My, my, my … isn’t this an interesting coincidence? Just as Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe rolls out an indictment against Paul Manafort and his business partner Rick Gates, the Department of Justice wants to play Let’s Make a Deal with his former son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, the Wall Street Journal reported this morning.
Is this a coincidence? Or is this something more?
The Justice Department is seeking to reach a plea deal in its criminal investigation of the former son-in-law of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s one-time campaign chairman, according to people familiar with the matter.
The investigation into Jeffrey Yohai—who hasn’t been charged with any crime—by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles is separate from the Washington-based probe of his former father-in-law and others by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is examining Russian influence on last year’s presidential election, some of the people familiar with the situation said.
Mr. Manafort was accused by Mr. Mueller in an indictment unsealed Oct. 30 with using a network of shell companies in the U.S. and abroad to avoid taxes and launder money, and with lying to investigators and defrauding banks on real-estate transactions. He pleaded not guilty.
Although those charges didn’t appear to directly relate to Mr. Mueller’s investigation of whether Mr. Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election, they could be an effort to gain Mr. Manafort’s cooperation, legal experts said.
Yohai makes an unnamed appearance in the Manafort indictment, mentioned as just his son-in-law, in connection with Manhattan real-estate deal allegedly funded by Manafort’s Cyprus money laundering. Manafort told lenders that the condo was Yohai’s home, but was actually a rental property, a move that allowed him to get a bigger loan. According to the indictment, Manafort reminded Yohai in an e-mail to make the appraiser buy the fraudulent misrepresentation that he lived in the condo.
So far, though, Yohai hasn’t been indicted in the Mueller probe. In fact, Yohai hasn’t yet been charged with anything, but clearly, the DoJ has something in mind. Yohai had an ongoing dispute with Manafort over four house-flipping properties, the WSJ reports, in a $4.2 million bankruptcy case that may have caught the DoJ’s attention. Yohai had complained to a federal court in California of a conspiracy by Manafort to mislead the court about supposed purchase inquiries within a bankruptcy proceeding. It doesn’t sound as though Yohai has much affection for his ex-father-in-law, nor the other way around either.
If the DoJ wants to push Yohai into a deal, presumably that would either be to settle a difficult case or to get Yohai to cooperate as a material witness in another prosecution. Getting Yohai on board for the case might push Manafort closer to cooperating with Mueller on the rest of his probe. The DoJ isn’t handling the Manafort prosecution — Mueller’s special-counsel office will try the case — but the DoJ would have to settle their case with Yohai first before cooperating with Mueller. Are they working together to lace up Manafort’s case, or are they working at cross purposes? What would Yohai know about Russian interference or even Manafort’s alleged money laundering?
Or, perhaps, one has nothing to do with the other, and this is all just a big coincidence. That seems highly unlikely, but it’s still a possibility. I wonder how much Manafort’s defense team believes in coincidences.