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‘Get the emails’: The stunning revelations about Trump in new Mueller probe materials

Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

[Regarding this story: ‘Get the emails’: Revealed memos suggest Mueller probe failed America. Can Congress fix it?]

Over the weekend a slew of documents were made public as a result of a FOIA request by BuzzFeed and CNN to obtain unpublished Mueller investigation materials. It’s a grab bag of pretty revealing stuff, but there were two standout takeaways. The first (discussed deeper in story above) is that Trump instructed his campaign staff to “get the emails,” referring of course to the Russian-hacked emails belonging to the DNC.

Which of course is a long way from “no collusion.”


And which makes one wonder why such a stunning detail was excluded from Mueller’s report. To be fair, it may have been included but redacted, and there’s litigation brought by the House that will eventually result in a far less redacted version being made available, in all likelihood.

The other big revelation is that as early as late 2016 Paul Manafort was pushing the conspiracy theory that it was Ukraine and not Russia that interfered in the US election, which conspiracy theory Trump is still pushing to this day (and pushed in his phone call with Zelensky).

For whatever shortcomings the Mueller Report owns (which shortcomings are especially obvious after this weekend), it provided reams of detailed evidence — names, dates, IP addresses — to support its conclusion that it was Russia’s “Internet Research Agency” that did the hacking.

Manafort, who had been fired when his criminal activity became too hot for the Trump campaign to handle, continued to advise Trump behind the scenes, right up through election day.

And today Manafort remains the sole source for what lies beneath Trump’s expected defense to impeachment — that “rooting out corruption” is within the ambit of the president’s executive power to conduct foreign policy.

Manafort’s fabrications are meritless on their face but it’s when you drill down into Manafort’s history that his motives become obvious, and which motivations render those stories all the more preposterous.

Manafort was the campaign manager for the most corrupt leader Ukraine had ever known, the Russian-installed Viktor Yanukovych. When Yanukovych was ousted in a popular revolt Manafort’s part in that corrupt regime’s history also became plain. A black ledger book emerged during the Trump campaign tracing millions going to Manafort.
So it’s now become true that Trump’s defense against impeachment in large part mirrors Paul Manafort’s criminal and reputational defense, as well as whatever other incentives still motivate Manafort. Recall that Manafort was attempting to pen pro-Russian editorials from jail while awaiting trial. And recall that Manafort handed Trump campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, someone US intelligence believes is Russian intelligence.

So it’s all a bit fucking rich when you start to pick at Trump’s obsession with “Crowdstrike” and “a server in Ukraine” because it leads you straight to Paul Manafort’s factually bankrupt, self-serving explanation for why he’s not personally guilty of anything and why his former Russia-aligned oligarch employers aren’t guilty of interfering in the 2016 US election. At a time when Trump should be distancing himself a million miles from Paul Manafort he’s quietly, implicitly embracing him with both arms. Why is that?

It could simply be the case that Manafort’s own defense conveniently exonerates Trump on so many fronts, while also conveniently legitimizes his election, and that’s all Trump sees. And that would be enough.

But I’d also allow for the possibility that Trump is similarly situated as Manfort — he’s indebted to the same people (either literally the same or closely connected) as Manafort owed. So his defense is naturally the same less due to convenience and serendipity and more because he shares Manafort’s incentives and disincentives. They’re on different tiers, obviously, because Trump suddenly has more to offer, but they’re both still forever just two guys paying off mob debt.

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