It’s another dramatic development in Trumpworld: Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, is now cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller in exchange for a reduced sentence for crimes involving bank fraud, money laundering and tampering with witnesses.
This might seem like another ominous turn for Trump, who must now contend with at least three former loyalists cooperating with federal prosecutors. But Manafort came and went quickly in Trump’s orbit, and he probably knows little to nothing about how Trump’s web of businesses operates. His value to Mueller could turn out to be minimal.
Mueller is investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, along with any connections between the Trump campaign and Russian interests. But he ended up prosecuting Manafort for matters unrelated to the Trump campaign, as his mandate permits. Manafort earned millions doing consultant work for a Ukrainian strongman, without paying U.S. taxes on the money or registering as a foreign lobbyist. His Ukrainian clients were linked to Russian president Vladimir Putin. But there’s no evidence Manafort worked for Putin or any Russian interests directly.
Manafort joined the Trump campaign fairly late, in March of 2016, as campaign convention manager. In May, Trump promoted him to campaign chairman, in charge of the whole election effort. But Manafort’s Ukraine lobbying became controversial, and he left the Trump campaign on August 19, 2016. His total tenure with the campaign lasted five months.