With his cooperation deal collapsing and new revelations about visits to see Julian Assange of Wikileaks, Manafort is a source of constant consternation for Trump.
Yesterday, former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort's plea deal seemed to implode when special counsel Robert Mueller alleged that Manafort repeatedly lied to the FBI even after taking the deal.
Today, the Guardian reported that Manafort repeatedly visited Wikileaks head Julian Assange, including right around when Manafort joined Trump's campaign.
All of this is a problem for Donald Trump. And he knows it.
Earlier this morning, Trump went on a tweet rampage against Mueller, claiming that his office treats people "horribly and viciously" if they refuse to lie.
Trump attorney Rudy Guiliani is shopping the same story, telling CNN that Trump has been unhappy for several weeks over the "un-American, horrible treatment of Manafort."
Manafort lying to Mueller was bad enough for Trump, but the news about Manafort and Assange makes things even more complicated.
After all, Manafort isn't the only one in Trump's orbit who has been cozy with Assange. Donald Trump Jr. spent nearly a year emailing Assange about everything from his father's tax returns to strategies for contesting the election if his dad lost.
Trump himself has repeatedly expressed his appreciation of Wikileaks, declaring, "I love Wikileaks" and "This Wikileaks is like a treasure trove."
In light of the new reporting on Manafort's visits with Assange, the Trump-Wikileaks connection may be even closer than it first appeared.
Manafort visited Assange in 2013, 2015, and around March of 2016, the Guardian reports.
March of 2016 is also when Russians started hacking Democratic emails, which were dumped by Wikileaks a few months later.
It's getting tougher and tougher for Trump to maintain the fiction that his campaign wasn't the direct, intended beneficiary of these hacks.
Meanwhile, Manafort seems to be acting erratically. First he went through a trial, without seeking a plea deal, that found him guilty on numerous charges of financial wrongdoing. Then he inexplicably reversed course and entered into a plea deal to avoid a second trial. Now he appears to have buyer's remorse and decided he didn't want to cooperate after all — so he's facing immediate, and likely harsher, sentencing.
All of this seems to be deeply concerning to Trump, and rightly so. If Trump or his campaign explicitly coordinated with the Russians and Assange to influence the elections, Manafort — whether he cracks under pressure or has his secrets exposed by prosecutors — could help expose that.
Even if Trump is trying to lay the groundwork to pardon Manafort, that may not stem the bleeding. The special counsel's office is clearly aware of something that Manafort — and possibly Trump — hoped to hide with a lie. And that truth can still come out, pardon or no pardon.
No wonder Trump is worried.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.