Manafort trial: Russia-probe origins, but a main focus on fraud
“The government is quite happy to make this a relatively simple case about fraud. He got money, he lied about it, didn’t tell the IRS, didn’t tell the banks, and got rich doing so,” says Paul Rosenzweig, a senior fellow at the R Street Institute and a former prosecutor on the staff of independent counsel Ken Starr during the investigation of President Bill Clinton.
“That is a simple story to tell,” Mr. Rosenzweig says. “If they believe the evidence, jurors are not going to have trouble convicting Manafort.”[…]
Rosenzweig, the former federal prosecutor, says the lack of a plea deal may be stem from something more basic. Manafort may not have much, if anything, to offer prosecutors to justify a substantial sentence reduction as part of a plea deal.
“I and others would have expected Mr. Manafort to reach an agreement already,” he says. “If he is going to turn state’s evidence, so to speak, the time to do it is now before you take up three weeks of trial time and before you put the government to its proof.”
Experts say there is another possible explanation, however, behind Manafort’s apparent refusal to cooperate – that he may be hoping for a presidential pardon.
“This president has sent the kind of signals that someone like Manafort might interpret to mean, ‘If you stick with me, I’ll stick with you,’ ” Professor Sklansky says. He adds: “The very idea that someone like Manafort could think of relying on a pardon to get him out of the kind of money laundering charges he is facing is really troubling.”
Yet relying on a pardon seems like a long shot – and may hinge on what, if anything, Manafort actually knows.
“If Manafort knows nothing and Trump is convinced that Manafort knows nothing, then the only reason to pardon him is pure Christian charity – and whatever else you might say about Mr. Trump, that doesn’t describe him to me,” Rosenzweig says.