This week Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, is being tried in a Virginia court house for years of epic money laundering and tax fraud.
The charges against him have arisen from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Most news reports still call this Russian interference “meddling,” but that understates what they allegedly did, because meddling is something your great aunts do when they don't like your marriage suitor, it does not do justice to the international conspiracy to promote one presidential candidate, harm the other and undermine the United States of America.
The alleged financial crimes Manafort is charged with are spectacular in themselves and could very well lead to him being imprisoned for life (he's 69).
But as keen observers know that, serious as these charges are, they're not the main event. What Muller is really after observers say is Manafort's inside knowledge of the Trump campaign and it's Russian dealings.
But observers insist that all of these proceedings are really about something else, however. In recent months Manafort has had ample time to cool his heels and reflect on where his life is taking him. Jail is quite a climb down from his previous luxury lifestyle.
The intense pressure Mueller’s is placing on him now is, observers believe, being applied in the hope that he’ll flip on Trump and provide investigators with detailed information about Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.
Manafort was also one of the attendees of Donald Trump Jr.’s now infamous meeting with a Russian lawyer and other Russia-tied figures in Trump Tower in June 2016.
But if the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison is supposed to make him talk, so far it hasn't worked. Observers suspect Manafort's long silence actually stems from his belief that Trump will eventually pardon him. Signals to that effect have already been sent by Trump's team. Last year, Trump’s then-lawyer John Dowd discussed a presidential pardon with Manafort’s lawyer and Rudy Giuliani has publicly discussed the possibility too.
But a pardon might not be enough to save him now. Other complicating factors are still in play, from potential state charges (the president can’t pardon those) to the possibility that Manafort could no longer avoid testimony by pleading the Fifth Amendment on some matters.
It's important to note just how blunt the charges are against Manafort. He’s charged with not reporting certain bank accounts and with not registering as a foreign agent, and these are clear-cut crimes.
Meanwhile expect the Trump noise machine to start up in earnest this week in a hope to distract the public from the sight of his campaign manager's public prosecution.
Expect angry all caps tweets from his increasingly unhinged Twitter account. Expect the announcement of the creation of a Space Force II (Bigger, Longer, Uncut).
Expect more talk about the non-existent wall. Expect for Rudy Giuliani to be sent out to play circus master again on CNN. Expect anything but the truth, really.
The great question before us now is: did the Trump campaign coordinate with the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election? The great question before us is: did the Trump team conspire with the Russians to give their candidate the edge?
We will have these answers, sooner or later, despite every effort made to prevent it. If the Trump team and Trump himself sound increasingly panicked these days it's because we may be closer than we even know to finding out.