Is Paul Manafort my John Dean?
At first glance, I am not much like my father. He was a professional man, dedicated to building his architectural firm, reliable, respectful, a liberal Democrat, faithful to his wife, a military officer and a patriot. He believed the system would deliver justice and fairness if we voted for the right political candidates. My father was concerned with appearance, dressed conscientiously and carefully. He would not go out on a business lunch with his secretary unescorted, not because he was worried something untoward might happen, but because others might think something was happening. [I, in contrast, started a romance with my father secretary and stole her away to the commune.]
But current events are turning me more into him that I might normally admit. I remember in the summer of 1973 my parents and brother went to Mexico on vacation. It was the height of the Watergate investigation and my father was riveted to the coverage. I remember he bought a radio so while the rest of us were running around on the beach he could listen intently to the scratchy radio station broadcasting the Senate hearings. He was especially excited about John Dean who betrayed the president and catalyzed his ultimate resignation. My father disliked Nixon with a rare passion.
It is a different time, but I find myself mimicking my old man. Willow, Hawina and I are currently in Cuba. But back in the US, the Trump/Russia scandal is unraveling and every evening I am huddling around the internet listening to various new broadcasts drinking in every new nefarious detail. And perhaps my John Dean is Paul Manafort.
If you have not been following the Russia scandal closely you can be forgiven for not knowing exactly who Paul Manafort is. He was the Trump Campaign manager from March of 2016 until he was fired as his deep connections to the Russians were revealed, in Aug 2016. Manafort has a long colorful history of helping increasingly dangerous politicians. Two years after law school he worked on the “re-election” campaign for unelected US president Gerald Ford. Manafort received about $1 million for lobbying for Congo’s kleptocrat and brutal dictator Mobutu. He got another cool million image crafting for Ferdinand Marcos, the brutal dictator of the Philipines. The secret ledger recovered after the overthrow of the treasonous Ukrainian president, Yanukovych show Manafort was paid $12.7 million for his work helping elect the pro-Russia president. Hacked text messages between Manaforts adult daughters discussing their father include gems like:
- “Don’t fool yourself, that money we have is blood money.”
- “You know he has killed people in Ukraine? Knowingly,”
- “He is a sick fucking tyrant, and we keep showing up and dancing for him and eating the lobster. Nothing changes.”
Manafort, who is young looking 68, came out of retirement to work for Trump. He “had no relationship with Trump” before the election. In his 5 page application to Trump, he played down his brilliant work with autocrats and instead hyped three things which apparently won job or him:
- He was willing to work for free
- He lives in Trump Tower in NYC
- He was a Washington outsider and an enemy of Karl Rove
But was he really working for free? Between 2006 and at least 2009, Manafort was paid secretly $10 million each year by Ukrainian aluminum magnate on a plan to “greatly benefit the Putin Government”. Manafort took cryptic notes during the infamous July 9th meeting with Donald Trump Jr and Jared Kushner and several Russians offering damaging intel on Hillary Clinton. These notes referred to the RNC and political contributions from the Russians. If this turns out to have happened, it is treason.
Less exciting than treason is tax fraud. Manafort is reported to have received $60 million in loans, through shady banks in Cyprus and sketchy domestic connections. Manafort has been told he will be indicted. Mueller has brought in the special IRS Criminal Investigation Unit (IRS-CI), which seems to mean he has evidence of at least tax fraud, likely of Manafort, possibly Trump himself.
The question still stands, will Mueller to get Manafort to sing? Meaning will he testify against the president in exchange for Mueller getting the testimony he needs to indite Trump. If Manafort is willing to betray Trump to save himself, it may well mean he, like John Dean before him, brings down the president.