A circus takes place in three rings so that the audience does not pay too close attention to any one thing. The spectacle gains credibility in the deliberate chaos. “There’s a sucker born every minute,” is a quote attributed to the great producer of circuses, P.T. Barnum. This came to mind perusing the indictment of Paul Manafort.
There is nothing in the indictment about 2016 or President Trump. It is instead about professional services Manafort provided when Trump was a highly rated reality show host. There are suit purchases, wire transfers, and somewhere in there, I’m sure, dancing elephants. But nothing about collusion to steal the presidential election, which the Special Counsel was supposed to resolve once and for all.
Instead, the Ringmaster keeps the action moving without anything being resolved. The audience is meant to gasp at the clown teetering on the unicycle. In this week’s death-defying-stunt, we are supposed to believe that the investigation began as a sincere, by the book, search for truth about collusion, and the breadcrumb trail of clues has led to, golly would you look at that, Paul Manafort.
As I wrote here on October 3, this has always been about Paul Manafort. The FBI has been investigating him for the allegations in the indictment since Mueller was director. The matter went nowhere. Manafort operates like many Washington consultants, drawing huge fees from foreign governments. The fees are booked and reported according to arcane rules with broad possibilities for self-serving interpretations. Is that criminal?
Let’s put it this way: If all foreign payments that went to private interests in Washington were subjected to the same level of scrutiny as Manafort’s, everyone would be in jail. The Clinton Foundation would have its own cell block. That is why the FBI never went after Manafort before this. It would have opened a can of worms.
Whoever is behind this knew from the start that they could indict Manafort by dusting off some old FBI files and convening a grand jury. As of right now, the crime of the century about Russia stealing the election is really a stale investigation from the Obama Administration resurrected for dramatic effect.
There are major gaps, which happens when investigations from 2014 are retrofitted to look like a stolen election in 2016. The indictment covers Manafort’s consulting activity in Ukraine. The order defining the Special Counsel’s authority was to investigate, “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” Last time I checked, Ukraine is not Russia. The order had to say something about Russia but, as is now obvious, that was the bait and Ukraine would be the switch.
If Donald Trump had a competent Justice Department overseeing things, Mueller would have been clipped and cut and told to stay within the bounds of his investigative authority. Instead, the Attorney General has recused himself from the Russian investigation, for no good reason. The second in command is hiding in his office, scared of the powerful forces he in a moment of extreme spinelessness has unleashed. President Trump is in a chess match with a grandmaster, and his Justice Department’s first move was to cede his Queen.
Last week, when it could have been providing some oversight to Mueller, the Justice Department was busy announcing that it finally got the IRS to admit that it treated the Tea Party unfairly. Clap, clap. Hey, Troy State you know that game you thought you lost to USC in 2004, 64-0. Well, we just disqualified them for a recruiting violation. You won! The only surprise is that Sessions took any time off from prosecuting Nancy Reagan’s war on marijuana dealers to address a concern as recent as the 2012 election.
As powerful Republicans in Washington are busy avoiding fights, the rest of us are seeing this for what it is. Manafort spent less than two months at the helm of Trump’s campaign, most of it the downtime of the conventions. It is a conspiracy theory unworthy even of John McCain to think he used those few weeks recalibrating Trump’s election bid to conform with Putin’s preexisting scheme to rob Hillary Clinton of her birthright. Proving that, though, is now the Hail Mary mission of the Special Counsel.
Last week, it was revealed that the so-called Dossier was a Clinton campaign dirty trick to manufacture dirt on Trump. The FBI was assisting the Clinton campaign in this effort, using the Dossier to conduct its own investigation to connect the Trump campaign to Russia. That is the biggest smoking gun yet in the Russia probe. As Senator Grassley has asked, why didn’t the FBI warn Trump about Manafort? Because Comey preferred that Trump step into his Manafort trap, that’s why. To warn Trump would have disturbed the Clinton campaign’s staging of a dirty trick.
If so, then this entire investigation has just been the Washington establishment engaging in campaign shenanigans on the part of a political party in a presidential election. Doubt me? Consider that the task of the Special Counsel is the same one the Clinton campaign first gave to Fusion GPS: find dirt on Trump with Russia. There is something disturbingly wrong with that.
The only reason people cannot see this clearly is that the Ringmaster is keeping them distracted. Nothing is ever ruled out. There is one last act, too. The triple lindy flying trapeze show stopper yet to come: “Step right up and give it a whirl, Paul Manafort – say nasty things about Trump and Russia for us and escape prison.” That one is guaranteed to bring the house down.