usaukraine-lobbying-idUSBRE9BJ1B220131220#6oTXxKZp25obYxzF.99 the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine paid $900,000 to the Podesta Group for a two-year contract aimed at improving the image of the Yanukovych government in the United States that the Podesta Group told Reuters they were implementing through contacts with key congressional Democrats.

That detail is important of a number of reasons. First, because it makes it entirely unlikely that Stone (who was meeting with Rick Gates during this period, if not his “boyhood friend” Manafort himself) learned of Podesta’s ties via Panama Papers and not from Manafort himself. But it also provides a reason why Corsi and Stone would be focusing on Tony at the time — to draw attention away from Manafort, and with it, the corruption that Manafort implicated the Trump Administration in. Indeed, the Manafort EDVA court record shows that Gates and Manafort were using a range of financial and political means of doing the same at precisely that time.

It’s clear, given what we’ve learned as part of the Manafort prosecutions, that the effort to impugn Tony Podesta had everything (as Stone partly tells truthfully)to do with the plight of Manafort at the time.

Which is to say, it didn’t have anything to do with John, and so can’t be used to explain that tweet.

On top of everything else. Mueller appears to be finishing up false statements charges against Stone.