The judge’s instructions to Paul Manafort when he was granted bail were pretty simple. As ABC News, along with a number of major outlets have reported, president Judge Amy Berman Jackson “has placed a gag order on this trial and admonished all parties ‘not to try this case on the courthouse steps’ adding ‘This is a criminal trial. Not a public relations campaign.” Sounds pretty clear, right?
Manafort, who has been under house arrest since he was brought in by the Mueller investigation team on October 12th of this year and charged with numerous counts, including money laundering, has recently been seeking less restrictive conditions on his bail. It had appeared that Mueller was willing to consider this, especially after Manafort agreed to put up additional properties he owned as part of his bail.
But all of that changed last week when the federal investigators discovered that Manafort had been ghostwriting an opinion editorial (op/ed) designed to sway public opinion favorably towards his case. To make this story even more incredible, the person he was working with on the article has been identified as a Russian intel-related operative. If Tom Clancy or Brad Thor had tried to insert this scenario into one of their novels, their editors most likely would have laughingly requested that it be removed.
Mueller moved quickly to stop the publication of the article, and will not release its contents. In their motion against lightening the bail conditions for Manafort the government stated “Even if the ghostwritten op/ed had been entirely accurate, fair, and balanced, it would have been a violation of this Court’s November 8 ruling if it had been published.” But it gets even better. “It compounds the problem that the proposed piece is not a dispassionate recitation of the facts.” In layman’s terms, what Manafort proposed writing was simply not true.
To put it bluntly, by attempting the circumvent the court’s gag order by writing an opinion article favorable to himself, with the help of a Russian intel-related agent, that would be published under someone else’s name, Manafort has most definitely “screwed the pooch.” People across the country have been writing “what was he thinking?” when he did this and “how could anybody be so stupid?”
Mueller is no longer considering lightening Manafort’s bail conditions. As his team told the court “Because bail is essentially about trust … and because the newly discovered facts cast doubt on Manafort’s willingness to comply with this Court’s Orders, Manafort’s proposed bail package does not provide the reasonable assurance required by the Bail Reform Act.” Well, duh.
The Mueller team goes on to say that “In the event the Court disagrees, the government respectfully requests a fully secured bond and full-time GPS monitoring.”
Manafort should consider himself a lucky man that Mueller did not request that he be denied bail completely and put his happy self behind bars. It also makes one wonder what caliber of people Trump surrounded himself during his campaign and afterwards. Yes, his spokespeople from KellyAnne Conway to Sean Hannity have tried to downplay Manafort’s role in the Trump campaign, but he still served for five months as his campaign manager, replacing the hapless Corey Lewandowski, and many give him the credit for securing Trump the nomination at the Republican National Convention.
As many people are finally beginning to figure out, Donald Trump is not the brightest bulb in the pack. That, in and of itself, would not be such a serious problem if he had knowledgeable and smart advisors whose advice he heeded. However, neither of those situations has occurred. Trump seems to be following the business model that you make yourself look smart by hiring people who are stupider that you are. If that is the case, he has most assuredly been successful.
In the meantime, Robert Mueller is relentlessly pursuing his investigation and the members of team Trump are constantly looking over their shoulders to see who will be the next one to be indicted. So far we’ve seen Manafort Monday and Flynn Friday. Will the next be a Mike (Pence) Monday? Or better still a Trump Tuesday.