Just two days ago, while complaining about the investigation into the Russia scandal, Donald Trump wrote, “So many lives have been ruined over nothing.”
Perhaps “nothing” wasn’t the best choice of words.
A federal jury in Virginia convicted Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, on eight counts involving bank and tax fraud on Tuesday, but no verdicts could be reached on the 10 other charges he faced.
The trial was the first public test of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and while the special counsel was vindicated, the victory wasn’t total.
For those keeping score, Manafort was on trial on 18 counts, and he was found guilty on eight of them: five related to tax fraud, one related to failure to file reports on foreign bank accounts, and two related to bank fraud. On the other 10 counts – three related to filing reports on foreign-bank accounts and seven related to bank fraud – the jury couldn’t reach a verdict and the judge declared a mistrial on those specific charges.
For Mueller and his special counsel team, this is an important victory, but for the former chairman of the presidential political operation, it’s a very bad day – which will likely be followed by a series of even worse days.
Indeed, let’s not forget that Manafort is poised to go on trial on several related charges next month in a D.C. courtroom, where an entirely different jury will hear a separate case.
Manafort’s attorneys will probably appeal today’s convictions, but it’s also possible Mueller’s team will offer him another opportunity to cooperate with prosecutors.
The fact that this has transpired the same afternoon as Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, surrendered to the FBI and reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors, makes the day that much more extraordinary.
As for the president whose allies keep running into legal trouble, let’s not forget that Trump publicly vouched for Manafort as recently as Friday. Telling reporters that he’s “a very good person. Trump added that it’s “very sad” what federal law enforcement has done to his former campaign chairman.
Evidently, jurors in Virginia disagreed.
The president is scheduled to headline a campaign rally in West Virginia this evening. Whether he’ll comment on today’s developments is not yet clear.