The ongoing trial of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort on a series of financial crimes isn’t the buzziest story of the week. That title goes to the release of reality TV villain and former White House official Omarosa Manigault Newman’s tell-all memoir about her time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But it is the most important story of the week – and one with the broadest implications as to what Donald Trump’s presidency will be like going forward.
Friday, the trial was in its 14th day. The jury got the case on Thursday, and deliberations are expected to continue next week.
Asked Friday about the possibility of pardoning Manafort, President Trump said:
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“I don’t talk about that, no. I don’t talk about that. I think the whole Manafort trial is very sad. When you look at what’s going on there, I think it’s a very sad day for our country. He worked for me for a very short period of time. But you know what? He happens to be a very good person. And I think it’s very sad what they’ve done to Paul Manafort.”
Here’s the thing: This Manafort trial – as Trump likes to remind anyone who asks – has zero to do with the time he spent as the head of Trump’s 2016 campaign. The charges all relate to work Manafort did in Ukraine prior to his affiliation with Trump. (Side note: Kind of sounds like he might pardon him, right?)
BUT the charges that Manafort faces are the direct result of the special counsel investigation, led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion. The Manafort trial in Virginia (there will be another in Washington) is the leading edge of the Mueller probe. Fail to secure a conviction of Manafort, and all of the Trump allegations about the investigation as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax” will only grow louder. Convict Manafort, and momentum is built for the coming report from Mueller, which is still expected to be released sometime this fall.
The Point: For all parties, then, there is a lot riding on what 12 people in a court in Alexandria, Virginia, decide about the fate of Paul Manafort. Washington is holding its collective breath until the verdict is announced.
Below, the week that was in the world of Trump – as told through 23 headlines.