The Plea Bag – Mueller outsmarts them all

November 27th 2018

Like everyone, I’m watching the spiral death dance of the Trump with a mixture of wonder and disgust.

We expected major developments from the Mueller probe this week, and we certainly have been getting those. They just aren’t the ones anyone expected.

What we’re getting is a whole lot more twistier and amusing.

Let’s start with Paul Manafort, once and future felon. Mueller’s office dropped the plea bargain arrangement they had up until yesterday, on the grounds that Manafort had been steadfastly and systematically lying to them.

Of course, there are dozens of theories about why Manafort would lie (nobody, as far as I know, has tried to suggest he wasn’t lying and Mueller is simply wrong). Perhaps Trump has been dangling a pardon, in itself obstruction of justice. Manafort may have been afraid of Trump, or some of Trump’s mob contacts, or perhaps Vladimir Putin. Or he may have just thought he could pull it off.

I can just picture Manafort meeting with one or two members of Mueller’s team. As Manafort talks, the Feds are enrapt, scribbling furiously or clacking their keyboards, even though everything is being videoed. Manafort will correctly assume this means they are taking his testimony very seriously, in a way a silent and unassuming camera eye cannot. It inflates Manafort’s sense of self-importance and self-worth.

Suddenly, the agent with the computer sighs and slaps the laptop shut. He sighs. “Damn thing crapped out again.” He looks at his partner. “Do you have yours handy?”

The partner shakes his head. “Died Wednesday. I was supposed to have one for this meeting. You know how important M thinks it is.”

The first agent turns to Manafort, a sad smile inviting sympathy. “You know how it is. You worked on the campaign. It’s the same here. People screaming at each other, in panic, nothing gets done.” He olds up his number 2 pencil. “Why if it wasn’t for this…”

Manafort nods sympathetically. He was the one sane man in the chaos of the Trump campaign.

Later, the agents make a friendly wager on how long it will take for their little “slip” to turn up in a Trump speech. Mueller runs a tight ship, but the White House leaks more than a geriatric ward, and so they know that Trump is trying to use Manafort as a mole into the Special Prosecutor’s activities.

And of course, it did start showing up in the speeches and trumpentweets. You have to wonder how many other false tidbits Mueller’s people fed to Manafort to confuse and divert the already confused and diverted Trump.

Then there’s the thing with Julian Assange. Mueller’s office filed a court document that accidentally named Assange as being under a sealed indictment. The document didn’t say what the charge(s) was, or when it was filed, and people thought it odd the normally legally meticulous Mueller legal team would make such an error.

But it apparently shook something loose. The Guardian reported yesterday that “Manafort visited Julian Assange three times at the Ecuadorian embassy, including once during the 2016 election.” That right there would send Steven Colbert’s right eyebrow clear up into his hairline. Then it broke that the Trump team had been conferring with Ecuador over their somewhat unwelcome sanctuary guest in their London embassy, meeting with them as recently as yesterday. The speculation is that they are begging Ecuador to NOT release Assange over to American authorities.

Gee, I remember being critical of Obama because he did want Assange turned over to American authorities. Strange times we live in, eh?

Manafort and the Trump people are vociferously denying the report, and given the general ethics and moral characters of those worthies, I can’t help but conclude that it means the report is true. Terribly unfair of me, I know, but when the ball keeps landing in double zero, it’s pretty stupid to bet against the house.

When Mueller asked for a ten day extension on the plea bargain arrangement with Manafort, everyone assumed he just wanted more time to draft his next round of major charges, and was just doing due diligence. We now know that can’t be the case, because we’ve learned that Mueller had proof Manafort was lying, and he knew what Manafort was lying about and when. And because he had to know Manafort was feeding information back to the Trump people through some likely-to-get-disbarred-if-not-imprisoned lawyers, he was systematically convincing Manafort he was being believed, and he was probably feeding disinformation for Manafort to send back to his homies.

So why the ten-day extension? The plea bargain deal was already dead. Why extend it to yesterday?

That’s the deadline for Trump to turn in his written answers to Mueller’s questions about cooperation between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

He turned them in with help from his lawyers who, through Manafort, believed they had a handle on what Mueller did and did not know, and thus had an idea what lies Trump could tell that would be safe.

This right here is a major disaster for Trump, but he really sealed his fate hours after he turned his under-oath answers to Mueller, publicly boasting that his lawyers did not write the responses, but that he did them himself. Every word.

The sad thing (OK, the hilariously sad thing) is that Trump is probably bullshitting and in reality probably just signed off on answers his lawyers wrote and probably had at best a dim understanding of their contents.

But his public boast stripped him of his one and only fig leaf, and the cold blasts of the perjury indictments are coming.

Somewhere in Mueller’s spartan offices, a couple of junior lawyers are holding up a number two pencil, and laughing their asses off. And they may have just helped save the country.

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