Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort may not be the most upstanding individual in America, but there is little doubt that he was the victim of overzealous prosecution by even less upstanding people who went after him primarily to get to the president.
As more details emerge about the Russia collusion hoax, the deceit and dirty tricks on the part of FBI and Justice Department officials, as well as Robert Mueller’s special counsel team, become ever more obvious. In recent days, evidence has been revealed to the public which clearly shows how the FBI and Mueller’s coven of Democratic-allied prosecutors willfully and recklessly ignored or circumvented the rules which govern how criminal investigations are conducted.
The FBI’s Original Sin
One of the basic foundations of a fair investigation into possible criminal activity is the credibility of the evidence and witnesses. The FBI ignored this premise when it used the material compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele – known as the Steele dossier – as part of the foundation for its 2016 counter-intelligence operation which targeted Donald Trump’s campaign team.
The claims made in Steele’s product had not been verified; Steele himself admitted this and officials within the FBI and the DOJ also knew it. Yet, the Bureau used it as the main part of the body of “evidence” presented to a secret court in order to obtain warrants to surveil a U.S. citizen. Steele himself had little credibility as he was, in his own words, “desperate” to stop Trump being elected president.
Additionally, the FBI used another unverified document – a ledger containing records of financial transactions – to pursue a criminal investigation of Manafort, even though he had already been investigated by the DOJ over the same allegations. That investigation was dropped in 2014.
As The Hill’s John Solomon reported, the FBI knew the credibility of the ledger was in doubt. Robert Mueller also knew this, and the ledger itself was never submitted as evidence against Manafort – though it was still used to build a case against him.
The ledger contained records of alleged cash transactions to Manafort from a Ukrainian political party. Ukraine’s most prominent anti-corruption prosecutor, Nazar Kholodnytsky, told Solomon he had warned the FBI that the ledger was likely a fake. “[The ledger] was not to be considered a document of Manafort,” said Kholodnytsky, “It was not authenticated. And at that time it should not be used in any way to bring accusations against anybody,”
Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian-born, Ukrainian businessman and long-time associate of Manafort’s, also informed the US government that the ledger was probably fake. In his final report on the investigation into the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory, Mueller practically accuses Kilimnik of being a Russian spy, citing FBI suspicions. But for years, Kilimnik had been providing the State Department with briefings on Russian and Ukrainian affairs.
In an email to a senior U.S. official, Kilimnik disputed records of cash payments to Manafort: “I have some questions about this black cash stuff, because those published records do not make sense. The timeframe doesn’t match anything related to payments made to Manafort,” adding “It does not match my records. All fees Manafort got were wires, not cash.”
If nothing else, the skepticism expressed by both Kilimnik and Kholodnytsky should have given the FBI pause, but it did not; someone at the Bureau decided it was acceptable to treat the ledger as proof of criminality with no thought to its authenticity. Likewise, Mueller apparently had no interest in digging for the truth.
Such disregard for the facts is akin to discovering a dead body and then accusing someone of murder because they own a gun, without giving a thought to whether that gun matches the murder weapon or even whether the victim died by gunshot. Like the president himself, Manafort was considered by some to be guilty until proven innocent. This type of investigatory conduct would put any third-world dictatorship to shame.
Paul Manafort and Sean Hannity
Though it has done him little good, when all is said and done, Manafort did have one very influential friend in the media: Fox News host Sean Hannity. During Manafort’s legal fights, Hannity devoted a not inconsiderable amount of time – as he continues to do – exposing the many flaws, shady connections and outright misconduct in the entire three-plus-year attempt by the FBI and Obama administration officials to bring down Trump, his family and many other individuals associated with his White House campaign.
Manafort and Hannity exchanged numerous text messages before the former went to prison, and those from July of 2017 to June 2018 have now been publicly released. As with the text messages exchanged between FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok, these communications provide an insight into what the two parties are thinking and their genuine concerns. Page and Strzok did not imagine that their texts would ever become a matter of public record and, no doubt, neither did Hannity and Manafort. Such exchanges, then, provide a somewhat unfiltered glimpse (redactions notwithstanding) into the true feelings of the correspondents.
In the case of Strzok and Page, those feelings were mostly of disdain for Donald Trump and his supporters, and worries that he would somehow destroy the country. Beyond that, these FBI officials revealed a determination to prevent Trump’s election victory and in the event that effort failed, to put into action an “insurance policy.”
In their own exchanges, Manafort and Hannity reveal disgust and anger over politically-motivated prosecutions, and a deep concern that the traditional American reverence for fairness, equal justice, and constitutional rights was being willfully discarded.
There is certainly a lot to unpack from the Hannity-Manafort texts. The latter expresses fears that he, along with Gen. Michael Flynn, was being deliberately coerced into fabricating lies about the president, and threatened with financial ruin and prison if he did not.
“[The special counsel team] keep leaking false negative stories on me and arguing that I can’t respond because of gag order,” Manafort wrote in a text message to Hannity in December of 2017. “My response will taint potential jury but their leaks don’t. Such a travesty of justice. Their behavior has destroyed my belief in fairness of system.”
The two men also discuss how the special counsel struggled to build a case against Manafort and may have been increasingly concerned that his underhand tactics were being exposed. “A lot of good s**t happening behind scenes,” Hannity writes in a series of texts to Manafort in February 2018. “They are scared s**tless. An fbi friend swears I’m gonna get shot. Haha.”
Later that same month, the Fox host writes: “The abuse of power is disgusting. They want to break u. Flynn agreed to ‘lying’ because they said they would go after his son.” Gen. Flynn was subjected to an unexpected interview at the White House shortly after Trump’s inauguration. He was told by the FBI that he would not need an attorney present and the general assumed he was genuinely aiding the Bureau with its investigation into Russian interference in the election. Though the agents who interviewed him stated that they did not believe the general lied to them, Flynn was later charged with lying to investigators.
Again in February 2018, Manafort texts Hannity: “These charges are totally bogus. The docs they are using discredit the allegations. They are threatening because their primary case is falling apart. They do t [sic] care.”
It is worth noting that, while the special counsel appears to have been conducting a campaign of targeted media leaks to influence opinion – and potential jurors – against Manafort, the latter made no unauthorized disclosures of information about his case to this friend who could so easily have disclosed those details on national television.
Evidence continues to pile up that the FBI, the DOJ and Robert Mueller’s prosecutors were playing by an entirely different set of rules than those which are in place to guide such investigations. The rules they played by were their own and were subject to change at any time if that was necessary to secure convictions of Trump associates who refused to roll over.
Only Attorney General William Barr and his prosecutors can address the many wrongs committed. As it is, Americans have a hard time trusting their government. Unless certain senior government officials – serving or former – go to prison for their parts in this malignant scandal, no patriotic American will ever again feel free of the fear that unelected bureaucrats can persecute any citizen at will.
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