Week 12: Putting the Squeeze on Paul Manafort – JACK SHAFER August 12, 2017

The FBI tightens the screws in the Russia investigation.

Donald Trump and Paul Manafort are pictured. | Getty Images.
Brooks Kraft/Getty Images

At the rate Robert S. Mueller is going, he will soon have enough material to write an eight-volume biography of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort with enough material left over to construct a Manafort Broadway musical, a Manafort video game and a Manafort theme park. According to news reports this week, the special counsel has hoovered up practically every document, receipt, international bank transaction, tax record and perhaps grocery list connected to Manafort that pertains to the Russia investigation. The Mueller stash includes the tax and financial documents seized in a July 26 FBI raid of Manafort’s Alexandria, Virginia, condominium, news of which surfaced in the Washington Post this week.

Given this prosecutorial quickening, the scandal that still has no name should have commanded greater attention this week. Instead, interest in the Manafort story fell by the wayside as the vacationing president commenced jabbering the United States into 1) a possible nuclear war with North Korea and 2) a possible conventional one with Venezuela. How can one concentrate on a political scandal when a misplaced word at a New Jersey golf club might culminate in many of us choking to death on radwaste?

If you did steady your mind against visions of the apocalypse, the week’s development gave you a new understanding of where the Mueller investigation might be going. Prosecutors love to start low and work up the investigative ladder, flipping smaller suspects like Manafort to provide evidence and testimony that will convict the biggest perpetrators. Squeezing Manafort by scrutinizing his paper trail to nail President Donald Trump fits that model perfectly.

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