Robert Mueller’s brilliant strategy for outmaneuvering Trump pardons

Some have wondered: Why is special counsel Robert Mueller bringing so few charges against George Papadopoulos and, especially, Paul Manafort?

Papadopoulos is easy. Mueller has charged him with one count of false statement, even though there are a dozen other felonies clearly suggested by his plea stipulations. The quick answer is that Papadopoulos has agreed to be a cooperating witness in exchange for a very short sentence. The maximum sentence for false statement is five years. If Papadopoulos cooperates, Mueller can ask for a short sentence, but if he doesn’t, Mueller can add new charges.

Manafort’s case is less obvious. Andrew McCarthy at National Review is puzzled about Mueller’s charges for Manafort, calling it “curious” that he leaves out so many possible charges, including tax fraud and other forms of fraud. “These omissions do not make sense to me,” McCarthy writes. After reading the Papadopoulos plea agreement, and knowing that Manafort is reportedly an unnamed “high-ranking campaign official” in a series of allegedly incriminating emails, one might imagine a dozen other charges Mueller might be mulling.