Trump is likely to commit a major unforced error in response to Monday’s bombshell report that Robert Mueller has accused Paul Manafort of witness tampering.
In a stunning revelation, The New York Times reported Monday evening that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has filed documents with the federal court accusing former Trump campaign manager and longtime associate Paul Manafort of witness tampering.
According to The New York Times, those court documents said that “Mr. Manafort tried to contact witnesses by phone and through an encrypted messaging program.”
Prosecutors said that was a violation of Mr. Manafort’s release while he awaits trial. They asked a federal judge to revise the terms of his release or revoke it entirely, which would send him to jail until trial.
An F.B.I. agent, Brock W. Domin, wrote in court documents that at least one witness reported Mr. Manafort’s contact and said that he appeared to be trying to coach their story about Mr. Manafort’s lobbying practices.
Former criminal investigator and criminal defense attorney, Seth Abramson, weighed in on the situation Tuesday morning, predicting a disastrous response from Trump to the escalating situation.
Sounds like a bail revocation—and new indictment—are coming for Manafort. A defendant sitting in jail pre-trial is far more likely to flip on a Big Fish than one lounging in his living room. This could be a big deal, especially if this case—and/or the new one—drags on for months.
— Seth Abramson (@SethAbramson) June 5, 2018
Abramson began, ominously writing: “Sounds like a bail revocation—and new indictment—are coming for Manafort. A defendant sitting in jail pre-trial is far more likely to flip on a Big Fish than one lounging in his living room. This could be a big deal, especially if this case—and/or the new one—drags on for months.”
Continuing his analysis he wrote:
What this is likely to do is hasten Trump making his first—and perhaps last—Big Unforced Error: pardoning Manafort on the theory that he can’t risk Manafort sitting in jail pre-trial and thereby getting cold feet about “staying strong” for Trump (i.e., keeping his mouth shut). Don’t forget that, per Howard Fineman of NBC, Donald Trump has told friends that Manafort can seriously hurt him if he flips. So the Manafort Pardon Watch will begin the moment Manafort’s bail is revoked, if not well before then—i.e., *right now*. This is a *huge* development.
Abramson went on to note that the immediate question is “when did Donald Trump last speak to Paul Manafort, either directly or through an intermediary? There were rumors former Trump lawyer John Dowd floated a pardon—and we know Trump stayed in touch with Manafort months after firing him.”
Legal experts and pundits had been questioning whether something was about to happen with Manafort after Trump posted two tweets over the weekend mentioning Manafort as he has said little to nothing about him subsequent to his surrender to federal authorities on October 30, 2017 to face several federal charges — which include alleged bank fraud and foreign lobbying violations.
Abramson picked up on this as well, writing: “Note that Trump suddenly began tweeting about Manafort—trying to distance himself from him, after not discussing him much for months—over the past 48-72 hours. What did he hear about this sudden Mueller filing *beforehand*—and how, and from whom? All questions needing answers.”
Abramson concluded his analysis by discussing the procedural steps Manafort is facing in the courtroom:
- Now for the *law*: when a defendant is accused of violating his pretrial release conditions, the court holds a hearing on the alleged violation and can either remand the defendant to government custody (incarcerate him pending trial), modify his bail conditions, or do nothing.
- If the judge finds *probable cause* the defendant committed a new crime while on bail OR *clear and convincing evidence* the defendant violated a condition of his release, bail can be revoked. In Manafort’s case revocation almost *certainly* would mean immediate incarceration.
- The court will hold a hearing ASAP, and either at that hearing or soon thereafter we should expect one or more Witness Tampering charges against Manafort, for which a separate bail will then have to be set. That bail would likely be *very* high due to the nature of the charge.
- Witness Tampering charges tend to accrue high bails—putting aside Manafort’s separate bail revocation issue on his *existing* charges—because *definitionally* they imply a defendant is predisposed to commit *new* crimes if left free while his federal criminal case is pending.
- Add all this to the fact that Manafort is currently facing two separate sets of charges, and I’ll tell you now that the chances Paul Manafort is about to be incarcerated for *months* pretrial are *very* high. So too, then, are the chances Manafort starts considering flipping.
As is his frequent pattern, Abramson provided a post script, which read: “Many defendants simply lose it the moment they’re incarcerated, particularly those who’ve lived “soft”—i.e. luxury-filled—lives like Manafort. You can bet Trump is now on RED ALERT about the need to pardon Manafort or somehow get a message to him that he eventually will.”
For those unfamiliar with his work, Abramson has been publishing extensive Twitter threads and mega-threads regarding the ongoing investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. And, while he has his critics, Abramson – a former public defender at both the state and federal level – has an impressive resume.
Seth is regularly interviewed about politics and higher education by domestic and International media. Recent interviews include the BBC, CNN, NPR, PBS, ABC Radio, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Magazine, and The New England Review of Books. Seth’s essays have also been widely cited, including discussions on CNBC, PBS, FNC, BET, and NPR, as well as in Politico, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy, Slate, and Pitchfork.
If you are interested in reading more, Twitter user @chicken_afraido created a document linking to every Trump-Russia thread published by Abramson going back to autumn of 2016. The document begins with his updated bio from 8 December 2017, but then hops to his latest threads and works in reverse chronological order. He also has a web page linking to Abramson’s threads using category listings for those interested in a breakdown by topic.