It was an extremely bad idea for Paul Manafort to get involved in a presidential campaign on the way to the nomination when he was sitting atop so much dirty laundry.
Unless of course, he had no choice.
This is not simply a nasty comment. Even based on what is publicly known, what was publicly known a year ago, that Manafort has been involved in highly questionable foreign representation for decades and a lot of financial transactions that look like money laundering. As I said last night about President Trump, lots of people slip through for years or decades without getting in trouble for their financial crimes. Some never get caught. Going to the white hot center of the US political process is a really good way to get caught.
Why would Manafort do that?
One plausible explanation is simple hubris. Arrogance makes people stupid. But there are other indications that Manafort needed money, that he was overextended and desperate. But he, quite conspicuously, worked for Trump for free.
That’s odd. Because there’s nothing about Paul Manafort and his forty years in the US political world that suggests he works cheap or for free. But a salary is not the only way or even the primary way someone like Manafort could restore himself financially through getting tight with Donald Trump. The big pay off would be in the influence he would gain and the money he could make off the work – either re-juiced for the US political game or to get the big money in Russia or the Ukraine with his influence batteries recharged. We know about exchanges Manafort had with colleagues speculating about how he could ‘make himself whole’ based on the newfound celebrity, particularly in the former Soviet sphere.
After Manafort sealed his arrangement with Trump, he asked his Ukrainian fixer Konstanin Kilimnik to pass on word to top Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska that he could provide briefings on the campaign if Deripaska would find that helpful. Manafort and Deripaska had a longstanding business relationship. Manafort also asked Kilimnik “How do we use [this] to get whole?” In other words, can do we use working for Trump to recoup their finances.
Here are some questions that need to be asked.
How did Manafort come to work for Donald Trump? Apparently Roger Stone recommended him to Trump. (The two men are former business partners.) There is also what I have always considered an implausible story of how Manafort came to work for Trump by way of Trump confidante Thomas Barrack, head of Colony Capital.
Here’s part of the explanation of how it all came about from an April article in the Times by Glenn Thrush …
But it was Mr. Manafort who initiated the process for getting a job on the campaign, the documents show. It began when he sent two succinct memos to Mr. Trump through Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a mutual friend.
A couple of weeks earlier, Mr. Barrack met with Mr. Manafort for “coffee and snacks” at the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills, according to Jason Maloni, Mr. Manafort’s spokesman. He added that Mr. Barrack wanted his old friend to help the struggling campaign deal with potential challenges at the convention.
Mr. Maloni said that the memos were intended only to be talking points for Mr. Barrack’s pitch to the Trump family, but that after reading the packet, the candidate requested a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Manafort.
Remember that the original brief for Manafort on the campaign was to wrangle fractious Republican delegates to secure the nomination in Cleveland. There was lots of talk about delegate shenanigans to try to stop the Trump juggernaut. Manafort had experience from working delegates for Gerald Ford in 1976 during the Reagan insurgency. Manafort reportedly understood the delegates rules and processes better than anyone else. He was perfect for the job.
That was always a totally nonsensical claim. The idea that 40-year-old familiarity with the nominal delegate rules and bylaws trumped not having actively worked in US politics for decades – over a period in which the GOP had changed radically – is ludicrous. That simply makes no sense. Manafort’s a smart guy. It’s not like he couldn’t help. But the idea that he was somehow singularly qualified is pure nonsense.
The idea to bring in Manafort for advice started with Tom Barrack? Or it started with Manafort? How did it start? I think we need a much clearer explanation from Tom Barrack about just how he was involved in this.
As I noted yesterday, spies look for people who are crooked and people who are desperate. Manafort looks like he was both. How and why did he come to work for Donald Trump?