Think Paul Manafort is about to sink the White House? Hold your horses

In legal terms, maybe all that Trump is guilty of is terrible taste in campaign advisers and bad luck with his son-in-law

‘There is only one problem with these liberal fantasies – suggestive incidents do not automatically add up to unequivocal evidence.’ Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

When Paul Manafort, a Ronald Reagan veteran, moved to take charge of the amateur-hour Donald Trump campaign in early April 2016, the press coverage was respectful, even a bit fawning.

Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was quoted in the New York Times calling Manafort’s ascension “a step in the right direction” and in the same story Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio hailed the move as welcome evidence that Trump knew that he needs to hire “experienced and seasoned hands.”

Since campaign reporters are suckers for sage political hands, Manafort’s career as an international influence peddler only attracted intermittent interest. A May 2016 Wall Street Journal story on lobbyists in presidential politics devoted just one sentence to Manafort “whose firm in the past represented a number of foreign governments”.

That bland statement was the equivalent of describing the first world war as a small territorial misunderstanding among European nations. This week we learned, through a series of leaks, that Manafort’s foreign entanglements appear to be a central target of Robert Mueller’s investigation.

The New York Times provided fresh details (including a picked lock) about a predawn July FBI raid on Manafort’s apartment searching for foreign bank records and computer files. Manafort’s emails, according to the Washington Post, reveal that the Trump campaign chairman offered a Russian oligarch, close to Vladimir Putin, private briefings on the presidential race. Phrases like “black caviar” in the emails allegedly refer to the kind of payoffs that Manafort had hoped to obtain from Russian interests.

In fact, there are now so many documents about Manafort in governmental hands that they may have to name a federal records depository after him. CNN reported that the FBI had been periodically wiretapping Manafort under a secret court order since 2014 flowing from his work for ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian strongman Viktor Yanukovych.

Yes, it is dizzying to keep up with. Especially during a week when the Times led the paper with a story that Mueller has requested White House documents relating to the firings of ethically compromised national security adviser…

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