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Thanksgiving Surprise? Mueller’s Latest Manafort Maneuver Hints Something Big May Happen Soon


Special Counsel Robert Mueller is not one to hold a press conference, but is one to speak in his court filings. His latest status update regarding convicted felon Paul Manafort hinted that something big could come down, and soon — perhaps a Thanksgiving Surprise?

Although innocuous at first glance, Thursday’s motion for an extension to file a joint status report on Manafort’s cooperation had some noticeable wording.

“At the hearing on September 14, 2018, the Court ordered the parties to submit a joint status report on November 16, 2018. The parties have been meeting since the hearing date,” the filing says.

Alright, so Manafort and Mueller have been meeting. That’s not really anything new, as Manafort’s cooperation was the key element of the plea deal he struck with the special counsel to avoid a second trial.

Then comes the next line: “The parties believe a brief extension of the status report date, until November 26, 2018, will allow them to provide the Court with a report that will be of greater assistance in the Court’s management of this matter.”

All Mueller needs is a week and a half to iron some things out that will be “of greater assistance” to the court. This is a very interesting development and legal experts are in agreement that something big is brewing.

Attorney and CNN legal analyst Ross Garber suggested that it “[s]eems like Mueller and Manafort’s lawyers expect something significant to happen in the next 2 weeks.”

Former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti said that it “suggests to [him] that there will be a public event between now and November 26th that would permit Mueller to comment in more detail about Manafort’s cooperation.”

What might that be, you ask? “An indictment of someone that Manafort is cooperating against,” Mariotti said.

Who might former Trump campaign chairman Manafort be cooperating against? It’s more than reasonable to look toward a person who was involved with the Trump campaign. Is that person Donald Trump Jr.? Both he and Manafort were present at the 2016 Trump Tower meeting where Trump Jr. was hoping for dirt on Hillary Clinton, and rumors have swirled that Don Jr. fears he will be indicted for making false statements about it. Is that person Roger Stone? Manafort and Stone’s relationship goes back decades. Stone could very well be on the hook for witness intimidation or for making false statements about what he knew ahead of the 2016 hack of DNC emails — another apparent effort to obtain dirt on Hillary Clinton. It could be others, too.

In short, keep your eyes peeled over the next couple of weeks.

It’s worth noting that Manafort’s former associate Rick Gates also saw his status report pushed back this week — to Jan. 19, 2019.

Taken together, we can surmise that the Mueller probe may not be as close to wrapping up as some have suggested or hoped, but there may at least be a significant update in the works as far as Manafort is concerned, and soon.

[Image via Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images]

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Matt Naham is the Senior A.M. Editor of Law&Crime.