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An Alternate Theory on Why Paul Manafort Would Lie to Robert Mueller


After it was revealed that special counsel Robert Mueller is going to report, chapter on verse, on the “nature” of Paul Manafort’s “crimes and lies,” including statements made after Manafort reached a plea agreement, experts got to speculating about what could have been going through this defendant’s head.

Is he a pathological liar? Is he just banking on a pardon? Is he stupid? These are real explanations that are being put out there in the Twittersphere. Former U.S. attorney Harry Litman wrote an op-ed for the New York Times headlinedWhat Was Paul Manafort Thinking?” Maybe Manafort is a “bad gambler,” maybe he’s hoping for a pardon, and maybe he’s afraid of being assassinated, he said. In the end, he concluded there was “no good explanation for why he lied to Mueller.” Manafort, for his part, has denied the special counsel’s characterization of his statements.

But actually, some have started to wonder if the assassination fear is closer to the mark than previously thought. Maybe Manafort doesn’t care about what happens to himself, at this point, (or accepts that he may die in prison regardless), but is he so callous and wrong as to risk jeopardizing his family? President Donald Trump‘s former personal attorney Michael Cohen told George Stephanopoulos on July 2 that “my wife, my daughter and my son, and this country have my first loyalty.” He basically said that this was the reason that he was turning on Trump. Some people mocked this, but others now regard Cohen as a “patriot.”

Is it possible that Manafort has some terribad underworld, Russian mobster connections who would be “upset” if he exposed them? If you believe that Manafort is this bad of a dude, it seems strange to rule this out. In any case, it’s been reported in the past that Manafort may be linked to serious organized crime. From the Daily Beast:

The indictment (PDF), unsealed on Monday, includes an extensive look into Paul Manafort’s byzantine financial dealings. In particular, it details how he used a company called Lucicle Consultants Limited to wire millions of dollars into the United States.

The Cyprus-based Lucicle Consultants Limited, in turn, reportedly received millions of dollars from a businessman and Ukrainian parliamentarian named Ivan Fursin, who is closely linked to one of Russia’s most notorious criminals: Semion Mogilevich.

A description of Semion Mogilevich in the very same story said the following: “Mogilevich is frequently described as ‘the most dangerous mobster in the world.'”

Enter Bloomberg opinion editor Tim O’Brien with the alternate theory, one that is close to the “assassination fixation” argument Litman dismissed.

“I think Manafort is protecting other interests. He has his eyes on other things than the President […] you should look at his client list,” he told MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace.

He said one of Manafort’s most “lucrative” clients was Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who “made his fortune in the aluminum business in Siberia that was very mobbed up.”

“Manafort stiffed him,” O’Brien said. “I think Manafort may have worries about his family’s well-being because of the people he’s done business with.”

Manafort has a wife and two daughters.

Special counsel Robert Mueller has been tasked with investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, but he’s also been given license to prosecute matters that might arise out of that investigation. We know that Manafort’s Ukrainian lobbying was going to be the focus of his second trial — the trial that never happened because he cut a deal to avoid it, a deal that has since fallen through.

Why would Manafort cut a deal if he was just going to lie later? We’ll see what Mueller has to say about that.

[Image via Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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