What does the Paul Manafort divided verdict — guilty on 8 fraud charges with a mistrial declared on the remaining 10 charges — mean for the question of whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to fix the 2016 election?
Of course, everyone knew that going into the trial.
Special counsel Robert Mueller was assigned to investigate “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump.” Mueller’s authority also covered “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation,” plus any issues that might involve obstruction of the investigation. Prosecutors said before the trial that they would not mention the word “Russia” at all during the proceedings, and that was pretty much the case. They also barely mentioned the name Trump, although it came up briefly in the charges that Manafort gave a Chicago banker a spot on a Trump campaign advisory board in exchange for approving an iffy loan.
Mueller did not allege any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump campaign, and none were revealed at the trial.
That’s not to say the public did not learn anything from the Manafort trial. Indeed, if nothing else, outsiders got a glimpse into what Washington influence peddlers have gotten away with for decades. Manafort was convicted of shady dealing going back a long way. His behavior had been examined by the Obama Justice Department, which took no action against him. It was only because Manafort hooked up with Trump, and Trump then won the White House, and Democrats then pushed a Trump-Russia narrative to hobble the new president, and Trump then fired the director of the FBI — only through all of those circumstances — that Manafort got caught and his foreign money schemes exposed.