Frank Foer’s piece on Paul Manafort just came out in the Atlantic. It’s a long read, but well worth your time. Here’s a sample, from toward the end of the article:
But Manafort must have also believed that money would eventually come, just as it always had, from the influence he would wield in the campaign, and exponentially more so if Trump won. So might other favors and dispensations. These notions were very likely what led him to reach out to Oleg Deripaska almost immediately upon securing a post within the campaign, after having evaded him for years. Through one of his old deputies, a Ukrainian named Konstantin Kilimnik, he sent along press clippings that highlighted his new job. “How do we use to get whole,” Manafort emailed Kilimnik. “Has OVD operation seen?” Manafort’s spokesman has acknowledged that the initials refer to Oleg Vladimirovich Deripaska. In the course of the exchanges, Kilimnik expressed optimism that “we will get back to the original relationship” with the oligarch.
All of Manafort’s hopes, of course, proved to be pure fantasy. Instead of becoming the biggest player in Donald Trump’s Washington, he has emerged as a central villain in its central scandal. An ever-growing pile of circumstantial evidence suggests that the Trump campaign colluded with Russian efforts to turn the 2016 presidential election in its favor. Given Manafort’s long relationship with close Kremlin allies including Yanukovych and Deripaska, and in particular his indebtedness to the latter, it is hard to imagine him as either a naive or passive actor in such a scheme—although Deripaska denies knowledge of any plan by Manafort to get back into his good graces. Manafort was in the room with Donald Trump Jr. when a Russian lawyer and lobbyist descended on Trump Tower in the summer of 2016, promising incriminating material on Hillary Clinton. That same summer, the Trump campaign, with Manafort as its manager, successfully changed the GOP’s platform, watering down support for Ukraine’s pro-Western, post-Yanukovych government, a change welcomed by Russia and previously anathema to Republicans. When the Department of Justice indicted Paul Manafort in October—for failing to register as a foreign agent, for hiding money abroad—its portrait of the man depicted both avarice and desperation, someone who traffics in dark money and dark causes. It seems inevitable, in retrospect, that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, would treat Manafort’s banking practices while in Ukraine as his first subject of public scrutiny, the obvious starting point for his investigation. The sad truth is that all of the damning information contained within the Mueller indictment would have remained submerged if Manafort had withstood the temptation to seek out a role in Trump’s campaign. Even if his record had become known, it would have felt unexceptional: Manafort’s misdeeds, in our current era, would not have seemed so inconsistent with the run of global play.
As Foer points out elsewhere, Manafort likely saw in Trump the image of the same kleptocrats, oligarchs, and authoritarians he’d spent his career aiding and abetting. Manafort wasn’t able to cash in on Trump’s campaign. All he got for his efforts was scrutiny and, later, some indictments. Everything else, however, went according to plan.