It’s been a hard week for Paul Manafort.
On Tuesday evening, the New York Times published new details of the July FBI raid on his home, which was conducted with a rare no-knock warrant. At almost the same hour, CNN revealed that Manafort had been under FBI surveillance since 2014 when Donald Trump hired him to run the campaign. Responding to the headlines, previous campaign manager Corey Lewandowski switched from denying any Russian involvement to instead saying that Manafort should spend the rest of his life in prison if prosecutors can prove he colluded with the Kremlin.
But Wednesday was even worse. In a span of just a few hours yesterday evening, three different outlets published very bad news for Manafort.
First was CNN, which revealed that Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel office is looking into the last 11 years of Manafort’s activities in the Ukraine and elsewhere — a period that includes his sketchy work for Kremlin oligarchs such as Oleg Deripaska.
Less than an hour later, Washington Post reporters peeled back the lid on Manafort’s communications with Deripaska intermediaries, including an email two weeks before the Republican National Convention in which he proffered a private briefing on the campaign.
The notes appear to be written in deliberately vague terms, with Manafort and his longtime employee, Konstantin Kilimnik, never explicitly mentioning Deripaska by name. But investigators believe that key passages refer to Deripaska, who is referenced in some places by his initials, “OVD,” according to people familiar with the emails. One email uses “black caviar,” a Russian delicacy, in what investigators believe is a veiled reference to payments Manafort hoped to receive from former clients.
That would be the same Konstantin Kilimnik with a background in Russian military intelligence who reportedly bragged all over Kiev that he was responsible for the Republican Party’s bizarre convention platform changes on Ukraine.
According to sources who spoke to the Post, Manafort’s emails include tantalizing evidence that he sought to trade on his campaign position to resolve financial quarrels with Deripaska, who sued Manafort at one point over missing millions that were supposed to be invested in the United States.
In one April exchange days after Trump named Manafort as a campaign strategist, Manafort referred to his positive press and growing reputation and asked, “How do we use to get whole?”
Manafort also used his campaign email account for these conversations, making it much harder to argue that they were unrelated to the Trump campaign.
Then later in the evening, the New York Times reported that Manafort is a paid promoter for the Kurdish independence vote next Monday, a move that the United States, its allies, and even some if its enemies oppose. A declared Kurdish state would destabilize Iraq and the Middle East, potentially starting yet another bloody regional conflict.
It’s hard to sympathize with Paul Manafort. He keeps working against American interests, his role in American politics seems to be all about promoting the best interests of Moscow, and all to enrich himself. No wonder federal prosecutors have reportedly told him to expect an indictment.
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