Paul Manafort earned tens of millions of dollars doing immoral and in many cases illegal things, and then hid the proceeds from the U.S. government. He ran a covert lobbying organization for murderous Ukraine dictator Viktor Yanukovych, and created paperwork to make it appear that the lobbyists’ client was a nongovernmental NGO, to evade FARA registration requirements and keep the operation secret. He did the bidding of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, and worked on regime change and installing puppet governments in places like Montenegro, to serve the interests of Deripaska and Putin.
Manafort moved nearly $75 million through offshore accounts that he controlled, and lied to his tax preparer about their existence to avoid paying taxes on it — a fact revealed by emails documenting the lie. He laundered that money through some 32 LLCs created to make the money seem legitimate. He lied to the federal government about whether he still possessed documentation relating to his work for Ukraine — a fact revealed after a search warrant was served on his home — to avoid FARA registration.
That he has been pardoned is predictable, but it is still a disgrace.
I have seen two defenses raised by Trumpy liars on Twitter. Both are false.
One is that Manafort never would have been investigated but for his involvement with Donald Trump. We are told that all investigations into Manafort had been closed, and were reopened by the Special Counsel. This is false. Whoever is saying it is either ignorant or is lying to you. I know this because I read the book by Manafort’s chief prosecutor, Andrew Weissman: Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation (affiliate link). I spent my morning reading time today re-reading several relevant passages from the book, to confirm my memory that four separate investigations were already ongoing and had not been closed when the Special Counsel entered the picture. The investigations included FARA, money laundering, bank fraud, and tax fraud issues. A new prosecutor had recently been appointed on one of those investigations.
While it is true that those investigations were being handled incompetently in many cases and at an indefensibly slow pace, they were ongoing. Manafort’s involvement with Trump did not “reopen” those investigations. It just got a competent and speedy prosecutor in charge of them.
The second defense I have seen is that Manafort is an old man serving a long sentence for “process crimes.” Yes, Manafort lied to the feds and avoided FARA registration requirements, and I suppose those crimes can be fairly called “process crimes” (although I dislike the term). But if the term “process crimes” has been redefined to encompass massive tax evasion and money laundering of tens of millions of dollars, then it has lost all meaning. More likely, the people making this claim are just lying to you. They have sold their souls for the defense of every action Donald Trump takes, and whether their defenses are true or false is, to them, a minor matter of little importance.
Ultimately, Donald Trump is going to pardon everyone who refused to “rat” on him and allow convictions to stand only for cooperators like Michael Cohen and Rick Gates. This is what happens when you give the pardon power to a criminal. Some kind of constitutional reform has to happen, or the pardon power will come to be seen for all time as little more than another tool for presidents to remain above the law.