President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has reportedly spoken to prosecutors in the Mueller probe for hours, about collusion, Russia, business and pardons. This reporting suggests he is a cooperating convict, as he awaits sentencing in New York and means that each of the 5 guilty Trump aides, are now working with Bob Mueller.
.. if we want to question our reliance on cooperators, we must be ready to question our very culture. Many of the people calling “witch hunt” today will tomorrow return to familiar law-and-order tropes. The president who decries “flipping” is simultaneously excoriating his opponents for being, as he sees it, soft on crime. Our vision of the criminal justice system is based not on reality, but on Nixonian rhetoric and Dick Wolf’s endlessly televised stories of heroic law enforcers fighting against shifty defense lawyers and sociopathic defendants. In short, flipping works because the culture tells us to trust prosecutors, police and even cooperators uncritically. Only a civic culture of healthy skepticism of prosecutors’ claims — a genuine appreciation for the concept of reasonable doubt — can change that.
.. But we won’t learn that skepticism from Trump, who routinely proclaims that the law protects criminals too much and that police should stop being gentle with them. His concern reaches only as far as his own skin and his own confederates. Serious criminal justice reform won’t come from partisan controversy. Today’s posturing critics of the system will vanish tomorrow. Only a bipartisan commitment to justice, fairness and the rule of law will protect anyone — let alone the president — from abuse of cooperation.
Why Trump’s sudden interest? One possible inference was that the President had somehow heard that there was more bad news coming about Manafort, and he was trying to limit some of the damage in advance of its release.
.. Mueller’s office accused Manafort, who is out on bail, of trying to tamper with potential witnesses earlier this year, and asked a judge to consider jailing him before his trial.
.. Manafort secretly arranged for a group of former European officials, known as the Hapsburg group, to lobby inside the United States on his clients’ behalf, and that Manafort didn’t disclose this activity on federal disclosure forms.
.. The court filing states that Manafort was trying to get the witness to lie on his behalf: “Person D1 has told the government that he understood Manafort’s outreach to be an effort to ‘suborn perjury,’ because person D1 knew that the Hapsburg group worked in the United States—not just Europe.”
.. “Persons D1 and D2 both preserved the messages they received from Manafort and Person A”—Manafort’s longtime associate—“which were sent on encrypted applications, and have provided them to the government.”
.. Manafort’s actions seem brazen or desperate, or perhaps both.
.. On Monday night, reporters identified Person A as Konstantin Kilimnik, a Ukrainian with Russian citizenship, who once worked for Manafort’s consulting firm.
.. His name came up last year, when Mueller’s team claimed he helped edit an op-ed for a Kiev newspaper in coöperation with Manafort.
.. The special counsel said that this op-ed violated a gag order that had been placed on Manafort.
.. leaving Manafort to face the prospect of a trial in Virginia next month, followed by another one, in Washington, D.C., in September.
.. Neither did Trump—but he didn’t need to. He had already tried to run as far as possible from his former campaign chairman.
.. Now, like everyone else, he will watch what happens next in court, and see if Manafort becomes a coöperating witness.