As I mentioned in a previous column, President Donald Trump runs the White House like a mob boss. He’s obsessed with loyalty, hires family members, because they’re less likely to turn on him, and calls people who betray him, like Michael Cohen, rats. He also frequently breaks the law and has surrounded himself with criminals.
Now we understand that, we have to process everything he does through this lens. Like many other Americans, I was shocked when former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort received a light sentence from U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis. Although he was facing up to 20 years for tax evasion and bank fraud charges, Ellis only gave him 47 months.
And to add insult to injury, Ellis acted as if Manafort had only recently started breaking the law. When he handed down the sentence, he claimed Manafort had led “an otherwise blameless life.”
This is simply not true. Manafort didn’t turn into a criminal overnight. He’s been cutting shady deals ever since the 1980s when he lobbied for African tyrants such as Angolan warlord Jonas Savimbi and former Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo) dictator Mobutu Sese Sekou. One of Manafort’s daughters described his wealth as “blood money.”
Trump operates like a gangster. He might not have sent one of his goons to hand Ellis a suitcase full of money, but there are other ways of paying people off. Trump has a history of rewarding people who fix things. And there are at least two concrete cases of this.
Frank Foer, a writer for the Atlantic, listed Manafort’s 30-year history of crimes. More recently he ran campaigns for Eastern European kleptocrats and mismanaged his money to the point he owed Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska $20 million. But curiously, Manafort took no salary as head of the Trump campaign.
“In an otherwise blameless life, he acted with impunity, as if the laws never applied to him. When presented with a chance to show remorse to the court, he couldn’t find that sentiment within his being,” said Foer.
But why did Ellis tell a blatant lie and give Manafort such a light sentence? From the start Ellis, a Reagan appointee, was hostile to the case and portrayed it as government agencies overextending their reach. He was also physically threatened and required protection by the U.S. Marshals. But could he have been bought off? We don’t have any evidence of that — yet.
But remember Trump operates like a gangster. He might not have sent one of his goons to hand Ellis a suitcase full of money, but there are other ways of paying people off. Trump has a history of rewarding people who fix things. And there are at least two concrete cases of this.
During the 2016 presidential race, when Trump was facing questions about his health records, he appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show” and Dr. Mehmet Oz allowed him to brag about his health. Oz was later rewarded with a place on the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.
Once Trump was in the White House and faced a more public fitness test, Navy doctor Rear Admiral Ronny L. Jackson gave the president a glowing fitness report, even though the facts didn’t make sense.
Jackson claimed the president was in “excellent health” and was “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
This was blatantly incorrect since Trump eats nothing but junk food, hardly gets any exercise and has a high-stress job.
Jackson was later nominated to head the Department of Veteran Affairs. However, the nomination was derailed after allegations about Jackson’s misconduct came out.
We currently don’t know why Judge Ellis gave Manafort such a light sentence, but I’m sure the truth will eventually come out.
On Wednesday, Manafort faced sentencing on charges related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson added about four more years to his sentence. Jackson was appointed by President Barack Obama.
And later in the day, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office announced Manafort is facing 16 indictments for a variety of charges including mortgage fraud and falsifying records. That’s not exactly a blameless life.