What exactly did Paul Manafort do wrong?

All of this is to say that if Manafort’s contract did indeed “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” it was nothing out of the ordinary. The problem isn’t that he might have done the work for Putin. The problem is that the ordinary when it comes to Westerners doing business with the Russians—as well as other non-democratic governments—is a murky universe, where American actors are not always on the right side of the law and Western ideas of morality. The problem is that Manafort was running a campaign that hammered Clinton and her family foundation for doing much of what Manafort himself had done for decades, and that he was arguably as corrupt as his candidate said Clinton was. The problem is that the government in question had, according to 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, been actively hacking the Clinton campaign and aiding the Trump one. The problem is that Manafort and the Trump administration have repeatedly lied about Manafort’s work. There would’ve been a problem had they come clean early on—it’s not a good look for a populist, drain-the-swamp, America First candidate—but the problem is so much bigger now that the lies are now compounded, magnified by the truth. And this is classic Trump: dissemble and deny as long as you can, and even after you can. And it’s classic Manafort: It’s not clear how much he did to “greatly benefit the Putin Government,” but he certainly did no favors for the Trump Government.