Hypothesis No. 3: The Bad Gambler

Perhaps Mr. Manafort, who has enjoyed a lifelong reputation as a swashbuckling big-time gambler, is simply a lousy poker player. He blinked when the pot got too big and opted to fold, forfeiting what he’d already spent. But then some combination of unsettled resolve and a lifetime of lying as an M.O. made him hope that he could eat his cake and have it too — that he could lie his way out of the situation. This is not exactly irrational, but it is colossally stupid, particularly when playing across the table from Mr. Mueller and not knowing the cards the special counsel was holding.

Those cards will now be revealed as a consequence of Mr. Manafort’s dithering. He will proceed directly to sentencing, in connection with which Mr. Mueller will provide the court with detailed proof of Mr. Manafort’s lies during the aborted cooperation period.

That means evidence of the truthful answers to the questions lied about. Considering that Mr. Manafort’s cooperation almost certainly had to involve the highest targets and most important evidence, that memorandum will be a treasure trove of as-yet-unknown fruits of Mr. Mueller’s investigation, particularly into the possible connection of the campaign with Russian meddling in the election. It could conceivably contain Mr. Mueller’s understanding of Tuesday’s report, in The Guardian, that Mr. Manafort met with Julian Assange multiple times, including in March 2016, just before he took the helm of the Trump campaign, a job he was so desperate to have that he agreed to work free.