For the second time former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has sent a message loud and clear that he is not cooperating as a witness in Special Counsel Mueller’s Russia investigation.
According to Bloomberg:
“Manafort entered a not guilty plea Thursday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, where he faces 18 counts including bank fraud and tax fraud.”
“Last week, he denied wrongdoing in a related case in Washington accusing him of money laundering. The judge tentatively scheduled the trial for July 10. The Washington case is set for trial on Sept. 17.”
“His former deputy, Rick Gates, is cooperating with prosecutors after pleading guilty to conspiracy.”
There had been speculation that with Gates now cooperating, Manafort might also cut a deal to reduce his potential prison time. But today’s plea of “not guilty” makes clear that he will take his chances in court rather than turn state’s witness. (The wilder speculation is that Manafort was working for years with Russian and Ukrainian mobsters who would not take kindly to Manafort testifying against them, and may threaten his life.)
With respect to the Washington charges, Manafort faces a probable sentence of more than 15 years to 20 years in prison if he is found guilty at trial. These charges involve filing false statements and money laundering.
On the other hand, he faces a maximum of 305 years in prison if found guilty on all charges in the Virginia case. In that case he faces 18 criminal charges which carry a much heavier potential prison sentence. The charges against him include bank fraud and lying on income tax returns and lying regarding his foreign bank accounts.
If Special Counsel Mueller thought he was going to have an easy time of it with Manafort by getting him to plead guilty, then he has to think again. With the pleas of “not guilty” Mueller is looking at the prospect of long and drawn out criminal trials dealing with complex issues and international intrigue.
With one trial starting in July and another in September there will be a large amount of publicity which just happens to coincide with the 2018 midterm elections. This can’t be a good thing for Republicans who have been trying to make Mueller and his investigations disappear. Instead we may be looking a three-ring legal circus just in time for the fall campaigns.