Manafort's "VIP treatment" in prison is ending

Paul Manafort is being moved to new quarters which may prove more convenient for his trial preparation schedule, but not quite as comfy if recent reports prove true. Adding to the already circus-like atmosphere of Manafort’s trial were stories of how he was receiving “VIP treatment” at the Northern Neck Regional Jail in Warsaw, Virginia. The amenities being mentioned wouldn’t rate four stars on a travel service website, but still pretty nice for being locked up in jail. But now that’s coming to an end as a judge has ordered him to be moved to a city jail in Alexandria. (New York Post)

Working for President Trump apparently has its perks — even in prison.

A federal judge has ordered former campaign chairman Paul Manafort to be moved from the Virginia facility where he’s locked up after he allegedly claimed to be getting “VIP” treatment behind bars.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team accused him of making the statement in a court filing on Wednesday.

“On the monitored prison phone calls, Manafort has mentioned that he is being treated like a ‘VIP,’” the filing stated.

I saw a couple of cable news teasers on this story which made it sound as if the court was outraged over Manafort’s plush accommodations and he was being moved to the Alexandria jail as some sort of punishment. But it turns out that the story is a bit more complicated than that. His lawyers apparently requested a move, saying that the nearly 100-mile commute from Northern Neck to the site of his trial wasn’t leaving them enough time to prepare him for questioning. But when it looked like the request was about to be granted, they changed their minds and said he was “just fine” where he was.

Too late, it seems. Maybe the judge was upset about the VIP treatment and maybe he wasn’t. But the move was simply granting a request filed by the prisoner’s attorney. Judge T.S. Ellis is quoted as saying, “It is surprising and confusing when counsel identifies a problem and then opposes the most logical solution to that problem.”

I don’t have any personal experience in prison conditions to make the call, but it certainly sounds like Manafort was having an easy time of it. First, he had a “larger cell” than most prisoners and it was a private one. Given all the stories about prison overcrowding that’s pretty much unheard of unless you’re in solitary. Similarly, he had private bathroom and shower facilities. What? He had regular use of a private phone and his attorneys were able to bring his laptop in and out so he could read and respond to emails with the computer sending off the responses once they brought it back outside. All in all, not bad for a guy behind bars.

This brings us back yet again to the question of why President Trump hasn’t just pardoned the guy by now. Sure, it would look awful, but Trump hasn’t exactly been shy about granting controversial pardons thus far. People would scream bloody murder, but there isn’t much anyone could do about it once the pardon was issued. True, Manafort has pleaded not guilty and may still be thinking he’s going to walk, but observers are already speculating over whether or not this might be the time for Bob Mueller to “flip” Manafort against the President. (This, of course, assumes there’s actually anything for him to flip on.)

We’ll see if Manafort finds his new conditions so unpleasant that he tries to cut a deal. But I’ve got the feeling he’s just going to white knuckle it until the trial is over. After that, he may find himself back in touch with his old boss if things don’t go well.

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