The noose tightens

The CREW guys and another lawyer explain some things about the Manfort convictions.

The conviction conclusively and publicly demonstrates what many of us have said since the start of the investigation: This is no “witch hunt.” It instead is one of the most successful special counsel investigations in history. Coming alongside the guilty plea by Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer, implicating the president in campaign finance violations, it was a very bad day for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Manafort’s conviction cannot be diminished by arguing, as Mr. Trump and his coterie are fond of doing, that the misconduct was unrelated to the Trump campaign or Russian “collusion.” On the contrary, the trial evidence included Mr. Manafort’s close ties to pro-Russia forces and his desperate financial straits as he “volunteered” his time for the next president. The trial revealed how willing Mr. Manafort was to corruptly leverage his position of influence over Mr. Trump during the campaign for his own personal benefit. He offered briefings to a pro-Russia Ukrainian oligarch and dangled a position in the Trump administration in front of a banker who provided him a loan for which he would not otherwise have qualified.

That in particular is useful – I’ve been unclear on what use Manafort made of his internship with the Trump campaign.

Mr. Manafort’s conviction should also send chills down the spines of other potential defendants, possibly including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr. and his informal adviser Roger Stone. As far as we know, they have been excluded from the hundreds of witnesses the special counsel has interviewed. That fact, and the public evidence about their conduct, signals that they may be facing Mr. Mueller’s scrutiny.

Oh really. Interesting.

The conviction is also bad news for the president because it increases the pressure on Mr. Manafort to cooperate with investigators. He has a second trial coming shortly in Washington, D.C., which could add even more time to what will likely be a substantial sentence — and Mr. Mueller reportedly has much more evidence to present to jurors in that trial than he did in the trial that just concluded.

Nor can Mr. Manafort simply wait for a presidential pardon. Mr. Trump hinted at one in his inappropriate tweets while the jury was deliberating, and has otherwise signaled his readiness to use his pardon pen. But should Mr. Trump pardon him, Mr. Manafort should expect state attorneys general to pick up under applicable state laws the threads of corruption and tax fraud that Mr. Mueller has already woven together. Unlike the federal crimes for which he has been convicted, state crimes cannot be wiped away with a presidential pardon. The risk of state charges maintains the pressure on Mr. Manafort to cooperate — especially after Tuesday’s conviction revealed what jurors think of his questionable business practices and other activities.

Bad day for Trump; good day – at last!! – for us.

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