Manafort’s connection to Trump was not ‘very short,’ it was the heart of Trump’s campaign
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That Paul Manafort would be the first of Trump’s team pulled in by Robert Mueller comes as no surprise. After all, interest in Manafort’s activities overseas goes back years and the former campaign chair was already under close observation before the election. No only did investigators conduct an early morning search based on a no-knock warrant at one of Manafort’s properties, they also questioned Manafort’s son-in-law in an effort to untangle on some of the mysterious “loans” that Manafort seems to receive on a regular basis. The real wonder is how Manafort stayed out of jail this long.
While Donald Trump began insisting that Manafort had worked on his campaign “for a very short time” back in September, the truth is that Manafort joined early in the primaries and managed Trump’s campaign to the convention and beyond. Manafort, who had previously worked on the campaigns of Ford, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bob Dole—along with a selection of foreign dictators and autocrats—was seen as bringing some needed legitimacy after Trump’s surprise success in South Carolina and Super Tuesday states turned him from a big joke to an even bigger concern. Within weeks of joining the campaign, Trump was turning to Manafort over then campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. At the start of June, Trump fired Lewandowski and made Manafort the campaign chairman. Manafort was at the helm during the writing of the Republican platform, planning the convention, and plotting Trump’s strategy for the general election. It wasn’t until August when pressure over Manafort’s unraveling connections to Russian actions in Ukraine forced Trump to drop his campaign chair.
Trump’s “very short time” was actually six months at the heart of his campaign. And his contribution can best be described by one of Trump’s favorite people.
Manafort was part of the leadership team in Donald Trump Jr.’s office on June 9 for the infamous meeting with Russian representatives promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. And Trump was clearly thrilled to have him on board.
Securing Manafort has obviously been an important aspect of Mueller’s investigation. Enough so that he has worked together with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, which will make any pardon for Manafort problematic.
Some sources have indicated that the specific charges against Manafort and his associate Rick Gates that were filed on Monday are related to tax evasion in 2010. Filing the charges at this time may have been required to avoid statues of limitations on these charges.This is actually very early for an investigation like Mueller’s to be producing charges. It took an average of seventeen months for previous special counsel/special prosecutor investigations to deliver their first charges. However, existing investigations into Manafort likely sped up the process.