The only thing worse than a political novice who doesn’t listen to his professional advisors is one who picks the wrong times to take their advice. That may be what we are dealing with in the Donald Trump-Paul Manafort relationship.
It’s only Tuesday morning as I write this but it is already shaping up to be another bad week for the Trump campaign. Monday the New York Times broke the story that Trump’s top campaign aide’s name was found on secret ledgers in Ukraine that showed 22 off the books cash payments totaling $12.7 million going to him. Tuesday it was revealed that Manafort has been named in an official probe of wrongdoing. That doesn’t even count the conservative, Rupert Murdoch owned, Wall Street Journal turning on Trump and bad “reviews” by the fact checkers of Trump’s Monday “major” foreign policy speech. Today I just want to explore the Manafort connection.
Manafort worked as a political consultant for Victor Yanukovych and his pro-Russian Party of Regions. About two years ago after being deposed in the Orange Revolution, Yanukovych fled to Russia. Now the Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau is investigating where the money vanished to under Yanukovych’s rule. Interestingly they have an evidence sharing agreement with the FBI. One thing we know is that Manafort personally did not register as a foreign agent with the US Justice Department during that time. However it appears a sub-contractor and possibly his firm Davis, Manafort and Freedman did. Manafort denies that he ever received cash payments, although to my knowledge he has not denied his firm did. If in fact cash payments were received the IRS might be interested which opens up another can of worms.
To believe that the ledgers are bogus would require the person in question be a fool. Was Yanukovych simply using Manafort’s name to hide his outright theft of government funds? That is possible but other entries of payments to election officials don’t seem to support that theory. It, in fact, appears very believable that Manafort received secret cash payments.
Yanukovych was not the only unsavory character Manafort has taken on as a client. He also worked for Zaire’s Mubutu Sese Sako and the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos. Both of them are infamous for among other things stealing the government’s cash. There is certainly a sleaze factor that surrounds Donald Trump. Could Trump simply be another typical Manafort client?
Trump has softened his position on Crimea, questioned our future in NATO, called upon Russia to electronically spy on the United States and increased his praise of Vladimir Putin since Manafort joined his inner circle. Are we dealing with a cause and effect situation or just a coincidence? If it walks like a duck, etc. is my conclusion!
The first Trump controversy of this week is his voter intimidation plot. He has been running around claiming the election will be “Rigged”. (Interesting how you never get that argument from someone with a healthy lead.) He is asking his loyalists to sign up to be “Trump Election Observers”. It turns out Manafort used similar verbiage in 2006 in Ukraine and trained over 1,200 loyalists to, “Prevent or detect fraud on Election Day.”
Just how much The Donald listens to anyone whose last name isn’t Trump has been an open question during this cycle. Manafort has seemed to leak that he has no control of Trump and is just mailing it in. Could that be a CYA strategy on Manafort’s part in anticipation of an Electoral College landslide loss? Under that scenario if Trump somehow wins Manafort is a hero and a genius; if Trump loses Manafort says he wouldn’t listen to me so it’s not my fault. He puts himself in a no lose situation.
I can’t wait for the “tell all” books coming out of the Jeb Bush and Trump campaigns. How Bush lost to this guy is amazing. The Trump campaign simply defies political science logic. Here is the really scary part: we still have almost three months to go.
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