The pre-dawn FBI raid is the big Manafort news today but don’t overlook this fascinating bit of sleaze from the National Enquirer. It’s not the story itself that’s fascinating — the paper accuses the wealthy operator Manafort of having an affair with a woman less than half his age, a “dog bites man” tale about a Washington lobbyist if ever there was one.
It’s the sourcing that makes it interesting, combined with the paper’s hard-earned reputation for being a Trumpworld house organ.
The Trump White House’s moral standards regarding marital fidelity are impeccable, don’t you know.
Anyway, a “White House insider” ordering a tabloid hit on Paul Manafort, huh? If you don’t know Trump’s history with the Enquirer, this Gabriel Sherman piece from two years ago will catch you up quickly. Trump’s been buds for years with the paper’s CEO, David Pecker, and allegedly has used the paper to both push dirt about his rivals and to suppress dirt about himself or his allies. A source told Sherman that Team Trump fed the paper info to support a hit piece on then-opponent Ben Carson; hit pieces on Ted Cruz appeared in the Enquirer later in the primaries, which Cruz himself blamed on Trump. This Raw Story piece cites several other examples of the Enquirer reportedly having done Trump favors in its coverage over the years. And now here they are citing a “White House insider” as a source on a dirty-laundry piece about Trump’s very much out-of-favor former campaign manager. Go figure.
The question is why. Manafort surely knows how tight Trump and the Enquirer are. He may have fed the paper oppo on GOP competitors himself on Trump’s behalf when he was managing the campaign. The Enquirer running a piece like this about him is a red siren that Trump now views him as an enemy. But … why would Trump want to make an enemy of Manafort at a moment when Manafort’s in legal jeopardy and could tell the feds God knows what about Trump and his family? The only explanation that makes sense is that Trump has reason to believe that Manafort has already betrayed him and now he’s out for revenge. Which reminds me of this Reuters story that ran a few weeks ago:
U.S. investigators examining money laundering accusations against President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort hope to push him to cooperate with their probe into possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia, two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation said…
The sources also did not say whether Mueller has uncovered any evidence to charge Manafort with money laundering, but they said doing so is seen by investigators as critical in getting his full cooperation in their investigation.
“If Mueller’s team can threaten criminal charges against Manafort, they could use that as leverage to convince him to cooperate,” said one of the sources.
It’d be nuts of Trump to leave his fingerprints on a “Manafort sex scandal” story knowing that Manafort is currently under pressure to roll over on the president and cooperate on Russiagate. That’s something you’d do only if you’d come to believe that he’s already rolled over and now you need to destroy his credibility as thoroughly as possible. I wonder if today’s adultery accusation is just the first in a series of Enquirer bombshells to come about Manafort. Trump can’t stop him from telling Mueller anything, but he can try to ruin the guy’s reputation to the point where loyal Trumpers might be persuaded to disregard any incriminating information that comes from Manafort as inherently untrustworthy.
Exit question: Was it a coincidence that the president seemed especially agitated about the FBI in the hours after the raid on Manafort’s home on July 26th, or something more?
Trump tweeted the below criticism of DOJ & FBI the same morning FBI executed a "no-knock" warrant on the home of his fmr campaign mgr pic.twitter.com/hT7Fr746Xe
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) August 9, 2017