Pardonpalooza continued on Wednesday, with President Trump’s grants of clemency to his former campaign advisor, Roger Stone, his son-in-law’s father, Charles Kushner, and his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, signalling that he is now moving to protect people even closer to his inner circle.
And in the case of Paul Manafort, Trump is also helping himself: Manafort, after all, was the linchpin for Russia’s election interference efforts in 2016, and his refusal to cooperate with the Special Counsel’s investigation into the same—at a high price to himself—is what kept the full details of the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia from coming to light.
To understand why Manafort’s silence was so critical for Trump, it is helpful to remember Manafort’s background and activities during his short-lived role in the Trump campaign. When Manafort arrived on the campaign’s doorstep in March 2016, he happened to be $19 million in debt to a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska. The debt arose out of work that Manafort had previously done in Ukraine as a consultant for the pro-Russia Party of Regions. Notably, despite being in dire financial straits, Manafort offered to work for the Trump campaign for free. Early on in his time as Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort wrote to his associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian/Ukrainian political consultant characterized by the Senate Intelligence Committee as a “Russian intelligence officer,” asking how he could use his position to “get whole” with Deripaska and offering to provide the oligarch with private briefings on the campaign.