A curious article appeared in the New York Times today. It seems a little disorganized as would be the case with important, but late-breaking news. Still, it contains interesting points that whet the appetite for more information.
Robert Mueller has been investigating Russian interference in the American presidential election of November 2016. Mueller’s team of prosecutors charged Paul Manafort, President Trump’s transient campaign manager, with various forms of fraud related to his work as a consultant to pro-Russian candidates in Ukraine through 2014. Manafort worked out a plea deal with Mueller. That deal required his full co-operation with the prosecutors. Now, prosecutors want to break the deal. They argue that Manafort has lied on multiple occasions. They want to dump a ton of bricks on him.
To justify throwing the book at Manafort, the prosecutors could have to provide some evidence of exactly how and in what regard he did lie to them. Failing that, the defense could claim that Manafort did provide truthful information. Normally, the burden of proof rests on the prosecution. Hence, the sentencing memorandum may reveal important information from Mueller’s investigation. This might run beyond Paul Manafort’s actions as far as the president.
First, although he had a plea deal with the prosecutors, Manafort’s lawyers secretly consulted with President Trump’s lawyers about the lines of investigation being pursued by Mueller. Although such discussions “violated no laws,” Mueller and his team are exercised nonetheless. Did they have an agreement with Mr. Manafort that he would not consult with the President’s lawyers? If they did, and if Manafort repeatedly stated that he had held no such talks even as his lawyers met with White House lawyers, then this would be grounds for breaking the plea deal.
Second, Mr. Mueller’s team “accused Mr. Manafort of holding out on them” despite his pledge to assist them in any matter they deemed relevant. “Holding out” usually means withholding facts. So far, the statements in the NYT are ambiguous. According to Rudolph Giuliani, himself a former Federal prosecutor and now a special counsel to President Trump, “He [Robert Mueller] wants Manafort to incriminate Trump.” Did Manafort deny any collusion?
Third, in one paragraph, the NYT states that President Trump’s “tweets” tried to imply that “he had some inside information.” As evidence, the NYT story quotes Trump as saying that “the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want.” Does the president have evidence to this effect? If he does, then what does that say about the state of the Mueller investigation?
Finally, dumping Manafort back in the glue suggests that the federal prosecutors have no use for the testimony he has provided so far with regard to President Trump. That is, Manafort may have denied any collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russkies. If this is the area in which he lied, then Mueller must have a bunch of solid evidence from other sources with which to prove that Manafort lied. What is that source? What is that evidence?
In any event, when will Robert Mueller report?
 Michael S. Schmidt, Sharon Lafraniere, and Maggie Haberman, “Manafort Lawyer Briefs Trump Team on Inquiry,” NYT, 28 November 2018.