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Why Paul Manafort was a curious choice to try to defend Trump

Given the pardon Paul Manafort received from Donald Trump, he’s probably the wrong guy to comment on a “two-tiered justice system.”


As the political world waited for Donald Trump’s indictment to come down in Fulton County, Georgia, it wasn’t especially surprising to see Fox News’ Sean Hannity scramble to defend his longtime ally. What was surprising, however, was one of his guests.

A Daily Beast explained:

As each of the three major cable news networks prepared for the possibility of an indictment of Donald Trump Monday night in Georgia, Fox News host Sean Hannity turned to none other than Paul Manafort. Hannity, who had written to Manafort that he would do “anything” to help the former Trump campaign chairman while he was being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, teed him up with questions about whether the Department of Justice “has been politicized and weaponized.”

On the surface, someone who was unfamiliar with Manafort might’ve watched the interview as if it were a normal, albeit unfortunate, segment. As Trump’s fourth indictment was poised to be released, one of the former president’s most reliable media allies spoke to one of the former president’s former campaign chairmen. Together, they told viewers that Trump deserved to be seen as some kind of victim of systemic abuses.

Manafort decried the “weaponization” of law enforcement, while Hannity lamented the “two-tiered justice system” that definitely exists in the imaginations of Republicans everywhere.

But just below the surface, there was an unacknowledged complication: Manafort isn’t just Trump’s former campaign chairman.

On the contrary, Manafort oversaw Trump’s political operation in 2016, before he was convicted of a variety of felonies, including tax fraud and bank fraud, and he even served some time in federal prison — right up until Trump pardoned him shortly before Christmas 2020, rewarding his former aide for failing to cooperate with law enforcement.

Or put another way, while the Fox host complained about a “two-tiered justice system,” his guest appears to have been the beneficiary of a two-tiered justice system — with one set of standards for Trump’s pals, and a competing set of standards for everyone else.

What’s more, while Manafort told Hannity last night that federal investigators knew “there was no Russian collusion,” what viewers didn’t hear was that the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that Manafort “represented a grave counterintelligence threat” due to his relationship with a Russian intelligence officer.

“The Committee found that Manafort’s presence on the Campaign and proximity to Trump created opportunities for Russian intelligence services to exert influence over, and acquire confidential information on, the Trump campaign,” the Senate report added.

There were no questions along these lines. Perhaps they ran out of time.