Trump Must Be Punished for the Manafort Pardon
When Donald Trump commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, I wrote this (emphasis in original):
The president has no “right” to exercise authority in the Constitution. The Constitution gives him the power to do several things – including pardon and commutation power. Having said power does not allow him to use it to obstruct justice. The ordinary American with a driver’s license has the power to operate an automobile. That doesn’t absolve one who drives the getaway car in a bank robbery, or transports an abductee, or even violates speeding limits. If one is using power to prevent themselves from being exposed for criminal behavior, then the power is being abused.
Yesterday, Donald Trump abused his pardon power again, this time to obstruct justice via pardoning Paul Manafort (Washington Post, emphasis added):
With Wednesday’s pardon of Manafort, Trump has now intervened to aid five people charged in the Russia probe, which was eventually taken over by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The White House announcement made no secret that Trump was taking aim at that investigation; it said Manfort’s (sic) convictions were “premised on the Russian collusion hoax,” and that the pardon for Stone would “help to right the injustices he faced at the hands of the Mueller investigation.”
For those still willing to cling to the utterly ignorant notion that Trump has any credibility on this, I remind you of what Mueller actually found in his investigation (as he reported):
Separately, on August 2, 2016, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met in New York City with his long-time business associate Konstantin Kilimnik, who the FBI assesses to have ties to Russian intelligence. Kilimnik requested the meeting to deliver in person a peace plan for Ukraine that Manafort acknowledged to the Special Counsel’s Office was a “backdoor” way for Russia to control part of eastern Ukraine; both men believed the plan would require candidate Trump’s assent to succeed (were he to be elected President). They also discussed the status of the Trump Campaign and Manafort’s strategy for winning Democratic votes in Midwestern states. Months before that meeting, Manafort had caused internal polling data to be shared with Kilimnik, and the sharing continued for some period of time after their August meeting.
Under the Yanukovych-backed plan, Russia would assist in withdrawing the military, and Donbas would become an autonomous region within Ukraine with its own prime minister. The plan emphasized that Yanukovych would be an ideal candidate…
To this day, we still don’t know how deep Manafort and Kilimnik linked the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence. Why you ask? Mueller answers that, too.
In resolving whether Manafort breached his cooperation plea agreement by lying to the Office, the district court found that Manafort lied about, among other things, his contacts with Kilimnik regarding the peace plan, including the meeting in Madrid.
This is, by the way, a peace plan being imposed on Ukraine as we speak.
Manafort saw this pardon coming. Indeed, it was implied from Trump’s legal team, as Mueller again notes.
In January 2018, Manafort told Gates that he had talked to the President’s personal counsel and they were “going to take care of us.” Manafort told Gates it was stupid to plead, saying that he had been in touch with the President’s personal counsel and repeating that they should “sit tight” and “we’ll be taken care of.”
Of course, we don’t have enough evidence for certain that Trump obstructed justice by offering a pardon to Manafort. At the time Mueller produced his report, the pardon was merely implied. Now it is a reality.
I remind the readers again of my post from the Stone commutation. I called for a second impeachment. The only thing keeping me from doing it now is timing (although I do think the Democrats should start an inquiry in the House). However, what prevents impeachment from happening – the fact that Trump will be out of office in less than four weeks – also opens up a prosecution for obstruction of justice.
I freely acknowledge that I am not a lawyer. I also know that Joe Biden is not looking to reopen wounds. Unfortunately, the American republic would be harmed much more greatly if Trump finds no punishment for this travesty of justice.
Again, Trump certainly has the power to pardon – but I still hold that using presidential power to engage in criminal activity is still criminal activity. Manafort will be freed, which can’t be changed, but Trump can and must face justice for what he has done.
Or, as Tim Miller noted in The Bulwark,
People who are the victims of hoaxes do not obstruct justice and obstruct the truth about the most serious foreign attack on our elections in history.
Here is the truth.
Paul Manafort is the human embodiment of every negative trope about influence peddling and the Washington swamp.
The Republican-led Senate investigation concluded: “Manafort’s influence work . . . was, in effect, influence work for the Russian government and its interests.”
Part of that work was providing access to the top levels of the Trump campaign, which the Russian government was covertly assisting across many vectors.
Manafort lied and concealed this collusion with Russian operatives at every possible opportunity in order to protect his own ass and to protect Donald Trump.
These actions were nothing short of treasonous.
So is this pardon.
You may think treasonous is too strong a word.
Maybe you’re right.
I’ll accept “criminal” …
… and deserving of punishment requisite to the crime, so that every future president will know that behavior like this has consequences.
This is one instance where justice is more important than political peace.