As Robert Mueller’s “Russian probe” deepens, it appears as though he’s teaming up with other high-power investigators and attorneys to turn the screws on one particular figure from the campaign: Paul Manafort.
Politico is reporting that Mueller has tapped New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to assist in the investigation into the former Trump campaign chief. The team up is a specific tactic to apply pressure to Manafort, as President Donald Trump would not be able to pardon him for a state crime.
The cooperation is the latest indication that the federal probe into President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman is intensifying. It also could potentially provide Mueller with additional leverage to get Manafort to cooperate in the larger investigation into Trump’s campaign, as Trump does not have pardon power over state crimes.
The two teams have shared evidence and talked frequently in recent weeks about a potential case, these people said. One of the people familiar with progress on the case said both Mueller’s and Schneiderman’s teams have collected evidence on financial crimes, including potential money laundering.
No decision has been made on where or whether to file charges. “Nothing is imminent,” said one of the people familiar with the case.
Manafort has not been accused of any wrongdoing and has previously denied it. A spokesman for Manafort didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.
Now, there is an issue here, and one that Trump is very likely to use. Former RedState and current NRO contributor Dan McLaughlin puts it succinctly on Twitter:
Involvement of Schneiderman, an arch-partisan, gives Trump exactly what he needs. https://t.co/0SwDH3KEoY
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) August 31, 2017
Schneiderman is extremely partisan, and it’s incredibly difficult to argue against that: He has aggressively opposed immigration enforcement in New York and has taken on Trump’s EPA in an effort to keep their regulations going. He has also been the guy many liberals have turned to in the past as the guy to take Trump down.
Tapping Schneiderman is going to give Trump exactly the material he needs to declare this a partisan witch hunt… That is, assuming Trump wants to defend Manafort. Trump has a history of cutting loose anyone who causes him too much PR grief. As nothing (publicly, anyway) indicates Trump himself is under investigation, or that Russia really and truly had enough of am impact to hand Trump the White House, it is certainly within reason that Trump would say nothing about the partnership between the two.
…Of course, within reason is the operative phrase here.
This is Trump. Schneiderman has publicly fought Trump and his policies, which in Trump’s eyes is akin to attacking him personally. So it is not unreasonable to expect an early-morning rant on Twitter from the President calling out this totally unfair investigation. In fact, by the time this post goes up, I imagine we’re an hour or two away at most from that happening.
This is in no way a defense of Schneiderman, though. He is incredibly partisan in how he does his job. He’s not just a Democrat who got elected in a majority Democrat state. It’s that he is so aggressively liberal in how he chooses to do his job that it is hard to think he’ll be totally, dare I say, fair in how he handles this case (or, potential case as, again, no specific charge has been filed).
Yes, kids, it is possible to think that both Manafort is shady as hell and likely guilty of something and also think that tapping Schneiderman is a bad idea if you want to see actual justice here. That’s exactly what’s happening here.