What Manafort’s guilty plea means for the Russia probe

Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, departs Federal District Court, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“This is more complicated than your average defendant flipping and cooperating because he may be cooperating against someone that he is hoping to get a pardon from.” – Ben Schreckinger, Politico Reporter

This morning news broke former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, plead guilty in court to two felonies — conspiracy against the United States and conspiracy to obstruct justice — and entered into a plea agreement that, in part, requires him to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. The development is significant in its nature, but how Manafort fits into the bewildering puzzle that has become the investigation is still a mystery.

Host Ethan Bearman called on an expert on the topic, Politico’s national political reporter, Ben Schreckinger, to get a better understanding of the possible outcomes that could emerge from Manafort “flipping.”

According to Schreckinger, his colleague received word from a person close to Manafort’s defense the cooperation element is not related to the Trump campaign colluding with Russia. If that holds true, he said it’s unclear what the two men would be in talks about.

“Generally people only give people leniency in exchange for cooperation if they can help prosecutors land a bigger fish,” Schreckinger explained to Bearman.

According to him, what makes this specific instance particularly perplexing is there aren’t many bigger fish left to catch, outside of Paul Manafort himself, that Mueller would have an interest in.

He speculated targets could include Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and even Roger Stone — an advisor to Trump very early on in the campaign.

“At this moment no one really knows exactly what kind of information [Manafort] has that is of value to the special counsel,” Schreckinger admitted.

He said figuring out the bigger picture only gets further complicated when you throw in the added dimension that Manafort could be cooperating against Trump, while still hoping for a pardon from the president. In other words, he could be walking a fine line and “trying to split his eggs in two baskets.”

Plus, remaining in the dark on what former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen have offered in terms of the probe makes an accurate prediction of what will transpire near impossible.

Listen to Bearman and Schreckinger’s full conversation below!


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